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Author Topic: Just curious: Tell me about Tubas?  (Read 2182 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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« 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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« 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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« 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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« 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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« 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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« Reply #20 on: Aug 09, 2017, 10:37AM »

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.

You have to hold it more upright so the bell is above your head.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #21 on: Aug 09, 2017, 10:46AM »

You have to hold it more upright so the bell is above your head.

to paraphrase Gallagher...

If 6" away is the problem, 8" away is not the solution.

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« Reply #22 on: Aug 09, 2017, 10:09PM »

heavyset people in spandex.

Now I hate to change the subject of this thread, but what is the deal with that? It seems like the official dress code for some big girls around here is skin tight leggings with a giant sweatshirt that comes way down past their posterior. And not just for workout clothes - I mean for going out in public. Y'all can now flame away at me for my lack of political correctness. :D
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« Reply #23 on: Aug 10, 2017, 07:04AM »

Now I hate to change the subject of this thread, but what is the deal with that? It seems like the official dress code for some big girls around here is skin tight leggings with a giant sweatshirt that comes way down past their posterior. And not just for workout clothes - I mean for going out in public. Y'all can now flame away at me for my lack of political correctness. :D

When I started commuting to the Emerald City back in ‘09, that was a commuter outfit of choice for the bikers. Pedal to work, change into WW at the office. I’m not concerned about political correctness. I’ll just spend my money in a more hospitable and organized business.
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« Reply #24 on: Aug 10, 2017, 11:43AM »

Now, I admit to being a bit on the chunky side, and I also admit to wearing lycra bike shorts. But only when I am riding a bike, not for going to work or appearing in public.
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« Reply #25 on: Aug 10, 2017, 12:47PM »

Now, I admit to being a bit on the chunky side, and I also admit to wearing lycra bike shorts. But only when I am riding a bike, not for going to work or appearing in public.

You mean you only ride your bicycle in the basement? :-P

I just want to know why it seems that big people tend to play the tuba?  Makes "Tubby the Tuba" more like a slur...

We just did Tubby with our tubist, a rather large girl, playing the solo.  When the narrator said "Tubby, a big, fat tuba" I cringed.  (She did a great job on it.)
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #26 on: Aug 10, 2017, 02:22PM »


I just want to know why it seems that big people tend to play the tuba? 


As long as they’re not dressed up in oversized, droopy hoodies and spandex, I don’t care. I usually don’t see those people playing an instrument either. Wal-mart is a different story....
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« Reply #27 on: Aug 10, 2017, 02:27PM »

Acknowledging exceptions exist, but small people tend not to do well with carrying the thing around and tend not to have the larger lung capacity to really flourish at it.

I acknowledge exceptions exist.
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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #28 on: Aug 10, 2017, 02:37PM »

Acknowledging exceptions exist, but small people tend not to do well with carrying the thing around and tend not to have the larger lung capacity to really flourish at it.

I acknowledge exceptions exist.

I wouldn’t say that at all. They play an Eb tuba and can really belt it out. They also haul it around in a backpack style bag.
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« Reply #29 on: Aug 10, 2017, 02:49PM »

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.
When I was in Sunday school as a kid playing piano for a few years I was asked to learn this to play at the beginning of Sunday School class, you are correct it isn't the easiest Hymn in the Hymnal (although it sounds like it should be).
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« Reply #30 on: Aug 11, 2017, 05:06AM »

When I was in Sunday school as a kid playing piano for a few years I was asked to learn this to play at the beginning of Sunday School class, you are correct it isn't the easiest Hymn in the Hymnal (although it sounds like it should be).

I got it under my fingers on piano at one point, but I had to work my butt off to do so.  It's harder than it looks.  I couldn't play it now.

Well I could by cheating, right hand melody and left hand three chording. 
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« Reply #31 on: Aug 11, 2017, 06:44AM »

Is this the Doxology you are discussing?

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« Reply #32 on: Aug 11, 2017, 07:25AM »

Yes, that's it.  And after all, who can't play a simple SATB hymn at sight?  Mostly quarter notes, reasonable tempo, easy keys.

Well, most people.  We've had guest organists come in and play a hugely complicated prelude, then stumble on "simple" hymns. 

When I was helping out with music at a former church, and we lost the organ player, I heard a youngster playing Rhapsody in Blue at blistering showoff speed, so I asked if she could play the church service.  She took a look at the hymns and said easy, don't even need to rehearse.  Yeah right, I insisted, and she crashed and burned.  I ended up playing that Sunday myself instead.  Not SATB, obviously, I faked it. Close position I, IV, and V are your friends.

I grew up hearing my mother sightread hymns with never a stumble, effortlessly.  I didn't realize what skill that took. 

