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Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby Sam Gnagey » Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:32 am

I've had the prototype version of the Wessex Grand BBb in my possession for about two months now. It is the very horn that Chris Olka reviewed favorably on a FB post. I've used it in two brass band concerts so far. It's become my daily warm up and work out instrument. I'm starting to believe that every orchestral player would be advised to use a 6/4 BBb instrument in place of the typical versions of 6/4 CCs. I know that some orchestral players have come to somewhat the same conclusion. I'm certain that if I would have had this particular horn I would have put it to good and regular use in the orchestra during my career. It's a lot more fun playing Rochut 2-8vb and Snedecor on this horn. As a disclaimer I must admit that the only 6/4 (labeled 5/4) CC I had was a Rudy which I used for about 12 years. It almost seems we've been trying to force a CC length instrument into doing things that a BBb is naturally far better at doing. Is it because of some miss-conceived notion that as orchestral tubists we must play every contra part on CC?
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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby the elephant » Sat Jun 23, 2018 12:16 pm

I completely agree. I have been hinting for a 6/4 BBb for years now, but had only found very old horns that were pretty clapped out. I did not want to spend thousands on valve rebuilds and such only to discover they were not really all that great when new.

These new 6/4 BBb tubas allow you to see the potential up front. I don't know how well the valves will work in 25 years, but I have the skills to replace them wholesale if that eventually becomes an issue.

I have always preferred the sound/feel/projection of BBb horns when they are of the larger sizes. I still prefer CC tubas for 4/4 horns or some 5/4 horns. But after about twelve years of using 6/4 CC tubas I have decided that I think I want a BBb for a horn in that size category.

I will be looking into the several new Chinese/Asian/whatever BBb offerings this next year.

I very nearly switched back to BBb for all my contrabass horns back when I owned one of Ev Gilmore's old BBb Alex 163s. It was a lot better horn than my CC 163. I feel that there are many CC tubas out there that started life as a BBb and then was monkeyed with until a sellable CC version was viable, just like the several excellent rotary CCs out there that have piston counterparts - for me the rotary version is always superior.

All this tells me that many CC tubas were designed (or cut) simply to sell to someone who thinks CC is better/pistons are better.
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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby bloke » Sun Jun 24, 2018 7:21 pm

Meinl-Weston 195/5P
Miraphone 98

- Both rock.
- Both are quite large.
- They are different.
- Both are easy for ears to intepret, sonically,
- Both are easy to play in tune.
- Both are extraordinarily well-made.
- Both are well under $20,000

I'd love to own either one but - only playing about 40-something (strictly, and not counting "church orchestra gigs") orchestral services each year, either would collect just a bit too much dust.
I don't have a warm-up tuba. I have tubas. I play them.
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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby joetuba » Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:04 pm

Well said....Mirafone Hagan rocks also.
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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby Ace » Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:23 pm

"I very nearly switched back to BBb for all my contrabass horns back when I owned one of Ev Gilmore's old BBb Alex 163s."

Wade, your comment above is interesting. According to an article in an old Tuba journal, Ev Gilmore also had a big Cerveny that he used in the Dallas Symphony's recording of the Shostakovich Ninth. Did you ever have a chance to play that horn? I'm wondering why he chose the Cerveny over the Alex for that particular recording.

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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby joetuba » Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:36 pm

Yes how was the BBb 601?
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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby the elephant » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:04 pm

****
Last edited by the elephant on Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby Oldschooltuba » Wed Jul 18, 2018 10:14 am

Ace wrote:"I very nearly switched back to BBb for all my contrabass horns back when I owned one of Ev Gilmore's old BBb Alex 163s."

Wade, your comment above is interesting. According to an article in an old Tuba journal, Ev Gilmore also had a big Cerveny that he used in the Dallas Symphony's recording of the Shostakovich Ninth. Did you ever have a chance to play that horn? I'm wondering why he chose the Cerveny over the Alex for that particular recording.

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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby the elephant » Wed Jul 18, 2018 12:43 pm

Ace wrote:Stuff about Ev's Cerveny… Did you ever have a chance to play that horn? I'm wondering why he chose the Cerveny over the Alex for that particular recording.


It was a very solid tuba with a monstrous low range and very good intonation. It also had rather slow response below the staff for me. I had to jump all over it to not be late all the time. It was a much more broad sound than the 163 that I bought from him. I wanted that Cerveny, but I am not sure he even had it at that time. Maybe he kept it until the end? I think it was a 601. It was marvelous.

The 163 I bought was the one he purchased in the 1960s from a guy while on tour over there (or perhaps when he was in the Army). It was made in 1959 or thereabouts. It was an excellent 163. I sold it to a student and regretted it immediately — seller's remorse.

Ev owned some nice BBb tubas.
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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby roweenie » Fri Jul 20, 2018 7:07 pm

As a die-hard, life-long, non-repentant BBb player, talk like this truly warms my heart.
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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby Rumblebuffin » Tue Jul 24, 2018 5:36 am

This is an interesting line of discussion.
I use a Neptune as a contrabass and have on a few occasions have used a B&S GR41 BBb.
(Incidentally:Could anyone acquainted with this instrument explain why it is described as a 4/4-because it seems a fair bit larger than this.....?)
Has anyone else found that quite a lot of Shostakovich & Prokoffiev (in particular) ‘lays’ a lot more comfortably on the BBb instrument? It seems that generally there’s a lot less low register finger work (fewer valves/physically easier combinations) resulting in a lot more natural resonance.....
As a U.K. (And primarily a EEb) player, I’m interested in what you 6/4 ‘primary instrument’ players think as I wondered if I was just kidding myself...
(I realise that there’s a lot more Tuba to fill with the Neptune than the smaller GR41 but that’s not really where I’m finding the major difference.)
Your thoughts please ?!!
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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby mctuba1 » Mon Sep 24, 2018 10:46 pm

For me, i think it was more about being lazy when i was playing a lot and not wanting to devote the time needed to get reacquainted with BBb fingerings and then getting to learn a new horn. In reality, i know that it really wouldn't take a whole lot of time to get the BBb chops going. All the youtube BBb tuba demos i have done were on tubas i played for only a few days and that was plenty of time to learn the horn as well as learn the piece i played for the videos.

