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Thread: Plastic Tuba Choices

  1. Plastic Tuba Choices

    Please hold off any knee-jerk disdain for plastic instruments until you've heard me out.

    I have an upcoming role as a clown in a freak show (see, it's beginning to make sense already!). I am an electric bass player but I have to provide simple umpah umpah bass lines for a raggedy-ass circus band. The cheap, light, chuck-in-a-gig-bag black plastic tubas are perfect for me.

    There are two to choose from: one is squat, glossy black with rotary valves and the other is leaner, opaque black with piston valves. I have only found a few seconds video of someone playing the opaque one and lots more on the glossy one but even then, audio over the internet makes it almost impossible to get enough idea of the sound to be able to compare them.

    I have prepared a .pdf file that compares both which you can look at here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/mm1g12ezi9...0tuba.pdf?dl=0

    My question: Have any of you played both? Can you help me with my choice?

    If you don't want to admit to any knowledge of these things, PM me here or Skype me at "thomasblackthorne"

    Blue skies,

    Thomas

  2. #2
    This post had been invisible to others until this morning. I just noticed it had been "on hold" pending review. That system is automatic so I'm not sure why.

    Anyway, I have no opinion to add, but maybe others will now that they can see the thread!
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
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    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    2,039
    I like the look of the piston horn more. But my GUESS is that the rotary would be a safer pick if you can't test both of them. While it's possible to screw up both rotary and piston valves, rotary valves are easier to make so that they actually work reasonably, and are easier to maintain, because they require less engineering and close-tolerance fabrication than pistons. Keep in mind that historically, the rotary valve was the first on the scene.

    For that reason, and absent any other knowledge or experience of these instruments, I'd pick the rotary.
    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
    I would steer clear of the piston valves. I used one for about 6 months, and after practicing on it an hour a day during that time, it was pretty much falling apart.
    The valves are very poorly made and there are many questions on the internet about how to take care of them. Whether you do the best you can with oil and constant washing, or ignore them, the end result is about the same.
    Mine survived through TubaChristmas, held together with a large wad of Scotch Tape. I would have upgraded the tape for appearances, but the Scotch tape had over time held onto the place I was using it on, so I’ve left it. Another vote for the rotary valves.

  5. Thank you both for your clear and reasoned answers. Very helpful. Ann, to be clear, when you say "I used one for about 6 months" were you talking about a piston valve tuba or specifically a plastic one?

  6. Images

    I just worked out how to upload photos of the instruments so you don't have to follow the .pdf link. I have removed the brand names because they change them all the time.
    Have any of you played either or both of these?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Blackthorne; 03-29-2020 at 08:31 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    2,039
    Piston valve tubas in general are fine. In fact, they're usually great. I have two. I used to play a Cerveny rotary tuba, and it too was great, but I prefer the "feel" of piston valves. However, in general, a rotary valve horn is "Play it and forget it. Oil the rotor bushings reasonably frequently, and when you can remember to, drop some oil down the mouthpipe and tuning tubes to lubricate the interior of the valves." Piston valves are "Oil them frequently (some do it daily depending on the type of oil used), don't forget to, and keep them clean and free of any gunk -- on a constant and regular basis." You're always taking your pistons out of piston valves to oil and clean them.

    Rotary valves don't need the maintenance (or even anywhere near the degree of lubrication) as piston valves since the valve surfaces don't touch the valve casing -- at all. In a correctly made rotary valve, with bushings that aren't overly worn, there is no valve wear. You NEVER take your rotary valves apart except to repair them or (in some cases that are unusual) remove calcium deposits from them. In fact, the common injunction is that as a player, you should NEVER disassemble a rotary valve, but have it done only by a skilled repair tech. But the fact is, that in general and except for odd circumstances or abuse, they won't need it. Most rotary valve players (including trombonists with F/Gb, etc. attachments) won't have their valves disassembled in their lifetimes.

    I have a 1965 rotary oval euphonium that has very noisy and significantly worn valve linkages, has obviously not seen the best of care over the past 50+ years, and the valves themselves are GREAT (smooth and no leaks). Someday, I must fix the linkages so they aren't so noisy.
    Last edited by ghmerrill; 03-30-2020 at 10:46 AM.
    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)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Hidden Valley, AZ
    Posts
    714
    One of my bandmates has a rotor plastic tuba he uses for Tuba Christmas.

    It is now a mess of silicone seal, used to keep leaks at bay.

    He says it is just a toy, and therefore worth the sticky vigilance.

    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

  9. #9
    Sorry for the confusion, all my fault. Mine is a piston valve euphonium. The piston valve tuba is very similar.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    2,039
    Quote Originally Posted by highpitch View Post
    It is now a mess of silicone seal, used to keep leaks at bay.
    DG
    Just as a matter of curiosity, WHERE are the leaks? It's just hard for me to imagine choosing silicone seal to solve any particular leak problems that I'd encounter with such an instrument.
    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)

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