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Thread: Theoretical question about French tuba in C

  1. #1

    Theoretical question about French tuba in C

    Ever since I've learned of the existence of the French Tuba in C, I have wondered why it has gone 'extinct'.

    As I see it, it is more versatile than a Euphonium, since it is able to play much lower. It is also more versatile than a Tuba, since it is able to play high register more easily (and easier to carry...). So why are these two different instruments used instead of just the one?

    I do get that modern tubas have gotten bigger over the past decades (and I'm not sure if I am really happy with that development, but that is another discussion...) but somehow I keep wondering...what if instead of using those two different instruments, Tuba and Euphonium, Symphonic Wind Bands and maybe even Brass Bands start using 'French' Tubas in C for both parts?
    Martin Monné
    • Wessex Festivo, 4-valve compensating (2017)
    • Hirsbrunner HBS 378 Standard, 4-valve compensating (1983)
    • Mahillon Bass Saxhorn, 4-valve (1927)
    • Anton Hüller Tenor Horn, 3-valve (Early 20th Century, HP, wallhanger)


  2. #2
    I can think of two really good reasons right off the top of my head.

    1) Can't match modern day expectations for intonation.

    2) Doesn't have the power to carry a band on its own.

  3. #3
    Thanks for your reply.

    1) I am not sure what you mean by this. Couldn't (wouldn't) a modern built French tuba in C live up to the 'modern' expectations of intonation?
    Have a listen at mr. Carl Kleinsteuber's presentation/demonstration of the French Tuba in C:
    https://youtu.be/313HdaUj0iE
    https://youtu.be/HGIux_7_baA

    Even though he is playing a (albeit slightly modified) period instrument, I don't hear any problems with my expectations of intonation against the modern trombones.

    2) most wind bands have more than 1 tuba. Also, even 1 modern tuba in a wind band can go both ways: either too weak or too overpowering. This is of course a player's problem, not an instrumental issue.
    Also on this issue, mr. Kleinsteuber seems to hold up pretty well against a modern trombone section, I would imagine he could carry a whole band as well. Certainly if he was backed up by one or two other tuba players.
    Martin Monné
    • Wessex Festivo, 4-valve compensating (2017)
    • Hirsbrunner HBS 378 Standard, 4-valve compensating (1983)
    • Mahillon Bass Saxhorn, 4-valve (1927)
    • Anton Hüller Tenor Horn, 3-valve (Early 20th Century, HP, wallhanger)


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
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    Hidden Valley, AZ
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    721
    Hmmm. Bands I hear never have enough bottom end.

    DG
    1966 Besson 181 highly modified New Standard
    1918 Hawkes & Son euph 3&1 original
    1917 Conn C/D/Eb mellophone original
    1915 York Bb tenorhorn original

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
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    356
    Quote Originally Posted by MarChant View Post
    [snip] most wind bands have more than 1 tuba. Also, even 1 modern tuba in a wind band can go both ways: either too weak or too overpowering. [snip]
    I'm not an expert, but I suspect there are two issues:
    first, the compactness of the instrument, i.e., the tightness of the bends coupled with a smaller bore than a modern orchestral F or CC tuba, affects the quality of the tone; and
    second, isn't the French tuba an 8-foot horn with additions for the valves? This means that middle C, C4 is the 4th harmonic and C2 is the fundamental. On a CC tuba, the notes from C2 ranging down to Db1 are on the 2nd harmonic, which I think is always stronger and more secure than when played on the fundamental. I acknowledge this may be just my own technical limitation - I feel secure playing C2 on my euphonium but lower than F1 is, well, nothing.
    Dean L. Surkin
    Mack Brass MACK-EU1150S, BB1, Kadja, and DE 101XTG9 mouthpieces
    Bach 36B trombone; pBone; Vincent Bach (from 1971) 6.5AL mouthpiece
    Steinway 1902 Model A, restored by AC Pianocraft in 1988; Kawai MP8, Yamaha KX-76
    See my avatar: Jazz (the black cockapoo) and Delilah (the cavapoo puppy) keep me company while practicing

  6. #6
    1. The reason that British-style euphoniums and American and German-style tubas took off and started getting used in orchestras and bands around the world is that they turned out to be just plain better instruments than the other regional variations.

