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Topic: Scoring for Euphonium

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  1. #1

    Scoring for Euphonium

    I am in the process of orchestrating my score for a musical theater production. I want to use a Euphonium in my brass section (2 trumptes, Euphonim doubling on tenor trombone, and bass trombone). It's the right sound for the period (mid to late 19th century) and at some points I need the orchestration to sound a little like a marching band. At other times I need it to sound very majestic (hence the bass and tenor trombones). I have a couple of questions about Euphonium scoring.

    - Every orchestration book that I own says that the lowest note in the Euphonium's range is two Es below Middle C. I am currently using Dan Dean's solo Euphonium library (imported and converted into Kontakt) the lowest note available is also two Es below Middle C. But according to Wikipedia, professional Euphoniums have a forth (compensating) valve that allows reaching the lower fundamentals. It would help me a lot to be able to go down to the second C or B flat below Middle C in some numbers. I could get a little more variety by taking the Euphonium significantly lower than the bass trombone -- maybe even have the bass trombone double on the tenor trombone, if necessary. (I'd probably have to use a tuba patch as a substitute for the Euphonium, for the time being). I'm just wondering if I shouldn't be using a tuba for my score instead. My gut tells me no. Most of the time, I want the Euphonium part between the Bass Trombone and the second trumpet. It has to a couple of steps into treble staff occassionally, too. But I don't want to write for a Euphonium with a compensating valve if virtually no one plays such an instrument. From time to time, in my career as an actor, I meet musicians who play in Broadway pits. A lot of the trombonsists double on the Euphonium for various shows. I never knew enough to ask how many valves their instruments have.

    - My orchestration books all say that the Euphonium is used primarily as a solo instrument. But, in Broadway shows, where it is used this does not seem to be the case. In my score it replaces a part originally scored for the French Horn. I noticed that the horn part was very often confined to its lower range and that -- at least in the virtual instruments that I have been using -- it sounded a bit sluggish and muddy. At some point I realized that I had actually written a Euphonium part. It blends a little better when all the brass is playing (in 4 part harmony), it stands out well enough for the solo passages, and it is a little more solid on the attacks for the latter (which in my piece is a good thing). So I'm wondering how is the Euphonium normally scored in such an ensemble: a Broadway pit with only 3 other brass instruments, 4 woodwinds, and very small string and rhythm sections. Do you ordinarily try to make it blend with the brass, or keep it doing something different (i.e. counter point, answering phrases, etc.)? Do you ever want it to overlap the second trumpet and the trombone, as you sometimes do with a French Horn? Do you use it as a replacement for the French Horn as the bass or tenor voice in a woodwind tutti?

    I'll do whatever I need to do to make the numbers sound right to me. But there are a lot of places where I am not sure exactly what I want or what will work best. I'd like to have some idea of what the normal practice is, so I can use that as a starting point.

    Thanks.

  2. #2

    Re: Scoring for Euphonium

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr
    I am in the process of orchestrating my score for a musical theater production. I want to use a Euphonium in my brass section (2 trumptes, Euphonim doubling on tenor trombone, and bass trombone). It's the right sound for the period (mid to late 19th century) and at some points I need the orchestration to sound a little like a marching band. At other times I need it to sound very majestic (hence the bass and tenor trombones). I have a couple of questions about Euphonium scoring.

    - Every orchestration book that I own says that the lowest note in the Euphonium's range is two Es below Middle C. I am currently using Dan Dean's solo Euphonium library (imported and converted into Kontakt) the lowest note available is also two Es below Middle C. But according to Wikipedia, professional Euphoniums have a forth (compensating) valve that allows reaching the lower fundamentals. It would help me a lot to be able to go down to the second C or B flat below Middle C in some numbers. I could get a little more variety by taking the Euphonium significantly lower than the bass trombone -- maybe even have the bass trombone double on the tenor trombone, if necessary. (I'd probably have to use a tuba patch as a substitute for the Euphonium, for the time being). I'm just wondering if I shouldn't be using a tuba for my score instead. My gut tells me no. Most of the time, I want the Euphonium part between the Bass Trombone and the second trumpet. It has to a couple of steps into treble staff occassionally, too. But I don't want to write for a Euphonium with a compensating valve if virtually no one plays such an instrument. From time to time, in my career as an actor, I meet musicians who play in Broadway pits. A lot of the trombonsists double on the Euphonium for various shows. I never knew enough to ask how many valves their instruments have.

