The bulk of the musical talk
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I'm sure we're all aware of the "trick" of playing an Eb tuba by pretending the bass clef is treble clef and using trumpet fingerings. Is there a trick in reverse? a.k.a. Is there a way to read trumpet/clarinet/tenor sax music with an Eb tuba and having it come out as concert pitch without just doing all the transposing? I've been trying to come up with one and my brain doesn't seem to wrap itself around it.
I'm a school band teacher and it's pretty easy to use a BBb tuba and play along (read alto music as bass clef, read trumpet music and use trumpet fingerings, etc.). It would just be much more portable to use a small Eb.
I mostly just play along for fun at times in small group lessons and things. Thanks!
I kept an old marching baritone (wrapped like a trumpet) beside me for years. Easy to walk around with, easy to play whatever on except the flute parts.
6/4 Lyon & Healy C (1904)
5/4 Alexander Emperor BBb (1917)
4/4 Amati Kraslice C
3/4 Mirafone 184 C
1/2 Yamaha YBB 103
If you know the fingerings for Bb, C, Eb, and F tuba, can read treble and bass clefs, can use any of those four sets of fingers on any of the four lengths of tubas (i.e. use one with any of the other three), and can read one of those clefs while pretending it's the other clef...
...You can probably do a whole bunch of transposition.
Further, if you know where you are in the scale/key in which you're playing...and you are well-versed at "playing by ear", you can probably do a fairly good job at (simply) looking at the scale steps in the music and following the contour. Obviously, the more complex and less tonal the music, the less practical this becomes.
While my vision worked well I could do just about any transposition because of two other instruments I had played:
horn, which helps with the smaller steps like seconds and thirds
recorders, where C as well as F instruments play from concert notation loco and octave up in treble and bass clefs plus French violin clef, which is similar to reading bass clef with 3 sharps added. This all helps juggling fourths, fifths, and octaves.
Some players read the black and move the notes a given interval by means of their ears. My transposition happened in the vision/reading phase, as I moved the notes to where they should have been, if written for the instrument I actually played.
This may have come from my primary motivation to learn transposition: laziness.
I started writing out transpositions, which is time consuming, so I soon realised that I could bypass the rewrite by doing it mentally on the fly.
My approach may sound non-musical, but usage of ears and sense of time and of ensemble all still apply. And knowing ones scales all the way around the circle of fifths still is necessary to decode the logic of what is going on musically.
On bassbone I often read from parts for Eb tuba or for baritone saxophone, both in treble clef Eb. The only time I had to give up on a book of parts was when I couldn’t go on a foreign band tour. I was subbed by a baritone sax player, who had, inconsistently, changed the accidentals from bass clef concert to Eb treble clef. There I asked for a clean set of copies.
I couldn't transpose squat until I had 5th grade band students on flute and clarinet, and I was better on the alto sax than the other two. A mixed group lesson had me moving among the kids reading whatever book was closest. I don't know if there's a trick besides practicing it. I am a little better now but not what you would call great.
Playing guitar I learned to analyze on the fly. I am passably good at that, and it lead to being a decent transposer as a side effect.
We trombone players use the tenor clef trick when confronted with Bb treble clef parts. If you aren't comfortable with tenor clef already, then I got nothing for you. But if you are, then you add 2 flats and you're good to go. Just use your standard concert pitch tuba fingerings (for whatever pitched horn you're using) and read it as tenor clef.
The way for a tuba player to read Eb treble clef is to read it as it were in bass clef and add 3 flats to the key signature. Example: Eb treble clef part with no key signature (C in Eb treble). Pretend it's in bass clef, add 3 flats, and you are in concert pitch. The low C (first line below the staff) in Eb treble becomes an Eb...the G (second line from the bottom) becomes a concert Bb...etc. It doesn't matter what key of tuba that you are playing. I did this playing an Eb brass band tuba part on an F-tuba. The accidentals can be hairy, but it is easy with a bit of practice.
Playing Bb treble clef parts on an F-tuba in concert pitch is much more challenging.
If you have no eye problems, it might be worth a shot trying my method of moving up the notes a fifth in the reading phase. It is one of the easier transpositions, as the move is two lines or two spaces up. You have to be fully aware of the key in advance and be able to play its scale with no hesitation in any octave of your instrument. Should be manageable with young player’s repertory. A preparatory run through of all parts will not count as cheating.
Referring to my previous post...
...that I typed before my first cup of coffee (not wanting to think hard enough to explain all the "blah-blah-blah", and thus passively encouraging the o.p. figure out the "blah-blah-blah"), here's - then - a ~specific-to-the-situation~ comment:
Read treble clef with it's own normal pitch names.
Use F tuba fingerings when playing an Eb tuba.
- Read the treble clef note, middle C
- On an F tuba, "low C" is fingered "4th valve".
- While playing an Eb tuba, use F tuba fingerings, read treble clef, and (thus) depress the 4th valve on that note/overtone/partial, out comes a "concert" Bb...JUST AS when playing a Bb trumpet and playing the same written note.
- Range-wise, that trumpet "C" note is roughly the tessitura equivalent of "low C" on an F tuba and "low Bb" on an Eb tuba...so (yes) you'll be in the correct octave, range-wise.
no brag, because I have to believe that I am f-a-r from unique, here:
- For me, this is "easy".
- I have to believe that I'm not the only person who (playing some Eb tuba) also knows F tuba fingerings, and also can read (whether we bottom-feeders care to embrace this fact or not) ~THE~ clef of western music, the treble clef.
My son-in-law serves as third horn in the Pittsburgh Symphony. The last time he visited...yeah, Dec. 26th, when we both had a few days of a "break", he brought a couple of books of duets that he wanted to hear with tuba and horn. There were different ways that we could read his duets and play in the same key. One involved me adjusting - using my method (outlined above) and one involved him adjusting - reading his part as "horn in _".
Admittedly, I had to resort to a somewhat remote (yet: ON THE LIST) selection of clef/tuba fingering set (as described above), but - honestly - when I used MY goofy clef/fingering-set combo, I really didn't screw up any more than he did (using a not-commonly-encountered-by-him transposition)...and - well - they were his duet books.
Thanks bloke! That's the kind of thing I was going for. I haven't played much F tuba, but that gives me a place to start. Now what do you do with the key signature?
Using bloke's method described above should not require any alteration of the key signature. (You are already taking care of that step by using F fingerings on the Eb.)
Robert S. Pratt
MM Tuba Perf. - Wright State University '17
BM Tuba Perf. - Towson University '13
Jinbao JBEP-1150S Euphonium
Yes, and thinking this way when playing the instrument will cause your brain to "learn" it, subconsciously.
I was down at Baltimore Brass last weekend, trying out a King 2341, and while I sounded like total crap, I was able to think of the valves in terms of how much they changed the pitch, and figure it out from there. The best way to learn is to work at it, and play, IMHO.
Trombone players can learn tenor clef really fast if you just put a bunch of music in front of them and tell them to play it.
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