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tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby bloke » Sun May 14, 2017 10:00 am

In the distant past, (based on what I've heard from the high fidelity recordings made in the 1950's - early 1970's), the tuba wasn't particularly brought to the fore in symphonic recordings.

I recall (when in my late teens) the first recordings (and, admittedly, I hadn't listened to that many orchestral recordings by that time in my life) where I actually heard "the tuba" and recognized it as "the tuba" were...

- Also Sprach Zarathustra/Strauss - LAPO - Roger Bobo
- The Firebird/Stravinsky, Polovetsian Dances/Borodin - ASO - Michael Moore (DIGITALLY recorded...one of the very first, but originally released on ANALOG formats)

Another factor, arguably, was London's "FFRR" label, whereby (when recording symphony orchestras) it was obvious - when listening to the recordings - that microphones were all over the place (rather than the traditional "two mic's in the front" system).

I wonder if (as the tuba was heard more-and-more on recordings) if perception became reality, tuba players were encouraged to (well...) "play out" more, and (as tuba players played out more, and their lines thus became more sonically prominent) music directors began to expect to hear more tuba in the acoustic balance.

Today, (not-at-all in the majority, but) there are actually a few music "bravado"-style directors who desire/expect the larger-than-life sound that (surely) they've heard on recordings, and ask for a bit more than is possible (surely a bit more than is appropriate), occasionally.
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby goodgigs » Sun May 14, 2017 2:36 pm

I blame Warren Deck.
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby barry grrr-ero » Mon May 15, 2017 12:15 am

Roger Bobo and Tommy Johnson deliberately played in a way that would make the needle move when being recorded. It's interesting that once digital recording decks took over, Tommy started using bigger, warmer sounding equipment (not always, of course). Another big factor is that they were taught by Robert Marsteller - a trombonist - in addition to there not being a ton of different horns a person could get easy access to in those days. Due to their consistency, ergonomics and great 'functionality' (fast rotors), Miraphones ruled the roost.

It was quite a schism for me, because Floyd Cooley and Tommy Johnson played and taught in an absolutely opposing manner. I liked studying from both of them, and I've have had to work out a middle ground for myself. Floyd was much more of the 'wind and song', Arnold Jacobs school. And speaking of Mr. Jacobs, you can certainly hear him fine on the old Kubelik/Mercury recordings with the CSO.

I found Wesley Jacobs pretty easy to hear on Detroit Symphony recordings, although I'm not sure when he began there. And, of course, Chester Schmitz blew the roof off in Boston. He makes quite a sound throughout the Ozawa/BSO Mahler cycle (that's digital, though). Although it was a somewhat smaller sound, I also found Ron Bishop pretty easy to hear in Cleveland.

I'm quite certain that John Fletcher was the first to use a 6/4 size tuba in a London orchestra and - OF COURSE! - he absolutely blew down the building in his recordings with the LSO, especially the Andre Previn/EMI ones. The rest, as they say, is history.

I'm not sure I'm addressing your post here or not.
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby bloke » Mon May 15, 2017 8:57 am

I contend that 6/4-shaped tubas are actually more difficult to hear played in recordings than 4/4 - 5/4 size tubas, unless
- as with Mr. Jacobs, the beginnings of notes are crisply "pinged".
- as with some other players, the _ _ _ _ ing _ _ _ _ is blown out of them.

I also contend that 6/4-shaped tubas were originally ~not~ designed with the idea of blowing the _ _ _ _ing _ _ _ _ out of them, and - rather - were designed to be played normally, with the resulting sound (with wind band use in mind) being a sound which somewhat imitates that of a string bass - just as with those huge sousaphones that were used in the Sousa Band.

Unless I have secondhand and third-hand reports of history wrong, Mr. Phillip Donatelli rejected the "6/4" size tuba built by J.W. York and Sons (built in C, with a factory-added Bb-change rotor...a valve for which other purposes were found - the tuba which has become the basic blueprint for so many *others) in favor of a somewhat smaller tuba built by Conn, and sold the rejected York tuba to a student. (Yes, due to a very short mouthpipe tube, that tuba must be held in a somewhat odd way, but I suspect there were additional reasons why he chose to sell it - in favor of something else.)
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby barry grrr-ero » Mon May 15, 2017 2:06 pm

Well sure; of course you're right, herr Bloke. But here's a very interesting comparison that you make yourself. Listen to Nielsen 4 played by Roger Bobo with Zubin Mehta/Decca from the early or mid '70s (I think), and compare that with Floyd Cooley playing the Holton 345 CC (SFS/Blomstedt/Decca). It's a very interesting comparison. They're completely different, yet they both 'work'.