    - My orchestration books all say that the Euphonium is used primarily as a solo instrument. But, in Broadway shows, where it is used this does not seem to be the case. In my score it replaces a part originally scored for the French Horn. I noticed that the horn part was very often confined to its lower range and that -- at least in the virtual instruments that I have been using -- it sounded a bit sluggish and muddy. At some point I realized that I had actually written a Euphonium part. It blends a little better when all the brass is playing (in 4 part harmony), it stands out well enough for the solo passages, and it is a little more solid on the attacks for the latter (which in my piece is a good thing). So I'm wondering how is the Euphonium normally scored in such an ensemble: a Broadway pit with only 3 other brass instruments, 4 woodwinds, and very small string and rhythm sections. Do you ordinarily try to make it blend with the brass, or keep it doing something different (i.e. counter point, answering phrases, etc.)? Do you ever want it to overlap the second trumpet and the trombone, as you sometimes do with a French Horn? Do you use it as a replacement for the French Horn as the bass or tenor voice in a woodwind tutti?

    I'll do whatever I need to do to make the numbers sound right to me. But there are a lot of places where I am not sure exactly what I want or what will work best. I'd like to have some idea of what the normal practice is, so I can use that as a starting point.

    Thanks.
    Boy, today must be euph day WELLLLL...EVERY day is euph day....I am the resident euph player here, so here we go.
    First, I answered a slightly different question no more than 10 minutes ago here . That will give you some background.
    OTHER COMMENTS:In no particular order, and stream-of-unconsciousness from a player who makes some $ doing what you describe

    1. It is not automatic that a trombone player doubles on euph. Make sure yours does.
    2. A fourth valve is NOT always a compensating valve. A true compensating fourth valve is found on english-style instruments and allows for better intonation in the bottom register. A regular fourth valve is the same function as the trigger on a tenor trombone. The "2 Es below middle C" is for a 3-valve instrument, and is a least common denominator.
    3. A euphonium is a conical instrument and cannot pierce as the bone can. Its lower register will NOT have the pungency of a bass trombone and will NOT be agile. If you are writing pads on D and C below the bass staff, that's OK but they will not cut through as a bass or tenor trombone would. A tenor bone with the trigger can make a more piercing D, Db, or C than a euph can. Furthermore, fingering in the low register involves use of two hands and a fully compensating instrument. You cannot write a string of 16ths in that register and expect the euph to speak.
    4. B natural below the bass staff is impossible on a 4-valve NON compensating instrument and stuffy/sharp on a fully compensating instrument.
    5. From Eb below the bass staff down to C below the bass staff, intonation is quirky on a NON compensating horn. The best way to make those notes is to finger down a half step and use the 4th. So D is 2-3-4 (2-3 is normally Db), etc. and the B is unplayable. Even with this, the player will need to adjust, and there is no agility, so pads are OK and running 16ths aren't.
    6. The euphonium is a better sub for horn, since both are conical. Some composers/arrangers see the 4th valve and large bore and think in bass trombone terms. WRONG. As I said in the other thread, I play horn parts on euph in my brass quintet. The benefit is that the middle, normally a weak part in a brass quintet, is stronger. Since I do the writing for my groups, it's OK. But what you will get is a "ballsier" horn sound.
    7. The euph is bigger than the horn. If you are going to write a pianissimo G above the treble staff (Concert C above middle C) for horn, a euphonium can play it but it will be present MUCH more than the same pitch on the horn. Remember also that the bell goes up on euph, and back on the horn. When I write for our groups, I stick to a euphonium "meat range" from F below middle C to C above middle C, (a horn player would see middle C to G on top of the treble staff in a horn part) which is the meat range for the horn anyway. I will use high Eb and F (octave + 3rd/4th above middle C) in solo passages for effect, but only about 5-10% of players can handle that tessitura on euph. SO--watch the extreme upper range, get some time off face, and don't write a part that SITS in the stratosphere with no rest. And remember, the euphonium is bigger and points up. On many horns, the D and Db a ninth above middle C are quirky and best avoided
    8. I prefer euph with winds, but a good bone player can round his/her tone if s/he listens and can blend OK...the conical euphonium is a more natural blend, but I might be biased here. If you use bone with WW, stay in the middle register from F above Middle C to the C below middle C
    9. If you decide to make the euph part more horn-like, see if your player has a non-compensating smaller-bore horn such as a Yamaha 321 or equivalent. I try to use such an instrument to do serious "horn" playing. It is smaller as euphs go and does not overwhelm.
    10. If you decide to go the low-pitch route, remember my advice above, and ask if your player has a large-bore compensating instrument like a Besson or Willson (I have a Willson as well as the Yamaha 321)
    11. Of course the euphonium is a solo instrument. If it isn't it ought to be.
    12. go to this link & hear some of my playing. there are 12 or so snippets ranging from Gershwin to Mozart to No Doubt, all featuring euphonium where a horn oughta be, and mostly in the screech mode

    Well, that's enough for now. Here's a deal: If you write a part for euph, send me a PDF or Finale or Sibelius copy & I'll put it through the paces & offer my 2 cents, which you may feel free to heed or ignore.

