This is the main post for Baritone Bass Clef Warm-Ups. Euphonium* and Valve Trombone Players can use these too!
If your parts say Baritone TC or have a Treble Clef at the beginning – you are in the wrong place! Go to the Trumpet Warm-ups page and try to ignore the fact that it says Trumpet all over the place. It will work for you – really!
From here you will go to the Warm-up that best suits your current needs. You might start on Warm-up #1 or #2 but soon be off to #3 or #4 as your chops strengthen. The videos that are linked show me playing them on a Trumpet but you can still play along with them. You might have to ignore the odd note-name that works for me or those Baritone Treble Clef people. I’ve tried to make sure that the note-names on your warm-ups are correct for you. (If none of this means anything, go back to the Baritone Corner post and read about how and why that works.) OK let’s get started:
Baritone Bass Clef (BC) Warm-Ups: A Beginner’s Guide
Warming up is important.
This site is about helping you become a better Baritone player, and some kind of daily warm-up routine is key to making that happen. As with any other physical activity there are gains to be made by getting yourself ready to play. If you were getting ready to play a sport, you’d give your body some sort of warm-up so that you’d be more likely to play your best and less likely to hurt yourself. That’s our main goal here, but with your Baritone playing. As a secondary goal, we’re going to do some things that will have spin-off benefits in other aspects of your playing … like a basketball team warming up by sinking a bunch of easy baskets; or hockey players casually skating around shooting pucks at an empty net.
You are going to be in control of how this process goes. How high, low, loud, soft, long etc will be up to you. I’m going to tell you a lot of stuff, but that’s less important. What really matters are things like how you feel, how you sound and how you progress as a player. You have to monitor those things. With all of these words I’ve already lost most of the kids who ended up on this post. You have to listen to yourself and think about how things feel. Most young players just don’t do those things. Do them.
First thing – pain is the body’s way of saying STOP. There should be no pain when you warm up because you’re going to take things slow and easy. Your first goal is to meet your chops where they are. After you get used to warming up, and as you get stronger you’ll have a really good idea where to start, how to proceed and when you’re ready to meet the day’s playing demands.
I’m writing this post as a result of a few recent visits to schools where young Baritone players were showing up, opening their cases and starting right into rehearsals meeting whatever demands the music had for them. Their chops didn’t have a chance to get ready and those players didn’t sound anywhere close to their potential. Worse yet, they were probably damaging their chops rather than getting stronger. This paragraph should end soon, the way it started. If you feel pain in your warmup, STOP. Try again later, or tomorrow, or the day after that.
Baritone Warm-Ups: The Basics
Now to the good stuff: What to do.
Play an easy, comfortable low open (no valves) note – not too loud. Most players will play either an F or a low Bb (scroll down for sound clip examples of these notes). Play this note for four or five seconds and take a break. Think about how that felt and sounded. You want it to feel easy, not at all stressful and you want it to sound good. A good sound is one that sounds like a Baritone, doesn’t sound strained or fuzzy. There’s a place for quiet playing and a place for playing loud. This is neither. Play that note with a nice, full sound.
Play that note again. This time play it five times in a row, tonguing each note clearly. Four slow quarter notes and a whole note if you like. Play them in a steady rhythm. Rest for a moment and think about how those notes sounded. Were they clear, full, round and rhythmic? Were they sloppy, scratchy and strained? Some of each? (btw I worked with an otherwise good young Baritone player today who had lots of things going well for her – but … every note she tongued started with some kind of audible wreckage. Upon hearing the phrase “the tip of the tongue at the top of the teeth” she tried it and was miraculously cured. (That doesn’t work for everyone, but it sure did for her.)
It’s not all about the chops. You need to prepare your entire torso, your neck, your fingers and your brain as well. Your warmup is a great time to do all of the things right, so start with your posture Whether you’re standing or sitting you want your back upright, not slouched and your chin up so that the air you’ll need can flow freely through your neck. Hold the instrument up so that you are sitting upright and the instrument comes to you. Making this a part of your warmup sets you up to continue doing it. Make sure that your grip on the Baritone is comfortable and effective.
These warmups are based on what I do every day. Like most professional players I have adopted and adapted the work of great players and teachers. In particular I use the warmup exercises of Knud Hovaldt, the “Flow Studies” by Vince Chicowicz and exercises by Max Sclossberg. These exercises are just a few of those available in print as Trumpet Technique Lip Flexibility by Knud Hovaldt; Vincent Chicowicz Fundamental Studies for the Developing Trumpet Player by Michael Chicowicz, Mark Dulin, Thomas Rolfs and Larry Knopp; and Daily Drills and Technical Studies for Trumpet by Max Schlossberg. If you’re serious about playing the Baritone well into high school and/or university. There are some similar books for you at your favourite music store. Other Baritone-specific websites or a more experienced Baritone player might help you choose them.
