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Stuffy Bottom Line G on my 186

Postby iiipopes » Fri Aug 24, 2007 10:19 am

OK, as I'm getting into the community band season, getting warmed up and back in shape from the oom-pah gigs this summer, I've got a nit that needs picking: my bottom line G, whether fingered 12 or 3, on my 186 BBb is stuffy and hard to intonate cleanly.

Background: 1971 BBb detachable bell model, with a retrofit St Pete upright bell, shorter than conventional, extended main tuning slide to compensate.

I've taken everything apart I can think of except pop the bottom rotor caps to check rotors, as I don't have the proper tools. Bottom line Gb is fine. Bottom space Ab is fine. Lower 3 ledger line and a space G is fine, although it could center just a little better. First ledger line Eb could center a little better. The usual Miraphone flat middle line D needing 12 alternate fingering. Everything else fairly good. Alignment of the rotor stops seems fine as I slightly let off the valve to check alignment, as I don't have a scope. New neoprene rotor stops trimmed appropriately. The only even noticable situation is the wide ferrule at the base of the bell stack is slightly flattened from where I (you can thrash me now) dropped it once against the coffee table in the living room sitting on the sofa with it as I got up. Must have gotten some slide grease on my hands or something, oh, well. But I put my son's larger rubber playball in the bell and blew through the receiver, and the entire horn seems to hold pressure, no apparent leaks, even around the tenon and set screws, which I have as tight as I can get them. Water key cork replaced and checked for seal and is good.

Any ideas?
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Maybe . . .

Postby Uncle Buck » Fri Aug 24, 2007 10:37 am

Maybe you've got a problem on the first or third valve, similar to what Rick had here. :D


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1971 BBb Miraphone

Postby pwhitaker » Fri Aug 24, 2007 11:02 am

That's very peculiar. I have almost the identical horn - Miraphone 186 4U BBb with serial 66XX. This horn has the original Miraphone recording bell. I haven't noticed any stuffiness or intonation problems in any of the 3 octaves I generally play in. Since I only use this horn for parades and other outdoor gigs I might not be hearing any such problems if they did indeed exist, but AFAIK they do not.
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Postby windshieldbug » Fri Aug 24, 2007 11:28 am

Probably just a Teutonic reaction to an Anglophile trying to play it... :P

Seriously, have you narrowed it down to either the pitch or the valve?

As I understand it, the pitch "bottom line G" would be the result of an out-of-place node, something like the valves being out of alignment (or NOT out of alignment, you need an acoustician to tell you... ) or a dent, something in the resulting bugle that is forcing that note out of the proper intonation. I'd try to play G in another harmonic series using different fingerings not involving 1 and then 2 to try that out. I forget my extended harmonic series, but fourth valve of the proper length seems a possibility...

If it's the valve, other notes played with 1 or 2 should be similarly affected.

My 184 has small screws in the center of the bottom cap to ensure that the valve has the proper planar height. Do you have those, and are those adjusted correctly?

All you need to check the rotors is a rubber or rawhide mallet to drive the top of the rotor shafts downward, and pop off the rotor plate. A dowel is all you'd need to re-install. Might be worth it as a last resort...
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Postby iiipopes » Fri Aug 24, 2007 11:40 am

I do have the planar height screws. I hadn't thought of that. I'll check those, as well as the other ideas this evening. I'll keep everyone posted. It is the stuffy response. Pitch is fine on the bottom line G. Thanks.
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Postby Rick Denney » Fri Aug 24, 2007 12:30 pm

I think that when you used a shortened bell and make up for it in the main slide you change the application of the taper design and that can have some unintended consequences. That would be something to consider. Do you have the problem with the forward bell? (If you don't have the forward bell, why not replace the whole bell stack with a Miraphone bell?) How much did you have to pull that slide?

I would also look for leaks in the main bugle. You've already eliminated the possibility of a leak in the valve slides, since the problem occurs equally using 1-2 or 3.

Is it an intonation problem or is it a resonance problem? Is there a resonant tone that is off pitch, or is there no resonant tone at all?

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Postby cjk » Fri Aug 24, 2007 12:47 pm

Push the tuning slide all the way in and see if it gets better or worse.

Pull the tuning slide as far out as you can without it falling out and see if it gets better or worse.