    Jim
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  3. #3

    Re: Scoring for Euphonium

    PS-THANKS for asking these questions & wanting to "get it right!"
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  4. #4

    Re: Scoring for Euphonium

    Thanks for both posts. There is no such thing as too much information. Music is my avocation rather than my vocation. Though it was my minor in college (back in the dark ages) my musical education has been a bit scattershot since then.

    As an actor, I frequently come in contact with musicians and they are usually eager to talk about their instruments. I've always liked the euphonium. I heard it and read about it long before seeing one played live. The first euphonist I talked to was playing in a brass band in feature film. His normal gig was playing for a Broadway show. He said that there is a relatively small group of musicians in NYC that do this, going from show to show. Since the make up of the pit varies so much, most of them double on at least one other instrument. He said that pretty much every trombonist on Broadway can play a bass trombone and a Euphonium (and some can play tuba and/or other instruments as well).

    Taking what you -- and my orchestration books -- say to heart, i.e. that the Euphonium is primarily a solo instrument, the reality in a small pit orchestra is that not only do most players double, most solo instruments also play supporting roles when not doing their solos. And this happens a lot, since the most frequent and important solo instrument in the theater is the voice of the performers. That said, when I have to use the Euphonium as part of the ensemble, how is best used? Should I score it like the tenor (first) trombone -- always as the third brass voice, between the second trumpet and the second trombone? Or should I score it more like a French Horn -- at times going above the second trumpet or below the second trombone, when the latter is in its high range -- sort of overlapping the other brass? I am assuming that when added to the wood winds, it would be better alternating with the bass clarinet or bassoon as the bottom voice - or as a the tenor voice just above the bass voice?

    Also, you said "When I write for our groups, I stick to a euphonium "meat range" from F below middle C to C above middle C ..." did you really mean the F below middle C, or 2 Fs below middle C (i.e. not using more than the entire low octave)?

  5. #5

    Re: Scoring for Euphonium

    Euphoniums are usually not really scored like trombones (except in begining band pieces). They will regulary play with the French horn (and saxes if you band contains any). However, it can still go with the bass clarinet, tuba, bassoons (from my experience not as regulary as with bass clarinets, but I may be wrong), and trombones. Really, a euphonium can have the alto, tenor, or bass voice. It all depends on what sound you want to get out of it. I would try experimenting with different instruments and see what sounds you think would sound good.


    Quote Originally Posted by ejr
    Also, you said "When I write for our groups, I stick to a euphonium "meat range" from F below middle C to C above middle C ..." did you really mean the F below middle C, or 2 Fs below middle C (i.e. not using more than the entire low octave)?
    I'm not sure, but I would assume that he's talking about the F 1 octave below, since horns usually have an alto voice, and their bottom range normally around the F right below middle C.

  6. #6

    Re: Scoring for Euphonium

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr
    Thanks for both posts. There is no such thing as too much information. Music is my avocation rather than my vocation. Though it was my minor in college (back in the dark ages) my musical education has been a bit scattershot since then.

    As an actor, I frequently come in contact with musicians and they are usually eager to talk about their instruments. I've always liked the euphonium. I heard it and read about it long before seeing one played live. The first euphonist I talked to was playing in a brass band in feature film. His normal gig was playing for a Broadway show. He said that there is a relatively small group of musicians in NYC that do this, going from show to show. Since the make up of the pit varies so much, most of them double on at least one other instrument. He said that pretty much every trombonist on Broadway can play a bass trombone and a Euphonium (and some can play tuba and/or other instruments as well).

    Taking what you -- and my orchestration books -- say to heart, i.e. that the Euphonium is primarily a solo instrument, the reality in a small pit orchestra is that not only do most players double, most solo instruments also play supporting roles when not doing their solos. And this happens a lot, since the most frequent and important solo instrument in the theater is the voice of the performers. That said, when I have to use the Euphonium as part of the ensemble, how is best used? Should I score it like the tenor (first) trombone -- always as the third brass voice, between the second trumpet and the second trombone? Or should I score it more like a French Horn -- at times going above the second trumpet or below the second trombone, when the latter is in its high range -- sort of overlapping the other brass? I am assuming that when added to the wood winds, it would be better alternating with the bass clarinet or bassoon as the bottom voice - or as a the tenor voice just above the bass voice?

