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"American" vs. "German" tubas

Postby dbase » Mon Dec 17, 2007 10:49 pm

I have a question what are the main differences between the American style tubas like the old Yorks and Martins and the German style Miraphones and Alexanders. I currently play a Yamaha YBB-641, that I have had no problems with, but I am going to college next year and would like to buy my own tuba. But living in Kansas I dont have too many chances to try different tubas so i was wondering what some of the differences are.

Thanks,
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Postby wchoc86 » Mon Dec 17, 2007 10:54 pm

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Postby Greg » Mon Dec 17, 2007 10:58 pm

You will get several opinions with this question. Here is my view:

German sound concept is more pointed and focused. Cuts through an ensemble with what could be described as an angry and muscular sound. It seems like many german-style rotary valve instruments require a bit of "getting used to" in order to have consistent control of the low register. These tubas also have a magnificent singing upper register. Usually played in the back of an ensemble.

American sound is more round and maybe even spread. A large American style tuba can engulf the ensemble without getting an angry sound. Darker and more mellow. More open low register(sometimes!). Usually played in the back of an ensemble.

Which is better? The one you prefer is the best.
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Postby Greg » Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:02 pm

I just read Rick Denney's answer. Sounds like we are in agreement (but he is more eloquent!).
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Postby dbase » Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:07 pm

thanks
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Postby iiipopes » Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:54 pm

Having played both, I tend to agree. The German concept, with the bowl mouthpieces reinforcing the overtones, is more akin to the extension of the trombone downwards, whereas the American, with the funnel cups, it its own voice, more organ foundational & breadth as opposed to forward presence. Of course, this is for concert tuba playing, not field marching with either souzy or contra, as projection has to be as much of the picture as breadth in that application. This is just my experience. Your mileage will vary; the destination is the same.
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Postby evilcartman » Tue Dec 18, 2007 8:21 am

Greg wrote:You will get several opinions with this question. Here is my view:

German sound concept is more pointed and focused. Cuts through an ensemble with what could be described as an angry and muscular sound. It seems like many german-style rotary valve instruments require a bit of "getting used to" in order to have consistent control of the low register. These tubas also have a magnificent singing upper register. Usually played in the back of an ensemble.

American sound is more round and maybe even spread. A large American style tuba can engulf the ensemble without getting an angry sound. Darker and more mellow. More open low register(sometimes!). Usually played in the back of an ensemble.

Which is better? The one you prefer is the best.



That's a pretty darn good explanation right there. Though some might debate saying the American sound is "darker" (which is a very subjective term as it is) but all your other descriptions are accurate, in my opinion.
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Postby Scooby Tuba » Tue Dec 18, 2007 9:02 am

Greg wrote:...with what could be described as an angry and muscular sound...


All my horns have an angry sound. I'm not sure what I do to piss them off... :lol:

But, Greg has explained the difference in concepts very well. Sometimes you hear words like "bloom" or 'blossom" to describe the American tuba sound. This "bloom" becomes more of the over all texture in an ensemble setting. Like a seasoning in something you're eating, you might not be able to say what it is, but you'd miss it if it were not there.

The German concept of sound will be best left for a German player to describe, but my impression is that it's does have a more singular voice and is more muscular in nature. Like a bratwurst in the bowl of sauerkraut... Mmmm....bratwurst... :lol:

I love to listen to accomplished plays of both concepts. Though, in recent years, the lines have blurred more that they ever had in the past...

I used muscular to describe the sound of the MW Thor. The Thor combines the American and German concepts like no other horn I've ever played. Very unique...
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Postby Alex C » Tue Dec 18, 2007 9:39 am

(Always the contrarion)

The term "American tubas" is too general to define a sound. Certainly the large 2X-J Conn's were designed to be able to sound like a sections of string basses but the King's have a different sound.

Conn 2-J/3-J's? Completely different but still sounds like it's from the same family. As Harvey Phillips said, "you can always identify a Conn tuba sound."

Conn Donatelli, 8X-J's? Again different but within the same family of sound.

Muscular? Ain't nothin' more muscular than a Holton 345 CC tuba. If you ever need to physically manhandle a part, a Holton will cut through from underneath with surprising power.

Most people have not heard enough York's to identify the sound but it is singular in quality. Resonant and with a remarkably full set of overtones being produced by the horn. There is spectrum analysis comparing the overtones of Yorks vs. other American tubas of the day. York overtone production was amazingly even and complete.

King tubas? I haven't played enough of the old ones to describe them except that they seem to produce a less diffuse a sound than the Conn's, generally.

European tubas, in a VERY general sense, produce a sound with a lot of fundamental in the overtone spectrum. The mid-tones (again very generally) are prominant and the upper overtones almost unavailable on a spectrum analizer. This is old "research" that I did too long ago but I hear the same kind of sound from the European horns today.

But who can generalize and say that Miraphone and M-W sound alike? Just because they are European and share some heritage doesn't mean they are the same. They are as different as Conn's and Holton's.

The Nirschl horns (6/4 and 4/4) are close copies of they Yorks and approach them in sound, yet retain the strong fundamental.

The PT 6(?) is supposed to be a copy of a York but sounds distinctly European. On and on.

To the original poster: what's the difference in sound? I don't believe anyone can describe the difference in words; you need to hear a lot of tubas being played. ONce you have it, you can describe it for us.
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Postby windshieldbug » Tue Dec 18, 2007 10:40 am

Of course, from what I've learned on TubeNet, a York Master IS, in fact, a German instrument built by Boehm & Meinl.

