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Thread: Need Mouthpiece for Antique Eb Tuba

  1. Need Mouthpiece for Antique Eb Tuba

    On Ebay, I bought a Pan American Eb Tuba. Before buying it, I was unsure of age. After receiving the tuba, I checked the serial # on horn-u-copia, and the horn is a 1928 Pan Am. My normal tuba mouthpiece does not fit.

    Can anyone tell me what kind of mouthpiece that I need for it, and where I can locate one.

    Thanks for your time.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    I have a 1924 Buescher, and so I'm familiar with the issue here.

    It almost certainly has what is generally referred to as a "small European" tuba receiver. This is virtually identical to a large shank trombone. You can check this by seeing whether a large shank trombone mouthpiece fits in it well.

    Assuming this is the case, you have a few options:


    1. Find a tuba mouthpiece that fits it. The only current source of such a thing that I know of is Dennis Wick. The Dennis wick tuba mouthpieces are numbered 5, 5L, 4, 4L, 3, 3L, ... (in increasing size). What you do NOT want is the 'L' version! You want a 5 or a 4, etc. I used a Dennis Wick 5 tuba mouthpiece with my horn for a while and it worked well. Other people like one of the larger ones, but I found these just were too big for my horn to work with well. Find somewhere (Mouthpiece Express?) where you can get some pieces on trial and try two or three of these.
    2. Replace the receiver and then you have about a thousand mouthpieces that will fit it. If you really intend to play this much, you might consider this. It gives you a LOT more room for experimentation.
    3. Get one of the Dillon adapters that adapts one of these receivers to a standard American tuba shank. Oh, wait! -- you can't. I bought what I believe is the last one. Maybe you could get one used. Well worth it if you can. I now use a Miraphone TU-17 mouthpiece with that horn and the adaptor.
    4. Try using a large bass trombone or a contrabass trombone mouthpiece on the horn. This didn't work well for me, but it might work well on your horn.
    5. Buy a Kelly Bach 25 clone and sand down the shank to fit into your receiver. This is not difficult (if you have s drill press or a lathe to spin it in, it's quite easy). I did this and it worked well. I liked the faux-Bach 25 Kelly with that horn.
    6. Find a mouthpiece that sort of seems to work well except for pitch and intonation issues, and then have someone (Kanstul shop, for example) turn down the shank to the right dimensions. This will be pricey and risks it not really working after you've put a bunch of money into it. But it might work.


    Now ... Go forth into mouthpiece/receiver/adapter land and have a good time. Good luck.
    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
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
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    Oh ... uh ... one more thing: Is it pitched to 440? Or maybe to 438? Or 435? Or 445? This will be the real killer for you if you want to use it to play in ensembles. My Buescher was pitched to 435. Hacksaw required. If it's high pitch (over 440), probably best to regard it as a display-only tuba. Chances are (given the date of manufacture) that it is NOT pitched to 440. Sorry.
    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)

  4. #4
    These antique tubas play best with antique mouthpieces. Measure your receiver, and then call some place like Dillon Music and ask if they have a few mouthpieces that will fit.

    Barring that, the Dennis Wick made for older Besson tubas that Gary mentioned will probably work pretty well.
    --
    Barry

  5. #5
    Gary Merrill made a lot of good suggestions. I think he covered your options well. I'm an Eb tuba player and have restored many vintage tubas. First, if the general condition of the horn is such that it can easily be restored to playing condition, then move on to getting a mouthpiece. If you don't know how to do this or know what to look for, find a reliable experienced tech to do that for you. You need to check the valves for wear, check for leaks and rot. Do the slides move? Are all the solder joints, including bracing in good shape? Most of these things are inexpensive to fix except a bad set of valves. They can be replated but that is pricey. Assuming the horn passes this first test, my suggestion is to try the Denis Wick 3 mouthpiece (not the 3L the 3). If you are a euphonium doubler, a 4 or 5 might be better. (As the number gets bigger, the mouthpiece gets smaller). Next, determine the pitch of the tuba. It is either high pitch or low pitch. This means it may play a 440, but only with the tuning slides all the way out or in. You will have no tuning adjustment for changes in temperature or humidity. Likely it won't even play at 440. Depending on if it is high or low pitched, it means either shortening or lengthening tuning slides. Shortening is easier, but in either case, there is a bit of art to it. I would suggest finding an experienced tech to evaluate the horn and give you an estimate on cost to tune it to 440. The art of shortening of lengthening tuning slides is in the "how" and the "how much". Unless you have considerable experience, it is easy to mess up a horn. (Just taking out a hack saw seldom works out well.) Lengthening involves building new slides. As for mouthpieces, I have replaced the receiver on several vintage Eb tubas. This has worked very well for me in all cases. If you don't like the Denis Wick mouthpieces or want to experiment with others, this is your best option. It is not an expensive alteration. Good luck with your project. I have found the experience to be educational and rewarding. I wish the same for you.

