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New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby Ben » Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:44 pm

Just a fun update on a project I have been itching to get completed.

Here is the skinny on my finished conversion project:

I less than happy with some of the characteristics of my Mirafone 184 C tuba
1. Stuffy at high volumes
2. Small reciever limited MP choices
3. Bark vs. muddy with certain MP choices

As you may have guessed from my sig, I like a germanic albeit slightly more rounded sounding tubas that the miraphone sound. I also like large bore instruments. My thought was to try to recreate an Alexander 166 (3/4 C). In my failed search to purchase one, I discovered it was effectively a C tuba with the F bell, although I did not know the bore size, I would assume it was made from mostly 155 stock. The infamous Ted Cox post about the Alexander double tuba (F/C, 3/4ish) seemed to confirm these suspisions. Since I had a very good 184 that was in nearly perfect working order, I started looking at ways to mod it. A friendly tubnetter suggested putting a 155 bell on a 185. A quick measure of one that was recently for sale showed it to be a poor match - the bell/bow match was too big for the bell, and the tuba would have been terribly sharp. It was also made known to me that the 2182 prototype bells for sale here by a westcoast 'netter were made from the same mandrel as the 155's... Alexander had sold them to Meinel Weston. A quick acquisition, and I was off the the races. I was able to book some time with Matt Walters to pitch the idea to him, and he was able to procure a donor "adapter" segment from a Conn to match the 184 to the "155" bell. Thus concluded the majority of the problem solving bit... it was possible! The rest of the story was just waiting for the guy with the knack to find the time do it.

The horn played a ~15c flat after the bell swap, so some of the main was cut, in addition to a small amount out of the leadpipe to fit a larger reciever. It is in tune, and plays great. I am having fun with a mouthpiece search now.

I have attached some images!

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The horn from the front....

Image
the horn next to the old 184 bell (for sale).
Last edited by Ben on Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby TubaBob » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:08 am

looks good!
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby Ben » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:12 am

Bit of a mess in the studio, but we're getting ready to move soon.

I forgot to mention: a. not stuffy at all. b. even response in all registers. c. really happy with the work Matt Walters @ Dillions was able to do.
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby the elephant » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:14 am

Very odd, and very cool! Looking forward to reading about your experiments and the results you get!
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby Tubajug » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:28 am

Very cool! My former teacher from college has an Alex bell on his 186. I don't know many details beyond that, but it's interesting to see someone doing that again. Nice work!
Last edited by Tubajug on Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby circusboy » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:38 pm

OK, Ben, I'm thinking I want that 184 back now!

The bells look very similar in the pictures to me. Could we get some specs on the differences?
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby cktuba » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:40 pm

Tubajug wrote:Very cool! My former teacher from college, has an Alex bell on his 186. I don't know many details beyond that, but it's interesting to see someone doing that again. Nice work!


And his 186 plays better than any other 186 that I have ever played. It is a completely different animal.

Given, this as a baseline, I'd really love to play Ben's 184.
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby tuben » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:45 pm

Tubajug wrote:Very cool! My former teacher from college, has an Alex bell on his 186. I don't know many details beyond that, but it's interesting to see someone doing that again. Nice work!


Years ago when I did a survey of professional (people with orchestra/premiere band) tubists, Alan Baer (who then was in Milwaukee I think), listed a Mirafone 186 with an Alex bell.

If that combination means Alex sound w/Mirafone intonation, then it would be something quite special.
If it's Mirafone sound with Alex intonation...... :oops:
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby cktuba » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:51 pm

Definitely retains the Miraphone intonation. Not quite an Alex sound, after all it is still a smaller bore horn. But, a larger darker sound than a 186... Definitely leaning strongly in the Alex direction. But, that's just my opinion.

I borrowed Craig's horn for a few days while mine was in the shop (about 20 years ago) . I kind of wanted to keep it. But that wasn't going to happen. Craig sounds awesome on anything he plays, but that horn... WOW, it really works well for him.
Last edited by cktuba on Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby Ben » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:54 pm

circusboy wrote:The bells look very similar in the pictures to me. Could we get some specs on the differences?


The angle is terrible to compare the bell profiles. I was trying to show the height differences in the picture. I'll take a picture before I box up the 184 bell to show the difference relative to another photo I snapped earlier of the 155 profile. The 184 is a 14.25" d bell, the 155 just over 15". The throat of the 155 is thicker than the 184 and the flare profile is different.

