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Thread: Tuba chops in euphonium land

  1. Tuba chops in euphonium land

    I have been playing the BBb tuba for 50 years. But, I have recently switched permanently to euphonium (getting older and wanting to downsize). I played euphonium (okay, really an American-style bell-front baritone) briefly in college about 45 years ago, and quite enjoyed it. So I cashed in my contrabass, and bought a Wessex Dolce.

    Here is my question: I can play the euphonium pedal range with extreme ease. The Bb1 below the bass staff practically falls out of my horn. From there, down to the F1 is quite easy for me. Adjusting for the octave difference between a contrabass tuba and a euphonium, this is way lower than I was ever able to play my tuba. I could never hit the fundamental Bb0, let alone a fourth below that. On the other end, however, middle C is just about my current limit on the euphonium. That same note, in actual pitch, was in my range on tuba.

    Bottom line, my actual range on euphonium—F1 to C4—is quite literally, the same range I had on contrabass tuba. Is this a common thing for former tubists? I am delighted to have a solid pedal range on the Dolce, but I am topping out at the midpoint of most euphonium music. A couple of months ago, I tried a Denis Wick SM4 on a non-compensating horn, and found it quite user-friendly. So this week, I am planning to head to the local music store with my own horn, and try out some mouthpieces. Maybe that will make a difference, but any suggestions, tips, experience?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Central North Carolina
    I'm not sure a comparison with my experience will be all that valuable, but I may be able to offer some hints and guesses.

    I've never had a problem with a limited contrabass range on a tuba (BBb or Eb). On either of my current tubas (see my sig), I can play down to the fundamental and below. I have to think that your lower contrabass range was a matter of practice. Most community band (BBb) tuba players I play with have a range from the F an octave below the staff (or maybe just a little lower) to maybe the G at the top of the staff. They typically accomplish this by using large mouthpieces (actually too large for them, generally) and just giving up the high range. The director in the band I used to play in (a tuba player himself, with an advanced degree in low brass, and a university faculty member) always used to ask me if the G and above were "too high". Of course not. I like playing the Eb because it sounds better in the range above there, but actually producing those pitches shouldn't be a problem (even on a BBb horn). But what often happens is that people adapt to the range that's required of them -- and in a standard community band, the tuba parts just aren't generally very demanding in terms of high range; and they aren't very demanding in terms of low contrabass range. So people's ranges tend to converge on what's required. At least that's my view.

    I think you're still playing with that range in your mind , and you just need to work on your embouchure, your range, and HEARING what you want to play. Unfortunately, both you and I now are at the point where muscle tone everywhere is flying out the window, and so embouchure development may require additional work -- but I'd recommend just a little bit a day in terms of extending the range slowly.

    Also, don't be afraid to cheat -- at least initially. When I play my euph just for kicks, on fairly easy music, or as a "tenor tuba", I use my DE mouthpiece (which is fairly large by euphonium standards). When I need to play in the "real euphonium" higher range above the staff, I cheat and use my Wick 5L. After I've done that for a while, I then discover that I can switch to the DE and have pretty much the same range instantly. But honestly, given circumstances, I feel no shame in using the smaller mouthpiece. In fact, most of the euph players I encounter in community band are probably using ones that small or smaller.

    Just one other comment: I simply don't like the Wick SM mouthpieces. At least try some of the others. There are places you can order them on trial and then return and have it cost you only the shipping.
    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. Thanks for your well-reasoned reply. You make some very valid points about the range I am used to, and hearing what I am trying to play. I will take your advice to heart.

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