December 11, 2014

How-To Write for the Euphonium

AUTHOR: Daniel J. Conrad

In the modern era of music there is an instrument that is becoming ever common and popular in America, and that instrument is the euphonium. It is also ever apparent that composers and arrangers often have issues when it come to writing for the euphonium. Here I will be discussing a few key guidelines to keep in mind when scoring for the euphonium.

To begin one must understand the range of the euphonium. Typically a safe usable range for the euphonium falls between Bb in the staff (bass clef) or Bb 2, and F above the staff or F4. This range is really where the euphonium will function the best in. Going above and below these notes are best reserved for professional euphoniumists, as it is difficult to be able to play these notes at different dynamics with consistency and clarity. The range is also limited to the kind of instrument students have. A four valve horn is necessary to play the notes from E2 to C2. A compensating horn would be necessary to produce the B following that C. Now the last thing to consider when regarding the range is the tone quality. Tone quality above F4 tend to thin out and be bright. While notes below the staff will have an inconsistent quality in tone and have a bit of a “bite”.  Euphoniums also have the ability to read Bass, Bb Treble, and Tenor clef. Tenor is no longer a common sight today as it was in the 60s to 80s, but it can still be used to eliminate excessive ledger lines.

Now that we know the range of the instrument let’s get into how it can be used in bands. Often times orchestrators are unaware of what to do with the euphonium. This leads to often doubling with either a trombone two or three part or a double of the tuba. This is acceptable and certainly adds to the bass line and chords produced from the trombone section, the euphonium can be added to much more. One section that is often never thought of is combining the euphonium with the french horn. Now the horn often has rhythmic passages to aid with harmonies or is used for counter melodies. The euphonium makes a fine addition to any horn section. It can add a lovely bass voice to any horn section and when written in the upper tessitura, the euphonium can even produce a similar tone quality to that of the horn. The euphonium also has the ability to add to the clarinet section. Its mellow sound and form a firm foundation to maintain any light texture that they may be producing. Going along with light textures, it may sometimes be difficult to create a bass line that may be overbearing for a lighter section. Here is where the euphonium can be used best. The euphonium will allow for a light but present bass line to be made but in a dark mellow matter. Additionally using the euphonium for melodic passages in lighter section will add to any piece. It will allow for a lower mellow voice to be used without the need for dynamics. Understanding these options, we must also look into special effects the euphonium is capable of.

Rips are a common feature of horns that are never thought of when working with euphoniums. Due to the nature of the instrument though, the ability to perform rips are quite easy and should be taken advantage of by modern composers. Along with rips, any half-valving techniques can be utilized as well. This is often used in jazz for trumpets, and when writing band arrangements of jazz pieces, this technique should also be considered. This technique also allows for euphoniums to perform glisses. The valves being pressed down puts the horn in between partials and allows for easy glisses between notes in a manner similar to a trombone gliss. Finally the option to use a mute with the euphonium is under used. It allows for a color that is vaguely metallic and nasally, but is similar in to that of the bassoon. This allows for use with the double reeds to aid in light sections with them. This tone quality also allows for the euphonium to produce a stopped quality similar to that of the horn. The euphonium is an instrument that is understood but is becoming ever more prominent. Every high school band director should consider these traits of writing for the euphonium when performing their own arrangements of pieces or for encouraging students to study euphonium.

How-To Replace the Cork on a Clarinet

AUTHOR: Katie Kohlenburg

When realizing that a cork is rotting or has gone bad, it can be difficult to repair yourself. However, it can be done. Just be aware that if the cork is too thick for the clarinet, and you have to force the corked part into the tenon, the joint can possibly crack. There are a series of steps to take to ensure that the cork is being replaced correctly and with the right thickness.

Remove the old, rotting cork from its bed completely, preferably in one piece. Then carefully measure the old piece of cork’s exact width and length. Also be sure to check the strength of the cork. Use a pencil to mark the exact size you will need on the new sheet of cork. If it just so happens to be that the old cork is not in one piece for you to measure it correctly, simply cut the new cork a bit bigger. This will allow you to always cut it to size later. The new cork should fit right into the bed of the joint where the old cork was. Keep in mind that cork is elastic and will stretch a bit. Before applying the glue, check to make sure the cork fits well. There can be a little bit of space because, and again, the cork will stretch out a bit. Before gluing the cork onto the joint, also be sure that it is the correct thickness (or strength). If it is too thin, depending on which cork you are fixing, the mouthpiece or the joint will not fit correctly. If the cork is too thick, the joints will not fit together, and the bore could potentially crack if you use too much force to try and put the pieces together. However, it is an easy fix if the cork is too thick. Simply sand away the excess cork. When the cork is finally just right, glue it on the joint. Do not forget to glue both ends of the cork together! Once the cork is glued, it is in place, however, it may still be a bit strong, and you may still have to sand off some excess cork. Make sure to sand the cork down so that the mouthpiece, or the joint, is still sitting exactly centered. In other words, make sure it is concentrical. Once you are sure the cork is glued on correctly, with the right amount of thickness and strength, apply cork grease to the cork. It is important to note that since the cork is new, it will expand a little due to humidity, but it should eventually compress itself because of the tenon’s pressure.