    I have just become aware that Robert Tucci has an RT line of mouthpieces with an S as part of the name (aka RT64S). These are small shank mouthpieces like the Denis Wick mouthpieces. The RT64S was developed as an F tuba mouthpiece, so it should be good for an Eb too. You'll have to compare sizes to see how they fit with the Denis Wick mouthpieces. Dave Werden has put together a comparative listing which is available under the articles section of this net. I think Doug Elliot also has some small shank mouthpieces. You'll have to contact him via his website to learn about those.
    Last edited by opus37; 12-17-2017 at 10:26 AM.
    Wessex BR140
    Bunch of Eb tubas

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by opus37 View Post
    Assuming the horn passes this first test, my suggestion is to try the Denis Wick 3 mouthpiece (not the 3L the 3).
    The suitability of a given size Wick mouthpiece here also depends on the size of the tuba. If it's a "large" tuba (meaning fairly large bore), a 3 might work well. For my Buescher, I found the 3 to be a bit too big.

    Standard vintage Eb tuba lore has it that the original mouthpieces were quite shallow and that this is what these horns need. I'm skeptical of this. First, the mouthpieces are MUCH harder to find than the tubas, and I'm not at all sure how much experience people have really had in comparing them.

    In addition, there's the issue of whether you want the "vintage" (or "historically correct") sound out of the beast, or perhaps something more like what tubas sound like today. You absolutely CAN use a bass trombone mouthpiece (like a Schilke 60 or any other bass trombone mouthpiece, either deep or shallow), and the horn WILL play with that mouthpiece and MAY even play in tune (if you get the pitch issue resolved). But it won't sound a lot like what a tuba sounds like today. It will sound (at least in the lower registers) more like a bass trombone. This was the case with every bass trombone and contrabass trombone mouthpiece I tried with my horn.

    I don't know what tubas sounded like at that time in history. I think it's similar to guessing what the correct pronunciation of ancient Latin and Greek was. Virtually all the people who know that are long gone.

    Next, determine the pitch of the tuba. It is either high pitch or low pitch.
    Pitches were pretty much all over the place at that point in time. My Buescher, for example, has an 'L' stamped in the second cylinder, indicating "low pitch". It was low all right: 435 instead of 440. But another popular "low" pitch was 438. You might wonder HOW to determine the pitch of the horn, well ...

    If you're not accustomed to playing tuba, this will be more difficult. However, if you're accustomed to playing euphonium and sensitive to tuning and intonation issues, you should be able to do it.

    First, see if the open horn plays in tune. Is the open Bb really a Bb? Or is it sharp or flat. That will be a clue -- but not definitive. Check the other open pitches. Again, that will be a clue, but not definitive.

    If the open horn isn't quite in tune, or if it takes pulling the main slide out a lot to get it there, then tune the open horn as well as you can, and then ...

    Play a scale (Bb is nice, Eb is nice, ... whatever). Is EVERY note of the scale (pretty much) in tune? If yes, then you're amazingly lucky. Quit and go celebrate.

    If it won't play a scale correctly, then see if you can a pitch at which it CAN play the scale. If it seems to you that the horn may generally be sharp, then set your tuner to something like 442 and see if the scale is in tune (or more in tune). Then try 443, 444, 445.

    If it seems that the horn may generally be flat, then go in the other direction: trying a scale with the tuner set at 439, 438, 437, 436,435.

