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Author Topic: Just curious: Tell me about Tubas?  (Read 2172 times)
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billepstein

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« on: Aug 08, 2017, 10:51AM »

Back during the Harding Administration I was playing both band and orchestra in Junior High. THe Band Leader asked me if I would play Baritone in the Band one semester. He was fed up with the results of failed Trumpet players with braces on Baritone.

In High School I wangled Study Hall on my own in the Band Room and, knowing the fingering from playing Baritone, I fooled around with the Tuba that sat there each day. I grew to really, really like it and when asked about making the switch for Orchestra (we had several good Trombonists), I only reluctantly turned it down.

At the time, and to this day, I haven't the foggiest about B Flat, BB Flat, E Flat, 3 valve, 4 valve, etc. I assume the Band Room Tuba was B Flat?  What's the story?
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BGuttman
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« Reply #1 on: Aug 08, 2017, 11:02AM »

The most common tuba you will find in school bands is called "BBb", and is an octave below the trombone or baritone.  They come in a variety of bore sizes and in my personal experience I do best on the smaller bore ones.  Note: most Sousaphones are also in BBb.  The BBb tuba is also referred to as a Bb tuba.  BBb tubas come with 3, 4, and sometimes 5 valves.  The 4th and 5th valves are usually similar to the two valves on a bass trombone.

Next smaller is called "CC".  It's a whole step above the BBb tuba.  CC tubas are prized by orchestral players because the CC plays better in sharp keys as are often found in orchestras.  Again, CC tubas come in a variety of bores.  You can get them with 3, 4, 5, and even sometimes 6 valves.  I don't know what the 6th valve does; maybe somebody else can describe it.

Now we have the Eb tuba.  It's a 5th above the Bb tuba.  This was the standard size tuba 100-150 years ago.  Often they are also used in lower grade schools because it's a lot easier to handle than the Bb tuba (less weight).  Eb tubas come with 3, 4, or 5 valves.  I have one with 3 valves from 1892 and it's often a nice size to use with a smaller band.  I also like playing the smaller (Eb, F) tubas -- fits my trombone chops better.  Note that large bore Eb tubas are also referred to as EEb.

Finally, we have the F tuba.  This is a whole step above the Eb tuba and is often called "Bass Tuba" in orchestral literature.  F tubas come with 3, 4, 5, and 6 valves.  I have one with 5 valves (4 right hand and one left hand).  I often manage to outblow some BBb tuba players on it -- maybe because I'm more secure.

Hope this helps.

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Bruce Guttman
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robcat2075

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« Reply #2 on: Aug 08, 2017, 11:52AM »

I once bought a Bb euphonium on ebay but when i got it, it turned out to be an Eb tuba!



I don't know what the 6th valve does; maybe somebody else can describe it.

I believe the extra valves allow some small adjustments for better intonation.
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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #3 on: Aug 08, 2017, 12:03PM »

And then there are descriptions of size.  Sometimes in 1/4s...  Student horns at 3/4, Regular horns at 4/4, big things at 5/4, and B.A.T.'s at 6/4  (Big @$$ Tubas).  These aren't exact and can only be used as rough guides.

Some British Tubas (Boosey/Besson/ and Yamaha copies) will be compensating, just like Euphs.  American and German designs are more likely just to throw another valve on there with a slightly different tuning to fix the intonation on a few notes.

Cheers,
Andy
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Andrew Elms
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« Reply #4 on: Aug 08, 2017, 12:42PM »

There are some real intonation idiosyncrasies with tubas.  The players can tell you by brand which notes will be tricky.  I did play tuba a couple years with a community band (the regular was manic depressive, got off his meds, had to take a little vacation in one of those places with locked doors.  But I digress.)  I now cringe to think how badly I must have played that thing especially tuning wise.

Anyway there seem to be three approaches:  lip everything in tune, figure out alternate fingers that work, or pull slides.  I see some tuba players spending as much time moving first and third valve slides as we do ours.  To my ears they are just that tiny bit more precise than the lippers, but a lipper with good ears does pretty well.
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #5 on: Aug 08, 2017, 01:52PM »

Another interesting thing about tubas is the way they are configured and the type of valves they use.
You can get top action piston valves and front action piston valves but rotary valve tubas tend to be front action.

With a top action layout the bell tends to be in front of your right shoulder whereas with front action tubas the bell is in front of your left shoulder. The same applies to euphoniums.

Now we have the Eb tuba.  It's a 5th above the Bb tuba.  This was the standard size tuba 100-150 years ago.  Often they are also used in lower grade schools because it's a lot easier to handle than the Bb tuba (less weight).  Eb tubas come with 3, 4, or 5 valves.  I have one with 3 valves from 1892 and it's often a nice size to use with a smaller band.  I also like playing the smaller (Eb, F) tubas -- fits my trombone chops better.  Note that large bore Eb tubas are also referred to as EEb.


Hi Bruce, not sure what you are drinking today but I think you should have said that the Eb tuba is a 4th above the Bb, not a 5th above. Embarrassed!

