The euphonium is a brass instrument with a baritone voice and the appearance of a tuba; in fact, both instruments are identical in nearly every way except in size, with the euphonium being referred to as the ‘tenor tuba.’
Sometimes confused with the baritone horn, the euphonium has a larger bell and bore than the former, has a deep-cup mouthpiece, and conical tubing (as opposed to the cylindrical tubing of a baritone which makes a brighter sound) that constantly expands from the mouthpiece to the bell. Consequently, the sound it makes is darker, larger and more powerful.
Like all other brass instruments, the euphonium makes a sound when the player blows into the mouthpiece, playing the same notes as the trombone, and working in the same way as the trumpet, except that the euphonium uses valves rather than tuning slides to change the length of the air flow.When depressed, the valve detours the sound waves through an extra length of tubing, similar to extending a trombone’s slide, thereby lowering the pitch of the instrument.
The euphonium is played with the left arm supporting its bottom, and the first three fingers of the right hand on the three top-action valves, while the left index finger plays the fourth 'compensating' valve (in professional models) found halfway down the right side of the instrument to compensate for the sharpness of the valve combinations.
Played solo, in bands and in ensembles, the euphonium is mostly played at the professional level in military bands. Because it is not as popular as the clarinet or the trumpet, the euphonium’s players or euphists (also euphonists) are few, and therefore considered valuable assets by band teachers. Similarly, if you are going to get music lessons at home, you will have a better chance of finding an expert instructor online (where geography is not an issue) than finding one in your neighborhood.
Because a euphonium is a ‘baby tuba,’ children who want to play the tuba may want to learn playing the euphonium first until they have the lung capacity to play the larger instrument. Many euphists say that the instrument itself is easy to operate, but it’s the embouchure (the manner in which the facial muscles, lips and tongue are applied to the mouthpiece) that makes it a lifelong learning.
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