Questions – How To Find a Good Baritone Horn Teacher

I was recently emails some questions from MS who wanted to know about finding a baritone horn teacher for a friend’s son.

A friend asked me for a recommendation of a private baritone teacher for her 10yo son in our smallish college town.  I’m a string player, so I feel pretty in the dark here — although my own 10yo son has been playing trombone for a year, which is why she asked me.

I looked up baritone on the internet.  My impression is that baritone is mainly used for marching band.  Is that right?  I don’t think I’m going to be able to convince them to switch instruments, because for some unknown reason, they own a baritone.  But I’m curious.

BaritoneMy first low brass instrument was the baritone horn. It is a cousin of the euphonium, the main difference between these two instruments is the shape of the bore. The baritone is similar to the trumpet and trombone in that it is a cylindrical bore instrument. This means that from about the leadpipe to the bell flare the instrument the size of the tubing remains more or less consistent. In contrast, the euphonium is like the tuba and horn in that the bore size gradually gets larger the further away from the leadpipe. While this does make for a difference in sound, the basic technique of the two instruments is very similar.

The baritone horn is used in many marching bands and also is a typical instrument in British style brass bands. There is a marching version of the baritone that is designed so the bell points forward, like a trumpet, rather than up, like a tuba or euphonium. While most symphonic band literature typically calls for the euphonium rather than the baritone, baritones are sometimes asked for instead and many school bands use baritones instead as they tend to be a little cheaper to purchase and make for a little easier transition from trumpet to baritone. Baritone parts are very commonly notated in a Bb treble clef transposition like a tenor saxophone, again to facilitate a transition from trumpet to the baritone (although in British style brass bands almost all the parts are notated in Bb treble clef).

So to get back around to your point, baritones aren’t just a marching instrument. If the bell points forward, the particular instrument is designed for marching, but if it points upward like the photo above it is meant to be a concert baritone horn.

My main question is about finding a private teacher.  I doubt we’re going to find someone whose main instrument is baritone.  I think it’s going to be someone whose main instrument is either trombone or tuba.  Is that right?  And does it matter which?  My own son’s first private trombone teacher was a tuba player who used his tuba in lessons for demonstrating and playing duets, but who was very familiar with trombone.  That worked fine for my son, who was already advanced for his age with other instruments, and turned out to be a natural at the trombone, so I don’t know if having a teacher playing a different instrument in lessons would work so well for everyone.  I know from my son’s reports of how the group lessons at school went last year that my friend’s son tends to progress at an average pace.  In other words, my son found listening to my friend’s son frustrating, but not as frustrating as listening to a third child.  So by average, I mean in the middle of a sample of !three children.

You will probably not find a music teacher whose main instrument is the baritone horn, but you might be able to find someone who plays euphonium. This is the closest instrument and might be your best bet for private lessons. That said, an awful lot of trombonists and tubists double on euphonium or baritone and would be more than capable of starting a beginner on the baritone. Since the baritone is often used as a double for trumpet players (or, as in my case, to encourage trumpet students to try out low brass to balance school band instrumentation) a trumpet teacher should also be able to help start a beginner on baritone quite well. This isn’t so much different from a violin instructor who can also start violists, for example. While certain mechanics and literature of each instrument are unique, basic brass technique is the same for all instruments.

My advice is that if you can’t find someone who is a euphonium player for private lessons would be to look first for a trombonist or tubist who teaches privately and then perhaps investigate trumpet teachers. More importantly than what instrument the teacher plays, however, is making sure that the teacher has experience at working with beginners or at least has an interest in teaching students at that level.

You mention that you live in a college town, so I would imagine that the college’s music department, if it has one, would be a good place to start. If the college teachers there do not take on extra private students there may be a college student who is interested in teaching beginners and the professor may be able to recommend a music education major. The middle school and high school band directors would be another resource to check out. Again, they may not be taking on private students, but they often know who the music instructors in the area are and can recommend someone.

Finally, your blog is very interesting reading, but it would be great if some day you could pull out some bits and pieces from your oeuvre that would help someone like me.  What do I need, as a non-brass-playing musician parent of a brass player?  Practical advice about technical and musical development, setting up fun activities for my child at home, help finding good play-along recordings, method books, repertoire books, duet books, etc.  I found the article about buzzing helpful, but I have to read pages and pages of detailed text to find the nuggets that are helpful for our situation.  Also the advice about young players needing to sing the difficult note first, in order to get it into his/her ear first — that’s great to read, but I’d like an easier way to find those sorts of tips, since I’m unlikely to make my way through your entire archive.

Thanks!

Thanks for the kind words and excellent suggestions. My regular readers know already that I tend to focus my posts on things for either the music student or music teacher, but I do get frequently contacted by parents looking for information and advice on helping their children with music studies. I’ll give your suggestion some more thought and see about compiling something more specific for parents and posting it here soon.

Anyone else have any thoughts for MS about finding a private instructor for baritone horn? Did I leave off anything important or would you like to correct something I wrote that is misleading? Feel free to leave your comments below.

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