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Tuba Quest

Postby Christopher Lair » Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:25 pm

Greetings fellow tuba enthusiasts! I want to share a recent experience of mine in the hopes that a few of you might find it inspirational, glean a little bit of useful information, or at least be mildly entertained for a few moments. Like a lot of people, over the years (with the understanding that it’s no substitute for knowledge and efficient practice) I’ve searched for an instrument that allows me to produce my ideal sound without working like a dog for agility, intonation, etc. I also don’t want to pay thirty or forty thousand dollars for this instrument. Yeah I know...only in our dreams! Just about everyone wants that and it's a popular fantasy. To be clear, I would never say that the spectacular instruments available in that price range are over-valued. On the contrary, they’re incredible and the amount of work that goes into them is obvious. That said, please understand that when you live in an area with a cost of living among the lowest in the country, earn a proportionate salary, have a family and a mortgage, then the reality is that tens of thousands of dollars means something very different than it does in some other areas. So it is what it is.

Recently some new instruments have hit the market that in my opinion have made this possible. So after negotiating (shamelessly begging) with the boss (my wife Sharla), I’ve been preparing to buy a 6/4 York-style CC tuba in the ten thousand dollar range. I narrowed it down to Eastman, which is actually very close to what I wanted, with an affordable price and excellent quality. But I’m glad I didn’t pull the trigger quite yet. They’re wonderful instruments that have gained popularity quickly and are endorsed by some great artists, but aren’t quite what I had in mind for myself in the long term. If you have one and love it, then I’m sincerely very glad for you. They’re great horns. Until now, the only tuba I’ve ever played that perfectly fit my concept of the ideal instrument for me was the 6/4 Nirschl. I’m not ashamed to say that I simply can’t justify buying one of those, or the Yamaha, Hirsbrunner, or any of the others in that price range either for that matter.

So...enter Mack Brass. I’ve known Tom McGrady for many years. I met him in the mid nineties when he was teaching at the Armed Forces School of Music in Virginia. As most of you know, he is a great teacher, great player, and a great guy! I have a lot of respect for the way he’s built his company over the years because Tom has never tried to BS anyone the way some of the newer distributors have. He simply won’t sell anything that isn’t up to his high standards. He’s never claimed that his instruments are anything other than exactly what they are, or claimed to be better than everyone else. He has simply and honestly offered great playing, affordable instruments with a good warranty and great customer service. Where I live this was desperately needed and greatly appreciated. I’ve bought a few over the years for myself, for school band programs, happily recommended them to university students when appropriate, and even worked with a local non-profit foundation to donate an instrument to a very deserving young man in need. Every instrument worked out exactly as expected, and Tom has been great to work with.

When Tom let me know about his new 6/4 CC tuba, I was very interested for two reasons; first of all I trust him and respect his opinion, and secondly ZO is a new manufacturer in Beijing that employs some of the folks who were formerly employed by Wisemann. I owned a Wisemann 900 and it was an excellent instrument. So I arranged a pilgrimage to Virginia on a quest for the holy tuba. :-) Tom and Jody were wonderful hosts, and made my family and I feel right at home. We had a good time catching up and talking shop, but I was itching to try the new horns. When I was brought into the tuba room I felt like a kid in a candy store! These handmade instruments were absolutely beautiful, and were just waiting for me to dive in. Every Thunderbird I played was agile, flexible, well in tune, and produced a gorgeous, warm, huge sound with lots of core. They played like a nice 4/4 instrument with a 6/4 sound. There was one in particular that lit up just a little bit more than the others when I played it, and I fell in love immediately. My decades-long quest was fulfilled!

But wait...there’s more! Also in the room was the new 4/4 CC I had heard about so with Tom’s encouragement I gave it a honk just for fun. This one is based on the Nirschl 4/4 CC tuba. I watched Sharla’s face drop as the horn sang like an instrument worth four times as much, and I excitedly declared it to be without a doubt one of the best 4/4 CC tuba I’ve ever played. The moment we made eye contact she said “No, you’re not buying another new tuba today!” LOL :-) This thing has a lovely, even sound throughout the range and a low end that is huge and incredibly easy. I found myself playing every low orchestral excerpt I could think of because I couldn’t get over how easy it was to play cleanly and in tune in the basement range, and how consistent is was throughout. Then I discovered yet another cc tuba that was a lot of fun to play. This one was the new 5-valve ¾ CC tuba. Nimble, easy, light, and incredibly fun. Tom is working on getting a 16” bell for that one, which is all it needs at this point. Definitely another winner!

To top it off, I got to play with Tom and also listen to him play the new horns. We also enjoyed getting to know Jody, whom I’ve only spoken with on the phone. She is a wonderful lady who has a great sense of humor, and is a gracious host! Needless to say it was a great evening, and one I’ll probably never forget. I’ll post a demo video of my new T-bird as soon as I get a chance. If you’d like to speak with me about the horns, please feel free to PM me any time. Better yet, set up a visit with Tom and Jody. You won’t regret it. Thanks for reading my overly exuberant post. It really was a great experience. Cheers!

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Christopher Lair
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Re: Tuba Quest

Postby mctuba1 » Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:41 pm

Thanks for the kind words Chris, it was a pleasure to have you and to see you walk away with an amazing tuba. I am sure this will be a horn you will have for many years to come.
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Re: Tuba Quest

Postby Three Valves » Thu Mar 14, 2019 8:13 pm

Cool stuff!!
Who needs four valves??

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