    2. an instrument meant to cover the tenor through contrabass ranges is what I'd call a jack of all trades, master of none. It's got to have a big enough mouthpiece to hit those super low notes, but a small enough bore and bell to have focus in the upper register. Even the French had a slightly different "saxhorn basse" for the paris conservatory solos and such.

    3. I think the homogenization of orchestras around the world is a sad thing, and it used to be nice to hear a british orchestra with large bore clarinets or a french orchestra with small bore trombones and a french tuba, but the quality of acoustical development and quality of construction that has gone into these specialty instruments does not approach what has happened with the more mainstream instruments these days.
    --
    Barry

  7. Probably the same reason why you don't see many Vienna F tubas with 6 valves either: they found better ways to get the sound with good intonation. Having 6 valves in the circuit is a bit much for many, and also the French C tuba was just a SMALL instrument compared to the range it was expected to have. Like a Viola, it's weak, without the proper resonance. And also, blowing through a whole bunch of valves to get those low notes? NOPE.
    Sterling / Perantucci 1065HGS Euphonium, Yamaha YBB-631S BBb Tuba, and a bunch of trombones.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by bbocaner View Post
    2. an instrument meant to cover the tenor through contrabass ranges is what I'd call a jack of all trades, master of none. It's got to have a big enough mouthpiece to hit those super low notes, but a small enough bore and bell to have focus in the upper register. Even the French had a slightly different "saxhorn basse" for the paris conservatory solos and such.
    My thinking is along a similar line. The analogy I was going to use was a Swiss Army Knife. I've got one that has a knife blade, small wood saw, and scissors among other things. In a pinch, those are nice to have. Yet, they certainly don't replace their standalone equivalents.

    Most specifically, with the contrabass tubas, the breadth of the fundamental and strength of the overtones can't be matched by a French tuba in C or euphonium playing the same pitch. I've played next to tuba players whose overtone series was so strong it was actually hard to play out of tune with them. That foundation has become so ingrained in the modern concert band sound that I don't think there's any going back.
    Adrian L. Quince
    Composer, Conductor, Euphoniumist
    www.adrianquince.com

    Kanstul 976 - SM4U

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    2,039
    Yes (I suppose to repeat), mostly:

    This

    The reason that British-style euphoniums and American and German-style tubas took off and started getting used in orchestras and bands around the world is that they turned out to be just plain better instruments than the other regional variations.
    and this:

    Most specifically, with the contrabass tubas, the breadth of the fundamental and strength of the overtones can't be matched by a French tuba in C or euphonium playing the same pitch.
    In short, it can make the pitch, but it can't make the sound.

    Also, it's French.
    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
    Quote Originally Posted by MarChant View Post
    Thanks for your reply.

    1) I am not sure what you mean by this. Couldn't (wouldn't) a modern built French tuba in C live up to the 'modern' expectations of intonation?
    Have a listen at mr. Carl Kleinsteuber's presentation/demonstration of the French Tuba in C:
    https://youtu.be/313HdaUj0iE
    https://youtu.be/HGIux_7_baA

    Even though he is playing a (albeit slightly modified) period instrument, I don't hear any problems with my expectations of intonation against the modern trombones.

    2) most wind bands have more than 1 tuba. Also, even 1 modern tuba in a wind band can go both ways: either too weak or too overpowering. This is of course a player's problem, not an instrumental issue.
    Also on this issue, mr. Kleinsteuber seems to hold up pretty well against a modern trombone section, I would imagine he could carry a whole band as well. Certainly if he was backed up by one or two other tuba players.
    We live in an era where compensating Euphoniums have slide triggers. The C Tuba works in a way similar to the Bass Trombone where it's intended to play below its natural range, but it doesn't have a slide to make up the difference. All the lower register has to be lipped in tune and all you get to help is the piddly 5th valve. If you could compensate for both the 4th and 6th valve to make the horn play correctly in CC, it would be alright, but I'm not sure how you'd accomplish that in a practical manner. Maybe vienna valves and just be ok with a 30lb horn? I like blow to pitch horns, but I'm a hobbyist nobody. Pros pull slides.

    As for power, the issue is that 1 on 1, the C Tuba can't match a 4/4 Contrabass Tuba. You could modernize the C Tuba, or have more players, but it's still less convenient and you don't get much in return.

    I have a really small Eb Tuba (12.25" bell, .604" bore). I love the thing to death, but there's no way I could support more than 10 or so players in a brass band without sounding terrible or passing out. In a collection of over 20 horns, it's probably in the top 5 quietest.

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