Euphonium- Getting Started
In this lesson students beginning the euphonium will learn the basics on how to hold the instrument and play five different notes. These notes will not be applied to the staff (at this point) to help the student focus on getting five clear sounds out of the instrument, and only focus on the one task. Each student is different, so I will check with individuals to find the best way to approach each step to keep them comfortable and engaged
- Piano (optional)
- Start with buzzing on the mouthpiece
- Show how to put on mouth and blow a raspberry
- Get a clear sound
- On piano, give a pitch to match on the mouthpiece (optional for student)
- If unsuccessful, try singing the pitch and apply to mouthpiece
- Put the mouthpiece on the instrument and show how to hold
- Sitting up straight, holding with both hands
- Focus on right hands over valves, instruct the fingerings (name valves)
- Apply buzzing from mouthpiece onto instrument
- Diagnose any problems producing a clear sound, don’t move on until successful
- Don’t move on until comfortable producing sound
- Teach how to play half a Bb scale (Bb-C-D-Eb-F) up and down
- Take one note at a time and slowly put them together
- Eventually apply to a meter and give counts (not saying meter) if student seems comfortable with progress
Student will have successfully completed the lesson once they can hold the instrument and play the half scale with little-to-no instruction from teacher.
Going into the next lesson, the five notes will then be taught from the staff, the fingerings and note names taught in the last lesson will be taught again in a different context to teach how to read musical notations.
The purpose of these teachings was to get an idea of how students of different ages would be able to learn Euphonium. I taught Isabella (age 12) and Seth (age 15) to see how just a few years in age would affect how I should teach. Both students provided a different experience, and both were very educational for me in different ways. After my lesson with Isabella, I decided that when I teach euphonium, I should have more of a logical flow in how I show the buzzing and dealing with the actual instrument. Looking back, I think that I should have just continued from buzzing to the piano, instead of interrupting it, showing the instrument, going to the piano, and then going back to the instrument. For any other student it might have been more confusing; so that is definitely something that I took out of both of these lessons: I need to be more organized. Again, not every student can learn in the same way and may require alteration to my plans and I need to be able to adapt to that quickly. It was difficult to teach an instrument that was not my primary instrument, and I learned it in a different way than other people, and I need to learn not only the instrument but also how to teach it in a lot of different ways and be able to adapt to each student and the way they learn.
Isabella was able to grasp most of the concepts easier and quicker than Seth, and I think that in some ways this is because she is younger. As a younger student she was more open to different things like singing and buzzing with the piano and I believe that this is one reason why she was able to get the notes out earlier on than Seth. Because she was able to play things earlier on, I was able to go to the next step, which was trying to put them with some kind of rhythm. I had to stop with Seth because I noticed that he was getting slightly frustrated with getting the upper notes out and he started to “shut down” towards the end. We still ended on a positive note, he was able to achieve the main objective, which was to be able to play the 5 different notes ascending and descending, but we were not able to put them to rhythms/counts because I felt like that would overwhelm him and he would come out of the lesson feeling bad about the whole experience.
With younger students I feel like they don’t need as much instruction (step-by-step) because they don’t get as frustrated. Younger students won’t feel like “failures” as often as older students because they are still learning, and are more comfortable with the try-fail process of learning. They are more able to critically analyze what it is that they are doing wrong (whether they are aware of it or not) and quickly move on. Older students like Seth might be considered harder to teach because of their attitudes. Before the lesson I asked him if he would be comfortable singing for me with the piano, and he said no. I did not want to make him uncomfortable and strain our relationship from the start, but I think that he might have progressed faster if I had just made him do it. Looking back, I am still not sure how that would have gone over with him, if having him not like me in the beginning would have affected everything in a more negative way, or if he would have gotten over being upset because the notes would have come out easier.
It almost seems that older students have higher expectations for themselves simply because they have more experience learning, and this is a good thing, except when it is not; when it keeps them from learning. I feel like I will experience this with any high-school student that is picking up an instrument for the first time, and my experience with Seth will help me to deal with the different attitudes of older students. They seem more likely to give up because they don’t get it right away, and they don’t completely understand how different learning an instrument is from “normal” learning in school. Isabella did very well, this could be from natural talent, or because she was more open to the experience, or a combination of both. I know that not every younger student will be like her, with attitude and natural ability, but in some ways they are able to learn the new skill set quickly. The earlier a skill is taught, the longer that they will be able to refine it, and that is why I feel like learning an instrument is something that should be encouraged as soon as students are able to. I think it is great to see older students interested in learning an instrument. Seeing Seth’s face once he started to get comfortable and figure out how to make himself better was very rewarding, as it was with Isabella as well.