Alan Baer Masterclass

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Alan Baer, Principal Tubist of the New York Philharmonic, give a masterclass at the Army Tuba and Euphonium Conference here in DC. I will keep my own anecdotes short and simple, but I must say how down-to-earth Alan was; if he cracked a note, he blew it off or laughed saying “even the best of us do it”. His masterclass focused on orchestral audition preparation and repertoire. As he said “We play for these auditions, and 99% of the time, we are the only tuba player in the room. But now I’m playing for all tuba players… so I’m kind of nervous.”

Alan Baer Masterclass

– Realize that the excerpts are easy; it’s just a matter of control.

– The hardest thing is to get over your ego.

– Naked Tuba

– What do we want the tuba to sound like?

– We play for these auditions, and 99% of the time, we are the only tuba player in the room.

– Think of the committee as complete children. You have to speak so clearly that they understand.

– So much is lost beyond the stand.


– The horn is so efficient that you don’t have to beat the hell out of it. You can really relax.

– Practice with the drone.

– Use a metered trill to practice.

Damnation of Faust

– Once you play those first four notes, you cannot change.

– On the ascending line, keep going to the high F, so that you ear train it. If the lines goes up, follow it.

– Play pretty.

– The committee does not want to hear you play the ride as loud as you can, they want to hear if you can play in tune and balance the section.

– Use a drumbeat in your practice. It’s doing the subdivision for you.

Prokofiev 5

– I advocate going back and fourth between the F and C. Match mouthpiece rims as well, otherwise you are confusing.

– Get yourself used to the multiple valve combination.

– Use the aperture and embouchure from a Db to use with an F# so that you do not overcompensate.

– Learn how to breath before you start something.

– There is a fine line between when your chops want to play, and when you want your chops to play. Always practice in time so they work when YOU want.

– Think about being on a committee, and listening to 100 guys play this slow, you are going to be pissed.

– Listen to the strings and how they move.

– I try to be as close to the fourth trombones sound as possible. I think ‘clarity for the basses and the mass for the trombones’.

– Get your valves vented.

– Not too loud, pretty.

– Make your music satisfy you.

– All of these loud excerpts, I practice at a comfortable mp or mf, so that you can make it pretty.

– Everything that you play, play with intent.

– “Now I’m going to play everything like the second movement of the Vaughan Williams”

Mahler 1

– “I don’t think of it in 4, I think of it in 12/8″.

– Thick is the thing to think here.

– Use 3 for the A and 1-2 for the D, if on F tuba.

– Whenever we miss a note, there’s a reason. Start looking for a reason.

– Do this one when the horn is absolutely cold, because that’s the real situation.


– Only breath after the Low E, excerpt for pickups into 12, to show phrasing.

– Drop the wrist to make sure that the 4th valve goes down first.

When it comes to auditions

– You need to sell your product, and you have to believe in it. You must go in and show them, this is what you want.

– Stop drinking a month before an audition

– Next time you’re practicing a passage and you are just getting worse, take 5 minutes and do pushups, dips, and go back to it.

– No carbs before you are going to play.

– Protein bars and protein shakes.

Alan Baer

Alan Baer

Masterclass: Marty Hackleman

This is the first of many frequent posts of its kind: masterclass notes. As the title indicates, this particular masterclass was given by Marty Hackleman, the former Principal Horn of the National Symphony Orchestra. True words of wisdom.

  • – Imagine you’re sixteen and not good at anything. Practice and learn harder than anyway because you are at a disadvantage. 
  • – Orchestral brass is “don’t stick out, don’t be creative”. The better you get the more you stick out. 
  • – Go in there and lay it down with poise, control and pride. It may not be perfect but its you and your sound. 
  • – Don’t ever apologize, don’t be safe. “Wow I stayed in my box of not offending anyone. Guaranteed to be ignored.”
  • – Music is a communication thing. But its beyond words, it touches you and brings out a language of emotion. You are enjoying the expression of feeling. That pride is communication. We are very vulnerable because it is a very personal thing. 
  • – You have to experience everything you can expect to have in a performance, in the practice room. 
  • – Spend quality time, not quantity. Take your ideal, cut it by a third with the same goal. That way you have to concentrate even more. 
  • – Be consistent. You will be inspired and energized with your playing. 
  • – In order to get the quality time, you must train your muscles accordingly. You must learn, apply, and then play. 
  • – You must have a routine. Warming up is a byproduct of a routine. You train to refine your tonguing, articulation,  and endurance. 
  • – Plan out your time. What are you worst at? Practice that most. 
  • – The important thing about a routine is how things are being done, not just that they are being done. If something starts creeping into my playing, that’s where I know it. 
  • – “I love sitting down and doing the same thing everyday and seeing the differences. What is different and how can I do it differently”. 
  • – If you go into the room with only the goal of success, you will never be satisfied. 
  • – When you are practicing and the same problems keep coming up, assess why. Do not let the next time be a repetition. You must figure out why and how to fix it.