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New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby Ltrain » Mon May 07, 2018 10:27 am

Warning: BBb vs CC talk ahead. But I promise to keep it fresh, objective, and respectful to dead horses.

MANY of us have been down this road before, and believe me, I’ve read every thread/diatribe around this subject. But I still haven’t found sound advice for MY particular situation with all of the new products/variables coming to market. I also know for a fact I'm not the only one. This is actually the extrapolation of a conversation I've had with 2 professional NYC tuba players/friends over the last few months.

To preface, I studied CC tuba in college, quit for over a decade, and bought an amazing Eastman 632 last year that quickly got me back in action. Coming back to CC was like riding a really fun bike. Like many CC players I’ve talked to, the fingerings (especially in the upper register) just make a lot of logical sense being built on the natural overtone series. Furthermore, I just love the sound I get out of this particular horn – and Matt Walters personally set it up, so as one might imagine, the valve action is phenomenal.

The complications: In the last year, I started what is quickly becoming the most active second line marching band/trad brass band in NYC, which has me on sousaphone for over 90% of my monthly playing and 100% of my revenue-generating playing (and by revenue-generating I mean fund-raising for my non-profit org plus occasional busking – I’m not quitting my day job any time soon, unfortunately).

My crossroads:

I’ve been awaiting the 2019 release of Wessex’s long-rumored (now confirmed and in the final development phase) production, large-bore, 4-valve helicon. This will be the first mass-produced horn of this kind and I believe it will change the game for CC-trained folks. Cool, right?

Except I need a marching horn NOW as my entire spring and summer is already booked-up with featured parade spots, outdoor music festivals, and trad jazz gigs.

So, I got myself an AMAZING BBb sousa built from a professionally overhauled Conn 36K body and a brass 26K bell. It’s light, balanced, incredibly in-tune, and pushes some serious sound. It’s pretty much the perfect horn for my needs.

But I’ve been playing it so much in the last 2 months I’ve accidentally rewired my brain to think and read in BBb! Going back to CC now requires some mental gymnastics in physically remembering F is “1”, etc, etc.

Please note, I have extremely limited practice time due to my day job, so maintaining 2 sets of fingerings is simply not a scalable (heh) process for me. I need to pick one of these options:

1. Keep my beloved Eastman while playing HEAVILY on BBb sousa for the next 5 months, at least (during this time I’ll keep getting better at BBb, maybe even better than I was on CC). I'll buy the CC helicon when it comes out and I'll sell my sousa to recoup about 50% of the cost. I’ll then spend all winter re-learning CC fingerings and accept my fate as a "C" tubist until I die.

2. Keep the sousa… but sell my Eastman now while the market is still hot and it’s in excellent condition and recently-serviced – and get a good Eb. I’ve always wanted to own a bass tuba so I can dip my toes in solo lit. Plus, if I’m re-learning BBb fingerings, this seems like a good direction to go. Plus, perhaps a large-enough Eb would allow me to continue playing in community bands/wind ensemble (maybe?). I’m looking at the Wessex Gnagey, Cavalry, and Eastman Eb and quality used horns in that price range.

3. Same as option #2 but instead I’ll get a BBb as my concert/practice horn – specifically a newer-style King 2341 (since I love the Eastman sound so much).

I’m at an impasse.

I still believe CC has its benefits (both logically & sonically, to me) but those benefits are diminishing greatly every month that I get better on BBb and the Wessex CC helicon isn’t in my hands. However, this Helicon could be a paradigm shift for CC tuba players if Wessex hits it out of the park. The prototype seems VERY promising: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9YrLdxy1No" target="_blank" target="_blank

In closing, this would be a no-brainer if the CC helicon wasn’t a reality… I’d go BBb/done. At least that’s the conclusion other similar threads have come to involving similar players to myself. Building a custom CC sousa is very expensive and the intonation results are often wildly unpredictable. The argument has also been made a BBb sousa would be more easily repaired or replaced in the event of catastrophe, and exponentially easier to rent/borrow if needed.

However, this upcoming offering from Wessex flips the conversation on its head… but will it arrive to market too late for me to reap the benefit? What if it’s not what I personally hoped it to be?

