The bulk of the musical talk
re: "human factor"
I've been subject to it myself - MANY more times than once. (Re-ordering the words, I could say that I've "subjected myself to it.")
mouthpieces...mouthpipe tubes...receivers...different tuning slide crooks...replacement bottom bows...and more...
"WOW! Check this out, Mrs. bloke. Blah-blah fill-in-the-blank problem is G - O - N - E gone !!!!"
(No, it's not. Five or ten more minutes of playing reveals that things are indeed a little bit 'different', but that same ol' annoying characteristic of that tuba's bugle REMAINS that characteristic of that tuba's bugle. My problem is that I have some grey hairs coming in, and have seen/heard it all before. The easiest path towards "a better tuba" is to buy one...same as politicians...?? )
Matt thank you for your input! Just for the record it wasn't Martin Wilk that worked on my tuba. When I mentioned Martin in the original post I ment my Martin tuba. I had 2 tubas worked on that day. I apologize for any confusion.
Navy Band Southeast
1934 Martin Mammoth Handcraft BBb
Miraphone 1292 CC
1910 Henry Diston Efltat
Schilke Helleberg II
Awesome, Matt. That's exactly the type of response I was looking for.
Tubing is made under stress, stretched by hydraulics or otherwise whether it's straight or bent. It is not as stable as one might think. I know that trombone slide tubing, which must be absolutely straight, is drawn and then stored for a while because that newly made tubing tends to bend on its own and needs to be straightened maybe multiple times until it stabilizes. I'm sure the same is true of all tubing so it's entirely possible for stress to build up after the manufacturing processes.
Good. Tell the factory what you are learning so the quality can be improved. A few lessons about tolerances, fit, and finish (no.. I'm not speaking of 'pretty-ness'!) wouldn't hurt, either.
"The Village Tinker"
Current 'stable'... Rudolf Meinl 5/4, Bohm & Meinl helicon, King 2341, Alphorn, BBb cimbasso, and misc. other strange stuff.
I only mentioned the human factor because I had some work done on my horn in Massachusetts last year...tried it before leaving the place and thought it was amazing work, likely because I wanted to believe just that. Got home and the horn sounded even stuffier than before in my apt where my ears were better.
Sounds like this type of work can only help a horn. Congrats Zach.
Which makers me wonder if a tuba has a better chance of sounding better if the tubes that were drawn for it had been sitting for a while and settled.
When I was young I went to Miraphone in Cali and played on 7 different 186's. Tow were much better than the rest and the one I chose was definitely better. I heard and felt it and my Roger Bobo (my teacher at the time) waited patiently for my opinion and confirmed by believe. No mystery here. The factory tries to be consistent in mass production but it's the little things that get in the way. Or actually help. Was it the bracing? Maybe. Probably that and other factors.
My Kanstul 80 had intonation issues. And after a brace treatment (lots of poppi) the intonation was the same. It is however easier to slot where I want it (the 2nd partial is rather flat). Placebo? Maybe. I was sceptical and the treatment didn't help the intonation which supported my scepticism. And honestly I really don't care why it slots easier because now I can play the darn thing.
I play in a ensemble and used their bass trumpet for some gigs. I had played it years ago and the horn just played too stuffy to be any fun. Now it didn't. It played really open and was a lot of fun. It did have three loose braces. I told them to have it soldered or risk irreparable damage to the horn. They did and now it plays stuffy again. Didn't see that coming.
Those are my brace stories for what they're worth.
Has anyone had any experiences with the cold treatment some places do? Subjecting your horn to very cold temperatures for some of the same reasons outlined here?