Ho-To Care for Your Reeds

AUTHOR: Sarah Butler

Reeds are a vital part of a single reed player’s life.  Reeds can be tricky little monsters, and I do mean monsters.  If you have a bad reed, it can affect your tone and pitch accuracy.  There are several ways to make sure you get the most life out of your reed(s).  As a single reed player, you will need the following: reed trimmer, reed knife (or a pocket knife), and sandpaper.  A reed trimmer looks like a giant fingernail clipper. To use a reed trimmer, you need to have a flat surface near you to set the reed trimmer on. On the reed trimmer, there is a safety latch, for the reed, and a little knob. The little knob is to adjust the space between the safety latch and the trimmer to accommodate your reed. You must be VERY careful when using a reed trimmer.  Once you place your reed in the trimmer, pick the trimmer up and check the back to see how much of your reed you are about to cut off.  This part is the most important reason of why you need to be careful.  If you cut off too much of the reed, the reed will be “dead”.  The reed knife and sandpaper serve for the same purpose. The reed knife/pocket knife and sandpaper are to thin out the reed.  This makes the reed easier to play.  You shave little slivers of reed off your reed to get your reed to your liking.  The same goes for the sandpaper.  You can also use the sand paper to smooth out your reed.

How-To Identify a Problem on Instruments with Pads and Springs

AUTHOR: Marcy Rose Sallack

Being both a saxophonist and flutist it can be very frustrating when your instrument stops working as it should. The first question you ask yourself is, why? It is a popped spring? A sticky key? Or is a pad not sealing at it should? Or in the case of the saxophone, your reed?

In the case of the saxophone the first thing you should always check is your reed. Move your reed around and try to play again. If it made a difference you know that your problem was with your reed. If you still do have the desired sound or if it didn’t make a difference change your reed completely. More often than not this is the problem with a saxophone. Reeds are influenced greatly by temperature, humidity, and weather changes. This is a quick, easy fix and doesn’t take too long. It is also very easy to diagnose.

If it doesn’t help or you’re a flutist I’d take a look at the springs. Are all the springs secured correctly behind the posts? If you find a spring that is not it’s fairly easy to fix. First off be careful, the springs have a lot of tension on them and have sharp ends. It does hurt if they hit your finger, trust me. On a flute if you can reach the spring you can normally move it with your finger. Push on the spring gently, almost in a downward but back motion, until it is secured behind the post. On a saxophone it is normally easier to use a small screwdriver. It is also useful on the flute if you can’t reach the spring. You can either use one you get with glasses or go to somewhere that specializes in tools. I bought an entire set at Sears. You’ll want a flat screwdriver. If you have a screwdriver it does not in any way mean your should take apart your instrument. If you’re a professional and you’ve been properly trained to do so it’s another story.  An amateur should never take an unscrew anything, you’ll have a big mess and have to take it to a professional. You use your screw driver to once press lightly on the spring until it clicks up behind post.

If your springs are attached properly the next step is to check your pads. Press down each pad gently. Does it stick? Does it seal properly? If your pad sticks it is a fairly easy fix. Take a clean dollar bill, you don’t want the extra dirt on your pads, we’re trying to fix that. Take your dollar bill and slide it under the pad. Then push down the key and then pull the dollar bill out. Do this a few times. Check your pad again. If it doesn’t stick, you’ve solved your problem. If you look and see lots of debris try a few more times. If it does not work you’ll want to take your instrument to your music teacher or a trained professional. To check your keys to see if they seal press each down individually. Did they stay for an instant and then pop back up? If your look at your pads and see that they are deteriorating you’ll want to take it to your music teacher or a trained professional to see if they need replaces. Sometimes it is really east to tell if a pad is sealing and other times you just tell. If you can’t tell if they are sealing and are very serious about pursuing a music career professionally you can purchase a specially designed light that you put inside your instrument to see the leaks.  If you can’t tell and are not interested in purchasing a light take your instrument to a professional. I do not recommend purchasing a light for an amateur. A leak can sometimes simply be solved by pushing down on the key for a few seconds. If the problem is still not resolved take your instrument to a professional. Your instrument may need to be readjusted.

Changing a reed, popping a spring in place, and cleaning a pad are all simple tricks that may alleviate your problems. If they do not work, I highly suggest taking your instrument to a professional. In some cases though, they are a little fix to a big problem and can be life savers.

How-To "Retain" the Tuba Player

AUTHOR: Jeremiah Dobo

We all know that of all the instruments in the Concert band and Orchestra, the tuba gets the rep for being the most "boring."  Despite being a tuba player myself, I understand where these sentiments stem from.  The parts are typically whole notes and half notes or a simple bass line.  There isn't usually any type of melody or even counter melody in their part.  This can lead to your tubist being bored in class or becoming discouraged with their music.

