Brass Advantage with Wayne Downey
Welcome back to the land of “All Things Brass.” This installment of Brass Advantage is “Part Two” of an article written by Mr. Marty Erickson (a fabulous musician, tuba player and a world-class teacher) that was written for both music educators and tuba players seeking advice and counsel from a professional tuba player to improve their performance qualities. This installment includes:
Practical Concepts For Teaching And Playing The Tuba
For most playing the syllable, which provides the cleanest attack with a good body of sound, is the “Dah” syllable. The “tu” or “tah” syllable does not have the same passage of air and generally hinders the sound to some degree. In some cases I have told less experienced players to use the syllable “dot” in the extreme pedal register only to provide some separation and preparation for the next attack. This should be used cautiously with careful listening. The less tension present, the better the effort.
The warm up should consist first of “buzzing” on the mouthpiece. Do not teach this concept by telling students to buzz their lips, particularly if the student has no previous experiences with brass playing. What you will get is a tight unresponsive sound, which will take more time and effort to unlearn. Buzzing should be done always with the mouthpiece and with a specific pitch in mind or with specific intervals being played. The mouthpiece should be held lightly in the hand and against the lips to reinforce the idea of playing without pressure. The buzz or vibration of the lips should be supported with a good air stream and played as in the horn with good sound and pitch. It may help to play notes on the piano or sound a tuning note on the horn first.
The purpose of long tones in the warm up is to establish a plentiful supply of air in the lungs and to use considerable volume to move the air, preferably an “mf” or more as long as the sound is not strained. Sound is always of prime importance not the length of the phrase. Playing longer phrases should not be stressed until a warm focused sound has been achieved. It is also important to begin long tones in the most comfortable range of the instrument to ensure success.
Choosing a Tuba Mouthpiece:
For our purposes here we will discuss primarily the tuba mouthpieces to use in a band or orchestra setting. Here are some basic points to remember.
Match the mouthpiece to the instrument (e.g. large mouthpiece to a large horn). If the mouthpiece is mismatched you will notice problems with intonation, air leakage and more.
Avoid mouthpieces with enormous or thick rims especially if the rim is largely very flat. This tends to restrict the vibration of the lips and can adversely affect proper intonation. Some large-rimmed mouthpieces can help with stamina issues because they can be more comfortable initially. With the vast choices we have now there is no excuse not to find a comfortable fit.
Once again for our purposes here the beginner or novice tuba player should avid thin-rimmed or “cookie-cutter” mouthpieces. They may give more flexibility but generally have a much edgier sound. I feel that this type of mouthpiece can be damaging to a young player who tends to use too much pressure initially. This will cause a thin red ring around a person’s aperture and should be avoided at all costs.
The rim diameter philosophy is pretty straightforward, the larger the rim the greater the depth of sound but it’s less effective in the upper range. A smaller rim may increase range and clarity and clean up articulation but will give you a brighter sound.
The same goes with the bore size of the mouthpiece. Large bores are better for the low end and small bores enhance the upper end of the tuba.
The shape of the cup generally has the following effect: Cone shaped cups will give a darker sound and will also have more projection. Bowl style cups (large) will give a “pillow-like” warm sound but without much projection. Shallow cups with the bowl shape will have a brighter sound.
My preference is for a fairly medium to large mouthpiece, which has a comfortable rim, which is not flat but slightly turned in on the inner rim. The rim size is medium to large but never a “cookie-cutter”. There are some excellent mouthpieces on the market that include but are not limited to the Bach & Schilke models. Others to consider are: Wayne Downey’s WDTU 1, Perantucci, Erickson Signature model by DEG, Sheridan, Doug Elliot and many more. Most of these can be found at local music stores such as XtremeBrass.com, Brasswind, The Tuba Exchange, Dillon Music, The Tuba Store and other retailers. One caution, don’t expect a mouthpiece to fix all your woes. Practice, good teaching and proper technique are still the best tools.
Well that’s all for this issue, stay tuned for more tips on Brass Technique in the next installment of “Brass Advantage.”
Before you go let me tell you about some exciting news concerning my newest original composition for marching band titled “Conquests of the Conquistador” & “Voyage to the New World”. “Conquests of the Conquistador” is a Fiery Hot, Heart Pounding, Spanish Show Stopper that your students will love to play and audiences will always remember. “Voyage to the New World” which was scored with a sophisticated classical touch and set to the music of Antonin Dvorak and Cliff Eidelman depicts the epic travels of Christopher Columbus to the Americas. The words powerful, riveting and out of your seat excitement perfectly describe this creatively fresh approach to a powerhouse of a symphonic masterpiece. Both shows are sure to be the crowd favorites at football games and competitions alike. Log on to www.xtremebrass.com for both audio and PDF score previews of the show. Exclusivity and Regional Protection is available, so log on now and “Check Availability” in your area.
Don’t forget to check out all the new brass and percussion technique books on my website. This month I’m highlighting my newest book titled “XtremeMarching & Playing Technique” which comes with both Wind and Percussion scores/parts complete with accompanying marching exercises on Pyware drill sheets. If you’re a drummer or band director looking for a Winter Drum Show don’t forget to check out the newest compositions by; Dave Glyde (Blue Devils), Shane Gwaltney (Music City Mystique) and Mike Nevin (Blue Knights) on my website at www.XtremeBrass.com & www.XtremePercussion.com, send your questions or topics to: AskWayneDowney [at] drumcorpsplanet [dot] com. askWayneDowney [at] drumcorpsplanet [dot] com
“Don’t Let The Chance Pass You By”. See Ya Soon…
Wayne Downey is the first of Drum Corps Planet’s panel of subject-matter expert columnists – providing our readers with expert information and insight from the best teachers and leaders in the drum and bugle corps activity. In addition to his long-term role as Music Director of the 12-time DCI World Champion Blue Devils drum and bugle corps – where he’s won 20 Jim Ott awards for "Excellence in Brass Performance", Wayne is distinguished as one of the finest brass teachers/clinicians and arrangers in the world. His work has been featured by some of the world’s most-respected drum corps, high school and collegiate bands – as well as the Tony and Emmy award winning show "Blast" and in feature films. In 1991 Wayne was inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame for his contributions to the Drum & Bugle Corps activity as the musical director for the Blue Devils. Wayne’s latest venture – XtremeBrass.com provides brass players of all ages and skill-levels, as well as educators, personalized lessons and access to his championship-winning techniques and methods. We’re honored to have him as one of our contributing columnists. -jmd
Wayne Downey was the first of Drum Corps Planet’s panel of subject-matter expert columnists – providing our readers with expert information and insight from the best teachers and leaders in the drum and bugle corps activity. In addition to his long-term role as Music Director of the 14-time DCI World Champion Blue Devils drum and bugle corps – where he’s won 21 Jim Ott awards for “Excellence in Brass Performance”, Wayne is distinguished as one of the finest brass teachers/clinicians and arrangers in the world. His work has been featured by some of the world’s most-respected drum corps, high school and collegiate bands – as well as the Tony and Emmy award winning show “Blast” and in feature films. In 1991 Wayne was inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame for his contributions to the Drum & Bugle Corps activity as the musical director for the Blue Devils. Wayne’s latest venture – XtremeBrass.com provides brass players of all ages and skill-levels, as well as educators, personalized lessons and access to his championship-winning techniques and methods.
Posted by Wayne Downey on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009. Filed under Brass Advantage.