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Experience with small Ebs

Postby bone-a-phone » Mon Jan 01, 2018 11:35 pm

I've heard small or older Eb tubas referred to by some as glorified euphoniums. One of the most difficult things about learning about tubas has been the idea of scale. I know the best way to learn about these things is to just go out and do it. But as my opportunity to do that is somewhat limited, maybe some of you could share some experience. Where do horns like the Wessex Bombino (3/4 Eb) sit in terms of usefulness and ease of play between a euphonium and a 4/4 size BBb? Is the euphonium comparison valid, or is it still clearly a real tuba im terms of required air, weight, differences in sound, etc. Just wondering how folks would characterize the "unwieldy" factor of a small Eb between the bookends of euphonium and full size BBb. Looking primarily at beginner or doubler experience.
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Re: Experience with small Ebs

Postby Donn » Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:36 am

bone-a-phone wrote:in terms of usefulness


I actually play mine a fair amount, but never in a normal playing context where anyone would expect to see a tuba. The tuba is usually called for in an ensemble where it balances a strong treble, mid-range and percussion, and contrabass tuba is the obvious choice. There are an endless variety of other possible ensembles where one could theoretically play the tuba, and a bass tuba is great for some of them. The point is not really so much that the range is different, but to me the bass tuba's tone is more "present" in the bass staff, the auditory equivalent of "legible", especially at moderate volume.
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Re: Experience with small Ebs

Postby Patrase » Tue Jan 02, 2018 3:25 am

I use my small 3/4 Eb in chamber music, busking, for marching and solo competitions. It is fun to play a small horn. If you get one that plays in tune they are otherwise very easy to play. Mine is small bore and compensated, so in the low register it tends to favour a faster airstream. I don't use it in band. I have played mine in chamber music with another player on Euphonium and we worked well together without sounding similar.

Note I don't own an f tuba. If I did it wouldn't really need both a little Eb and an f.
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Re: Experience with small Ebs

Postby Wyvern » Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:05 am

I play a Bombino quite regularly. Works well as bass for concert band of under 20, for light orchestra and small brass ensemble - or in larger concert band on top part with other tubas underneath.

Remember 100 years ago a lot of tubas were this size.

If such a tuba is useful to you largely depends on your playing requirements
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Re: Experience with small Ebs

Postby Casca Grossa » Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:23 am

Wyvern wrote:I play a Bombino quite regularly. Works well as bass for concert band of under 20, for light orchestra and small brass ensemble - or in larger concert band on top part with other tubas underneath.

Remember 100 years ago a lot of tubas were this size.

If such a tuba is useful to you largely depends on your playing requirements


I know everyone seems to love their 6/4 tubas but I would love to see some more of the Bombino sized instruments. A rotary CC or Eb would be splendid. :wink:
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Re: Experience with small Ebs

Postby Donn » Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:35 am

Casca Grossa wrote:I know everyone seems to love their 6/4 tubas but I would love to see some more of the Bombino sized instruments.


My two Eb tubas are a little Italian number, and a big old Eb Giant. They both have their virtues, but ... I lent the giant to someone who probably hasn't ever played it, and I play the little one all the time. I sometimes wonder, did the Giants and Monsters kill off the Eb bass tuba? Or is it just a natural weakness of tuba players, that they can never be happy if the next guy has a bigger tuba?
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Re: Experience with small Ebs

Postby windshieldbug » Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:02 pm

Donn wrote:I sometimes wonder, did the Giants and Monsters kill off the Eb bass tuba? Or is it just a natural weakness of tuba players, that they can never be happy if the next guy has a bigger tuba?


I suspect it has to do with the Sousaphone. When a player had to march and sit with the same tuba Eb's were more practical for the tuba player, the biggest practical the better. Once you got a Sousaphone, size was not a matter.

And if cornet players were less likely to converted to tuba players (US schools & BBB) tuba players all wanted BBb instruments.

Eb Giants and Monsters are *very* mouthpiece sensitive.

Small Eb's, on the other hand, are very nice horns. I used a Keefer Eb (which I got QUITE reasonably) as my bass tuba in orchestras for years until I could afford a decent F...
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Re: Experience with small Ebs

Postby DonShirer » Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:10 pm

I've been playing a Bombino in a 40 pc concert band for 2 years (after becoming tired of lugging around a 5/4 MeinlWesson at my advanced age!) It does not have the deep blatty sound a big contrabass can produce, and maybe it does sound smoother, a little like a bass euphonium, but in about half of our concerts this year I was the only tuba, and I think I held my end up pretty well (including a short solo) except maybe in a couple of Sousa marches. I do appreciate the compensation that enables me to play down past Bflat and not have to worry about funny fingerings or slide pullings to be in tune. My only beef is that I have not yet found the right mouthpiece to let me play notes above the bass clef easily.
P.S. Almost forgot to mention that it is great for Brass Quintets and the tuba 1 part in tuba quartets.
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Re: Experience with small Ebs

Postby jacobg » Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:21 pm

I have a 4 valve 1890s Conn Standard. It is very small. weighs 14 lbs.
I use it for recording sessions and Balkan gigs. I played it on the soundtrack to Kimmy Schmidt seasons 2 and 3. It would be great in a jazz setting or for contemporary chamber music.
Demise of instruments like G bass trombone, ophecliede, and rarity of cimbasso means the bass voice is underrepresented. Contrabass trombone is making a comeback and appears on a lot of movie soundtracks. I wouldn't be surprised if they got into big tuba sections too, because a little horn like this can have a lot of edge to it in a certain range that a 4/4 can't really provide.
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Re: Experience with small Ebs

Postby Dean E » Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:31 pm

Older Eb horns may have been manufactured to be in low pitch (A about 435 Hz). Double check to make sure your Eb will be in tune at A = 440 Hz. I had to cut the tuning slide on my Pan Am Eb.
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Re: Experience with small Ebs

Postby Bnich93 » Tue Jan 02, 2018 10:17 pm

I have a c.1932 HN White Eb tuba. It is low pitch so I need to have it cut up to pitch some day. In terms of sound think between a tuba and euphonium. In terms of usefulness it is flat on every note and has three valves, therefore there is very little that I do that doesn’t go out of the range. Used it for tuba christmas once because it weighs nothing and is easy to hold up while busking in 20 degree weather. Not to mention i paid like $150 for it so worth it.
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Re: Experience with small Ebs

Postby opus37 » Wed Jan 03, 2018 9:20 am

I had a 1906 York 3/4 size tuba which I had to do some slide adjustment to get it to play at 440. It played wonderfully with a big sound. I have an 1893 helicon that weights 12 pounds and has a small bell. I can out play (aka play louder but not blatty) a Conn 38K with that. I've had other small horns that just don't have the power to be heard in much of any group. To me, they all have a brighter sound than the bigger horns. I'm not saying that is bad, just an observation.
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Re: Experience with small Ebs

Postby Tubajug » Wed Jan 03, 2018 5:28 pm

I've got a 3-valve, 1918 King with a sweet sound. I have used it at Christmas events the last two years and it blends very well in the tuba ensemble. I've got plans to flip it to a front action horn and add a fourth (maybe a fifth) valve just to make it a little bit more usable in other situations such as brass quintet, or polka stuff. It has a very nice low end (big, full, fat sound), but can only go down to an A with only the three valves.

It was low pitch, so I had to trim the main slide a bit to get it up to pitch. I bring it school and play along with kids as well. It's very portable and lightweight. I can see myself becoming more of an Eb player if the surgery goes ok. :)
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