In particular, "red brass" trombone playing slide tubes (ref: Conn 88, etc.) sometimes tend to (actually) crack after being drawn. Merle Johnson (former owner of the "real" Blessing Co.) related his headaches re: this to me. Oddly, he told me that if he WAITED TOO LONG after they arrived from the foundry (18" thick-wall red-brass tubes which Blessing - just as do other factories - drew out to long/thin-wall trombone slide tubes), they were much MORE likely to crack. I ALWAYS lathe-straighten (new) trombone slide tubes prior to installation...I wonder, though, how many of them have actually "moved" and how many of them were only half-@$$/good-enough factory-straightened. NEW trombone playing slide tubes that are drawn nearly always require hand-straightening...and I see factory crayon marks (same very old-school method that I use: again lathe-straightened) on many of them. The exception - at least in the past - is/was Yamaha. At least when they were made in Japan, ALL of them arrived arrow-straight.
I have a bu++load of (originally intended to be bent into marching mellophone at Bach Plant #2) mouthpipe tubes which - over the years - I've gone to the till and altered to different tapers to use as replacement mouthpipe tubes for beginner-grade trumpets. Approximately 2% of them crack, and (after going through them a couple of years ago - YELLOW brass, btw) I continue to find some that have (yes: since then) cracked... These were drawn in the mid-1980's, btw...
...but I'm still not torching around on my very nicely-aligned tuning slides, mouthpipe-that-is-NOT-causing-my-first-piston-to-stick, and well-cared-for factory lacquer to "see what might happen"...and I certainly wouldn't invite anyone else to do so.
On the one hand, I agree with Mr. Bloke that one should not try to "fix" what is not broken.
But, I have also encountered a number of instruments over the years that really played poorly, and could be improved by some level of repair work. Besides dents and mechanical problems with valves and slides, a large part of problems I've seen has to do with faulty solder joints, either from the factory, from damage, or from faulty repairs
Only a small part of what I see really has to do with faulty bracing and tension, but there is some science there, although I do not pretend to know or understand it all. What I have learned is that bracing does matter, and have recognized a system of bracing for American-style front-piston tubas that makes them more stable in regards to intonation and response. This system is not anything I came up with, but has been developed by very fine designers and makers over the past 130 years or so. The York tubas are an example of that, and the fact that not all metal stress is bad. J.W. York tubas had very hardened bells and body branches. You will notice that they do not dent much, but are susceptible to cracking. That is a lot of tension in these parts, and it fosters resonance and projection. However, you do not want excess tension in the bracing. When assembling an instrument I try to avoid stress as much as possible, the goal being having the parts just lay together. Bracing also matters in where it is placed, as good bracing will help avoid a loop of tubing from vibrating, because of it's length, at a frequency that interferes with the desired frequency. In stringed instruments, this is referred to as a "wolf tone". In it's production, Getzen did not have a brace between 2nd and 3rd valve tubing. If you insert a small Getzen 1-piece trumpet brace (what they used in other places), centered between 2nd and 3rd tubing, the feel and resonance of 2nd valve notes and 2-3 combinations improve significantly, and 3rd valve becomes a viable alternative to 1-2. I have done this small-but-significant improvement for a number of customers, and they all agree that it is better. Similarly, after tearing my hair out for years trying to make old Conn "monster" Eb tubas NOT have a poor low range, I encountered one old Conn that played vastly better than the others, and discovered that the only difference between it and others was that one brace was missing. I now remove that brace on Conn Eb's that come in, and the low range gets better.
There are a few older designs that have inherent problems that are just a product of that design. Not every instrument can be made into something that it was not before.
Factories are trying to crank out enough of a given model tuba, quickly and efficiently-enough so that they can make a profit. This is very difficult, as the profit margin on tubas is quite low compared to the vast majority of consumer goods. When you see an MSRP, this is the level at which, if they sell at or near that price, the company can turn a good profit, the retailers can afford to stock them and service them, and everyone in the supply chain makes enough profit to make them want to continue this. Unfortunately, the world economy is such that such a scenario will not happen, and under hurried conditions, what horns are made in factories will almost always have some degree of flaws. Zach's Mirafone is a good instrument made of good parts, but for whatever reason the instrument did not play well, and for years. Not just experimenting on a beautiful instrument with whimsical ideas, he knew what he wanted, and I recommended him to someone local who knows his instrument science, and is really good at repairs, too. His Martin Mammoth also needed attention, as it was having difficulties that no Martin should ever exhibit. The man he went to see has owned over a dozen Martins, and knew exactly what he was doing. I'm performing on a Martin tonight which is not particularly cosmetically beautiful, but both listeners and play-testers have raved about how this horn plays. It is just mechanically right, which is a rarity.