    Don't expect perfection. Despite a lot of romanticizing of these old American tubas, they often just weren't very good tubas -- well made (sometimes amazingly well made), but with wonky intonation. Not a lot of "tuba science" was known then, and not a lot of tuba experience had been had in the industry.

    But if you get really close to a reasonable scale, then you've got good evidence of the pitch of the instrument. However, the success and accuracy of this depends on the horn, the mouthpiece, and the player. This is why it's advantageous to have an experienced tuba player (and in fact one experience with that type of tuba) do the experiment.

    When I did this with my Buescher I spent a LOT of time on it, did repeated "blind" pitch tests with the help of my wife, and made graphs -- just like in a lab.

    When I cut it down, I ended up doing that three times -- carefully, in order not to shorten it too much. Cutting the second valve was very difficult because there was virtually no room to work and I didn't want to unsolder braces and slide parts to do it. I made a special little hack saw, and then used it and a Dremel with a cut-off blade, and a file to trim to exact length. That tuba now plays at 440 BUT it has a significant intonation problem with valve combinations involving the 3rd valve on certain notes. To correct for that I added a 3rd slide "kicker". So it's playable, but not great. It is great FUN, and I use it for "patriotic" performances. But on its best day, this never a great tuba.

    By the way, the guy I bought my 1924 horn from SWORE that the horn played in tune at 440 (although he had to "lip a few of the notes"). It didn't. It COULDN'T. But he really believed it did. Some people just aren't very sensitive to pitch. Also, he was using an ancient large shank baritone mouthpiece on it. That sharpened the pitch a bit, but it sounded like a bass trombone and STILL couldn't play a scale accurately. It's easy to deceive yourself about these things.
    Last edited by ghmerrill; 12-17-2017 at 02:04 PM.
    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)

  7. #7
    Pan Am was a name plate of a tuba made by Conn. This is a 1928 version. It could be a small tuba, but at that time frame and being a Conn, it likely is a bit larger than the older models. With that said, we just don't know based on the information we have so far. Vintage, ok, antique instruments, do not have todays technology and tend to have some intonation issues. There are gems and klunkers in any horn brand, even today. Miss placement of bracing, incomplete soldering of joints, the fit of tuning slides, the design of the horn, the metal used and the mindset of the assembler at the time, all can affect the quality of the horn. Gary Merrilll's experience with shortening slides emphasizes the point that, unless you know what you are doing and are careful, you can mess up a horn. If you don't know what your doing, find someone who does. There are no guarantees that you will end up with a playable let alone a good playable horn. (Odds are it will be fine.) As for the mouthpiece, I have several antique mouthpieces. They all tend to be very much like a present day trombone mouthpiece in size and shape. By todays standards, a Denis Wick 3 is not a large mouthpiece. A mouthpiece can affect the sound of a tuba, sometimes quite dramatically. The player, the horn, the music style and the venue can be factors in which mouthpiece works best for you. In this case, the original inquiry was where to get a mouthpiece that fits. Well, Denis Wick has them. Choose a 3, 4, or 5 depending on what you think is best. As you go toward a smaller shallower mouthpiece the sound tends to get brighter. A bass trombone mouthpiece may work too. The sound of tubas, and trombones and euphoniums, have changed over time. Just look at the size of the bells and bores as they changed over time. All have grown larger. Thus a larger mouthpiece will be more typical to a tuba sound today. There really isn't a wrong choice. We all hope this discussion helps you with your horn.
    Wessex BR140
    Bunch of Eb tubas

