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Replacing my 5/4 with a 3/4 or 4/4 on a budget

Postby tizzdizz » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:19 am

Hi, I have been reading through the threads on here in my search, and decided to make a direct post to see what opinions I might glean.

I started playing again in a community band last year after about 15 years off. I have had this 1928 Buescher recording horn (4v BBb) for about 7 years. It took me that long to actually jump back into playing. Anyway, I love this old horn's deep sound, but it is an AIR HOG, and a monster for someone with a not-so-great back. Also, I have no case, and would need one custom made. Lastly, I noticed that there are some cracks around the receiver for the leadpipe.

Long story short, I live in Sacramento, CA, and went to Tim's Music to try some horns out. I'm looking for a BBb horn with 4 valves/rotors. They have 6 or 7 tubas, but really only 1 was in my price range of 2-3K. I happened to like it, but it's only a 3/4 and I'm worried about volume in my community band. The instrument is a John Packer JP179 with 4 front-action valves, and it goes for $2700. I was really impressed with how easily it blows and how not-tiny it sounds for how small it is.

I am very intrigued by Wessex, though, and also a bit curious about Schiller. I know these cheaper chinese brands come from the same factory, but have different tweaks. I also got the impression that Wessex has seen more upgrades, but I don't know for sure. I can't really try any of these horns, though, so I'm worried I might miss out on a great horn. But I would like to patronize my local shop - Tim's has been great to me since I started going there.

Anyway, I'm attaching a picture of the two horns side by side. I don't have the space to keep the old buescher, and need it to partially fund the new horn. Sorry for the wall of text. Also, I haven't had much luck finding used horns nearby that I can try.

So how does John Packer compare to other low-priced brands? Anyone in Northern California want to let me try out their horn?

Edit: I should add that I called the gentleman from Mack Brass, who suggested either the 200 or 210. He was very helpful, so those are also in the running.

Buescher and John Packer Tubas sm.jpg
Buescher and John Packer Tubas sm.jpg (99.2 KiB) Viewed 1680 times
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Re: Replacing my 5/4 with a 3/4 or 4/4 on a budget

Postby BrassedOn » Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:20 am

I think that is an adequate budget for a range of horns. It seems you're ready for new, but if okay with used, a lot of options. One question I have is, of the horns that were out of your price range, what did you like? There might be some cheaper option in that family of horn. I would guess that most horns in that range are piston, but I see the Tuba Exchange badged tuba with 4 rotary in the range. And the Mach 200 and 210 also.

BUT, you should really consider your main criteria for the right horn, "you". And as I age, I am very conscious of not only what works for me now, but what I can and want to haul around in the future, and the ensembles I want to play in. Around my area, only one of the 4 main community bands is really at a point of having auditions and thus those players are all playing traditional pro level 4/4 or 5/4 horns, mostly CC but also 1 BBb, like you'd see in a university tuba studio. Any one or two of the players could support a band of 60. In the other bands, the players are a combination of good hobbyists and semi pros, and those getting back in to shape and slowly sliding out of shape, recovering from illness or facing old age. In a more elder band (New Horizons), the 93 y/o tubist is playing on a Conn 20K sousaphone (two trips to the car), another is playing a 3/4 BBb because that is what he can carry (bigger horns at home that he might haul out with a stand for a concert), I sometimes join in for a concert to help out on a King 2341 (not at all lightweight 4/4). I can see some bands saying no to the sousa, and probably another player offering to loan a concert horn for concerts. In the other band I play in, a little higher level and little younger player, there's a Miraphone(clone) 186ish CC and BBb, and a Wessex 6/4 Grand, and a old, big 3 top action valve Yamadog, probably a leftover at the school he teaches. I would happily bring in a good 3/4 tuba over the later with no shame.

For me, if a 3/4 tuba made me happy and I sounded good in the low range were most of the concert band literature sits, I would not hesitate to bring that to community band. I also might consider someday a 4v Eb tuba if that was the one that I could do my best on. I always figure, somebody in the band will want to bring in some larger horn and play the lower part on divisi.