Bits and pieces of the Chicowicz Flow Studies appear all over the internet. Going to those is a half-step. I’ll confess that I picked up a one-pager photocopy at a conference some time in the 1980’s and still have it somewhere. The Fundamental Studies book contains a lot more, and having full access to the thoughts and plans of a great teacher is worth it. The chances of me, or anyone else showing you the perfect warmup are slim-to-none. Having lots of carefully crafted exercises to choose from and being sensitive to exactly what works for you has the best chance to be work for you. There may be some other great books out there, but those are the ones I use to warm up.
Choosing The Correct Baritone Warm-Up
We need to split up now. You’ll have to choose which warmup best suits you based on what notes you can play comfortably – without straining at all. Most of these Warm-ups include alternate fingerings – use them as you warm up. Some fingerings include an asterisk which I use on my Trumpet fingering charts to indicate that the third valve slide must be used for these notes to sound in tune. There’s a long explanation of that here, and a better demonstration about halfway through this video. If this Baritone post gets any real traffic I’ll make a fingering chart like that for you!
Baritone Warm-Up #1
If the highest open (no valves pushed) note you can usually play is Low Bb (sound clip example below), click here to go to Baritone Warm-up #1.
Low Bb sounds like this:
If you usually end up playing something even lower-sounding, it might be a Pedal Bb. That would probably sound something like this:
If that’s what’s coming out you are playing a sound that’s below, or lower in pitch than a Baritone wants to be played at. Firm up the corners of your lips a bit and blow the air faster through the horn. Do this enough times and eventually one of the other notes should come out. You should likely start with Baritone BC Warm-up #1 as well. If you’ve tried a lot and just can’t get a higher sound to come out, check in with your Band Teacher about it.
Baritone Warm-Up #2
If the highest open (no valves pushed) note you can comfortably play is the F on the second highest line on the staff (sound clip below), click here to go to Baritone Warm-up #2.
F in the staff sounds like this:
Baritone Warm-Up #3
If the highest open note you can comfortably play is the Bb at the top of the staff (sound clip below), click here to go to Baritone BC Warm-up #3.
Bb on top of the staff sounds like this:
Baritone Warm-Up #4
If the highest open note you can comfortably play is the D on top of the first ledger line above the staff click here to go to Baritone BC Warm-up #4 BUT, before you do, know that this warm-up includes some Pedal Tones (like the one on the clip near Warm-up #1 above – but better!). If you have no idea what that’s about take some time to find out. I’ll eventually get around to a post or a video on that subject. For now just search it on your own.
D above the staff sounds like this:
Baritone Warm-Up #5
If the highest open note you can comfortably play is the F on top of the third ledger line above the staff click here to go to Baritone BC Warm-up #5.
F above of the staff sounds like this:
If you’re playing comfortably above that F, keep doing what you’re doing. You might take that last warmup and add higher partials to it – especially with the Flow Studies, Scales and Arpeggios. Use and extend the Chicowicz flow studies up to your highest comfortable place – possibly playing them in lower keys. The originals are meant to be played in all 7 valve combinations. Check out some serious Baritone and/or Euphonium players and what they’re doing. There are big differences between players in how they approach warming up and you’ll want to check around to see what suits you best. Remember … “first, do no harm”.
What About Warming Down On Baritone?
Finally, there is also a concept sometimes referred to as a Warm-down. That’s a whole different beast with some things in common with warming up. The idea is to end your playing day with some gentle, easy playing that relaxes the chops and releases any built-up tension. It’s like putting away your tools after you’ve been working on something for a while … not all of us bother, or are good at it. I’ll get to that another time.
Euphonium or Baritone?
* What is a Euphonium and how is it different from a Baritone? The short answer is that they are virtually identical for a beginner. The main difference is that the tubing in a Baritone is cylindrical until it opens up into the bell and the tubing in a Euphonium is conical throughout. The result of that cone-shaped tubing is that the Euphonium makes a more mellow or dark tone. (This is similar to the difference between a regular Trumpet and instruments like a Cornet or Flugelhorn.) More advanced players usually head towards a Euphonium because they’re playing more sophisticated music where the composer/arranger wants more tone colours to play with. The Trombone already has the cylindrical brass sound in that register, so the Euphonium is a nice option for them. Unlike the Baritone, Euphonium parts are pretty much always printed in Bass Clef and not transposed.
Got an Extra Valve?
If your Baritone or Euphonium has a fourth valve that looks like it’s for your left hand it might be something called a “Compensating Valve”. There’s a good description of that over here on a different site. For now you probably won’t need that extra valve.