    Also, you said "When I write for our groups, I stick to a euphonium "meat range" from F below middle C to C above middle C ..." did you really mean the F below middle C, or 2 Fs below middle C (i.e. not using more than the entire low octave)?
    Glad to help; always willing to work with people who strive to get things right
    I am from NYC, so I'd be curious to know who you know on trombone/euph/tuba in the pits. Though I left the city for good in the mid-70s, I bet some of the same guys/gals are still in the pits 30 yrs later. Maybe not, though they are a dedicated bunch and do indeed double and triple on tenor/bass bone, euph, bass trumpet, and tuba.
    Of the choices you gave, overlapping is probably optimal, though the NY calibre of player can do anything. As I said in the original post, I prefer to think closer to the horn than to the bass trombone because of the conical nature of both horn and euph. A good player will know how to balance. Euph could be the horn or the bassoon in a WW quintet depending on context.
    For my own purposes, what I wrote about the F below middle C was correct. Remember that I am playing voice 3, right below the 2 trumpets. That's the horn's "cash register" as well--4th-line F bass clef to C above mid C. Anything below that F right below mid C in voice 3 may lead to mud when combined with the trombone and tuba. The way the overtone series works, bottom voices need more space to avoid mud. That's all the more impt. with euph instead of horn, since the euph sound below that F is MUCH fuller and more robust than the horn's sound. So if you want to overlap, steer clear of the low register of the euph unless it's solo or in open voicing with the trom or tuba if they are playing.
    Man, this is SOOOO much easier to demonstrate than to verbalize about

    Your arranging/orchestration books ought to contain charts of "lowest possible p5," etc.

    Two other possibilities are the bass trumpet, in Bb an octave below the regular trumpets, as is the REAL baritone horn. Doublers are unlikely to have a bass trumpet and even less likely to have a REAL baritone, which is almost exclusively a british brassband instrument. I have one, but then again, I am strange.

    Again, I'd use a smaller-bore horn such as the Yamaha 321 if you take the high road and a large-bore compensating instrument if you take the low road.

    Hop a plane to Indy, c'mon over, buy me a couple Guinesses, and I'll demo all the horns. Failing thatr, check out the live links I put in the earlier post, keeping in mind it was my show & I really wanted to showcase the "euph as horn" thing. Also remember I have a day job .

    Also please keep in mind that answers to the valid and perceptive questions you pose depend heavily on the nature of the music you write, so the offer to look at score and/or euph part stands!
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  7. #7

    Re: Scoring for Euphonium

    I'm afraid I don't remember the names of the musicians I've talked to on set. I am doing mostly film and TV. Usually I meet people, work with them for a day or two and never see them again. And there are so many, year after year...

    Thanks again for all the advice. You've given me a lot to think about. One of my reasons for considering the Euphonium over the horn was that, from what I have read, it seems to be a bit more solid on the lower ocatve. But if it gets muddier, that undercuts what I wanted it to do. Still, I think it's a better choice than the horn, as it seems reasonable to expect a Broadway trombonist to double on the Euphonium, than to expect a horn player to double on anything. While I need a conical bore sound for some of the slower moving pieces and for counterpoint with another brass instrument, the rest of the time my tenor brass part really needs to have a present, pointed attack (usually either doubling the bass trombone an octave up, or as the lower voice in 3 part harmony with the trumpets). For the solo work, I think the euphonium will usually be the better choice instead of the trombone.

    Though I'd like to take you up on your offer to look over the euphonium part, I don't think I'm anywhere near that point yet. I'm still struggling with what instrument should play what in a lot of cases. And it's rather slow going, since I am juggling an acting career as well as a survival job. Every bit of feeback to these forums helps, though. A while back, I asked musicians to post their pet peeves about new composer/orchestrators to this forum, but people really didn't seem to pick up on it. I find that the players give you the kind of feedback you never get from books or other composers. My niece has been very helpful answering my questions about the violin. (My advice for writing for the keyboard is to write a full piano part, if possible. A talented player can always find the chords from that and embelish whatever you give them, but if you just give them the chords and the rhythm they sometimes make it to simple -- or worse, make it sound like everything else. Writing out the bass line is especially important to me, since a lot of keyboard players seem to neglect it.) The other area that I'd like to see addressed more in the forums is writing accompaniment for the voice. Orchestration books are very sparse in covering it.

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