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Thread: Bb Tuba range and finger chart

  1. Bb Tuba range and finger chart

    While I sit here waiting for my tuba to arrive and being a complete neophyte to wind instruments I've been trawling the web to get a better understanding of the instrument. I've put everything I've found out so far into this range and finger chart. Of course the result is that I now have a million more questions but here are the 4 I would most like to have answers to:

    The most complete finger chart I found didn't include a finger position for B0. Instead they had written "N/A" which normally means "not applicable" or "not available". Is there something special about B0?

    Most information I found gave the range of the Bb tuba as the three octaves from Bb0 to Bb3 which I coloured in blue. Notes outside this range I coloured black but I realise that the real range of the instrument is dictated by many factors, the most important of which seems to be the ability and experience of the player. I know this is subjective, but how much of this range would you expect a complete novice to achieve after a week, a month, a year, 10 years? Again I know this is a how-long-is-a-piece-of-string type question but maybe the teachers among you can give me a vague ball park estimate, based on your experience.

    At your best what is your range?

    Have I made any important errors on the chart?

    Blue skies,

    Thomas

    Click image for larger version. 

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  2. You would need a 5th Valve or a long 1st slide pull to play B0 in tune. For C1 above it you've already got all 4 valves pushed down. The more valves you push down, the sharper the instrument will get. Each valve lowers the pitch from the open horn by a certain amount, but when you add more than one together, they don't quite make enough. The 2nd valve lowers pitch by a half step, and the first valve lowers pitch by a whole step. However if you already have the 1st valve engaged, the 2nd valve doesn't quite lower it a half step. If you look at your chart, E1 is listed as 2 - 4, but you have D#1 as 1 - 2 - 4. Between is where the note becomes so sharp that it is in fact unusable, so it goes to 1 -2 -4 which is a somewhat flat D#. So basically it runs out of ways to increase the length, unless the tuba had a 5th valve or a long pull on a tuning slide.

    A lot of this has to do with the way the harmonic series of the instruments work. Each partial is a certain interval from the one below it. Bb0 is the 1st harmonic, also known as the fundamental. The 2nd harmonic is Bb1, an octave up. There unfortunately are not enough length overall in the valves to give a complete chromatic scale between the two on a 4 valve instrument.

    I also should mention that the Bb0 note is EXTREMELY low. Most tuba repertoire doesn't even go near that. While theoretically the Bb0 fundamental, also known as a "pedal tone" is playable, for the most part the lowest you'll see is F1, and many parts are all or entirely above Bb1.

    So the harmonic series in open position looks like this:

    Bb0 - 1st Harmonic
    Bb1 - 2nd Harmonic
    F2 - 3rd Harmonic
    Bb2 - 4th Harmonic
    D3 - 5th Harmonic
    F3 - 6th Harmonic
    bAb3 - 7th Harmonic - Good For Alternate Fingerings.
    Bb3 - 8th Harmonic
    Last edited by tbonesullivan; 04-01-2020 at 08:30 PM.
    Sterling / Perantucci 1065HGS Euphonium, Yamaha YBB-631S BBb Tuba, and a bunch of trombones.

  3. #3
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    In my experience, some of the best PRACTICAL fingering charts are here

    For non-compensating 4-valve BBb tuba: https://norlanbewley.com/bewleymusic...e-bbb-tuba-nc/
    For compensating 4-valve Eb tuba: https://norlanbewley.com/bewleymusic...valve-eb-tuba/

    Although, as suggested, you likely won't ever see any of the notes in measures 1-8 of the BBb chart written. On the other (upper end), you likewise (for, say, community band music) won't see anything past measure 46 for a BBb tuba, and likely relatively little above the staff at all. I've played with BBb tuba players (and playing good, demanding pieces such as Percy Grainger, Vaughn Williams, et al.) who won't ever venture below the F the octave below the staff (measure 13) and won't venture above the G at the top of the staff. These were good community band players (not professionals or students playing full orchestral scores), but this was pretty much their range and they didn't need more. In terms of the low range, you probably won't ever need more (or much more).

    In terms of the high range, you should probably be able to play solidly at the top of the staff and maybe a couple of steps above it -- but many amateur BBb players won't go there. In part this is because they use mouthpieces way too big for them in order to make the low range easier (not a great idea), and it really constrains their high range. But also, keeping up a good high range on a tuba takes rather constant effort.

    I haven't been playing tuba (except once or twice a year) for about 3 years now. My normal range (i.e., controlled, with good pitch and good tone quality, and on my Eb compensating horn -- NOT a BBb) was from the second D below the staff (measure 10 on the BBb chart or measure 6 on the Compensating Eb chart) up to at least the F above the staff (measure 44) on the Compensating Eb chart or measure 49 on the Bbb chart). I can play that low with my Eb comp horn, but don't like to since it lacks the tone quality of a larger tuba down there. The octave below the staff is about as far as I like to go on an Eb tuba. Also, playing at speed down that far on the Eb horn (and trying to play at decent volume) tends to be exhausting.