What’s a man to do????

Thanks for making it this far without writing this off as “ugh, another one of THESE threads!”
Last edited by Ltrain on Mon May 07, 2018 11:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby bloke » Mon May 07, 2018 10:44 am

The instrument Jinbao reportedly plans to copy/adapt appears (??) to be a 1920's Buescher, which - due to the way they were made - is the very easiest and most successful Bb sousaphone/helicon to shorten to C.

I may (??) have been the first to convert one, and mine is a 4+1 configuration.

Mine is a magnificent (1. easily played in tune / 2. great sound) instrument, but sounds like "the best 4/4 C tuba you've ever played" much more than it sounds like a sousaphone. It's also not capable of being played as loud as (at least not as loud as) my (fiberglass) sousaphone, which is a hybrid 36K with a 40K 4-piston valveset.

Just sell ~all~ of your stuff, and make me a (healthy :P ) offer on mine...five valves, blokeamerican workmanship...etc. :shock:

btw, the valveset is original. Buescher, when making 4-valve sousaphones and helicons, simply utilized the Buescher 4/4 "concert" tuba valveset...so yes, it "hangs over" the circular body.

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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby Bill Troiano » Mon May 07, 2018 11:03 am

I played CC since my college days too, as many of us have. I also played a BBb in a Civil War brass band on Long Island for over 30 years and made decent $$$$ doing it. In playing the same charts year after year, it didn't take long for me to be able to switch back and forth between BBb and CC. When I started playing trad. jazz, I just used CC's and I learned tunes and took solos on CC. Fast forward, I moved to Texas and got entrenched in a busy trad. jazz scene here in Austin. I used a Yamaha 621 CC at first, but it didn't cut through an ensemble without a mic. I was asked if I could use a sousaphone and I thought, that I might be able to improvise bass lines on BBb, but for solos, my brain wouldn't be able to think BBb fingerings quickly enough. So, after asking the main repair/ tech guys, whom we all know, if I could have a CC sousaphone or helicon made, most of them didn't have the time to do this back then. Dan Schulz offered to make me a CC sousaphone from a Conn 36K. As he had never done this mod. before, he gave me a great deal and did the job fairly quickly. I used the sousaphone for 2 years. The pitch was a bit squirrely, but it served me well. The band members love having the large bell pointing forward like that. Then, I found out that a better candidate to cut to CC would be a Jupiter, King or Buescher sousy, where the neck wraps around into a main tuning slide before it entered the valves. That would enable a repair person to cut 14 or so inches off right in the beginning where it's all cylindrical tubing - less cutting after the valves in the more conical section. So, I picked up a Jupiter on eBay and Lee Stofer made me a great CC sousaphone. It's fiberglass with a brass bell and 6-7 lbs. heavier than the 36K, but it plays great. It's really my main instrument here.

So, I'm not exactly sure if this the right path for you. I don't know how involved your improvised solos are. Not that mine are involved, but I move my fingers faster on my CC than I could on a BBb with good sounding notes coming out. Perhaps, treading water, keeping the Eastman and waiting for the Wessex to hit the shelves would be a good idea.

Also, I did sell the 36K to a tuba player in Florida. In a recent email with him, he told me he no longer plays in the band where he used it and he's thinking of selling it. It was white when I owned it, but he painted it black - pretty cool looking. Feel free to email me (tubabill@gmail.com" target="_blank) if you're interested in getting his contact info.
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby Northernlb » Mon May 07, 2018 12:00 pm

My two cents, and I play both, have both, and keep both up that unless you have the time to devote to keeping both up and playing both every week you will just end up driving yourself crazy and frustrating yourself. #3 is your best option and gets you to where you need to be.
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby The Big Ben » Mon May 07, 2018 12:47 pm

The Bloke-O-Phone is a stone cold rocker.

That is all.