Pulling rotors apart yourself is really not a big deal. I've been doing it since I was 15 (about 17 years). I use a soft wooden mallet and some pencil sized wood rods (all of which I made myself :) ).

If you can rebuild carburetors in your kitchen, you can certainly drop rotors yourself. Directions are an easy Google or Tubenet search away.

I'd also run water though the horn from the leadpipe end and see if anything strange comes out the other end. I'd start with the main tuning slide out, then when I was happy that nothing was going to come out, I'd direct the hose into the bugle end of the main tuning slide and raise the water pressure some.

Hope this helps,

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Postby iiipopes » Fri Aug 24, 2007 1:32 pm

Thanks. I have some more ideas to try. I just didn't know what were the appropriate tools to pop rotors. That is a last resort.

The problem is resonance and intonation. Once I do get the note to speak, it is on pitch, but I have to be careful that it doesn't fly off, and slurring to and from are difficult. Yes, it has all the symptoms of a leak, but I can't find it. With the added information, I'll look in a different manner.

I can tell you that the dogleg from the bottom of the valve block to the main tuning slide does appear to have been "resurrected" at some point, probably when put into shape to sell at TE. There may be some pinhole leaks or internal obstructions that don't present themselves on external inspection. This is a likely culprit for another reason: with the reproportioning, Gb is right on the water key, and when it has trouble speaking I know I need to empty the water out!

I hope I don't have to change the bell out. With the shorter height and the longer main tuning slide, it is marginally easier to manuever, looks great with the shiny nickel bell that, oddly, actually coordinates with the nickel silver trim motif that is classic Miraphone, and is just a tad easier to blow with the older, probably smaller leadpipe and just that little bit more cylindrical tubing.

Interesting ideosyncracy: with the bell stack shorter, mid line D is still flat, as is typical and traditional, but with the nodes moved from the bottom of the bell stack down into the bottom bow, Db, C and B nat are RIGHT ON as checked with more than one electronic tuner! The upper range above 4th line F feels a bit flat, but that may just be my limited breath support. The lower range below Ab, also probably as a result of the reproportioning of the taper, is just a hair sharp, but all that means is low G is played 3 instead of 12, unless I pull 1, as 3 is already pulled for 23 Gb and Db to be in tune, C and low F 4 speak well, low E 2-4 has a wide enough slot it doesn't matter, you just focus the pitch with your embouchure and blow, low Eb I can play either open "false pedal," 1-4 or 124, and make it all about the same, depending on how I arch the back of my tongue. Low D is usual 234, Db a little sharp at 134 needing a slight pull on 1, low C 1234, no low B nat, (which says more about my embouchure than the horn) and when I'm really relaxed and warmed up, pedal Bb purrs, as I can't make it roar, and, again, that's me, not the horn.

Will keep everyone posted after checking some other things this evening. Thanks again.

Then again, it very well could be instead a Teutonic reaction to Anglophilia! Rule, Britannia, Britannia rules the waves.... :P
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Postby cjk » Fri Aug 24, 2007 1:41 pm

iiipopes wrote:...
I can tell you that the dogleg from the bottom of the valve block to the main tuning slide does appear to have been "resurrected" at some point, probably when put into shape to sell at TE. There may be some pinhole leaks or internal obstructions that don't present themselves on external inspection. This is a likely culprit for another reason: with the reproportioning, Gb is right on the water key, and when it has trouble speaking I know I need to empty the water out!
...


You might consider covering the dogleg in question with electrical tape and testing. That would be quick and relatively painless.
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Postby Alex C » Fri Aug 24, 2007 2:40 pm

I've rarely played a 186 that had a stuffy low register.

Don't even waste your time with the rubber-ball-in-the-bell. If you detect air leaking, how do you determine if it is a valve alignment, a valve wearing, leaking water key of a lousy solder joint? It's almost worse than no information.

Your problem, as Rick said, is probably in the replacement bell. Your tuba now has different tapers and possibly a number of other problems including: length, fit and workmanship.