Cheers

Stewbones
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« Reply #6 on: Aug 08, 2017, 03:04PM »

F tubas come with 3, 4, 5, and 6 valves.  I have one with 5 valves (4 right hand and one left hand).  I often manage to outblow some BBb tuba players on it -- maybe because I'm more secure.
If you have a C or F with 6 valves the 6th valve is pretty much another valve of your choice. Could be a half step... whole step... step and a half... just depends on what you're looking for. Like someone else mentioned, it's on the horn for intonation purposes not really range extension.
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« Reply #7 on: Aug 08, 2017, 03:37PM »

Now we have the Eb tuba.  It's a 5th above the Bb tuba. 
That would be the F tuba...
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MikeBMiller
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« Reply #8 on: Aug 08, 2017, 03:47PM »

I owned one for about a year and got to where I didn't suck on it, but didn't really have a place to play it. So I sold it and now I wish I hadn't, but my wife is glad I did as she doesn't have to worry about where I am going to keep it. I found it much easier to go from playing bone to tuba than the other way around.
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« Reply #9 on: Aug 08, 2017, 04:59PM »

Tubas - Now available in plastic..  https://www.musik-produktiv.co.uk/cool-wind-tuba-black.html

Also, believe it or not, there is a website where hundreds of people have in depth discussions about tubas:  http://forums.chisham.com/
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MikeBMiller
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« Reply #10 on: Aug 08, 2017, 05:54PM »

And if you think trombone players have a hard time getting jobs playing, tuba is way worse. 1 seat per orchestra. Which is why many of the finest tubists in the world are in military bands.
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« Reply #11 on: Aug 08, 2017, 06:21PM »

... but my wife is glad I did as she doesn't have to worry about where I am going to keep it.

Marriage stuff I just don't get.

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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #12 on: Aug 09, 2017, 12:00AM »

I believe in MOST (not all) cases, the 6th valve you might find on a CC or F tuba, and the 5th valve on an Eb tuba, will be tuned to a flat whole step. This means it is tuned between a whole step and a step and a half in order to compensate for that extra tubing you need in the lower register (especially in the pedal range) in order to hit the correct pitch.

There is also what's called a "tenor tuba" which some will supplant with a euphonium (which is technically not correct and typically not what a composer is looking for). A tenor tuba can be pitched in Bb (same as trombone or euph) or C a whole step above that. C is more common. It could have anywhere from 4 to 6 valves, although 4 or 5 seems to be more common. It is typically found in lit written a while ago, for much smaller orchestras than we have today. It may also be used in lieu of the old French "tuba" in C such as the one Ravel would have written for in Pictures at an Exhibition (Bydlo).

A note on sousaphones--It is becoming more and more common to find them in different keys. For example, Wessex has come out with a new sousa in Eb and CC, each with 4 valves. I believe another manufacturer has an Eb currently in production, however I am not sure which. Eb sousaphones used to be commonly used in school bands, again due to the lesser size and weight, as well as the smaller bore and thus, less air required, for younger and/or less developed students.

There are many manufacturers of tubas these days, but I will just list a few of the highlights here:

Miraphone, Meinl Weston, Rudolf Meinl, Yamaha, King, Conn, B&S, Kanstul, Besson, Hirsbrunner, York, Cerveny

Some more more "affordable" makes:
Mack Brass, Wessex, Jupiter, St. Petersburg, Tuba Exchange, Big Mouth Brass

You'll probably recognize most of these because they make trombones as well, but certain manufacturers have specialized to the tuba, most notably Rudy Meinl and Hirsbrunner.
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« Reply #13 on: Aug 09, 2017, 04:51AM »

My sister has a King sousaphone in Eb. 

It has a gorgeous tone, I coveted it for a while.

But it is incredibly heavy, and the case barely fits in a pickup truck let alone a car. 
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #14 on: Aug 09, 2017, 08:49AM »

The only Sousaphone I ever really wanted was a King Eb with 4 valves.  It was being played by a guy who taped down the 4th valve and played it as a BBb Amazed  His intonation was "interesting" ;-)  I play tuba so little I don't think I'd buy one even if I could.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #15 on: Aug 09, 2017, 08:59AM »

The only Sousaphone I ever really wanted was a King Eb with 4 valves.  It was being played by a guy who taped down the 4th valve and played it as a BBb Amazed  His intonation was "interesting" ;-)

I had a friend try something like that.  I don't remember the details, I'd put together a brass group for church for Christmas and was pretty busy and stressed.  IIRC correctly, she was a choir director, fantastic pianist and singer, but played euph on this concert.  Something about not being able to read bass clef, maybe she'd played a little trumpet.  I think she held down the 4th valve and played it as treble clef.  Would that work? 

At any rate, it didn't. 

I also wrote out Doxology in G to be played with the organ.  We didn't have time to rehearse it but how hard can that be?  Turns out very hard, if you haven't seen sharps in a lot of years. 
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #16 on: Aug 09, 2017, 09:20AM »

My big problem playing with church organs over the years is the players seem to be in constant accelerando.

Also, the dynamic "piano" doesn't seem to exist on a church organ.  Loud, Louder, and Blastissimo are the dynamics.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #17 on: Aug 09, 2017, 09:29AM »

Back during the Harding Administration I was playing both band and orchestra in Junior High. THe Band Leader asked me if I would play Baritone in the Band one semester. He was fed up with the results of failed Trumpet players with braces on Baritone.

Yes, well, post Harding, we’ve advanced to color, digital signal television, 3 inch diameter in house plumbing, automatic transmissions, automatic drip coffee, and heavyset people in spandex. Kids today play with removable dental retainers on conical bore euphoniums. I’ve also just been informed how Dolly Parton keeps her guitar picks warm. Stimulating.
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« Reply #18 on: Aug 09, 2017, 09:31AM »

I also wrote out Doxology in G to be played with the organ.  We didn't have time to rehearse it but how hard can that be?  Turns out very hard, if you haven't seen sharps in a lot of years. 

I took organ lessons for a year in college and it turned out that the Old Hundredth played directly from the hymnal is actually pretty obnoxiously difficult. I mean, everything was difficult for me on organ, but the Doxology especially so.
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« Reply #19 on: Aug 09, 2017, 10:11AM »

I enjoyed my Eb tuba but I put it aside after I realized the bell was too close to my ear and hurting my hearing.
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Robert Holmén

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