Goodnight.
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby Doc » Mon May 07, 2018 1:02 pm

BrooklynBass wrote::
2. Keep the sousa… but sell my Eastman now while the market is still hot and it’s in excellent condition and recently-serviced – and get a good Eb. I’ve always wanted to own a bass tuba so I can dip my toes in solo lit. Plus, if I’m re-learning BBb fingerings, this seems like a good direction to go. Plus, perhaps a large-enough Eb would allow me to continue playing in community bands/wind ensemble (maybe?). I’m looking at the Wessex Gnagey, Cavalry, and Eastman Eb and quality used horns in that price


Keep the sousaphone, trade the Eastman to me for my Miraphone 181 6V gold brass F tuba with Miraphone bag, and save your money.
All that, plus $8.00, will get you a venti at Starbucks.
Or in my case, a large can of Folgers.
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby Radar » Mon May 07, 2018 2:50 pm

I have the same issue, I play CC Tuba for a local Concert band, and church gigs, etc. but during marching season I have to get out the Sousaphone and get my BBb chops back in shape. The more I switch back and forth between horns the easier it gets, but I do have to run some scales when I first pick up up the Sousaphone to get my mind wrapped around the new horn key. It has become easier, but I do occasional still play a clam on the Sousaphone because I forgot to use BBb fingerings. Jim Laab's is now selling a Schiller CC Sousaphone for $2000.00 and I was seriously considering it (I'm reluctant to buy one of these horns without playing it first, and from what I've read, Jim Laab's doesn't have a return policy, but they will exchange it for another of their horns), but with 2 Conn BBb sousaphones sitting here in the house already, I think for the time being I'm just going to do my best to keep up both sets of fingerings.
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby Ltrain » Mon May 07, 2018 3:00 pm

Radar wrote:Jim Laab's is now selling a Schiller CC Sousaphone for $2000.00 and I was seriously considering it (I'm reluctant to buy one of these horns without playing it first, and from what I've read, Jim Laab's doesn't have a return policy



OH DEAR GOD NO... RUN from that CC "sousaphone!!" It's a dog. That is unless you like tiny-bore, horrendously out of tune instruments with no low register that flood while marching so you have to take the entire thing apart to drain it... and you like crappy bracing that comes apart and literally stabs you in the ribs. If any of that sounds pleasant and you despise your $2000, that may be the horn for you!
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby swillafew » Mon May 07, 2018 3:51 pm

BBb or CC or:

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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby pecktime » Mon May 07, 2018 4:07 pm

i feel your some of your pain Brooklynbass. I play in a trad jazz band on a CC.
Luckily we sit down And don’t march, but i always felt like i was not ‘authentic’ playing a yamaha 621cc. So I bought a conn sousaphone in Bb. It looked great, but i missed 4 valves and the Bb sound was different and the key is different (i’m a sax guy so i transpose). You can get away with a lot on a sousa! Anyway I sold that and got a MW3450. Great horn, good size, beautiful warm tone compared to the edgy 621, but again i got feelings of inauthenticity, so i got a conn 20j. Great horn, impossible to see anything, valves are not that great, and the Bb thing is not me.
Anyway now i’m back on CC horns- 99% 3450 and 1% yamaha621 when we travel by air.

Play whatever brings you joy!
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby swillafew » Mon May 07, 2018 4:24 pm

Before I got this horn I stood up with a PT-10.
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby Radar » Mon May 07, 2018 4:43 pm

BrooklynBass wrote:
Radar wrote:Jim Laab's is now selling a Schiller CC Sousaphone for $2000.00 and I was seriously considering it (I'm reluctant to buy one of these horns without playing it first, and from what I've read, Jim Laab's doesn't have a return policy



OH DEAR GOD NO... RUN from that CC "sousaphone!!" It's a dog. That is unless you like tiny-bore, horrendously out of tune instruments with no low register that flood while marching so you have to take the entire thing apart to drain it... and you like crappy bracing that comes apart and literally stabs you in the ribs. If any of that sounds pleasant and you despise your $2000, that may be the horn for you!


