Hey all! Since the light novel of Sound! Euphonium came out this week, and I’ve been reading it, this felt like something I can do as a tribute to it and the show. The timing works perfectly, because I’m in between concerts with the community band I play with and I had nothing but band on the mind recently. You see, I have a concert on Monday, a fourth of July parade to play in, I want to go watch Drum Core International event that is coming this way soon, I’m going to be playing in church for a couple services this summer, and I think I am going to play with my college’s alumni band in the sea fair parade coming up late next month. It’s a musical summer for me and I couldn’t be happier about it. It’s this kind of feeling that makes me really want to write this post. Once again, this is -> NOT<- a review, but Sound! Euphonium is an authentic band experience from the beginning all the way to where it stopped with some short comings.
To start this one off, I want to talk about my own band experience. I started playing the trumpet elementary school during fifth grade. From there I went to Junior High where I played in various groups and the jazz ensemble in ninth grade. From there, I went to high school and played in all the bands. Both jazz ensembles at their zero period, marching band, symphonic band, pep band (the last three are a part of the same group), and pit orchestra for the musical that our drama department was doing. Then I went to college where I tried to do the same thing. Now I play in a local community band and at church whenever the music director wants me. It’s always been a hobby for me and that’s the way it’s going to stay, because I don’t want something I love to become work. I feel like music would lose what it means to be special if I did that. Some adults play in community sports groups and I just play in a community band. Same kind of thing really.
Even starting from a basic brass instrument stand point, Sound! Euphonium gets a lot right. Starting with long tones and blowing through the mouthpiece to get different pitches. All great concepts that we brass players strive for. Whoever wrote this light novel really put a lot of effort into researching some of the essentials of brass instrument playing. Practicing long tones all the time helps with tone quality and eventually leads to the player having a warm and round sound. It also helps the player’s range, or the ability to play higher and lower notes, over time as well. Buzzing and producing different notes on the mouth piece along give the player more flexibility on the instrument itself. Two basic things that all players should strive for when warming up. Tuning is important as well, Unfortunately, it seems like Sound! Euphonium never goes beyond these two ideas. Never addresses tonguing or how a brass instrument produces different notes when using different valves or changing positions on the slide of a trombone (each valve or position lengthens the instrument which lowers the pitch as a result). I might be a little picky about this, but if you are going to explain what the difference is between a cornet and a trumpet, then why not talk about how a brass instrument actually works?
The band set up is correct as well. I don’t mean the nine to one ratio of female to male participants of the group. This is a case by case situation and from I’ve seen, it’s usually half and half. Females mostly take up the higher woodwind sections, it’s a split when it comes to saxophones, and the brass family is 2/3 male and 1/3 female from what I remember. The instrument set up in a concert setting is similar as well. The higher woodwinds are in the front, lower woodwinds in the back, and the brass section is in the back. Even the marching parade formation was similar to what I’ve been through as well. Trombones should be in the front. Do you want to put an instrument that uses a slide to be behind you? No. I’ve never gone through as many hours of band practice they do in this series. The most we do is have a class period for it and have two after school practices a week. The difference is probably our different countries work ethic. I do have to say that the first marching practice seemed familiar to my high school’s marching practice. We started marching around the track before hitting the streets of our home town. While the experience isn’t 100 percent similar to mine, it is still similar enough for me to feel nostalgic about what I’ve been through when I was watching.
I never completely understood the drama that takes place in Sound! Euphonium. Doesn’t every high school band want to win awards? What school doesn’t work as hard as they can for competitions? Maybe it’s because I went to a competition thinking school that always worked hard to achieve every single award that we can do? I mean, our band director put up banners around our band room showing what we’ve won. In fact, we’ve won so many that he continually cycles through them. I suppose that I have seen some schools that don’t focus toward winning awards, but I doubt that an entire grade level of students would ever leave a band behind. Members come and go, because that’s what happens in high school, but most people stay. At the same time, beginning players rarely ever join a high school band. I realize that having a beginning player gives the story a natural character to explain band stuff to the audience, but still not that realistic. I also wish there was more section vs section drama, because that is a constant thing in every band group that I’ve been a part of. It is a bad thing to say that people’s personalities are based around what instrument they play, but it’s kind of true in some ways because it’s like each section is a political party and the band was a political body trying to keep it self afloat. Sectional interactions were truly interesting and complex because of it. The problem here is Sound! Euphonium focuses on one section in particular with only some individual members representing other sections. This is where the experience feels just short of what an actual band experience would be like and is just sort of hollow. Still, it’s an anime/light novel. It was never going to be a purely genuine experience.
Sound! Euphonium is a solid light novel and anime series, despite some of the standard moe aspects that I am not a fan of. In fact, from reading the light novel, I can tell why Kyoto Animation chose to adapt this one in the way it did. The fact that the series follows a band that is more girls than anything else and the band members idolizes some of them over guys makes it the perfect kind of thing for them to adapt. Still, it’s all good sorts of fun and is a high-quality series with great character interactions. I would dare say that the anime is better in this department, because Kumiko is given more a personality then just questioning everything about what is going on. There is also some filler throw into the anime that gives the series more of a natural flow then what the light novel has. The only thing that the does wrong is give band members a uniform that aren’t realistic at all (seriously short skirts? High stepping is a thing people) and give the series more yuri teasing then there actually is in the light novel. Still, if you are a person that was never in band and wanted to know what the experience was like, either is a good option. You will learn some interesting brass instrument mechanics and will be given a taste of what band competition season is like.