Invest the time now, reap the rewards later!
One of the most important ways to set your tuba and euphonium students up for success is to teach them great posture because it sets up EVERYTHING ELSE you do all year! Teaching your students great posture enables them to be more successful in the long run, so invest the time to teach proper handling and posture, and you will reap the benefits later. Be lovingly picky, and think about how you want your varsity band euphonium and tuba sections to sit…because children at every level of playing can sit like they’re in a professional symphony! There are three main sitting positions we teach our students- Relaxed, Ready, and Playing Positions.
Relaxed Position – Students sit with their backs in the back of their chair with their feet flat on the ground. The euph/tuba should lay across their lap (tallways, not flatways). Students ALWAYS have at least one hand firmly in control of the instrument. Euphoniums may sit with their backs against the back of the chair, but not the tubas- this will save you a lot of time when moving to playing position. Relaxed position is reserved for times when you are not working directly with a student, and you do not feel it necessary for them to sit in ready position.
Ready Position – The back is straight, and students are now sitting on the front half of their chairs with feet flat on the ground. Both hands are placed on the instrument where they actually are supposed to go when playing- do not allow students to be lazy with hand position! Euphoniums should be placed on the lap, bottom bow placed in toward the left hip, and bell section placed toward the right knee – tubas will rotate up similar to a playing position, but the mouthpiece does not come in contact with the face to avoid “accidental” playing. Students will sit this way in class when receiving instructions or waiting to play. Students are expected to be still and are not allowed to talk unless recognized by the teacher. Allow your tuba players flexibility with this position as long as it’s done with a purpose.
Playing Position – Euphoniums rotate up so that the mouthpiece meets the face, and the instrument is brought to come in contact with the embouchure (not the other way around!!) All other parts of posture stay the same. Students should never change the way they sit due to the environment (chairs or stands in the way). The complete weight of the instrument sits in the student’s lap.
Student sits on the edge of their chair with a straight spine – shoulders in line with hips, feet flat on the floor shoulder-width apart, and both hands on the instrument.
The left hand hugs the instrument and loosely holds the second or third valve pipes of the instrument (depending on the size of the student). Do not allow students to place their left hand on the bell- this causes shoulder tension and is incorrect.
Have students shake their right hand out and let it rest on their side. Tell them to notice the natural shape their hand rests in and just move that onto the valves of their instrument. The pudgy part of the finger should rest on the top of the valve cap, and the fingers should arc calmly and naturally in a completely relaxed position. This will allow students to push piston valves straight up and down. Flat and tense fingers push unevenly against piston valves, causing the valve to pivot where it enters the casing, which will cause the valve to grind against the inside of the casing every time it is pushed.
The leadpipe receiver should angle slightly downward from the student’s embouchure.
Euphonium students should place the bottom bow of the instrument into their waist and lean slightly forward. This alleviates pressure from the top lip, allowing it to vibrate naturally and produce a characteristic sound.
Tuba students will require an extra tool to help them hold the instrument properly (tuba stand, shelf liners, phone books, etc.). We recommend using shelf liners that can be found at any local supermarket or home depot. Cut a long strip that can comfortably wrap around your student’s leg – don’t skimp. Have the student place one end of the liner underneath the outside of their leg (like a bassoon seat strap), and wrap the liner around the top of the leg so that it rests on the inside of the leg. If you have top valve tubas, place the liner on the right leg. If you have front valve tubas, place the liner on the left leg. The tuba can now be placed resting on the grippy part of the shelf liner in a way that puts all weight of the tuba on the student’s leg instead of in their hands/arms/shoulders. Invest the time into figuring out the best way to set each student up in a way that works best for THEM – each student will be slightly different. It will take time, but it is totally worth it because it sets your students up correctly for the rest of their playing careers.
There are SO MANY different types of tubas that are all wrapped differently (front valve, top valve, ¾, full size, tightly wrapped, long belled), and you will need to invest the time to figure out the proper playing position for the instruments that are in your band hall. If you have questions, ask a tuba playing colleague for help!
Chris Meredith is currently the Director of Bands at Lewisville High School in Lewisville, Texas. Prior to his position at Lewisville, Meredith served as Director of Bands at Shadow Ridge Middle School in Flower Mound, Texas, for thirteen years. Meredith’s bands have been selected by the Foundation for Music Education as a National Winner in the National Wind Band Honors Project (2010-2018) and were official performers at The Midwest Clinic in Chicago, IL, in 2012 and 2018. Additionally, his Honor Winds had placed as a top 5 Finalist in the Texas CC Honor Band Contests on multiple occasions and was awarded the John Philip Sousa Foundation’s Sudler Cup in 2017. Meredith is an active adjudicator, guest clinician, and lecturer and is honored to have professional affiliations with Phi Beta Mu, Texas Bandmasters Association, Texas Music Educators Association, and Texas Music Adjudicators Association.
Josh Smith serves as the Director of Bands at Heritage Middle School in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. He previously taught in Keller ISD, where he established a thriving band program at Vista Ridge MS. Ensembles under his direction/assistance have earned “Superior” ratings and “Best In Class” awards in the state of Texas. In 2019, Mr. Smith was nominated to receive an Influential Teacher award from the Fort Worth Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.