I had reservations about tearing into the 184, as there were many things I liked about it. In hindsight I am glad the experminet seemed to work. I will have some serious updates on the playability, scale, tone, and more after 1. settling down on a mouthpiece (need to get back a few on loand for this one) and 2. some serious time with the horn (possibly a few comments after a rehearsal tomorrow and/or a gig on Friday).

:arrow: This
cktuba wrote:Definitely retains the Miraphone intonation. Not quite an Alex sound, after all it is still a smaller bore horn. But, a larger darker sound than a 186... Definitely leaning strongly in the Alex direction. But, that's just my opinion.


At least this is my initial impression too.
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby royjohn » Wed Feb 13, 2013 6:20 pm

In addition to any differences in the bell profiles, you have to remember that length was added at the bell and removed at the main {tuning slide (?)] and at the leadpipe. Taking length away in the small bore and adding it in the large, conical bore of the bell makes a difference, too.

Changing the receiver and/or getting it set up right may also be a factor.
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby J.c. Sherman » Thu Feb 14, 2013 4:21 pm

If I read this right, that's an Alex 155 bell, not a 2182 (which hasn't a wreath)... correct?
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby Stryk » Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:27 pm

I bet that does take the edge off the sound! That is my only complaint about my 184 is that it gets overly bright at times. But, hey, that sound worked very well for Bobo!
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby Ben » Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:26 pm

JC,
It's technically a prototype 2182 bell from Deck's era of designing that particular instrument with MW. It is made from the same mandrel as the 155, and matches it upon inspection. The wreath was on the prototype.
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby Ben » Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:30 pm

Terry,
From the Bobo lore, he eventually put a 15" Boosey & Hawkes bell on his 184 (IIRC). This was supposedly a very loud combination, but I have no idea which if any recordings would demonstrate this effect. Possibly Bobo wasn't 100% happy with the 184 either!
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby Stryk » Thu Feb 14, 2013 8:08 pm

Ben wrote:Terry,
From the Bobo lore, he eventually put a 15" Boosey & Hawkes bell on his 184 (IIRC). This was supposedly a very loud combination, but I have no idea which if any recordings would demonstrate this effect. Possibly Bobo wasn't 100% happy with the 184 either!


I did not know that! There is a jazz piece in my head, but I can't recall it - but I bet that is the horn he played on it!
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby Norm Pearson » Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:03 pm

tstryk wrote:
Ben wrote:Terry,
From the Bobo lore, he eventually put a 15" Boosey & Hawkes bell on his 184 (IIRC). This was supposedly a very loud combination, but I have no idea which if any recordings would demonstrate this effect. Possibly Bobo wasn't 100% happy with the 184 either!


I did not know that! There is a jazz piece in my head, but I can't recall it - but I bet that is the horn he played on it!



Yellow Bird. It was recorded on a little Besson compensating F tuba.

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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby Ben » Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:06 am

Finished a good rehearsal tonight on the conversion project. Great intonation, the horn is much more free blowing, works well with a Bloke #2, and has very even sound through both dynamic and frequency ranges.

I took a pic of the original bell and the new bell, scaled the appropriately, outlined them them in different colors, overlayed them as best I could, and made the top layer (original) opaque. Terry was right - there is not a whole lot of difference in the curvature, but you can see that the proportion of kranz is different, and the lines kinda cross each other, the 2182/155 throat is proportionally larger (and when not scaled, significantly larger).

The sound differences are striking, regardless of whether the shortening of the leadpipe 0.3", the removal of the 2" in the main tuning slide, or the addition of 3-5" of bell taper contributed more is up for debate.

There will probably be some video/audio of the Nevermind Orchestra I may post, or I'll get our some rep to play one of these days on the thing.

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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby J.c. Sherman » Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:50 am

I've played a copy of the Bobo-184; a "Miraha" with the 321 Eb bell (a copy of the Imperial). It was a very nice, much more powerful instrument, with more subtly overall. However, that classic mira-German sound isn't there... more the imperial, with a little CC sonority.
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Re: New Tuba Creation: 184 bell swap!

Postby Alex C » Sat Feb 16, 2013 10:55 pm

I understand that Ron Bishop swapped the 184 bell for a Besson Eb tuba bell. This probably would have been in the 1970's.
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