The one thing I would really check before pulling the trigger on the JP 179 or Eastman 626 is whether it fits your body. Watching this demo, I see that the valves position and angle might not work for me, I worry my wrist would be more bent as this guy, and the height and angle of the lead pipe. If you go back to that shop, bring a friend to video so you can monitor your position while playing. I think also that I would angle the horn out a bit more to put the lead pipe in my sweet spot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6kHMhFUPCU" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank

But as you listed, the Mack 210 4 rotary, big difference in the horn! And the player! The 210 vs 200 I would think is player preference.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAf3fqbRFrk" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank
"Do less, better."
2001 King 2341UB BBb
1977 Fender P Bass
1970s King 3b Silver Sonic
1987 Bach 42BO
1990 Getzen 1062 Bass Trombone (Stacked, Dependent)
19xx? Blessing Sousaphone BBb
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Re: Replacing my 5/4 with a 3/4 or 4/4 on a budget

Postby bloke » Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:29 am

I'd love to sell you a tuba, but the mouthpipe leaks (assuming those nearly-100-year-old valves aren't leaking badly) could very well be the cause it it being an "air hog", and those mouthpipe bends (with a new mouthpipe tube) are not difficult for a decent repair-guy to copy. If the pistons (which are unplated nickel silver) are also leaking, well...it may be time to go shopping.

Just fwiw...I'm converting one of those 4-valve top-action Buescher recording basses (just like yours) to a C instrument...and yes, the pistons and casings have been remanufactured. A 5th rotor will be placed where the pre-first-valve main tuning slide is currently located.

:arrow: I sent you a private message about other things.
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Re: Replacing my 5/4 with a 3/4 or 4/4 on a budget

Postby tizzdizz » Thu Oct 11, 2018 3:20 pm

Thank you BrassedOn for your detailed response. You make some good points. I felt quite comfortable playing the JP179, and you're right about thinking long-term. I'm 37, but hopefully have many years of tuba playing ahead of me. I think at this point I'm really torn between the smaller JP179 and the larger Mack210. Although it's not a SMALL tuba, it looks much less unweildy, and I like the sound a lot. I've watched both of those videos several times.

Bloke - you make a good point. The Buescher was just serviced last year, and they sonically cleaned it, repaired a solder joint, and serviced the valves. I did not have them plated, and the valve guides are pretty clunky with lots of play. They still move very smoothly, but I wasn't willing to dump even more money into it at that point. I received your PM - thanks for that. I am very curious about the Buescher conversion you described. Do you have a thread about it, or pictures? I've never had much luck finding anything out about this horn - I don't even have a model number. Just know that it's a TrueTone, low pitch from circa 1928.
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Re: Replacing my 5/4 with a 3/4 or 4/4 on a budget

Postby bloke » Fri Oct 12, 2018 9:44 am

The JP179 is a "little big horn". The bore is the same as King and Eastman 4/4 - .689", and the 4th valve bore is .728"

Ultrasonic cleaning of yellow brass instruments that old (and yellow brass instruments owned by players who deposit extraordinary quantities of lime into them) may risk blasting through any dezinctified ("red-rot") spots and leaving holes. I would only use a the (relatively) mild acid cleaning method on such instruments (such as an industrial product known to repair shops as "Slime Away")...but that's just me.

If there are actually cracks/holes in that old Buescher tuba's mouthpipe tube, Allied Supply sells one (to music stores and repair shops) that is not particularly long (long enough for that application) which tapers from .750" bore down to around .515" bore. It is straight, annealed, filled with pitch and ready to bend. Your local repair guy (who is up to the task) would probably need to find a section of that pipe to bend (to replace yours) that is as close as possible to a range from .525" bore to .726" bore, as .726" is the bore of the instrument itself. It's really easy to determine (as long as you aren't afraid of your own cooties) whether the mouthpipe tube is leaking. Just remove the main slide, plug the outside tube that heads back to the mouthpiece with your hand, suck on the mouthpiece receiver, and see if you can get a suction.

If any of your pistons (a little bit of ROTATION is OK, but) actually "rattle" from left-to-right in their casings, your instrument is considered (by me, anyway) to be leaky, and (thus) an "air hog". If that isn't occurring, the valves probably are not leaking badly.
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Re: Replacing my 5/4 with a 3/4 or 4/4 on a budget

Postby tizzdizz » Fri Oct 12, 2018 12:14 pm

@bloke - very good information. I really appreciate it. I will check the valves as you described when I get home. The JP horn does sound like a pretty good option.

I am also curious about the Wessex Dragon, as it seems to be a good size and price point. But I can't find any review, video or other info besides what's on the Wessex website. Apparently it's new this year.
https://wessex-tubas.com/products/bbb-4 ... agon-tb484
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Re: Replacing my 5/4 with a 3/4 or 4/4 on a budget

Postby bloke » Fri Oct 12, 2018 12:26 pm

That tuba to which you've linked (were I to guess) appears to be a combination of parts already manufactured by Jinbao, which would be the model 210 body ( http://www.mackbrass.com/4_BBb_Tuba_5ROU.php ) with a Bb version of this tuba's valve section ( https://wessex-tubas.com/products/cc-5-4-piston-tuba-wyvern-tc590 ) pasted on to it.
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