Is it reasonable to expect that an experienced cornet player should be able to pick up a "middle of the band" instrument, like a baritone, or an Eb horn and become reasonably proficient in a few hours across a day or two?

How large is the shock to the embouchure and how costly is it to then move back?


3 Answers 3


If the player has a good ear (and you're not asking them to do really virtuosic playing), then the "embouchure shock" should be fairly minimal.

As long as they're still reading transposed treble clef music, the fingerings will be exactly the same, with the notable exception of french horn (or is that a brass band instrument to start with?). Tuba doesn't read treble clef traditionally, but a treble clef, transposed part could be easily created that would work just fine for the player.

If the player is brand new at brass instrument doubling, then yes, they may need a few days to get used to it, just for the fact that it's different from a cornet. A more experienced doubler can usually switch around at will with no "adjustment period".


Your biggest problem may be reading in the bass clef. The valves on most (I think) 3 valved brass do the same job, and the dots will be in a key which compensates for the pitch (as in, if it's a Bb instrument, and the tune is in C, the dots will be written in D ).

Don't feel the embouchure will be a big deal, and you'll quickly re-adapt after. In fact, you may enjoy it so much that you go out and get a - valve trombone / tuba /etc.

It sounds like a great opportunity : grab it with both hands.You can always play quietly or mime in the 'hard bits' !

  • Thanks. With regards to bass clef I think it varies, but I think it leans towards treble. I can confirm that the baritone has the same fingerings. I can't imagine why they wouldn't all have the same 3:1:2 valve layout. I assume you've done this or play one of these. I don't have problems between Eb and Bb, so what's an octave I suppose.
    – Nathan
    Dec 5, 2013 at 16:22
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    Regarding bass clef, the transposing is fairly simple for Eb instrument, as the "dots" will be in the same spot as if it was written transposed in G clef. The only thing you need to do is to remove 3 flats (for F, C and G) or add sharp for those if they don't have flat. See this question that discuss this.
    – awe
    Dec 6, 2013 at 11:39
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    @NathanCooper, one usually doesn't have to worry about valve arrangements. There are some archaic instruments circulating around Scandinavia which do 2-1-4 instead of the usual 2-1-3. They refer to it around here as having "Swedish fingering" as opposed to the normal "German fingering".
    – Jolta
    Feb 8, 2016 at 14:08
  • Transposed parts will be in treble clef. Bass clef parts will be concert pitch. (I believe there is a continental European tradition of transposed bass clef parts for e.g. euphonium, but you don't need to worry about this unless you're in a Dutch military band.)
    – Laurence
    Feb 4, 2017 at 17:51

Completely disregarding the issue of the written music (which others have answered well), my experience as a trumpeter has been that the embouchure is the bigger problem.

I had no problem adjusting to playing the Eb horn after only a few hours of practice. The bigger embouchure used means that I surely didn't get as fine a tone as an experienced players, but it was enough to get by with. Since then, I've doubled numerous times on Eb and the switch is now very easy for me.

The baritone was a lot more difficult for me. The mouthpiece felt huge to my lips, and I was only able to play for a short time before my chops become fatigued. Given some more time, I'm sure it would work out, but I would say that it's not obviously feasible with only a few hours to practice.

Tuba, I've only tried once, and a small Eb at that. Not gonna fly any time soon.

  • A low instrument player moving up to a higher one would probably have more of a problem.
    – Laurence
    Jan 29, 2016 at 12:05
  • Yeah I can't disagree with that.
    – Jolta
    Jan 30, 2016 at 13:46

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