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Thread: Switching to Tuba - Which key?

  1. #1

    Switching to Tuba - Which key?

    Hello all!

    I've recently been entertaining the idea of going back to school for a graduate degree, since my current job prospects are drying up quickly (Teaching English as a Second Language for Graduate and Undergraduate college students, go figure). My Undergrad was in Euphonium with the TEFL certificate, but I've been advised that if I want to go the teaching route, it may be time for me to begin my Tuba journey to round out my resume. I've also been told that I'd probably have to audition at a college level on Tuba to get an assistantship, so starting ASAP is in my best interest.

    The question, should I go the Eb/Bb route or bite the bullet and go with the F/C? Eb has been recommended to me, presumably because of the overlap in fingerings, but would that be limiting in the long run? I know F/C is more standard in the Orchestral realm, but outside of that I don't know. I've always read Bass Clef, and am fairly proficient at note *name* reading (not just *fingerings*), so I'm not concerned about reading too much once I get settled on an instrument.

    Thanks in advance for any input!

  2. #2
    Do you know who you will study tuba with? His/her preference would be a strong factor.

    Lacking that, I can tell you I have had very good success with Eb, particularly a big Eb like the Sovereign I play. It was easy to learn parts by treating them a little like euphonium treble clef. However, it messes with my pitch memory a little. From that standpoint I'd have been happier with BBb.

    CC/F is certainly the American orchestral preference. But if you are not worried about that, an Eb works great for solo and for brass quintet, etc.

    Among tuba circles with "an attitude" about CC/F, I've noticed that BBb is becoming more accepted. There are smaller BBb tubas available that would be better for quintet and easier for a euph doubler.

    If you need to play in orchestra, and CC or BBb would be necessary for the bigger repertoire.
    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

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by davewerden View Post
    [snip] CC/F is certainly the American orchestral preference. But if you are not worried about that, an Eb works great for solo and for brass quintet, etc. [snip]
    It's probably a terribly minor thing, but if I were playing with C trumpets, I'd want my tubas to be CC or F. That way, any imperfections in the overtone series will match better across the octaves (trombones don't enter into the equation, because thanks to the slide they can match intonation with any ensemble).

    Then again, I guess a professional-level orchestral player has far better intonation that some of what I hear coming from my own horn...
    Dean L. Surkin
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  4. #4
    Thanks for the responses!

    The professor I would be studying with was that one that suggested the Eb. Although, that was when this was more of a 'catch-up' degree and not a full blown performance degree with major playing duties on Tuba. I haven't spoken to him on this matter, but I just wanted opinions from others. I've heard from others that a larger Eb with 5+ valves may be the way to go as a 'jack of all trades' instrument. I'm not sure how much I'd believe that, with the full ensemble pieces needing the extended low range.

    It's interesting that you mention the Treble clef trick. I've been practicing on an Eb for a few weeks now, and never thought of it that way. Then I had to try to read a Clarke solo in Treble clef (which I've previously never done successfully), and the notes just came to me instantly. I tried to play Trumpet in methods classes, and was always hauled by the 'C = Bb' transposition in my head, but notes and fingers just locking in much quicker. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but maybe I won't have to transpose every treble clef part I'm handed. I'm still holding on to my transposition of the Schoenberg though...

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by TD517 View Post
    TI've heard from others that a larger Eb with 5+ valves may be the way to go as a 'jack of all trades' instrument. I'm not sure how much I'd believe that, with the full ensemble pieces needing the extended low range.
    I'm not sure what you mean by "extended low range." On Eb you can go as low as you need for any printed music I've seen. I've played a final note for a piece that was the G below the bottom of the piano. A great C (below string bass, unless you have an extension, and the opening note of Zarathustra) is not problem, and in theory the horn can go a 5th below that yet (although no music will ask that of you).

    My own Eb is a Sovereign, which has a very large sound among Eb's. However. what I CAN'T match on that horn is the deeper sound of our brass group's tuba player (using his BBb). So that is the limiting factor to me.
    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

  6. Over the decades, I have played just about every brass instrument out there in concert, save the British brass band style tenor horn and baritone, and their continental oval counterparts.

    With all due respect to the above, over the decades I have seen more people who double on either euph or trombone, myself included, have just as good an experience, if not better, going the BBb tuba route, and using a mouthpiece conventional to the instrument. The fingerings will be familiar, just an octave lower. using a smaller mouthpiece, like a 24AW, helps the transition. I play "middle-of-the-road" mouthpieces on all my instruments: a 3C/76 backbore on my King Super 20 trumpet; the SM6 Ultra on my Wessex BR115 bell front; and a "blokepiece" Imperial (1.28 rim i.d.) on my "Bessophone" (Miraphone 186 BBb with a Besson New Standard 17-inch bell).

    I find I have better luck with the octave-to-octave orientation in keeping fingerings consistent, rather than the octave-to-fifth ratio going down from Euph down to Eb. I tried Eb, but since in the ensembles I was playing the parts were standard concert pitch notation, and not playing transposed treble clef brass band notation parts, I had much more trouble with the fingerings than I do with either the trumpet-to-treble clef euph or bass clef euph-to-tuba notation and fingerings.

    Switching back and forth, from an embouchure perspective, is never a problem, I just have to make sure I practice regularly on all three instruments.

    Everyone's mileage will vary. Most importantly, when switching to tuba, think even bigger, slower, constant air, and let the horn do the work. Your intercostals will get even more of a workout than when playing euph. Have fun!
    Last edited by iiipopes; 03-27-2017 at 05:37 PM.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by iiipopes View Post
    Switching back and forth, from an embouchure perspective, is never a problem, I just have to make sure I practice regularly on all three instruments.

    Everyone's mileage will vary. Most importantly, when switching to tuba, think even bigger, slower, constant air, and let the horn do the work. Your intercostals will get even more of a workout than when playing euph. Have fun!
    ^^^^This. Being a doubler and having had to learn the hard way, the key thing is to think bigger, and slower, especially for air.
    U.S. Army, Retired (built mid-Fifties)
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