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Alternative Tuning System - Vaughan-Williams Romanza

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I just finished recording the 2nd movement of Vaughan-Williams' tuba concerto, the "Romanza." That is the one movement from the original publication that is recommended for euphonium.

In two places, the melody goes down to a low concert B natural (just above pedal Bb). That is the one note that is unsatisfactory with the 4-valve compensating system. Even with a trigger it is not going to be in tune without lipping down, and I did not have a trigger for the recording. The publisher includes an option to play those two phrases up an octave, and I actually like that sound. However, for this recording I wanted to try the original octave.

(There are other pieces creeping into our repertoire that call for a low B, so knowing your options may be helpful.)

I have been asked why the 3rd valve tuning slide (the main slide in front) is so long. That adds a lot of friction as you remove it to drain it or clean it. Some makers have started using a shorter movable slide on 3 (if so, they usually need to solder the "missing" slide piece inside to keep the bore consistent). For those instruments, my tip below won't work.

But most euphoniums use the long tuning slide. I was told that some tuning systems have the 3rd valve tuned to a major third below the open horn instead of a minor third. So a note that I normally play with 23 would be played with just 3 alone. That is more-or-less the approach I used for the recording. The extra length on the 3rd valve gives me a good low B. (Note: I actually had to move IN the 3rd valve compensating slide on the back of the horn.)

Here is a photo showing the approximate throw necessary for this technique (click to enlarge):

Click image for larger version. 

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The goal is to have a comfortable low B, and also have a 3rd valve that is in tune for concert F# (treble G#) and C# (treble D#). It seems necessary to compromise a bit to achieve this. I suggest the two tuning checks below. If all 4 notes match in pitch with a pulled 3rd slide, great! If not, you may need to find the best compromise so the notes you need are easily lipped into pitch. The first measure is to get a good pitch for notes that are normally 2&3. The second measure is to get the low B to the right pitch by comparing it to 2 octaves higher (where your embouchure is likely to be more stable for initial tuning of the horn).



In my recording session I did not get totally comfortable using the 3rd valve instead of 23, so the intonation is not as secure as I hoped. I think the main reason for that was my chops and brain are used to aiming for a certain pitch with 3, and that is not what was going to come out. In any case, here are some of the measures to show you how the fingerings work. I tuned with 3 pulled out for the passages that end on low B, but then went to normal tuning for the rest of the piece. That was mostly because this tuning system creates some awkward fingering patterns in the key of the Romanza!







Here is a sample from the video. The full video should be live sometime in the next couple weeks.



This next example is with normal tuning. I just wanted to show a little technique I use to make the passage sound smoother because I keep the phrase within one partial (this is the type of tip you'll find in my Advanced Fingering Guide book!)

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