Bobo is using his Miraphone 186 and a C4 type mouthpiece (wide and shallow). He's more-or-less 'punching' his way on to the tape with lots of clear articulation. That recording was made in the warm and somewhat 'intimate' acoustics of Royce Hall (UCLA). Floyd's sound is, of course, more 'luxurious' (for a lack of a better description). Perhaps he's more 'string bass' like, as you've pointed out. Yet, he's pretty clear as well (digital recording). His recording was made in a much bigger hall, naturally.

Two different approaches in two different eras under different circumstances (acoustics). I heard Bobo a couple of times in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and, quite frankly, he was difficult to hear. Where one is seated always makes a difference too.
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby bloke » Mon May 15, 2017 3:42 pm

Though much lower profile and income, I buy into the current NYPO tuba player's general strategy, and no, I no longer own (at one time: having owned four of them at once...probably, because I liked the way they looked :| ) any "6/4" tubas. That having been said, (again) the Yamaha (5.5/4) model 826 C tuba is a very fine instrument, as is the plays-like-a-4/4-with-remarkably-fine-intonation Miraphone model 98 Bb tuba (which, arguably, falls in the category of the "sounds like a fine string bass" tubas).
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby Steve Marcus » Mon May 15, 2017 7:25 pm

barry grrr-ero wrote:It was quite a schism for me, because Floyd Cooley and Tommy Johnson played and taught in an absolutely opposing manner...Floyd was much more of the 'wind and song', Arnold Jacobs school.


Although this thread emphasizes "being HEARD" prominently, it is apparent when listening to performances by students of Floyd Cooley how much he concentrates and how diligently his students work on playing very softly with control of sustained tones and attacks.
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby bloke » Mon May 15, 2017 8:03 pm

Steve Marcus wrote:
barry grrr-ero wrote:It was quite a schism for me, because Floyd Cooley and Tommy Johnson played and taught in an absolutely opposing manner...Floyd was much more of the 'wind and song', Arnold Jacobs school.


Although this thread emphasizes "being HEARD" prominently, it is apparent when listening to performances by students of Floyd Cooley how much he concentrates and how diligently his students work on playing very softly with control of sustained tones and attacks.


yup...
Doc' Micah Everett and I have fun (occasionally, and without any warning to the rest of the quintet at Ole Miss) getting into a "subtone" (a term used in single-reed woodwind playing, which simply means playing extremely soft with very little force or air) thing on [1] passages that only feature us and [2] where we can (ok...well, sorta) get away with it, "musically".

bloke "Brass players should do it more in solo and small ensemble performance; it's far more of an attention-getter than is loud playing."

partner-in-crime: http://www.olemiss.edu/lowbrass/everettbio.html ...and - btw - a good ̶b̶a̶r̶i̶t̶o̶ euphonium AND tuba player, too...' ' plays a Sterling euphonium, btw.
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby barry grrr-ero » Mon May 15, 2017 8:22 pm

In spite of the 'punchiness' of the old L.A. school, those guys could sustain very softly as well, believe me. I will dare to say that it was a different aesthetic built upon a different set of premises.

I'm not real familiar with the current crop in L.A., but certainly Jim Self can play as softly as anyone.

I like to believe that on those rare days when I'm satisfied with how I sound, I'm bridging the two schools I studied under. I believe there's real validity to what I learned from Tommy Johnson. He could get a great sound as well, but it was achieved through different means, intended to satisfy different acoustical and professional circumstances. Tommy was a real mensch.

. . . then again, I was crazy enough to be Claude Gordon's only tuba student in those days! That certainly built chops.
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby bloke » Mon May 15, 2017 8:27 pm

have never heard Mr. Bobo as "punchy"...always as bel canto sostenuto.
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby barry grrr-ero » Tue May 16, 2017 11:22 am

Listen to how much edge he gets on the Kraft "Encounters"; or, listen to the first set of loud, short notes in the Hindemith sonata. That's what I'm referring to. Certainly he could sing - he wouldn't have been a thoroughly professional musician if he couldn't have. But I heard him live in recital. He could also place and 'punch' short notes, and he could get quite an edge when he wanted to. They called him the Heifetz of the tuba.

Tommy could quickly get quite an edge as well. Both of them could punch short notes about as short as you could possibly make them. Tommy told me that he referred to their methods as the, "school of clarity". I can make short notes too, but nothing quite like that (except when I work at it).
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby bloke » Tue May 16, 2017 3:52 pm

barry grrr-ero wrote:Listen to how much edge he gets on the Kraft "Encounters"; or, listen to the first set of loud, short notes in the Hindemith sonata. That's what I'm referring to. Certainly he could sing - he wouldn't have been a thoroughly professional musician if he couldn't have. But I heard him live in recital. He could also place and 'punch' short notes, and he could get quite an edge when he wanted to. They called him the Heifetz of the tuba.

Tommy could quickly get quite an edge as well. Both of them could punch short notes about as short as you could possibly make them. Tommy told me that he referred to their methods as the, "school of clarity". I can make short notes too, but nothing quite like that (except when I work at it).


