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How to Hold Your Brass Instrument
By Tianna Streeter
6/21/2017 1:19:00 PM  

Tips and Reminders Before You Start

The road to success as a musician begins with learning how to hold your instrument properly. Always remember that the goal is to support your brass (also called brasswind) instrument, not to strangle it. Keep your hands and arms relaxed. Many music teachers speak of “cradling” the instrument, which is a great word because holding an instrument is not unlike holding a baby. 

For specific finger placement, read our beginners how-to guide below and click on any image to see a larger view.

How to Hold Specific Brass Instruments


holding a trumpet


Trumpet & Cornet

It is particularly important to remember to cradle the trumpet since it is small and would be easy to grab too strongly. Place the large pad of your left thumb against the back of the first valve (the one closest to the mouthpiece). Now wrap your hand around so that your index and middle fingers are cradling the far side of the third valve. Your fourth (ring) finger should be placed, appropriately enough, into the ring beyond the third valve. Your left pinky will then rest nearby, wherever it is comfortable. Now place the tip of your right thumb between the first and second valves and slide it up until it is touching the lead pipe. Rest the pads of your index, middle, and ring fingers on top of the valves, with your index finger closest to the mouthpiece. Finally, rest your right pinky on top of the pinky hook, rather than hooking your finger inside it. Hold the trumpet with the valves vertical to avoid wrist strain.


holding a trombone

Trombone

Begin by holding the trombone vertically, with the bell pointing downwards. Wrap your left thumb securely but gently over and around the horizontal bar just above the bell. The middle, ring (fourth), and pinky fingers of your left hand should wrap around underneath the bar just below the mouthpiece. The pad of your index finger should rest against the lead pipe, next to the mouthpiece. Now tilt the trombone upward until it is horizontal, with the mouthpiece near your lips. You should find that the weight of the instrument rests primarily on your left palm, especially on the large muscles just below the base of your thumb. Now gently grasp the slide with your right thumb, index, and middle fingers. Curl your right ring and pinky fingers in toward your palm, that way they will be out of the way when you move the slide.


hold a baritone


Euphonium, Baritone & Tuba

The same techniques are used to hold all three of these large brass instruments. Your left arm should wrap around the instrument as if you’re giving it a gentle hug. Your hand can wrap around any pipe(s), as long as you feel comfortable supporting most of the instrument’s weight with your left hand and arm. Now bring the mouthpiece close to your face so that you can start the proper placement of your right hand. You will see that your instrument either has a thumb hook to the left of the valves or a pipe crossing behind the valves. Hook your relaxed right thumb under either the hook or the pipe, whichever you have. Now place the pad of your index finger on the first valve (closest to the mouthpiece) and your middle and ring fingers on the other two valves. Your pinky will simply float nearby.



how to hold a french horn


French Horn

The French horn is known as the “backward” brass instrument, because it is the one instrument in the family that is traditionally supported by the right hand, while the left hand operates the valves. Begin by resting the horn on your lap with the mouthpiece on your left, pointing straight upward. Place your left pinky under the hook below the valves. The pads of your left index, middle, and ring fingers should rest on the valve levers, with your index finger closest to the mouthpiece. If you have a single-wrap horn, you will place your thumb inside the ring above the valves. Double-wrap horns have a thumb trigger, and you will rest your thumb there. The other odd thing about the French horn is that your right hand goes inside the bell. Don’t stuff your hand in there—its purpose is to hold up the horn, not block the airflow. You should feel like the hand is on the verge of “falling out” of the bell. The knuckles at the base of your thumb and index finger, along with the next knuckle up on your index finger, will bear most of the instrument’s weight as you bring it to your mouth and prepare to play.


Proper Holding Technique Matters!

Remember, using good technique when holding your instrument will make it more fun to play, and will also protect you from injuries. Make sure you’re well supplied with brass accessories so you can give your instrument the loving care it deserves!



Tags: brass, brasswind, band, beginner, how-to, tianna streeter
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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How to Hold Your Woodwind Instrument
By Tianna Streeter
6/7/2017 10:19:00 AM  

How to Hold Your Woodwind Instrument

One of the reasons it’s so fun to watch great musicians perform is that they have such a beautiful connection with their instruments. Developing that special relationship with your flute, piccolo, clarinet or oboe begins with learning to hold it the right way. Read our beginners how-to guide below and click on any image to see a larger view.

