Doctor Euph by Roger Behrend
Dr. Euph is waiting for your questions! If you have a question relative to playing or teaching the euphonium, questions relative to the history or the euphonium, or any other topics euphonium-esque, please contact the good Doctor through his assistant, Roger Behrend at the address you’ll find on page 2 of this issue of the Journal. Because of unusual circumstances, we will be re-printing a question posed to Dr. Euph in the December, 1996 issue of the Willson Mouthpiece (where Dr. Euph continues to have an additional office).
Dear Dr. Euph, I have played on several different euphoniums, three and four valve. How do I tell the difference bejiween compensating and non-compensating euphoniums?
San Antonio, Texas
Before you can identify the compensating system on your instrument, it is important to understand some basic history and information about compensating systems. Sound and intonation on all brass instruments is a never-ending give and take venture. A perfectly in tune instrument is impossible, so we look for some kind of mechanical device(s) to compensate for these inconsistencies.
Early compensating systems were being developed in the mid- 1800s. Though there were many different designs, they all basically used extra slides and/or the addition of more valves. Why should we bother with a compensating system? Remember that the more options you have, the better chance there is you will play closer to the pitch center.
Without going into great technical detail, the system of compensation found on modem euphoniums is a combination of both added valve(s) and slide(s). Your instmment can have three and/or four valve compensation, depending on the model and valve combination being used. The idea that your horn moves from the key of B-flat to F when you depress the fourth valve is correct. An instmment with the fourth valve may not be considered fully compensating unless it has a three valve compensating system. Part of that system is the addition of two slides below the handgrip on the first and third valves. These two slides are the main portion of the three-valve compensation system. In combination with the fourth valve, you have a fully compensating four-valve euphonium.
I know this is a simplified definition and identification concerning compensating euphoniums, and this is simply because of the limited space we have here. For a more in-depth discussion, I would suggest reading the chapter on the Blaikley Compensating System in the new edition of The Tuba Family by Clifford Bevan.