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Thread: trouble with middle F

  1. #1

    trouble with middle F

    So I recently picked up the tuba because we don't have one in our wind band right now.
    I was playing the euphonium before so I know how to deal with the instrument, which is a Roy Benson TB 202 with a Perantucci PT-89 on it btw.
    My band gave it to me. I can play ok but the middle F (right below the staff) and the notes right next to it seem to be hard to play nicely.
    I always drop to the low B flat or "play two notes at the same time".
    Is there something special to do for those notes or is this just my inexperience?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
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    Central North Carolina
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    I would suggest that the PT-89 is quite likely WAY too big for you as a tuba mouthpiece -- at least at this point in your tuba-playing development. I had a PT-89 for several years and played on it solidly for a couple of years when I had my Cerveny BBb horn. While it provided me with a very nice "gravitas" and tone in the contra-bass register, I ultimately decide that it was just too big for me. Too hard to control in the middle and high registers. Many tuba players use mouthpieces that are over-sized for them because they think "bigger is better" or because it makes the low range easier for them (as many euphonium players use small mouthpieces because it makes the high range easier for them). I feel that the standard description of the PT-89 is quite deceptive since the mouthpiece "feels" larger than it appears in the description and it has a BIG throat/backbore. The inner rim is also quite rounded, and this has the effect of making it feel and act bigger than its nominal 32 mm diameter. (Mouthpiece diameter is a kind of funky measurement since it depends on exactly at what spot down the rim you do the measurement. Particularly on a fairly rounded inner rim, a slight change in where the measurement is taken can have a significantly different reading.)

    Here's another question that can provide a clue that the mouthpiece isn't a good one for you: How well does it play in tune across the normal easy tuba range -- say from the Bb below the staff to the Bb at the top of the staff. Are you having to work at keeping a bunch of notes in tune? Or once you tune the horn, is the intonation across that range pretty good? Does it "slot" well? Or do you have to kind of "hunt" for the note you're trying to play. Problems like this can just be a consequence of inexperience, but they can also be a direct result of a mouthpiece that's just too big.

    See if you can find something like a Bach 25 tuba mouthpiece (not a 24AW please!!), or a Kelly 25, or a Schilke 66, and see if that makes a difference.

    Finally, just because you have been playing euphonium doesn't mean that you know how to deal with the tuba. I my embouchure on each of those instruments to be quite different, for example. It's really not just a big euphonium. There's a lot more room in a tuba mouthpiece, and my embouchure changes a lot as I'm playing than when I'm playing euphonium. So your mid-range tuba embouchure may be different from your low (contra-bass) tuba embouchure.

    However, I'd strongly recommend that you at least find one of the mouthpieces I mentioned and see what difference that makes for you.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  3. #3
    I don't know for sure, because it varies with each person's embouchure. It's possible your embouchure is not quite right, but I would not jump to that conclusion yet.

    Try to work around and through the note. It may work better when you play soft; if so, work softly in that register. You may also find that it is different if you come to the F from above a little or from below. Whichever works best, build several exercises based on that. Move to the F, but also move to an E and an F#.

    Try playing through the F in a scale. Does that work well? Or how about a B scale, which passes within a half step of the F. Is that smooth?

    Can you sustain an F softly? If so, work on long tones with a mild crescendo, but try to keep it under control. Same with a decrescendo. Gradually build up the volume, but try to always keep control.

    Some of that may work for starters.

    Try alternate fingerings on the F for now. That might change the equation enough to get a good tone on it. Work with that for a while. This also helps reset any mental block that may have developed because you got used to it not working.

    And so on.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    1,990
    Dave's suggestions about trying "neighboring notes" are good.

    Is there any difference in using the 1+3 fingering as opposed to the 4?
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  5. #5
    Embouchure strength, the nature and quality of your air support, and many other factors can be in play here beyond concerns related solely to your mouthpiece choice. When just picking up the tuba I found sorting through all of those factors much more complex than when I learned the euphonium. Have someone that knows what they're doing listen to you and offer suggestions, preferably in the format of a tuba lesson.
    Sterling Virtuoso Euphonium, Denis Wick 4AL

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by ghmerrill View Post
    Dave's suggestions about trying "neighboring notes" are good.

    Is there any difference in using the 1+3 fingering as opposed to the 4?
    Well I'm actually playing it without pressing any valve but neither 1+3 or 4 makes a difference really.
    I might see if I can find another mouthpiece but first of all I will check mr. Werden's suggestions later today.

    Another funny thing is when I changed to another mouthpiece on my euphonium, at first I had a similar problem on the low c (inside the staff) but I manged to get it working after a while.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by BoneyFingersJones View Post
    Another funny thing is when I changed to another mouthpiece on my euphonium, at first I had a similar problem on the low c (inside the staff) but I manged to get it working after a while.
    I think it was jazz trombonist Bill Watrous who said in a clinic that all brass embouchures have a natural resonance point. He said each individual may have a different "first note of the day" depending on their chops. This is the note we find most comfortable when we first sound a pitch each day.

    Expanding on that, I think we each may have different "break points" as well, where our muscles are making miniscule changes between registers. My experience is similar to yours. My low F on euphonium has never been a very solid note for me, even though most other players do not seem to find it any more difficult that the G above it or the Eb below it. For me it seems unstable by nature, as though I were in between point A and point B somehow. When I play my Eb tuba, I have some instability and hollow tone on the same pitch, even though it falls on a different partial within the horn. I need to work on it, and it does get better with specific practice.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  8. #8
    It appears to me the f# and the g are making trouble as well. Coming from above or below doesn't make a difference but sometimes I hit the f fine.
    It's pretty random to me. Also, once I get the f in slot, it stays fine when doing a crescendo.
    Here's another thing: When I play the top Bb my lips don't really touch the sides of the mouthpiece anymore so I'm kind of buzzing it on the mouthpiece without projecting it into the tuba. So I'm assuming the mouthpiece is actually too big .

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