Actually I think they are easy if you specialize in them.  In any denomination they're all pretty similar and fingered the same, with a lot of common motifs. 
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« Reply #33 on: Aug 11, 2017, 08:30AM »

I wouldn’t say that at all. They play an Eb tuba and can really belt it out. They also haul it around in a backpack style bag.


Carol Jantsch might agree!

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« Reply #34 on: Aug 11, 2017, 11:05AM »

So that one picture means that most tuba players are small females?
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« Reply #35 on: Aug 11, 2017, 11:51AM »

I stopped making assumptions about who and what sized persons were suitable to play any instruments, after I saw Tom Malone play the Piccolo.
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« Reply #36 on: Aug 11, 2017, 12:40PM »

wiki says Arnold Jacobs had impaired lung capacity due to childhood illness and adult asthma. 

So air doesn't seem to limit a small person.  You would want to be strong enough to carry it, I guess. 
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« Reply #37 on: Aug 11, 2017, 12:43PM »

Don't even need that.  Cases have wheels.  The tuba itself is the issue.

Who plays (played) tuba?

Harvey Phillips


Roger Bobo


Velvet Brown


Mike Roylance


Big folks all.
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« Reply #38 on: Aug 11, 2017, 02:29PM »

FYI Not trying to insult anyone or their physical appearance with this post. Decades ago I went to camp at the Brevard Music Center. The tuba instructor at the time was Matt Good who I believe is currently the tubist with the Dallas Symphony. He was on the shorter side and at that time was playing a 6/4 CC tuba and he had amazing sound and flexability. At that time I also had the pleasure of meeting Charlie Vernon. Charlie certainly knows how to move some air. And those were the no leadpipe days. Charlie isn't exactly short but he isn't tall either. I'm 5 foot 10 and he is shorter than me. So yes you can be a shorter person and still be an amazing low brass musician. It's about efficiency not just volume.

As a side note I way around 310 and wear the $h!+ out of my spandex bibs and bike shorts when I ride the trails here. If it offends anyone because I'm fat and wearing spandex then thats their problem.
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« Reply #39 on: Aug 11, 2017, 03:01PM »

wiki says Arnold Jacobs had impaired lung capacity due to childhood illness and adult asthma. 

I've learned to be doubtful about Arnold Jacobs anecdotes. When I was in college I was dutifully told that Arnold Jacob had even lost a lung to cancer!  Clever Not true of course.

I'll note that the Wikipedia article does not seem to cite the asthma assertion to any of the sources.

Also, "asthma" is a broad term that can mean a lot of things.
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Robert Holmén

Hear me as I Play My Horn


Get your Popper, Dotzauer, or Kummer play-alongs!
schlitzbeer
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« Reply #40 on: Aug 11, 2017, 04:21PM »


As a side note I way around 310 and wear the $h!+ out of my spandex bibs and bike shorts when I ride the trails here. If it offends anyone because I'm fat and wearing spandex then thats their problem.

Well, as long as you're eating healthy (broccoli and light beer), it's okay, you're not in male Bremelo territory. One does not get fat at Brevard, Interlochen, or Blue Lake on the food. But one does push down, and hold to a five count. It's a long flush to Lockhaven.
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donn
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« Reply #41 on: Aug 11, 2017, 05:34PM »

More often than not, I would think, people who we see playing some instrument picked it before they grew to full size.  Past that I don't really have an idea, but consider that coming up soon for the elected tuba player is marching band sousaphone, which can be a rather physical job.  It's possible that band directors pick the biggest and most robust kids for that, and that those kids aren't likely to get leaner as they grow older.
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schlitzbeer
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« Reply #42 on: Aug 12, 2017, 09:13AM »

It's possible that band directors pick the biggest and most robust kids for that, and that those kids aren't likely to get leaner as they grow older.

Not my experience. The ones I went through school with also played bas and or piano. The BD’s should spend a little more time matching the kid up to the right instrument, and then alter the music to suit that instrumentation. Tuba, is just a different animal to play, just as they all are. I have a small Pan American 3 valve Bb.
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JWykell
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« Reply #43 on: Aug 12, 2017, 11:19AM »

Well, as long as you're eating healthy (broccoli and light beer), it's okay, you're not in male Bremelo territory. One does not get fat at Brevard, Interlochen, or Blue Lake on the food. But one does push down, and hold to a five count. It's a long flush to Lockhaven.

You ain't whistling Dixie about the food at Brevard. I'll never forget the first meal I had there. Mostly because it was and still is one of the worst I've ever had. Frozen cheese ravioli boiled into submission and then cured in a steam table for about half a day. Served with a semi dehydrated tomato sauce that was likely chosen more for its cost than its flavor.
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BillO
A trombone is not measured by it's name.

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« Reply #44 on: Aug 12, 2017, 11:22AM »

Yum.

Maybe if I ate there I'd get my weight under control.
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Never look at the conductor. You just encourage them.

Have you noticed, some folk never stick around to help tidy up after practice?
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