Upgrading Your Beginner Euphonium
As musicians, we owe a lot to our student instruments. They make it as easy as possible to make a good sound when our muscles and technique are underdeveloped, boosting our confidence at the beginning of our musical journey. However, it’s usually time to part ways a few years down the track. Upgrading to an instrument made from better materials and more advanced features will allow us to reach the next level in expression and finesse.
When it comes to the euphonium, intermediate and professional instruments generally have an extra valve and are larger in size compared to their entry-level counterparts. Unlike the tuba, euphoniums are always in the key of Bb. Here are few things to consider when upgrading your euphonium.
Number of Valves
Many student euphoniums have three valves, which makes the instrument easier to play and handle. However, adding a fourth valve extends the range of the instrument and gives more fingering options for tricky repertoire. This also helps with intonation by providing alternative fingering for notes that tend to be out of tune on a three valve instrument.
Four valve instruments will either be aligned in row at the top (referred to as “in-line”), or with three on top and one on the side (referred to as "3+1"). The 3+1 arrangement is generally considered to be easier to hold as the fourth valve is depressed by the left-hand index finger instead of the right-hand pinkie finger. Choosing between these two arrangements comes down to what the player finds more comfortable and easy to operate.
Compensating vs Non-Compensating
Four valve euphoniums tend to be naturally sharp in the low register. Players are required to adjust out of tune notes by moving the tuning slides in and out as they play. Compensating euphoniums have extra tubing that compensates for the instrument’s tuning tendencies. When the fourth valve is used on a compensating euphonium, the air is redirected through the extra tubing to help flatten the pitch. This causes the instrument to be heavier, meaning that beginners don't tend to start on a compensating euphonium. Most advanced players can handle the weight and extra tubing of the compensating instrument, and so many will upgrade to a compensating euphonium after a few years.
Note: Euphoniums with an “in-line” valve arrangement cannot be compensating, but euphoniums with a 3+1 valve system can either be compensating or non-compensating.
Yamaha, Eastman, Shires, and Schagerl are some of the most trusted brands for intermediate and professional level euphoniums. Here are some models that advancing players should consider when looking to upgrade their student instrument.
The Eastman EEP826S and EEP624GS/EEP624S are compensating euphoniums with 3+1 valve arrangement. The EEP826S is Eastman’s most advanced euphonium and is ideal for players looking to pursue music at university.
The EEP624GS/EEP624S has a slightly larger bell and bore than the EEP826S, and is also a good option for people who are doing VCE and/or wanting to seriously pursue music beyond school.
The Eastman EEP524S is a non-compensating euphonium with 3+1 valve arrangement. This is a good option for intermediate level players wanting to play in school and community ensembles. It has a smaller bore and bell than the EEP826S and EEP624 models.
The Yamaha Neo YEP642ST is a four-valve compensating euphonium with 3+1 valve arrangement. It has similar bell and bore specifications to the Eastman EEP826S. This instrument has a main tuning slide trigger, which makes it heavier but gives more versatility in tuning. This instrument is also available without the main tuning slide trigger (YEP642S).
The Yamaha YEP321S is a non-compensating euphonium with four in-line valves. This instrument is suitable for intermediate players.
The Schagerl SLEP900S is a four valve non-compensating euphonium with a 3+1 valve arrangement. This instrument is suitable for hobby players wanting their own intermediate euphonium for community ensemble playing.
The Schagerl SLEPJMS is also a non-compensating euphonium that has been designed with input from Australian multi-musician James Morrison. The SLEPJMS features gold trim on the tuning slides and valves.
The Shires EUQ40S and EUQ41S are compensating four valve euphoniums with a 3+1 valve arrangement. The EUQ40S has a slightly larger bell than the EUQ41S. These two euphoniums also have different leadpipe materials, with the EUQ40S having a brass leadpipe and the EUQ41S having a nickel leadpipe. Nickel leadpipes tend to have a more brilliant sound.
There's a lot to consider when upgrading your euphonium. When it comes to making a purchase, think about where you will use the instrument and what your aspirations for the future are. The Fine Music team will guide you to the right instrument.