So are we talking about piston vs. rotary, bore profile, mouthpipe, or what!? :lol:
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Postby Wyvern » Tue Dec 18, 2007 10:52 am

windshieldbug wrote:So are we talking about piston vs. rotary, bore profile, mouthpipe, or what!? :lol:

And bell profile?

However, it is difficult to define the sound because boundaries have so blurred over the years. I think you would have to compare early 20th century American and German tubas for a comparison - I rather think American concepts have been absorbed into German tuba design in more recent years, while most American style tubas are German manufactured.

I am not even sure if my Mel Culbertson Neptune is American, or German sounding. I have heard both that it is based on the sound of Fletcher's Holton CC and that it is near to the sound of an Alexander. As I have no experience of playing either, I wouldn't know?

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Postby Casey Tucker » Tue Dec 18, 2007 11:37 am

[quote]Jonathan "who only knows he likes the sound, whichever it is"[/quote]

i think that's the answer right there. go try and listen to a lot of different horns and find what suits your ensemble/situation. ex.) i own a PT20ps and i love it. it's german but displays many of the qualities of what we describe as american tubas. it's has a very big and very dark sound that really can be FELT through the ensemble. these would be my descriptions if i had to have any (they kinda sum up what others have already said):

American-
A big dark resonant sound that is easily distinguishable from the trombone section. It is a sound that I describe as being more felt than heard for the better percentage of orchestral lit but can still cut through (not as much as German) for the more solo-like passages.

German-
A direct sound that is again easily distinguishable but adds to the trombone section. where it is resonant it is not as dark. A very meaty tone that can really cut through the ensemble. it fills out the section as being a closer voice to the bass trombone.

hope this helps!
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Postby kingrob76 » Tue Dec 18, 2007 11:39 am

Ok, so here's (for me) a logical follow-up question:

Is it easier to make a "German"-style tuba sound more "American" through mouthpiece changes or is it easier to make an "American" sounding horn sound sound more Germanic? Obviously, the horn in question will have a lot to do with the sensitivity to mouthpiece changes. And obviously, there isn't going to be a major shift in the style of the instrument, just a nudge or two towards the other end of the spectrum.

This would be a really good topic to build one of those quadrant charts where the X axis is American on one end and Germanic on the other, and the Y axis is small instrument on one end and large instrument on the other. If only we had a analytical Resident Genius with a penchant for these kind of things.... :wink:
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Postby quinterbourne » Tue Dec 18, 2007 11:50 am

Someone, at some point, said something along the lines "American sound compliments, and German sound supplements, the trombone section"
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Postby Greg » Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:43 pm

tubashaman wrote:What about the miraphone 1291/2. Its clearly made in Germany, but parts of the design seem to be purely American.


Exactly. German or American sound concept is not a location of construction but a color and shape of sound.
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Postby Greg » Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:47 pm

kingrob76 wrote:Ok, so here's (for me) a logical follow-up question:

Is it easier to make a "German"-style tuba sound more "American" through mouthpiece changes or is it easier to make an "American" sounding horn sound sound more Germanic? Obviously, the horn in question will have a lot to do with the sensitivity to mouthpiece changes. And obviously, there isn't going to be a major shift in the style of the instrument, just a nudge or two towards the other end of the spectrum.

This would be a really good topic to build one of those quadrant charts where the X axis is American on one end and Germanic on the other, and the Y axis is small instrument on one end and large instrument on the other. If only we had a analytical Resident Genius with a penchant for these kind of things.... :wink:


Sounds like a question for Rick Denney again. And in addition to the points you've made about mouthpiece changes, How much of that change occurs just under the bell and how much of the change reaches the audience?

I feel like the MW Thor that I play changes with mouthpiece selection but I'm not convinced that the color of sound is all that different by the time it reaches an audience.
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Postby circusboy » Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:50 pm

kingrob76 wrote:Ok, so here's (for me) a logical follow-up question:

Is it easier to make a "German"-style tuba sound more "American" through mouthpiece changes or is it easier to make an "American" sounding horn sound sound more Germanic? Obviously, the horn in question will have a lot to do with the sensitivity to mouthpiece changes. And obviously, there isn't going to be a major shift in the style of the instrument, just a nudge or two towards the other end of the spectrum.


Well, for one piece of anecdotal info, I much prefer an 'American style' funnel mouthpiece; it just works better for me. Yet I play on a very 'German style' horn.

The horn wins hands-down: German sound all the way.
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Postby tredonme » Tue Dec 18, 2007 4:16 pm

This is a great discussion!

Is there a third sound style? Is there an English sound?

It would be a blast to have a pro or tuba genius play an American sounding horn, a German sounding horn, and an English sounding horn in a workshop. I may just ask Paul Budde if this is something that could be worked into future Tubonium.

I own a Cerveny 693 and a Conn 2xJ. They are completely different instruments. They each have a unique sound and play different from the other.
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Postby MartyNeilan » Tue Dec 18, 2007 4:23 pm

Since it is (or was) Huntin' Season around these parts, here is my anaolgy (with apologies to pacifists, vegans, and those who hate Charleton Heston) :
American Tuba = Shotgun
German Tuba = Rifle
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Postby MartyNeilan » Tue Dec 18, 2007 4:23 pm

..double post... Sorry!
Last edited by MartyNeilan on Tue Dec 18, 2007 5:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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