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Thread: Wessex French C Tuba TC 236 P

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2015

    Wessex French C Tuba TC 236 P

    Hi all, here is a first short review on my recent purchase, the Wessex french C tuba TC-236P-S, an exact reproduction of the original 1930 small French tuba in C, with the difference that the third slide now has a normal length of one and a half tones instead of the two tones of the original. This choice of mine might seem a bit anachronistic or at least "strange", but it was due to the fact that I wanted an instrument in C in order to play the parts written in the bass clef without using the mezzo soprano transport with which I have some difficulties and also the curiosity to play an instrument used in the orchestra until the middle of the last century to deal with tuba bass parts in the high register. The instrument arrived well packaged, inside a nice semi-rigid case, with reinforcements to protect the bell, with handle and shoulder straps, a front pocket with key lock and a rear zip pocket to contain the music parts, equipped from two mouthpieces, one with euphonium cup and one for tuba, cloth, oil, pencil, springs and spare guides plus a black cap with the inscription Wessex and the dragon emblem. Once the case was opened, the French tuba immediately made a good impression on me: when compared to a classic euphonium, it looks like a small, squat, a little chubby boy. The silver plating has been impeccably done, it has no scratches or imperfections, the valves are clean and perfectly sliding as well as the slides. Ergonomics are optimal, with the three valves for the left hand placed, compared to the euphonium immediately behind the section of the third valve tube and in front of the main tube, so as to make it easy to use even for people with a small build and with small hands. The metal with which it was made is consistent, with the bell diameter of 260 mm, the thickness of the plate 0,6 mm made in a single piece hammered by hand. The weight is quite substantial, 4.395 gr. without mouthpiece. When it arrived, despite being in a hurry, I could not resist the temptation to make four notes immediately: a serious mistake. Trying a new instrument, moreover in a key never played before and in the cold of the cellar, gave me the impression that the instrument sounded strange, very low in pitch and out of tune. When, after a couple of days, I calmly tested it thoroughly for a couple of hours in an environment at an optimal temperature of 22 ° kelvin, the general intonation arrives, with the main slide all inserted at A = 440: it would be useful have a shorter main slide, in order to reach A = 442, the reference pitch that is adopted in all the bands in which I play.The sound comes out very free, beautiful and warm, at the limit completely comparable to that of my Prestige, slightly clearer than the New standard, I would say a tenor tuba sound. As for the intonation it is quite good, all the notes are centered in the range of a few cents, except for the 5th partial which comes out very low, but easily adjusted with the lips or with the alternative positions, while the sixth, very high on the Bessons euphoniums, is in tune here. At the beginning it took me a while to tune the lips and brain with the new tonality: when you think of a note to play, the brain commands the lips in the right position in which to make them vibrate and, hearing a sound a higher pitch than usual it tends to make it go down but, after a little practice, everything becomes normal. For now I have not yet explored the lower end of the range in the tuba range, limiting myself to the fundamental. On the other hand, I'm not going to play the tuba parts, but to stick to those of the euphonium, with another fun instrument to use as an alternative. There is also an interesting discovery that I made: by holding down the 5th valve and pulling out the slides of the other valves adequately, the chubby boy tunes perfectly in Bb making it a euphonium to all intents and purposes. I took him to rehearsal with the band last Friday and the “guy” blended seamlessly with the other two Bessons, a Prestige and a Sovereign from my chair mates. Overall I am very satisfied with my new toy and I congratulate Wessex for having exhumed an instrument of the past destined for oblivion and for the excellent workmanship of the same that I bought for a very competitive price: € 3500 including taxes, duty and freight (Wessex has recently made free shipping to Europe) are, in my opinion, a great price for an instrument with six pistons and all the bore needed to make it.

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    Last edited by franz; 11-14-2021 at 01:03 PM.
    Besson Prestige 2052, 3D+ K&G mouthpiece; JP373 baritone,4B modified K&G mouthpiece; Bach 42GO trombone, T4C K&G mouthpiece; Besson New Standard 3 compensated valves 1974, 3D+ K&G modified mouthpiece; Wessex French C tuba 3D+ K&G modified mouthpiece.

  2. #2
    What do the fifth and sixth valves do?
    Sterling Virtuoso Euphonium, Denis Wick 4AL
    Besson New Standard

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Summerfield, Florida
    Nice looking horn, and a nice looking bunch of horns, too! Hope you find good places to play it. I, too, like Pat, am curious as to how the valves work.
    John Morgan
    The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
    Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, Wessex EP-100 Dolce Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium
    Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
    Kingdom of the Sun Concert Band, Ocala, FL (Euphonium)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Quote Originally Posted by Pat View Post
    What do the fifth and sixth valves do?
    The valves of the Wessex French C tuba operated by the fingers of the left hand have the following function: the 4th is as normally used on the euphonium that is, it lowers the pitch by a perfect fourth, the fifth, as stated by the manufacturer, would lower the pitch by a half step long, but in reality it is practically a whole step, while the sixth lowers the pitch by a perfect fifth, allowing to be obtaining the F. The use of the 5th valve is particularly interesting: in addition to allowing to be obtaining all the notes below the F perfectly in tune even though the instrument is not equipped with compensation circuits, it allows some useful alternative positions and, very interesting and useful detail, if activated permanently, it brings the pitch of the W.F.CT. to Bb, making it in effect, after adjusting the slides, completely comparable to the euphonium. There will be fun with this toy.
    Besson Prestige 2052, 3D+ K&G mouthpiece; JP373 baritone,4B modified K&G mouthpiece; Bach 42GO trombone, T4C K&G mouthpiece; Besson New Standard 3 compensated valves 1974, 3D+ K&G modified mouthpiece; Wessex French C tuba 3D+ K&G modified mouthpiece.

