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Thread: playing the score

  1. playing the score

    My fellow tuba player in a community band often plays down an octave, instead of what's written in the score. Is this a trait of accomplished tubists and something that all good tuba players should try to do? Are there any general rules as to when a 'down-one-octave' note is preferred? Should the conductor indicate what note he wants played?

  2. #2
    Welcome to the forum!

    Adding the lower octave is perhaps a tradition in some pieces, or it is perhaps a matter of the player's musical judgement. I've generally only seen this done when the lower octave was added to the original octave (creating a parallel bass line), not replacing the original octave.

    It often works well, depending on the style of the piece. In some music, the lower octave would create too much weight, which might not fit the composer's intent.

    I would think that if one were the only tuba player, then the lower octave would not be preferred unless the conductor asks for it.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
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  3. #3
    There is a lot of discussion about this practice. The general consensus is to not do it. It is often considered "showing off". There are exceptions, such as, peddling the last cord note to add depth, at the specific direction of the director for a specific purpose, or playing a string bass part (which is written an octave up and should be played an octave down). If someone in your section does this or goes off on an ad lib for a polka, just play the ink, you'll never be wrong.

  4. #4
    Is this the opposite of . . .

    ". . . and trumpeters who'd improvise a full octave higher than the score!"?

    David Bjornstad

    1923 Conn New Wonder 86I, Bach 6 1/2 AL
    2018 Wessex EP100 Dolce, Denis Wick 4ABL
    2013 Jinbao JBEP-1111L, Denis Wick 4AM
    2015 Jinbao JBBR-1240, Denis Wick clone mouthpiece of unknown designation
    Cullman (AL) Community Band (Euph Section Leader)
    Brass Band of Huntsville (2nd Bari)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    West Palm Beach, FL
    Quote Originally Posted by DaveBj View Post
    Is this the opposite of . . .

    ". . . and trumpeters who'd improvise a full octave higher than the score!"?

    Oh, I hate that! But sometimes it can be appropriate like in jazz or swing charts. Listen to ending of excerpts of "El Cumbanchero" at our Swing/Salsa concert in my signature below. We have a pretty good trumpet section now - but 2 of them like to go high. If one misses, ugly!

    I myself have played low root of the chord when we're short of tubas, but not often.
    Rick Floyd
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    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank

    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    Russian Christmas Music (Alfred Reed)
    El Relicario (Jose Padilla; arr. R. Longfield)

  6. #6
    If one does play it down, they better do it with a decent full sound and be tasteful about it! Otherwise, just play what's written.

    Occasionally on my euph. , I will play the tuba part as written if they need help or need a bit more sound. I usually either get asked to or have the unspoken do it.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Central North Carolina
    It's all about how the piece ends up sounding -- and not about how YOU end up sounding ("Boy, listen to that tuba!").

    I would not, in general, do this. The best assumption is that the tuba part has been orchestrated to sound as the composer intends, and so should be played that way. So unless a conductor specifically asks that a piece be played down an octave (or more frequently/realistically, that a particular note or passage be played in this way), then play it as written.

    That being said, there are circumstances in which that assumption may be false and it can work well to play the part down an octave. This can occur, for example, when your band is playing an arrangement intended primarily for middle school students -- and so the range required by the piece has been adjusted accordingly. But even then, care must be taken -- because not only has this been done for the tuba part, but it's been done for all the parts. And having the tuba part deviate can result in a peculiar effect.

    The tuba should not draw attention to itself -- except in passages where that's the clear intent of the composer/arranger.
    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. I will sometimes drop an octave on tuba on passages where I feel it adds value to the phrase. My issue is my tuba is not compensating and I have to use a combination of alternative fingerlings and slide modifications to get pedal notes below F in tune. As a result I tend not to do it, as a pedal note played out of tune tends to stick out.
    James Kircoff
    Genesee Wind Symphony - principal euphonium (Adams E3 Custom .60mm yellow brass bell w/ K&G 3.5)
    Capital City Brass Band (2019 NABBA 2nd section champions) - 1st baritone (Besson BE956 w/ Denis Wick 6BY)

  9. Having played tuba and sousaphone since the fall of 1976, I am generally against dropping the octave. To my ears, having played and directed all the way from the back of the band to the front of the band, there is usually nothing to be gained with a lower octave, but a lot to lose in intonation, articulation, balance, and, well, generally, mud. Yes, mud.

    It is physics: to play the same note down an octave at the same dynamic level with the same articulation and phrasing needs, takes not twice the air, but four times the air, and anticipation of the slower response that is a physical attribute of the instrument, having nothing to do with the talent or competency of the player.

    Having said that, a conductor who carefully analyzes the scores being conducted can identify when it may be advantageous to have one, and I repeat, ONE tuba drop the octave, as with cadential or end of section situations. More than one? You might just as well fly a B-29 bomber into the room that is landing at the end of a mission barely making it home on three engines and damaged fuel injection. Mud.

    Quite the contrary: if I am directing a small group, or if the room has bad acoustics, I may actually ask a tuba player to play up an octave (if the written part is habitually staying too far below the staff) rather than down, to knit with the rest of the band better and add clarity in a bad acoustic environment (making sure not to cross the 3rd bone or euph parts, and coordinating with the low woodwinds, if we have any).

    Did I say I am generally against, in the strongest terms, dropping the octave capriciously and routinely.
    Last edited by iiipopes; 04-29-2018 at 10:51 PM.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by chuckie tuba View Post
    My fellow tuba player in a community band often plays down an octave, instead of what's written in the score.
    Often is too often. There are certain instances where it is helpful, but on any given concert it might be a handful of notes.

    Personally, as an orchestrator, I'm very aware of what octave I'm writing the tuba in. Of all the bass/contrabass instruments, the tuba has the strongest series of overtones. This is why the instrument is such a powerful pitch anchor for the ensemble. But it also effects chord voicings, especially when the chords are in inversion.

    While arranging "Nimrod" from The Enigma Variations for band a couple of years ago, I ran into an issue where a voicing that worked just fine in the strings was creating a howler of a dissonance between the low tuba and bari sax. The chord was an Ab major chord in first inversion. The tuba had a C below the bass clef, while the bari had an Ab at the bottom of the bass clef. The tuba's C had a strong overtone at top space G, which was colliding hard with the top line Ab overtone of the bari sax. In this case, the solution was to put the bari on a C and give the Ab to the softer-sounding bass clarinet. The point is that the nature of the tuba's overtones actually dictated how I could cleanly orchestrate the chord.

    When a tuba player is routinely dropping things an octave, it has the potential to really alter the quality of the music. Clean chord voicings get muddy and the nature of the pitch support the tuba is providing the ensemble changes, potentially ruining delicate writing.
    Adrian L. Quince
    Composer, Conductor, Euphoniumist

    Kanstul 976 - SM4U

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