Preservation Hall Lessons – Sousaphone and Tuba Technique with Preservation Hall Sousaphonist Kerry Lewis

Sousaphone Technique

GRADE: 9-12
GENRE: Traditional Jazz
TOPIC: Sousaphone
DISCIPLINE: Harmonizing Instruments


In this lesson, students will be introduced to New Orleans techniques for performing on the Sousaphone. Students will demonstrate how to incorporate the functions and techniques into their performance. 



  • Demonstrate body posture, hand positioning, and embouchure techniques. 
  • Apply techniques for warming up on the Sousaphone.
  • Demonstrate proper functions and techniques for playing New Orleans music. 



National Core Arts Standards

Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 5 Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.
Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 6 Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.



Students should have knowledge of an instrument and an understanding of the lines and spaces on the musical staff. Teachers should review the lesson resources, media, and websites prior to launching the lesson.





  1. Tell students that in order to develop a full tone on the Sousaphone they must adopt proper instrument techniques. The “Getting Ready” techniques are posture, embouchure, and hand positioning. 


  1. Display slide 3 on the presentation, Sousaphone Technique, review the “Getting Ready” techniques. Demonstrate and define posture, embouchure, and hand positioning for students. Posture is the proper way to sit in your chair. Tell students they should have their feet flat on the floor, back straight up, seated on the edge of the chair, chin up and parallel to the floor. Embouchure is the way you position your mouth, lips around the mouthpiece. Place the Sousaphone on your shoulder and center your lips on the mouthpiece hole. Hand positioning is the placement of your hands and fingers on the Sousaphone. Starting with your elbows in a comfortable position, place your left hand on top of the neck while the instrument is supported on the left shoulder. With your right hand on the second slide brace, place your right thumb, index, and middle finger between the second slide brace. The right hand should be flexible and relaxed.


  1. Reinforce the selection of a mouthpiece with students. Tell students the mouthpiece is designed in several sizes, but the Conn Hellenburg Series Silver 7B is recommended. A person’s body structure and lip shape may help in determining the best mouthpiece fit.



  1. Seat students in a circle, with Instructor in the center. Tell students they are going to practice making a sound, prior to inserting the mouthpiece. Model and explain to students how to use the technique of “Buzzing.” Apply the mouthpiece to your lips, lips firm and centered but slightly relaxed, firm chin (flat and pointed). Now breathe into the diaphragm by inhaling through the sides of your mouth. Lastly, commence to firmly buzz with and without the mouthpiece. 


  1. Display slide 4 of the presentation, Sousaphone Technique, to review the anatomy of the Sousaphone. Have students gently insert the bits into the mouthpiece receiver, then the mouthpiece into the bits.


  1. Once the students have their Sousaphone ready, review the “Getting Ready” procedures: posture, embouchure, and hand position. Allow time for students to review the techniques and get into position.


  1. Tell students they are now ready to make a sound. Model and explain to students how to warm up. Warm-up with Long Tones, one breath, soft to loud, and loud to soft. 


  1. After students are warmed up, introduce techniques unique to New Orleans music. New Orleans musicians are known for implementing the following instrument functions in New Orleans music. 
    • Music Theory: The Sousaphone plays the bass tones and arpeggios of the chords. 
    • Cultural Syncopation: With the influence of African and Latin beats, their rhythmic flavor with percussion makes the Sousaphone an essential part of New Orleans music.
    • Dirge: An expressive solemn song preferably a Spiritual normally performed when someone has made their transition or passed on. A Sousaphone plays whole notes, half notes, or quarter notes during a dirge. Display slide 6 of the presentation, Sousaphone Technique, to hear a Dirge Bassline on Sousaphone


  1. Have students practice the functions and techniques of New Orleans Traditional Jazz and Brass Band. Allow students time to practice at home and rehearse at school.



  1. The teacher should assess students’ knowledge of Sousaphone techniques by demonstrating posture, embouchure, and hand positioning. Observe and provide feedback as students display how to warm up and apply New Orleans-style music functions and techniques.



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

Louis Ford, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer



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