  5. Congratulations to your new baby!
    It is a great instrument if you use it properly. To use the full potential of this type of horn you have to work on the low register. Coming from the ophicleide the french C tuba ( and the french saxhorn basse) is supposed to play from the fundamental upwards, unlike the rest of brass, which starts at one octave higher.
    For this you have the very long 6th valve (perfect 5th). The longer 3rd valve makes sense, too. With this original configuration you can finger down the whole octave using only one or two valves at a time, only Eb below staff needs three valves. So you have still an open sound when playing a major 7th down (4+6) and when you use all six valves you are down a minor 10th (c-AA!).
    For the ergonomics: I play my TC 236 with an Ergobrass support, because it is a bit tricky to hold a horn with only two thumbs and two pinkies! (remember, the other six fingers are busy with the valves!) It keeps the horn floating in front of you without weight but you can still move around for multiple page reading. For playing while standing there is a belt pocket so the weight is not on your back and shoulders.
    I did not like the original mouthpieces too much, I play it with the Kelly Beast (stainless steel) as standard. It gives a very bassy low register and still good intonation for Bydlo. When only playing in the higher range I use the Kelly Bass-Bone.
    Many thanks to Wessex for not trying to make "modern" modifications to the instrument. The short 3rd valve (even if the long makes mor sense when getting used to!) was always an option with Couesnon, they offered an insert for the valve slide (like Wessex has it for the 5th valve). From playing it is very near to my 1940 Courtois, but luckily without the red rot!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Summerville (SC)
    Congratulazioni Franz!

    I have been quite curious about the Wessex TC236P, as at least in theory, this nifty little horn should prove to be a very flexible instrument.... I am very much looking forward to reading more about your experiences with it.

    And of course... I hope that you will soon be posting a clip where you feature this Gallic baby through its musical paces

    Saluti, Guido
    Wessex EP104 Festivo + DC4, SM4U, 51D

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    NYC metro area
    Quote Originally Posted by franz View Post
    [snip] optimal temperature of 22 ° kelvin [snip].
    Sorry for the nitpicking: 22° Celsius (a/k/a centigrade), not Kelvin. 22 Kelvin [no degree sign by convention] is -251.15° Celsius.

    But I do appreciate your thorough comments on the Wessex C tuba. I, also, have been curious about that horn.

    Science nerd Dean
    Dean L. Surkin
    Mack Brass MACK-EU1150S, BB1 (DE 101XTG9 mouthpiece in the drawer)
    Bach 36B trombone; Bach 6.5AL mouthpiece (pBone on loan to granddaughter)
    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) keep me company while practicing

  8. #8
    I am French and I am very glad that Wessex manfactures French tuba in C! This instrument was used till the 70s in France as bass tuba. All the French concertos from the 50s to the 70s written by Casterede, Bozza, Dubois,Pascal… had to be played either with a ‘tuba en ut’ (tuba in C) or ´saxhorn basse sib’ (saxhorn bass in B). I am a saxhorn basse and euphonium player but I have never seen or heard a French tuba in C in France. But keen to see a video recording of one of those concertos played with this instrument!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    I have been playing the Wessex French C tuba for about a month and I am having a lot of fun playing the euphonium parts in the bass clef on this instrument. Next Saturday I will do the gala concert with it; produces a clear sound than the euphonium. During the Christmas holidays, if I can, I will make a comparison video. Here is a link to a discussion I started a few years ago.

    The French C tuba is part of Wessex historic range to make available again great brass instruments from the past.

    The simple fact is that most French orchestral music for over a century including such great composers as Franck, Saint-Saens, Ravel, Debussy and even the ballets of Stravinsky were written for French C tuba. How can playing the music on an instrument an octave lower be acceptable as following the composers wishes? It would be like playing bassoon music on a contrabassoon. Therefore Wessex has reintroduced this significant instrument in tuba literature with the hope that it may over the next few years become the expected thing that French music will be played with the French C tuba, much like it is now generally expected that Italian music should be played on cimbasso to follow the composers expectations.

    The new Wessex C tuba is an exact reproduction of a 1931 instrument lent to us by Carl Kleinsteuber, a leading advocate of the French C tuba. He has played the new Wessex and has confirmed its tone and response is as near as possible identical. For your interest, here are links to presentation given by Carl on the French C tuba with a number of back to back comparisons with playing the same excerpt on CC tuba. I think if you listen you will agree that even in excerpts you would not expect the French C tuba to project enough, such as the ‘Great Gate of Kiev’ it sounds great and to my ears more appropriate to the music than an American bass foundation given by the larger tuba. As the tuba used in the excerpts is the template for the new Wessex TC236, you can be sure the Wessex will sound almost identical. Hope you find interesting.

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Thread: Wessex French C Tuba
    Last edited by franz; 12-11-2021 at 02:25 AM.
    Besson Prestige 2052, 3D+ K&G mouthpiece; JP373 baritone,4B modified K&G mouthpiece; Bach 42GO trombone, T4C K&G mouthpiece; Besson New Standard 3 compensated valves 1974, 3D+ K&G modified mouthpiece; Wessex French C tuba 3D+ K&G modified mouthpiece.

  10. #10
    Thank you Franz for sharing. Great sound! If you have the opportunity to play an excerpt of a French concerto (sonatine or fantaisie concertante for instance) with this instrument, it would be terrific! Thanks

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