That's why I really wanted to try one first before buying, was very skeptical about this particular horn. Thanks for your input!!
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby bloke » Mon May 07, 2018 5:02 pm

When driving your car - or watching a boring movie with your spouse/partner/friend - let your fingers get busy:
Play melodies and bass lines on the "air tuba" on your fingers in remote keys. :shock:
As you get better-and-better at it, play more-and-more complicated melodies and bass lines on the "air tuba" (again, in remote keys).
OK...' eventually mastered roughly to the level of (no, not the most complicated) tunes such as "What's New", "Tangerine", "Sleepy Time Down South", etc...??
Master playing harmony to melodies on the "air tuba" (in remote keys).
In the meantime, push yourself to learn (not the "chord symbol" changes, but the "number system" changes to as many hundreds of "standards" (in whatever pop genres you perform) as possible.
Just as with concertos, musicians playing popular music ~also~ perform better when not staring at sheet music.

Other than "how well a particular tuba plays", you really won't care whether you pick up a Bb, C, Eb, F (or C#, or B, or E) tuba when you go play somewhere...and you won't have to stare at the changes, either.

...ok...Those types of skillsets can also (well...almost) get you into trouble.
A trumpet player friend of mine and I had a duo gig a couple of years ago playing Memphis/cotton/May - themed music (a formerly-huge festival in Memphis called the "Cotton Carnival", which was (during the dawn of "P.C.") renamed "Carnival Memphis" and - subsequently, as everything good/fun about its traditions disappeared - has nearly completely disappeared) music on the front balcony of a home as guests were arriving in limousines for a party.
He asked if I knew, "King Cotton March"...I shrugged, played the introduction phrase, and we commenced to play the entire march - all strains. He said, "What were you doing...testing me...!?!?" (I had played the entire march in the wrong key[s].) :oops: ...Of course, it was just us and our horns...no sheet music. :roll:
Do I remember whether I took a Bb, C, Eb, or F instrument to that duo gig? No...I do not.
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby UncleBeer » Mon May 07, 2018 5:48 pm

I've played the Wessex CC helicon, and it's gonna be a winner: all ranges speak easily with a broad and resonant sound, and the intonation is really good.
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby Bill Troiano » Mon May 07, 2018 7:03 pm

I love my Jupiter/Stofer CC sousaphone, but how much does the Wessex weigh? I'm intrigued !!
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby proam » Mon May 07, 2018 7:11 pm

I don't know if this idea is practical for you or not, but the cheapest thing to do would be to rewrite all your Bb music up a step -- like a Bb trumpet reads. That way you can see an F on the page, you can finger it using your C fingerings (ie, "1") but the sound produced will be a concert Eb .

Now if you have to do a bunch of sight reading, new charts, etc. this might not be practical. But if your book is pretty set and you have access to even a rudimentary notation program (eg, musescore) this won't take too much time.

With my trumpet background and using a Bb tuba at the moment, I just use the transposition skills I have already learned and read up a step. I see an Eb, go up a step and think an F, then use "1" to play it.

Disclaimer -- I am still a tuba novice so any suggestions I have may be all nonsense.

-- Joe
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby bloke » Mon May 07, 2018 7:20 pm

proam wrote:Disclaimer -- I am still a tuba novice so any suggestions I have may be all nonsense.

-- Joe


I you think they would work for you, they would probably work for at least one other person as well.
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby MikeMason » Mon May 07, 2018 10:04 pm

The Eastman b flat copy of the king 2341 is a winner. You should give t a try. Could be your solution. I though it was better than the c.
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby Casca Grossa » Tue May 08, 2018 8:34 am

Just learn both BBb and CC. I own a CC. It’s been my only horn for years. I started getting the occasional sousaphone gig. Haven’t played BBb in 14 years. It was like getting back on a bike after years of not riding. It will only add to your skill set.
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Re: New developments and the BBb vs CC debate (help needed)

Postby Bill Troiano » Tue May 08, 2018 8:48 am

BTW - in my first response on this thread, I did mention that the 36K CC sousaphone that I sold to a tuba gentleman in Florida, might be for sale. I contacted him yesterday and he is selling it. I told him he should post it on Tubenet, but he hasn't yet. It was a white fiberglass, 3 valve sousaphone when I owned it. He painted it black with a gold bell. The picture isn't very clear, but you get the idea. He's asking $1400.00 for it. Feel free to email me if you would like his contact info.

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