    Don't try to do too much too fast. Don't start out with some "theoretical" goal that won't be helpful in playing the music you actually will encounter and want to play. Embouchure takes time to develop and a lot of it is muscle strength and training -- like a tennis or a golf swing. Start in the middle range (in the staff and slightly below) and focus on good SOUND production and PITCH control. Then start to work on expanding your range. If you work on that range, you will likely be able to play all or most of what you encounter. If you want a particular goal to shoot for, get a copy of the Tuba Christmas book and work on both the Tuba 1 ("high") and Tuba 2 ("low") parts. Both of these have "moderate" range and are in part intended to be played by middle school and high school students. This has the advantage that it will make you able to play easily in Tuba Christmas events when they roll around.

    Don't get a mouthpiece that's too big. I recommend starting on something like a Bach 25 (or a Faxx 25 is actually better/cheaper if you can get one). Don't go bigger before you achieve the control and intonation that you need.
    Last edited by ghmerrill; 04-02-2020 at 02:47 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)

  4. Thank You!

    Thank you both soo much for your answers!

    tbone, I have updated my chart with the information you provided. The only thing I didn't understand was your line: "bAb3 - 7th Harmonic - Good For Alternate Fingerings."

    Gary, the fingering section of my chart is based on the Norman Bewley chart you mentioned. I found your penultimate paragraph about the approach to learning particularly useful.

    My tuba turned up today, 4 days early! (The only good thing about being on full lockdown = no traffic!)
    I went with the rotary valve version (partly because of the advice you and Ann gave me) and I am very happy with it. I can now confess that because I have never been anywhere near a wind instrument and because of the research I've been doing while waiting for the tuba to arrive, I got the impression that I might have bitten off more than I could chew and that I was in for weeks of not being able to get a single clean note. Call it beginner's luck but after ten minutes I was cycling through relatively clean Bb2-F2-Bb1-F2-Bb2-F2-Bb1... and the sense of relief was immense!

    Anyway, here's the updated chart. Please everyone look it over and tell me if I can improve it.

    Blue skies,
    Thomas

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    Last edited by Blackthorne; 04-03-2020 at 06:25 PM.
    Proud owner of a cheap black plastic Chinese Bb rotary 4-valve non-compensating contrabass tuba!

  5. Quote Originally Posted by Blackthorne View Post
    Thank you both soo much for your answers!

    tbone, I have updated my chart with the information you provided. The only thing I didn't understand was your line: "bAb3 - 7th Harmonic - Good For Alternate Fingerings."
    If you look at most charts, the 7th harmonic is skipped completely. This is why from F3 to F#3 you go from open to 2 - 3. There is a harmonic between the open F3 and Bb3 but it is VERY flat. However, if you have 2 valves pressed down, it actually can get pretty close to on pitch.

    For this partial:
    bAb - Open
    bG - 2
    bGb - 1
    bF - 1 + 2
    E - 1 + 3
    Eb - 1 + 2 + 3

    These can be useful in some more advanced situations.

    The 7th partial is pretty much avoided in all brass instruments, except for one family: trombones. They are literally a giant tuning slide, so they can be in tune, on every partial, every time.
    Sterling / Perantucci 1065HGS Euphonium, Yamaha YBB-631S BBb Tuba, and a bunch of trombones.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Central North Carolina
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackthorne View Post
    I can now confess that because I have never been anywhere near a wind instrument and because of the research I've been doing while waiting for the tuba to arrive, I got the impression that I might have bitten off more than I could chew and that I was in for weeks of not being able to get a single clean note. Call it beginner's luck but after ten minutes I was cycling through relatively clean Bb2-F2-Bb1-F2-Bb2-F2-Bb1... and the sense of relief was immense!
    It's not exactly rocket science (although the actual acoustic theory gets pretty hairy). Having been a woodwind player in my youth (grade school through college), in my mid-40s I decided to play tuba -- and ordered a BBb Cerveny from WW&BW. Sat down and learned to play it. It helps to have MUSICAL experience, and an interest in things like pitch and sound quality. And I'm sure that lessons can help -- though I've never had one on a brass instrument.

    But just learning is a whole lot of fun.
    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
    I don't play BBb Tuba or know a whole heck of a lot about it, but I made a pretty complete fingering chart as an exercise for myself. I actually wasn't sure how BBb Tuba even reads bass clef. I think the octave can be different depending on whatever...I dunno. I'm just here to share random information that I had to find out for myself and learn from other people's questions.

    This chart covers a theoretical 4.5 octave range and is plotted with compensating fingerings in mind. You will have to pull slides, use alternate fingerings, or make other various adaptations to suit your playing style and instrument. If you need to play higher than this, uhh...everything is either open or 2nd valve (if not either), so go for it.

    Big Image on Google Drive

    (Yes, I know I left out some things. Didn't want to make a mess for no reason.)
    Last edited by notaverygoodname; 04-05-2020 at 11:34 PM.

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