Take it to a tuba player who is also a repairman. "Regular" repairmen will have too much of a learning curve to help you.
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Postby iiipopes » Fri Aug 24, 2007 4:44 pm

Hey, Alex C -- thanks for your post, but a bit of clarification: 1) already did the rubber ball -- no perceivable leaks. 2) The original bell tenon was taken off the recording bell and put on the St Pete bell, so it does fit properly; I just need to order another bell tenon directly from Miraphone to get the recording bell up and running; and 3) it's not the low register in general that is stuffy, just this one note: bottom line G, whether played 12 or 3.
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Postby WakinAZ » Fri Aug 24, 2007 5:10 pm

There is a repairman/tubist in roughly the same part of the country (hint: his initials are TubaTinker) who replaces Miraphone bells/tenons.
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Postby iiipopes » Fri Aug 24, 2007 5:48 pm

Indeed. That does give me a thought: Dan also obtained another main tuning slide for me in the stock dimensions so I can use both bells once I get the recording bell up. Among other things I'm going to try when I get home is to plug in the other main tuning slide and see if it does anything besides play a 1/4 step sharp. I'll also try everything with no bell on to see if there is any difference that way.

Thanks again; keep the ideas coming!
Last edited by iiipopes on Mon May 24, 2010 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby WakinAZ » Fri Aug 24, 2007 10:50 pm

Do other people who play the horn notice this without being told about it?

If you experimented with a Helleberg, or a big German bowl (TU33) mouthpiece instead of your usual 18 type, would it be any different?

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Postby iiipopes » Sun Aug 26, 2007 8:46 pm

Well, well, well. I think I have solved the problem. It is the dogleg, but in a roundabout way. (Pun intended)

First, with WakinAZ's comment: before the Curry, my main mouthpiece was a Wick 1L. It doesn't get any deeper a Helleberg style mouthpiece than that. Same deal on the G. Same deal with a Wick 2L, the Curry I now play, and several others besides also the Kelly 18 I use on the souzy.

I tried the little set screws on the bottom of the screw on rotor caps. I went from screwing them in all the way to where the rotors stopped moving to out just a little at a time until full movement. No effect. I double checked everything about the bell and all the other hardware fittings and issues. Still there.

Next: get the thrashing out of the way. I had forgotten that last spring I had put some lead tape on the back of the dogleg to help Gb clear up. So I took it back off. Now Gb is a little stuffy, but G cleared up a bunch. Not perfect, but better. I can actually slur to a G now and actually get there.

But that's not all. On a closer inspection of the dog leg, as in with magnifying glass, it looks like TE did as good a job that could possibly be done to get something that was probably mashed flat back to playable. But there are several small places that could be leaks, or not, depending on what the interior looks like, which I can't get to.

Eventually, if I decide to keep the horn for more than just a couple of seasons before moving on, I'm just going to have to get a new dog leg soldered in. I put one very small little square of the tape back on over what seemed to be the most egregious pockmark, and it's as good as it's going to get.

Thanks to everyone for their ideas. They really helped me sort out my tuba so I can enjoy it this season. It was a purchase that wasn't planned, but when my Besson started literally falling apart on me from deteriorated solder joints last spring, I had $2k to spend, and only $2k. But for this particular tuba being available at the time, well, the alternatives were not pretty.

So here's the kicker: Even with everything this particular tuba has been through, it still performs up to a higher standard than most of the new TSO's that are out there for about the same price, or even double the price. Time to start saving for that replacement dogleg.
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Postby keronarts » Sun Aug 26, 2007 9:19 pm

I would tend to think that, in the case of the Mirafone 186, that the German bowl-type mouthpieces let the instrument sing best through otherwise stuffy predicaments. The Helleberg funnel types, at least with my horn (1972 mfd 186-5U CC) don't center the sound quite as much in most environments, yet they allow for heightened overall volume and greater overall presence. Perhaps it might be better to consider the particular application of the sound in question and what sound space EXACTLY it is that you're projecting into? Problems with any other instruments you're working with or just the 186? .....

By the way, as you can see, this is my VERY FIRST POST on Tubenet! Wow! I'm one of the people Sean speaks of as the festival of late comers [see "Sticky Registrations" ...]. I live in the Saratoga Springs, NY area and go back and forth between there and Vergennes, Vt. Right now I play in a couple of jazz big bands and community bands, though I'm also looking for more challenging and fulfilling gigs as well -- who isn't?

Have been getting back into music SLOWLY over the last few years, since I'm also building an architectural practice here in the Northeast. That takes time, as some of you may know. But all good things are worth waiting for ... including Tubenet.

