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Thread: Would a tuba be the key?

  1. Would a tuba be the key?

    I played French horn, baritone, piano, and learned the tuba in 4 months in my 8th grade year in school. Played a solo and trio with 2 seniors and got a gold and went into state honors band in 8th grade. My life was just going dandy my 8th grade year, and then again state in 9th and 10rh grade; all off to state honors band and golds.
    Then New Years hit me my junior year and my lung got punctured by a fractured rib; lung collapsed. I came back to after a coma and rehab but it was the first silver I've ever gotten playing the tuba in my senior year.
    So really, after a lung was once collapsed and gets back going again, will there always be the matter of taking too many breaths? Or if I bought a tuba, could that get better or is it a forever, long lost dream to have a better breath as I play the tuba?
    I'm buying a house and can finally get a tuba to play as I want to but if it's for something that will always be noticed, that may get to me even more. Breathing exercises are grand but I'm sure playing an instrument is better. It happened a little over a century ago, but I'm sure you can always work on your breathing.

    I'm almost 30 years old, I'd rather grow my breath on my own now. Been done with therapy.for years now but I still want to work on my breath and even my brain. I'm not looking for medical answers, just a slight opinion I guess if you would notice a person taking many breaths as they play and if it would be great to work on. Realistic to work on I guess and if it mattered.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Central North Carolina
    My opinion is "Why not at least try it?" My guess is that it would also be great physical therapy of just the sort you need. But if you want a more experienced, clinical, and professional opinion on that, try posing your question on a sports medicine forum or going to a sports medicine doctor for a quick evaluation and consultation. I'm also puzzled about exactly what your concern is if the trauma happened over a decade ago. And what the issue of taking many breaths is.

    Are you saying that you're stuck with a chronic condition of lowered lung capacity? In that case, my guess would be that that's not irreversible (and again that playing a wind instrument would be likely to improve it). Based on my own experience (never had a collapsed lung, but came close once when I broke a collarbone and five ribs in an incautious moment on a motorcycle track), you may have never had the correct PT program at the time (or not stuck with it), and are still involved in a kind of "guarding" behavior with your breathing. But a decent sports med (or maybe ortho) doc and PT tech could probably tell you the story on that pretty quickly.

    I'm 71 and definitely notice a lung capacity problem compared to twenty years ago, but "almost 30" strikes me as way too young to give up on playing tuba unless you have a genuine and competently diagnosed chronic condition that couldn't be improved. And even if you do, so what? You can still play the tuba. Just get a smaller one (like an F or an Eb, or even a small bore BBb) and go for it.
    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)

  3. #3
    Gary makes some good points above and I agree with his conclusion - try it!

    Keep in mind that Arnold Jacobs, who provided a nice bottom end for the Chicago Symphony's brass section for many years, had greatly diminished physical lung capacity. And in the Coast Guard Band, we enjoyed the playing of a tubist in the 1970's who was skinny as a rail and a heavy smoker - but he had a gorgeous sound! (He was a student of Arnold Jacobs, and that taught him how to use his capacity to the best advantage.)
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  4. #4
    I attended a clinic several years ago by Dr. James Gourlay in which the central point was this: We all start losing lung capacity after our early 20s. We can get some back through practicing, both playing and doing brass-focused breathing exercises, but our best coping mechanism is to be more intelligent in how we use our air.

    In addition to the examples Dave cites above, I've seen this borne out in my own musical experiences. I've played next to very fine tubists who sounded fantastic and were breathing quite frequently. But, they had a plan and made music despite needing to tank up frequently.

    With that said, now that (I assume) you're fully healed from your injury, you might find that once you get practicing you'll have more air than you remember having. I remember after blowing out a knee it took me several years to feel fully comfortable with how the leg worked, though the injury had medically healed in a few months. In my case, it took working with a Feldenkrais practitioner to become aware of and overcome the guarding behavior that Gary mentions.

    Finally, if you're feeling apprehensive about taking up the tuba again, you might look at borrowing or renting one before going in on a purchase. No amount of theorizing is going to beat getting an instrument back in your hands and making music with it.
    Adrian L. Quince
    Composer, Conductor, Euphoniumist

    Kanstul 976 - SM4U

  5. General overall physical conditioning helps a player be as efficient as possible with their vital capacity. "The Breathing Gym" by Pilafian and Sheridan is a good approach to general conditioning from the perspective of developing good habits and efficiency with breathing.

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