  8. Quote Originally Posted by opus37 View Post
    Pan Am was a name plate of a tuba made by Conn. This is a 1928 version. It could be a small tuba, but at that time frame and being a Conn, it likely is a bit larger than the older models. With that said, we just don't know based on the information we have so far. Vintage, ok, antique instruments, do not have todays technology and tend to have some intonation issues. There are gems and klunkers in any horn brand, even today. Miss placement of bracing, incomplete soldering of joints, the fit of tuning slides, the design of the horn, the metal used and the mindset of the assembler at the time, all can affect the quality of the horn. Gary Merrilll's experience with shortening slides emphasizes the point that, unless you know what you are doing and are careful, you can mess up a horn. If you don't know what your doing, find someone who does. There are no guarantees that you will end up with a playable let alone a good playable horn. (Odds are it will be fine.) As for the mouthpiece, I have several antique mouthpieces. They all tend to be very much like a present day trombone mouthpiece in size and shape. By todays standards, a Denis Wick 3 is not a large mouthpiece. A mouthpiece can affect the sound of a tuba, sometimes quite dramatically. The player, the horn, the music style and the venue can be factors in which mouthpiece works best for you. In this case, the original inquiry was where to get a mouthpiece that fits. Well, Denis Wick has them. Choose a 3, 4, or 5 depending on what you think is best. As you go toward a smaller shallower mouthpiece the sound tends to get brighter. A bass trombone mouthpiece may work too. The sound of tubas, and trombones and euphoniums, have changed over time. Just look at the size of the bells and bores as they changed over time. All have grown larger. Thus a larger mouthpiece will be more typical to a tuba sound today. There really isn't a wrong choice. We all hope this discussion helps you with your horn.
    +1! To clarify: the Wick 3, 4, or 5 (no letter) that have the .490 at the tip small shank, not the 3L, 4L, or 5L, which have the "American Standard" .520 at the tip of the shank.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
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    Quote Originally Posted by opus37 View Post
    In this case, the original inquiry was where to get a mouthpiece that fits. Well, Denis Wick has them. Choose a 3, 4, or 5 depending on what you think is best. As you go toward a smaller shallower mouthpiece the sound tends to get brighter.
    In fact, what I see as the biggest problem with the Wick 5 (which I was using for some time) on these older instruments is that while it's relatively "small", what this really means is that it's small diameter. It's also quite DEEP, and this can give some rather odd results on a small (and small bore) tuba.

    One of the things I'm curious about (surely someone knows from a review of the period arrangements?) is what the "effective range" of one of these Eb tubas was. Was it really used as a genuine "bass" instrument, or more as a kind of big mellow baritone? How far into the range below the staff did these horns typically have to play? My guess is that the small to medium size ones probably didn't descend much below the F at the bottom of the staff, and never below the Bb below that.

    This isn't to say the horn can't play that low. In fact, these instruments are well known for having excellent "false" or "ghost" tones. And mine (3-valve) is fully chromatic -- with good tone quality -- all the way down to its fundamental (the second Eb below the staff). However, I wonder if it wasn't the larger Eb tubas (the "giants" or "monsters") that lived comfortably in the contra-bass regions while the smaller ones were used primarily in and above the staff -- more like bass-baritones.
    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)

  10. #10
    Eb tubas from this period (basically 1900 through 1940) had an effective lower range of C below the staff. I play in 3 community bands that have extensive libraries from the period and the music almost always stays within these ranges. The predominant horn for this period, especially the early part, was the Eb. Yes, there were BBb horns but they were much less common. The BBb horns started replacing the Eb horns throughout the late 1940's and by the 1960's, it was rare to find an Eb among the high school and community bands. Yes, the Eb's tended to have good false tones. The larger versions tended to be even better at this but the original versions of the tunes from the period stay in the range of C below the staff to C just above the staff. Most of the notes are within the staff. The larger versions of the Eb's started to be more common and desirable about 1910 or so. Bands started to become more popular with the Sousa/Prior Bands being the rage. The need for a bigger sound to cover a larger band with 1 or 2 players spurred this demand. Remember, Sousa inspired the development of the rain catcher style Sousaphone in about 1895 and on through the early 1900's. These horns were large, just like his tuba players. People wanted to sound like Sousa. I've seen no reference or other indication that the bigger Eb's played lower notes and the smaller ones a higher note range. I think it was just a bigger sound want that drove the market for the larger Eb's. Even today, the larger versions tend to fetch a higher price and are in more demand. Having owned and played both a small and a larger version of an early Eb tuba, I would say the smaller version has a brighter sound where the bigger ones tend to have a larger more organ like sound.
    Wessex BR140
    Bunch of Eb tubas

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