This is detrimental to both your tubist and your ensemble.  A confident tubist translates to a more successful ensemble.  But how do you cultivate a more confident and engaged tubist?  How do you retain your tuba player?  Well, there are two different things that you can do.

You can get workbooks, technical study books or easy solo literature for your tubist.  Books such as the J.B. Arban Complete Method for Tuba, Complete Solfeggi for Tuba by G.M. Bordogni and Blazhevich's 70 Tuba Studies contain both simpler technical studies and melodious passages as well as more difficult ones.  These books are just some of the standards for tubists but can be an incredibly useful tool in both improving the player and helping to peak their interest.  There is also an abundance of solo literature for tubists at all different difficulty levels.  Solos give the tubist the melody for the entirety of the piece which is something that they are not typically used to.

The other option that you can take is by being very conscious of the pieces you've selected for your concert program.  There are plenty of great pieces that feature an exciting and engaging tuba part.  Giving your tubist a chance to shine in a concert setting is such an exciting opportunity for them.  But let me clarify some things, this does not include walking-bass parts and a majority of marches.  The more repetitive the part is not fun even if it might sound "cool."

Playing the tuba is a contrasting experience from any other instrument.  Their ear develops differently and they hold a unique musical skill set but this doesn't mean that with some cultivation and hard work that they cannot carry the melody or have some fun with their parts.  So put some time and dedication into your tubist because it's worth it to your ensemble and it's worth it for their sake.  It's not hard to "retain" a tuba player.

How-To Replace a Pad on a Flute

AUTHOR: Shannon Best

Something almost every band director should know is basic instrument repair. I’m going to tell you how to replace a pad on a flute. This is just a general run down, and I wouldn’t recommend doing it on a new, or really nice flute, until you’ve had plenty of practice.

You take the keys off flute first. Then you unscrew the screw in the key that holds the pad in place. You gently scrape out the pad and any other old materials that are in the key. This would include the shims, pad, and any residue in the key. Find the pad the fits your key and set it down on a flat surface. Take A small needle and poke several tiny holes in the sides of the pad. If you don’t do this then the pad may swell up over time and not create a proper seal. Then, you will take a small iron and iron out eh pad to make it flat. Take the key and use the cardboard shims to level out the pad until it is even with the key. This part will take some time, because if you don’t take the time do this you won’t have a proper seal. You will then press down on the key to test the seal. If it works, then you rubber band it down and let it sit for 24 hours.

You also may have to replace a trill key on the flute. You take the keys off, and take a screw driver to scrape everything out of the key. Then, you use a type of glue to hold in the pad. I’ve seen rosin type substance you scrape off into the key. Then you heat the key with a lighter until the cement is melted and you press in the trill key until it’s try. You could also use rubber cement. All the steps from this point on are the same.

December 2, 2014

How-To Transfer Analog LP Recordings to Digital

AUTHOR: Zachary Ray

What you need…. 

  • Turntable with some kind of RCA (red and yellow usually) output
  • Some kind of computer with internet access
  • RCA to 3.5 mm adapter or RCA to 3.5 mm cable if you running the turntable through a stereo system
So you have all of your grandfather’s Sousa records sitting around and do not have any clue how to play them in your class without bringing in a turntable and speakers and etc. There is hope for you!

The first step would be to go to the internet and download “Audacity,” which is a free audio editing software. There is also an add-on called “Lame Mp3 Encoder” for Windows which allows you to take your audacity projects and convert them to mp3.

The next step for you would be to plug the RCA end of your turntable (provided you have one) into the RCA to 3.5mm converter (provided you bought or acquired one) and plug the 3.5 mm end (the smaller end) into the microphone jack of your computer by the headphone jack (the microphone jack usually has a picture of a microphone by it)

Then, open Audacity and towards the top of the screen there should be a picture of a microphone with a dropbox by it; make sure the input is set to the microphone setting)
When you are ready to record your turntable (or tape or whatever is in the microphone input), click record in Audacity (it is the red circle button near the top left of the screen) and then start the player you are recording (it is best to do it in this order or you risk losing the first part of what you are recording) When you are done recording, hit stop (the yellow square).

Go to file…. save project and save your recording before you do anything else, or you risk losing your progress. From here, you can either click  file...export and export your recording as an mp3 or any other file (so long as you remembered to download Lame) or edit your sounds using the gamut of effects to enhance your recording.

A few examples would be to select your audio and use the high pass filter effect to remove excess low noise, or the low pass filter to remove excess high pitched noise.  You can use the amplify tool to make your recording either louder or softer, and many other effects. Another handy effect is noise removal for recordings fraught with static. One would select a section with just static, click effects….noise removal and click get noise profile, then select the entire recording. Click effects… noise removal.. ok to lessen the noise in the entire recording.  There are also online resources that explain how to use the effects in greater detail.

I hope this has been helpful in describing the basics of this program as well as how to transfer those old recordings. Below are some resources, such as a link to the Audacity website for downloading and information, and a link to the two mentioned RCA to 3.5mm converting adapters.

Audacity website

RCA to 3.5 mm cable

RCA  to 3.5 mm adapter