What Every Woodwind Musician Needs to Know to Hold Their Instrument Properly

You want to hold your instrument, not grab or squeeze it. Keep your hands and arms relaxed, gently supporting the instrument’s weight. Don’t worry—never in the history of music has a flute tried to run away! Place the pads of your fingers on the keys, not your fingertips. This is very important, because you will usually be placing your finger on a key with a hole, and you need to seal that hole. Even if you have a flute with solid keys, imagine there is a hole so you develop good technique.



hold fluteFlute

It is easiest to begin by holding the flute vertically, standing it on a table with the lip piece at the top and the keys facing forward (away from you). Place your left thumb on the B key—the long, narrow key facing you near the top of the flute. Counting downward from the top, place the pads of your left index, middle and fourth (ring) fingers on the second, fourth and fifth round keys on the front of the flute. Your left pinky will “float” off the instrument. Now locate the lowest three round keys on the front of the instrument (not the larger ones farther down that are tilted toward the sides). Place your right index, middle and fourth fingers on those three keys. Let your right pinky rest on the “teardrop” shaped key below your fourth finger. Your right thumb should rest on the back of the flute, opposite your middle finger. Now swing both your arms up and to the right, so that the flute is horizontal, and bring the lip piece to your lower lip. Your right thumb will support most of the instrument’s weight. Pro tip: If keeping track of which key is which is confusing at first, simply pretend your cleaning rod is a flute and hold it up in playing position to get a feel for the basic hand positions.

Piccolo

You hold a piccolo exactly the same way as you hold a flute! The only difference is that a piccolo does not have a foot joint, so your right hand will be at the end of the instrument.



hold the clarinetClarinet

Stand your clarinet up on a table with the keys facing forward (away from you). You will see a thumb hook facing you. Place your right thumb under the hook. On the back of the clarinet near the top, you will see an elongated key, and just below it, a round key. Place the pad of your left thumb on that round key. On the front of the clarinet, counting down from the top, place your index, middle, and fourth fingers on the second, fourth and fifth keys. Your left pinky can either rest on the instrument or hover just off of it. Now place your right index, middle and fourth fingers on the lowest three round keys on the front of the clarinet. Your pinky will eventually be used on the two elongated keys just below your fourth finger, so for now, just let it rest lightly on one of them.



hold the oboeOboe

Start the same way as you would with the clarinet, with the keys facing forward (away from you) and your thumb under the thumb hook. Near the top of the oboe, you will see three round keys with holes, with smaller, solid keys between them. Place the index, middle and fourth fingers of your left hand on the three keys with holes, skipping over the solid ones. Your left thumb should rest on the body of the instrument in back (facing you), tilted upward. Your pinky can rest on any of the three elongated keys below your fourth finger. Farther down, you’ll see another set of three round keys with holes, just like the ones where you placed your left fingers. Place your right index, middle and fourth fingers on those three keys. Let your pinky rest on the lowest of the three elongated keys below your fourth finger. Now simply keep the vertical orientation of your clarinet or oboe and bring it to your mouth.



hold the saxaphone
Saxophone

First, attach your neck strap to the instrument and adjust it so that you will be able to easily bring the instrument to your mouth without hunching over or tilting your head. Locate the thumb hook near the bottom of the instrument and place your right thumb under it. Around the front of the sax, you should see three round keys in the area where you’ve placed your thumb. Rest the pads of your right index, middle, and ring (fourth) fingers on those three keys, with your index finger highest. Your pinky can rest on any of the elongated keys below your ring finger. Now locate the round left thumb pad on the back of the sax, just below the octave key. On many saxophones, it will be black. Place the pad of your left thumb there. Around the front of the sax, find the uppermost round key and place the pad of your left index finger on it. Skip the very small round key and place your middle finger on the next full-sized key, then your ring finger on the round key below that. As with your right hand, your pinky can rest on any of the narrow keys below your ring finger.


Back-to-School Warm Up

If you have been playing a woodwind for a year or two but are reviewing these basics to get ready for school, you may also be interested in our collection of sheet music for woodwinds. For more tips and tricks about band instruments or to see student spotlights, keep reading the West Music blog.



Tags: woodwind, band, orchestra, beginner, how-to, tianna streeter
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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