I am very lucky to have some pretty amazing friends and colleagues in the low brass community. As the tuba and euphonium are some of the newest instruments that have been developed in the brass family, there is still a long way to go in terms of pedagogy and equipment to catch up with other other brass-playing friends. I wanted to take a few moments and talk about a few different things that I have come across recently.
Before I do that, I want to take a moment and say that I am not compensated at all for what I am about to write. If I truly didn't think these products were good, I wouldn't be writing about them.
I recently received a copy of a great new book of studies from Michael Parker. Michael is the tuba player in the Monumental Brass Quintet, a group based out of Baltimore, Maryland. Michael also is the low brass professor at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania. I have never met Michael, but we have become to be friends via social media and my love of his products.
This new book, entitled "Daily Conditioning Studies for Tuba," is a great resource that each of us should have. The book contains many fundamental routines that are fantastic for students and performers. There are drills to improve tone, slurs, articulations, chord studies, and some duets and quartets as well. I've been using the book with my advanced high school students, and it seems to work really well. I love that the scale studies in the book are not just written out scales, and include short etudes that put the scale into a practical application. The book is also available for trombone and euphonium as well. It's $15, and can be bought here.
Besides this new method book, Michael has designed a new line of 3-part stainless steel mouthpieces which he has worked with Dave Houser, master mouthpiece maker, on creating. What I love about these mouthpieces is the quality of manufacturing, as well as the ability to put the same rim on multiple mouthpieces, without having to get custom mouthpieces made. I have personally bought all 4 of the mouthpieces I have tried, and will give you a brief description of my findings:
Parker-Hitz: This is a fantastic Helleberg-style mouthpiece that I have used exclusively while playing with Bay Street, where I play CC tuba. The mouthpiece allows me to get a lot of different colors out while playing, and the second I started playing it, I felt it was great for quintet playing. This was the first mouthpieces of Michael's that I tried.
Parker-Helleberg: Slightly smaller than the Hitz, I've actually found this mouthpiece better served for orchestral playing, as it allows me to get a bit more ping and articulation in the sound than I could on the Hitz. I've played this on all of the concerts I have done with the Fayetteville Symphony (playing CC tuba), and have really loved the clarity and projection I am getting in the orchestra.
Parker-Cantabile: This is the larger of the two F tuba mouthpieces, and is a great fit for orchestral playing, or if you were going to play F tuba in a brass quintet. It gives me a bit darker and mellower sound that the other Parker mouthpiece, and I will be using this on an upcoming performance of Berlioz's Corsaire Overture this week.
Parker-Bel Canto: This small F tuba mouthpiece is fantastic for solo playing. I really have found the clarity and tone generated by this mouthpiece to be fantastic, but it provides a tone better suited to solo playing.
For more information on these mouthpieces, check out Michael's website.
Part II will follow momentarily.
Andrew Smith currently serves as the Director of Athletic Bands at and Assistant Professor of Low Brass at Campbell University and is Principal Tuba of the Fayetteville Symphony. Andrew also maintains a low brass teaching studio in the Triangle region of North Carolina.