Euphonium Overview and History
The earliest serpent is known as the earliest euphonium, deriving its name from its snake-like appearance. It was made of wood, brass, or metal, and played with a mouthpiece made of ivory. They both produce a sound the same way using a deep-cupped mouthpiece and both instruments are conical in bore and similar in length. They actually sound quite similarly!
Euphonium or Baritone? What’s the Difference?
Euphoniums have a larger bore, and they are more conical. It means that the shape of the bell is flared out throughout the length of the instrument. It is pitched in the key of B-flat. Baritones are smaller and more cylindrical. It is also pitched in the key of B-flat. So, you may rent or purchase a baritone horn OR a euphonium- both instruments will read the same part in band. An American-style euphonium (sometimes called a baritone, but this is incorrect) has a bell that flares forward. The three instruments (euphonium, American-style euphonium, and baritone) are pictured below:
Where to Purchase
Euphonium Brands and Models for Beginners
- Jupiter JBR700 Series Baritone Horn
- Yamaha YBH-301S Series Baritone Horn
- Yamaha YEP-201 Series 3-valve Euphonium
- Jupiter JEP700 Series 3-Valve Euphonium
- Yamaha YEP-211 Series 3-Valve Euphonium
Euphonium Brands/Models for Intermediate Players
- Yamaha YBH-831S Series Baritone Horn
- Yamaha YBH-621S Series Baritone Horn
- Besson BE2056 Prestige Series Baritone Horn
- Besson BE955 Sovereign Series Baritone Horn
Some instruments are written in concert pitch. This means that when that specific instrument plays a “C”, a “C” comes out. To transpose means that the player is playing an instrument that sounds a different pitch (higher or lower) than the pitch they are presently reading on the staff. Euphoniums/Baritones are technically pitched in B-flat. If you play an open “C” fingering on the instrument, a “B-Flat” will come out. However, you will simply learn the “B-Flat” overtone series fingerings on your instruments, so transposition will not be an issue you will often think about in your playing. The parts that are written for you will be in concert pitch (in bass clef). Your fingerings will mirror the trumpet fingerings up one octave.
Step 1: Open instrument case, take horn out.
Step 2: Insert the mouthpiece shank into the lead pipe with a gentle twist.
Hand Position and Posture
Right hand: Fingers curved, first finger on valve 1, second finger on valve 2, third finger on valve 3. Thumb in the thumb hole.
Left hand: Support the instrument on the bell side and keep it firm in your lap.
Be sure that there is no tension in your body, and that the horn is balanced in your lap to allow the mouthpiece to arrive at your embouchure.
Embouchure and Sound Production
The “embouchure” (pronounced ahm-boo-sure) is the way a musician applies their mouth to the mouthpiece of their instrument. All wind musicians must work very hard to build muscle memory in the jaw and mouth so that your sound is consistently of good quality.
- The corners of the mouth are firm (not tight). The corners do not move.
- The mouthpiece should be centered on the lip and placed approximately one half on the lower and one half on the upper lip.
- Mouthpiece pressure on the lip should not be too tight; your lips need to vibrate to create a sound!
- Much of brass playing is compared to singing; your body must be relaxed and natural. When you sing, an impulse goes from the inner ear to the brain and then to the vocal chords in your voice box. With a brass instrument, it goes to your mouthpiece instead of your vocal chords.
- Playing a brass instrument is a matter of buzzing on the mouthpiece.
- While keeping your corners firm, move your air and keep the inside of your mouth shaped as though you’re singing a long note on the letter “O”.
- The best thing you can do is to repeat these good habits daily. LISTEN to your favorite players so that you know what you want to sound like.
The articulation that we will use on the baritone is the syllable “Doo”. This is how your tongue will begin each note on the baritone. There are different types of articulations that we will go through in band rehearsals. While at home, always practice beginning each note with the tongue on the roof of your mouth right where the teeth meet the gum.
Brass instruments have similar intonation issues due to the valve system, which is based on the overtone series. The following information below explains which notes will be in tune, flat (lower), or sharp (higher) based on valve combinations. Use the fingering chart below to map out which notes will most likely be flat or sharp on your instrument.
Valve Combination Pitch Tendencies
The following valve combinations will either be ok with no pitch problems, sharp (the pitch is too high), or flat (the pitch is too low). Use a tuner for a reference. If your pitch is too high or low using these combinations, we will “lip it up” or “lip it down”. This has to do with changing your embouchure and adjusting your muscles.
To correct a flat pitch: Firm corners of your lips, raise the tongue
To correct a sharp pitch: Relax corners of your lips, lower the tongue
Euphonium Fingering Chart (Band World Brass Instrument Fingering Chart)
Care and Maintenance
- Rinse out your mouth and brush your teeth before you play.
- Make sure to empty ALL the water from your instrument before putting it back into the case.
- Wipe dirt, fingerprints, or oil smudges off your instrument with a polishing cloth when you are done playing.
- Oiling valves: unscrew the valve cap, pull the valve out about halfway, and apply a few drops of valve oil.
- Twist the valve back and forth to spread the oil around and push valve back into its position. Tighten cap.
- NOTE: You must be careful of how you line up your valves when you put them back in- most valves do have a system that will click in when they are back into position. If there is a number etched into your valve, have it face towards the mouthpiece.
- Clean the mouthpiece with a mouthpiece brush weekly. The dishwasher also works!
- Check your tuning slides and grease them weekly.
Giving Your Instrument a “BATH”
Once every few months, it’s good for trumpet, trombone, and baritone players to give their instruments a bath. YEARLY: We recommend taking your instrument to a technician once per year and getting it chemically flushed and cleaned out. Ultrasonic cleaning is also an option. But, a few times a year, it’s good to give your instrument a bath. Here are the instructions:
Use a container large enough to let your instrument soak. A bathtub will work well, but put a towel down on the floor of the tub to prevent scratching.
Step 1: Carefully remove all slides, valves, valve caps. Keep them in order!
Step 2: Place all parts except for valves in warm water and let them soak for 30-60 minutes. Do NOT use hot water. You may use Dawn dish detergent.
Step 3: Run some warm water over the valves while being careful not to get the felts wet. Use a valve brush to clean through the holes and openings. Let dry.
Step 4: Use a snake brush to clean out all of the slides and tubes of the instrument.
Step 5: Rinse the entire instrument, let dry.
Step 6: Reassemble the instrument. Use a good amount of oil and slide grease. Wipe away any extra grease or oil.
Notable Euphonium Players