OK...You're referring to the quality of the resonance.
It was confused, because "punchy" made me think of the style of the articulation...
To me, Mr. AJ's style was the "punchy" style, due to the (often employed) fp-style attacks, followed by a lower-volume sustain with added vibrato...

...and I hear more variety (though always easily identifiable as "him") in the quality of the resonance Mr. Bobo's various recordings.

Aren't all short/loud notes (executed properly) "punchy" by default, and don't most of the pre-piston-era thinwall models of Miraphone tubas assist in executing this?
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby Tom » Tue May 16, 2017 4:31 pm

What level of credit or blame do you place on the recording engineer with respect to microphone placement and final mixing and mastering? A lot? A little? None?
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby bloke » Tue May 16, 2017 4:36 pm

Tom wrote:What level of credit or blame do you place on the recording engineer with respect to microphone placement and final mixing and mastering? A lot? A little? None?


yeah...I believe the 1970's "London FFRR" recordings (with microphones placed EVERYWHERE) have a lot to do with it...and those recordings (arguably) encouraged tuba players to play louder and coaxed music directors to EXPECT louder tuba playing.

yes...??
no...??
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby barry grrr-ero » Wed May 17, 2017 1:20 am

Having been on the fringes of the recording industry for a long time, I would say that every element and every aspect of the recording chain effects the outcome. The acoustics of the hall has an awful lot to do with things as well. In short, everything is a factor.
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby Tom » Wed May 17, 2017 10:04 am

barry grrr-ero wrote:I would say that every element and every aspect of the recording chain effects the outcome.


Yep, that's exactly what I was getting at.

Comparing players or even orchestras as a whole via recordings doesn't tell the whole story as it's never an apples to apples comparison. All of those variables matter as they do effect the outcome.
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby tuben » Wed May 17, 2017 10:16 am

Nice topic.

"I wonder if (as the tuba was heard more-and-more on recordings) if perception became reality, tuba players were encouraged to (well...) "play out" more, and (as tuba players played out more, and their lines thus became more sonically prominent) music directors began to expect to hear more tuba in the acoustic balance."


This however gives no explanation for those players who were the 'first' in being heard on recordings. If you explore recordings, you can find very clear and easily heard tuba playing from Jacobs and Novotny well before Bobo/Mehta. The British guys playing small English F tubas in the 1950's-60's often made plenty enough noise to tell easily on recordings. Going further back, Herman Conrad comes off like he's sitting next to you on ancient recordings.

There are too many factors here to assess blame or praise to anyone for how well they 'got-on' during a recording session. Conductors and recording engineers arguably have more impact on the recorded tuba sound than the player themselves.

Long ago I was told there were two types of tuba players:

1) Those who hold ensemble as the primary goal. Their playing will always aim to blend with the voices around them (trombones, basses/celli, bassoons).

2) Those who believe their voice is singular and unique (in the orchestra), and therefore you will hear every note they play.
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby EdFirth » Wed May 17, 2017 11:02 am

On the subject of Jake's approach, the observations made here are certainly accurate but the "big attack and softer sustain with vibrato" aspect of his playing was near the end of his time with Chicago. If you hear him on vinyl on the Kubelick Legacy recordings (one mic over the conductor's head) his sound is full and sustained. As well as the Reiner recordings, Nielson4 with Martineau, Russian Easter and Khatchaturian 3 with Stowkowski, right up to Mahler 7 with Solti. Also, the Chicago Brass Ensemble quintet with Herseth, Shilke, Cowden, and Crissafulli as well as the Chicago, Philly, Cleveland recording. Many of these recordings have been rereleased on CD and IT AINT THE SAME. They are remixed or at least,for whatever reason, they sound different. His later stylings, I believe, were due to health issues, I understand he had COPD, and he adapted to keep the job. Bear in mind the relative length of his and Roger Bobo's tenures with their respective orchestras. Jake hung on into his seventies while Roger left at a relatively young age. We didn't hear him grow older. f you can get ahold of the vinyl of any of the recordings I've mentioned I think you will be surprised. All the Best, Ed
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby Chris Olka » Wed May 17, 2017 11:38 am

Just gotta confirm everything Ed just posted. He basically gave me a proper education in orchestral tuba playing with the recordings he laid on me as a youngster and the conversations we had back then. I realized that I was standing on the shoulders of dozens of players from the previous 75+ years...and hadn't in fact come up with some new type of ass-kicking orchestral tuba playing.

I can't possibly repay him for that. Thanks Ed!
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Re: tuba being HEARD on orchestral recordings

Postby barry grrr-ero » Wed May 17, 2017 1:32 pm

Let's face it. Regardless of what their approach might have been, we're talking about the best of the best. Considering that Jacobs recorded the VW in his 60's (70's ?) and - allegedly - during a single rehearsal session only, that's pretty darn amazing!
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