I thought about developing a FULL-time professional career [how is that REALLY defined, anyway? ...] way back in the 1970s and studied with Abe Torchinsky at the end of his Philadelphia Orchestra days, Joe Novotny of NY Philharmonic fame, Toby Hanks, etc, did some gigging here and there, along with the requisite auditions ..... -- all the while hoping things would pan out, as they did for some of us. And even though I have some free lancing under my belt from back then, have been actually opening up some other gigs as well along the way ......

Last spring our brass quintet @ Rensselear Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY did the Eugene Bozza Sonatine & Canadian Brass argmt of Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D Minor. For I believe the first time in that school's history we formed a working tuba ensemble and did Nelhybel's Ludus, etc. Normally, that might be expected in conservatory environs, but to get it done in a place choc-full of scientific and engineering nerds where there is no anticipation or expectation of it whatsoever -- and then to get THEM to input most of the operating ideas ... well, that's just pretty darned special, I think.

So I can't really say that I'm COMPLETELY back, but, like many here in our community, certainly mindful of musical wonder as much as I can be. I've been perusing the pages of Tubenet for a while now, and some of you guys & gals say some great things. Much to learn from and appreciate here, and some of it's just a hell of a lot of fun and a good time. This is a really fine community in many ways -- loads of diverse walks in life cross paths here -- so many things to be appreciated from so many quarters.

I'll chime in when I can, but in the meantime if all you folks keep doing what you've been doing, it's a great way to fill out the day ....
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Postby iiipopes » Mon Aug 27, 2007 9:00 am

Hey, Keronarts -- great that you're getting back into tuba playing. I purchased the Curry 128D on the advice of Matt Walters @ Dillon Music and couldn't be happier with what it does overall for my 186. It is a hybrid cup with a moderate throat and conventional backbore. It's almost as broad tonally as with the Wick 1L, but with much better centering, core, and overall intonation.

Everything else is great. One of these days I'll have the bottom bow resoldered to get rid of leaks on my Besson, but right now everything is doing great.
Last edited by iiipopes on Sat Oct 22, 2016 11:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby keronarts » Mon Aug 27, 2007 10:18 am

Not familiar with the Curry line of mouthpieces, but on the outside they look like the Dillon mouthpieces that used to be available. Of course, we'd have to get a good look at them side by side and perhaps take a few measurements. I do like the effect of the Dillon M1C as an addition to Mirafone capability -- at times. Man can you belt it out! -- and at times you really do need to project. By the way, anyone know if these are ever going to once again be generally available? But that seemingly hybrid construction also lets the better qualities of the instrument emerge, and there are times when that projective type of mouthpiece with capacity for huge volume really do fit quite well.

Since I seem to get into the NYC area more often these days, I am planning on sometime in the not-too-distant future to get down to Dillon & do a mouthpiece day -- maybe pick up a couple of new ones. The only way to be sure is to road test them a bit. Glad to know, though, that everything seems to be running smoothly.
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Postby iiipopes » Mon Aug 27, 2007 1:41 pm

I believe Terry Warburton made Dillon's line of mouthpieces. Of course, until he decides he wants to get back into making tuba mouthpieces, or until Steve Dillon decides to have someone else make them, that's probably the end of that story as there are so many makers now out there.
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Postby Alex C » Mon Aug 27, 2007 3:50 pm

iiipopes wrote:Hey, Alex C -- thanks for your post, but a bit of clarification: 1) already did the rubber ball -- no perceivable leaks. 2) The original bell tenon was taken off the recording bell and put on the St Pete bell, so it does fit properly; I just need to order another bell tenon directly from Miraphone to get the recording bell up and running; and 3) it's not the low register in general that is stuffy, just this one note: bottom line G, whether played 12 or 3.


1) My point was that I believe the rubber ball thing is ineffective in pinpointing or finding leaks but I believe your problem is with the bell anyway.

2) The problem with the bell is the differing taper between the Miraphone bell and the St. Pete bell. It's like putting a FoMoCo valve block on a GM engine... they don't match up.

3) the problem being centered on one note is weird, no help there... except I think it's the bell.

I stick by my original solution: find a tuba player who is also a repairman. Everybody else is on an expensive learning curve at your expense. Good luck with this one.
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