The program at Lawrence for tuba or euphonium is designed to give a comprehensive education in performance and pedagogy. Students studying tuba or euphonium may select from majors in music performance, music education, or music theory/composition. Many students choose to pursue the double degree program – combining a music degree with a degree from the college of liberal arts and sciences. The study of tuba or euphonium will focus on establishing individual goals and achieving them quickly. All students study key solo repertoire, etudes, and orchestral or band excerpts.
Patient Practice Promotes Perfect Playing
Practice technique reminders: specific ways to learn a piece
- Warm up well and then play the new music slowly and deliberately.
- Change ONLY the tempo.
- Play with sensitivity, good dynamics, proper phrasing.
- Be a storyteller. Focus, and play as well as you can every time.
- If there are issues with slow playing, such as “ghosting” or “air-balling” notes, try playing passages more quickly to feel how the air should flow.
Dissect technical passages patiently—be honest with yourself
- Rather than focus on what you CAN’T play; look for familiar and comfortable passages in the etude or solo. Look at and read rhythms carefully by subdividing.
- Try “skeletizing” passages, such as playing only the first notes of each of four 16ths; then the first and third notes, or the first three notes of each passage, etc. This also establishes exact placement rhythmically of the notes in the line, giving each importance (The additional benefit is that this activity enhances sight-reading significantly, by making you move your eyes along the page).
- Play only the valves, so that they are played absolutely perfectly and so you can actually hear the shape of the phrase in your valve movement. It makes sense that unless the valves are perfect, it won’t matter how well you are executing tongue and air concerns; the passage will still sound sloppy.
- In a long, technical passage, go to the end of the phrase and play to the final note gradually, even just one note at a time. If the last note is a whole note, preceded by sixteen 16th notes for example, play the final 16th and the whole note; then the last two 16ths and the whole note, etc. working all the way back to the beginning of the phrase. Do not proceed to the next step until you are playing each section the way you want it to sound musically and technically.
For large “interval-leap” passages
- Remember the “centering” technique when executing large intervals. Rather than change your embouchure and try to play the passage as written, select an “equator” note somewhere near the center of the largest interval. Then play the entire passage with that one note, playing as musically as possible (as you would in the original form). Feel how the air moves on your lips. Try then to re-create that comfort zone with the correct notes, and thinking in terms of air intensity and note length. For higher tessitura playing, the “center” may be higher.
- Play as if it was a duet; first play only the top notes, then play the “second part,” or the low notes—figuring out the exact rhythms of each “part” and putting it together-slowly! (This is effective in reading the Bach Cello Suites, athletic Baroque sonatas, and the challenging contemporary solos.)
How to perform unfamiliar phrases/cadenzas/non-idiomatic music
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with phrasing/articulation/movement or the dynamics. Widen your dynamic range considerably, as it is easy to return to the appropriate level for the music. Use space in music to create expression or drama.
- If you don’t have a clue on where to begin, look for a recording of the piece for some guidance. (Note; my favorite interpretation of the Bach Flute Sonata in Eb is by the trumpet virtuoso Maurice Andre!)
- If there is no recording, try playing in the style of an artist/performer you admire or respect. (For example, if you tend to be more reserved as a performer, try playing as someone who is extroverted and maybe even “over the top” in thei performance.)
- Practice to play perfectly, but do not expect perfection!! Be kind to yourself. Set reasonable goals and “reachable” bars and be patient with the process of playing well. A quote by writer Leonard Pittman says: For some things, for the things that enable and define us and make us fully human, there are no shortcuts. You have to take the long way around. This refers to relationships, your work, and your passion for any discipline. Enjoy the process!