More on brass doubling

Prior post: Brass doubling?

Boston Symphony Orchestra bass trombonist Douglas Yeo has a page on his website with doubling tips. In addition to bass trombone, he plays bass trumpet and serpent. Not tenor trombone.

I don’t knock anyone for finding their niche. And Mr. Yeo is clearly a very accomplished musician—listen to some of his sound clips if there is any doubt. But I have to admit a few items from his doubling tips amused me as a woodwind doubler.

He says about the whether-to-double question, “The answer for many players is simply economic – if you play more than one instrument, when a contractor calls, you’ll be able to say ‘yes’ more often.” Even if you’re the first-call bass trumpet player and the first-call serpent player, how many gigs per year do you think that adds up to? Presumably Mr. Yeo keeps busy with his day job at the BSO.

One would think that the best way for a bass trombonist to get more gigs would be to play the more common tenor trombone. Mr. Yeo’s reason for avoiding this doubling is that it requires a mouthpiece of a different size, which he feels is destructive to his bass trombone embouchure. For tonight’s woodwind doubling gig, on the other hand, I’m playing flutes of three different sizes, plus clarinet and soprano saxophone. And this is an easy one, since there aren’t any double reeds or any of the larger single reeds.

All my respect to Mr. Yeo—what he does, he does very, very well. As for me, I’m off to destroy five different embouchures.


One response to “More on brass doubling”

  1. Brendan Agnew Avatar
    Brendan Agnew

    I’m primarily a trumpet player, but I’ve done a lot of theatre work on keys, bass and percussion, too. I dabble in woodwinds – I played baritone sax in my school big band last year (my final year) and I dabble in clarinet.

    I find that due to the fact that on brass instruments you are generating the buzz entirely with your lips which is then magnified by the mouthpiece and instrument it is important to get the feel of the buzz right for each instrument. I was playing the tuba/bass part for a production of Chicago a couple of years ago, and during the day I was doing a lot of trumpet practice. The difference between the trumpet embouchure and the tuba embouchure is significant, but not impossible. It takes a bit of practice swapping between brass instruments, but it’s the same with anything.

    For a production of Little Shop of Horrors I ended up playing Eb Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Tenor Sax, Trumpet, Flugelhorn, and a bit of percussion. It’s perfectly doable, it just requires practising the changes.

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