I'm sure Zach's instruments, if put to a tuner, are not absolutely perfect, but they are completely workable for him now, which is what is important, and he's saved a lot of money by having his instruments repaired instead of replaced.
Lee A. Stofer, Jr.
I have a brand-new tuba that I just got for myself (imagine that ?!?! )...
...OK (as a few may have picked up on), I'm as picky as hell...hopelessly so about my own stuff, and as picky as "someone else's money" tells me they are about their stuff.
I can SEE two things on this brand-new tuba that are "under stress" and can FEEL yet thing that is "under stress".
Yes, I will "alleviate the stress" (after all of these beat-to-crap school instruments are made to play again and back at their schools) ...and sure: will attempt to "leave no trace"...not for acoustical concerns, but for mechanical/alignment/(and sure) aesthetic concerns.
Will I play a gig on this instrument before doing any of that?
sure. It plays GREAT.
What a tease, what did you get?
Lee, what you posted reminds me of something you wrote a while ago about Rudi bells, and how they are made. I believe you said there is some sort of tension/stress inherent to the shape, and that's part of what gives the horn their characteristic sound and feel... and ability to dent and difficulty to repair properly.
p. 2, Brett...
...ok, and a REAL source of "stress" in tubas:
carrying them around by valveset tubing, rather than by their large bows
yeah...Tubas get bent that way...really...
Yup, missed that. Thanks Joe, very cool!
And I'm guilty as charged for picking up by valveset tubing. I did that exactly once with my old VMI/MW-30, and POP, off it came and dislodged the entire paddle bar disabling the entire tuba. I was horrified, but Albert at BBC fixed it in about 10 minutes. NEVER did that again!
Lee Thank you for your input and help with the Miraphone and Martin. The fact you took time at of your crazy sechdule to help me(a squid no less) at the expense of not making money says a lot about your character and professionalism. I am really happy with the Miraphone but especially the Martin. I am glad I didn't have it cut or sold. I am looking forward to playing a change of command with the Martin on Friday and the several windensemble tours we having comming up. I have no problem holding down the whole band with it and my LT loves the sound. Thanks again!
Navy Band Southeast
1934 Martin Mammoth Handcraft BBb
Miraphone 1292 CC
1910 Henry Diston Efltat
Schilke Helleberg II
Bingo. The vibration of the instrument in one's hands is an important feedback mechanism for most of us, affecting how we feed air to the instrument. Some don't need it, and they don't mind instruments braced so fully and heavily that the instrument feels like a block of stone (the Willson 3100 is that for me). But most players want the instrument to feel alive in their hands as they play.
I don't believe that the resonance of the brass has a huge effect on the resonance of the air within it, but there is some effect. I remember banging the flat of my palm against the upper bow of an old King 1241, and it rang at a surprisingly low frequency--actually subsonic. That could indeed affect the resonance of the air within the instrument on some frequencies, reinforcing or damping overtones of whatever note is being played that are related to that frequency. Damping certain overtones can change even the apparent pitch of the note; it certainly changes how it sounds. These effects are subtle, but the difference between good and great (to use Dan's words) is also subtle, and this could be a factor.
Internal stresses preload so that it may not vibrate in ways it did without preloading.
Edit: Now that I've read the remaining posts, I see that Bloke is a bit skeptical about small deflections needed to attain perfect alignment. But Matt said the magic words: "less than before". Slight preloading as a result of joints cooling or nudging a slide a couple of thousandths into perfect alignment isn't going to have the same effect as substantial preloading from forcing large parts into a jig.