For me, the biggest reason was not having the money to purchase a 3rd tuba. 20 or 30 years ago the options for 5/4 or 6/4 BBb tubas was very limited as compared to what we have today. Who knows, if what we have now was available back when i was in college, i may have never switched to CC. I have always thought that BBb low registers were always better than the low registers on CC tubas, kinda like the way Eb to F tuba low registers compare. I almost switched to Eb when i picked up a 5v Eb Alex from a student when i was teaching at the Armed Forces School of Music, virtually the same models but the Eb Alex was far better in all areas when compared to the Alex F.
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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby AndyCat » Tue Sep 25, 2018 2:51 am

I had the chance to try several of the Wessex BBb's last week, to give a little feedback on the Leviathan prototype (not there yet, but massive potential). there were 3 BBb players from British Bands, and we also had on hand (all BBb's) a 3v Imperial, a Besson 992 and 994 and a Yamaha Neo.

I had the Grand for a couple of weeks before summer, and Wyvern brought the Prokofiev along for me to try. WOW. I'd say it's one of the best 5 tubas (of any flavour) I've ever tried. The resonance, response and sound knocked all the other BBb's in the room sideways. If it wasn't for the potential of the Leviathon (with the "used to me" valve set up) I'd be after one of these to use for most things I (personally) do.

As a BBb player, I'm heartened to see more people at least giving BBb's, from any manufacturer, a try!
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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby Wyvern » Tue Sep 25, 2018 7:43 pm

AndyCat wrote:I had the chance to try several of the Wessex BBb's last week, to give a little feedback on the Leviathan prototype (not there yet, but massive potential). there were 3 BBb players from British Bands, and we also had on hand (all BBb's) a 3v Imperial, a Besson 992 and 994 and a Yamaha Neo.

I had the Grand for a couple of weeks before summer, and Wyvern brought the Prokofiev along for me to try. WOW. I'd say it's one of the best 5 tubas (of any flavour) I've ever tried. The resonance, response and sound knocked all the other BBb's in the room sideways. If it wasn't for the potential of the Leviathon (with the "used to me" valve set up) I'd be after one of these to use for most things I (personally) do.

As a BBb player, I'm heartened to see more people at least giving BBb's, from any manufacturer, a try!

Andy, thank you so much for your feedback which will enable Wessex to develop the Leviathan to fully fulfil the brass band requirements. We will get to work with perfecting during next visit to the factory in November.

For the Prokofiev, what I did not tell you is that this was not even the finished production tuba (not all the mandrels were made) - those will be even better still. :) The first batch of Prokofiev should also be ready for us to check November. I can’t wait!
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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby bloke » Wed Oct 03, 2018 9:39 pm

Generally speaking,

Tubas with octave F's that are nearly an extra half-step apart (un-remedied) are difficult and wearisome.

Accessible tuning first. So-called "organ-like tone" second. I'll take something that works, and I'll figure out a way to get it to produce an "organ-like tone". The two that I mentioned (several posts above) will easily do both, and a few thousand bucks difference in price (were I to ever wander into the 6/4 Bb tuba forest) would be well worth point-and-shoot intonation. Any newcomers...I'll just have to ask to try them out, someday.

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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby Dan Tuba » Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:31 pm

I have the privilege of using a MW 195P at my job. The MW 195P is really an amazing tuba. It has has excellent intonation, it's very responsive, and it is capable of playing quite delicately while also offering the player the capability to really fill out the bottom of a wind band. It's really the happy medium, or the best of both worlds imo.

My personal tuba, a BMB J765 is also a very fine tuba. It's definitely one of my favorite BBb tubas. I absolutely love the sound and it's quite nimble. You can play all over the range of the instrument fairly effortlessly. However, it does require a little more work on intonation than the MW 195P.
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Re: Relevance of symphonic use of 6/4 BBbs

Postby tubaport » Mon Mar 04, 2019 9:36 pm

While not budget friendly, I think owning both CC and BBb is helpful. Certain pieces work much better on the BBb (especially the ring cycle), but I still think the CC is an easier blow through the middle and high register. Can everything be played on BBb? Yes, but it feels harder to me; therefore, limiting the ease of making music. The first piece that comes to mind would be playing Meistersinger with a conductor that insisted on Contra Bass (large) tuba. If I only had a BBb, I might find it harder to play on BBb than on CC (Same thing with a lot of the Strauss Tone Poems, Heldenleben for example).

All of that being said, I really enjoyed playing the Wessex Prokofiev and appreciate all the thought that's gone into its design. It's an amazing contra bass instrument in BBb. There's a reason you'll start to see it showing up in several of our orchestras around the states. Great job to Chuck, Jonathan and the entire Wessex team!
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