And Jonathon, using a jig actually makes it easier to build a lot of assembly tension into the outer bows. No part is perfectly produced. For one thing, the brass itself is not as homogeneous as it appears (Doug indicated this by suggesting that the brass contains some internal stresses that might actually exceed the yield point of the metal, resulting in a change of shape some time after production). And hydroforming applies significant internal stresses. As Lee indicated, some of this is important to make the instrument hard and resistant to dents, though I'm not so sure that this is solely due to remaining internal stresses.
Bicycle spokes are formed on the hook end, and contain so much internal stress that they can rupture microscopically, which creates a seed crack that can travel across the width of the spoke by fatigue. They are stress-relieved after installation on a wheel by exerting a high percentage of their yield strength (by squeezing pairs together of a wheel that has already been tensioned). That causes the material around those microscopic high-stress points to yield, which evens out the stress and makes the spoke much more durable. This has been analyzed and explained even using electron microscopy to identify the parts that rupture versus the parts that fatigued.
We all know that a hand-hammered instrument has some magic in compared to the identical instrument made with hydroformed bows. The reason is simple: The hammering process leaves a completely different (and really much more uniform) pattern of grain and internal stress than does hydroforming. This is the same process of relieving internal stresses. Also, hand-hammered instruments do not depend on every piece being identical so that it will automatically fit in the jig. They depend on the craftsman hammering the piece until it fits in the jig. This can be done in mass production, of course, but it really adds to the cost.
Rick "thinking bugle design trumps this effect, but not thinking this effect is insignificant" Denney
Last edited by Rick Denney on Thu Aug 04, 2016 9:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
I might suggest that the greatest effect of the "physically resonant" types of tubas is on how the player might wrongly perceive what is coming out of the bell and resonating in the room. In the past, one tuba I owned (in particular, and I'm not mentioning the model. It's and expensive model, and there's no way I'm going to piss people off and get them to post merely to defend their ownership of this model) a tuba that did just as you describe. It was somewhat of an intoxicating phenomenon, and actually encouraged me to practice...but it misled me, as far as what was going out into the room. It's not a thing to which a player (at least, not one who is really concentrating on their sound) should either pay to much attention or to rate highly on some tuba checklist (in my opinion).
somewhat related: Lately, I've "gotten into" recording bell tubas. I love them, but they actually (not in some vibrational, but in a more practical way) fail to offer needed SONIC feedback to the player. I'm LEARNING how to compensate for this. I've NOT mastered compensating for this (again: at least not in my own judgement) as far as attack (often: less than I'm perceiving) and loudness (often: more than I'm perceiving) are concerned.
perhaps more related: I just picked up a second F tuba for my own use. It's a larger-mouthpipe/larger-earlier-bore-sizes/ultimately-larger-bell-cone (prior to the flare)/thicker metal/different alloy/no-kranz version of the F tuba that I already own. The intonation characteristics (a few minor variations) are extremely similar, thus the learning curve is low. ...and no, with the thicker metal and larger sizes, the vibration of the instrument in my hands is CONSIDERABLY less. What does Mrs. bloke say? "It sounds just about completely the same, except it's a little bit louder." (Astonishingly - sure as that "physical vibration" thing tends to cloud our judgement - that's just about what I believed to be perceiving as well. Perhaps ~I'm~ beginning to learn to ignore the "vibrational factor"...??)
Let's see an A/B pic of your old F and new F....
Once I played in a pickup band for a July 4 background-music-for-the-fireworks performance. One of the other tuba players brought a 20J and out-blasted the other two of us. Afterward, he was provoked with me because my bell was in his ear and he thought *I* was trying to drown out *his* sound. He just couldn't hear himself below and behind the business end of the unfamiliar tuba he borrowed for the night. That made me cautious of recording bells. They're best left to better players than me (because of the need to compensate, as you are doing.)
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