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F tuba 2nd partial problems solved

Postby stevennorsworthy » Fri May 24, 2019 5:24 pm

A common complaint in the smaller F tubas is lack of focus in the 2nd partial, i.e., the notes from low F to low B below the staff. The frustration leads players to abandon the smaller F tuba in lieu of a larger F tuba. That is not the answer if the desire is for a compact clear sounding F tuba. The answer lies mostly in the mouthpiece design. Doug Elliott sent me a smaller cup, the ‘L’ size in his system. It puts core and higher overtones in the whole range but in this case it was the bottom 2nd partial where things felt ‘woofy’ or ‘ill defined’, and this seems to completely solve the problem. Now the response is now very even. The 2nd partial was lacking higher overtones due to a cup that was too large or too deep. Even though I was using Doug’s ‘medium sized’ N cup, it was simply too large. It produced a very good sound everywhere on the instrument except the 2nd partial. I also was trying the Houser Imperial cup which is designed for smaller tubas, and even it was also a bit too large. Doug says he has seen this same sort of problem in bass trumpets, wherein the player perceives the bottom is stuffy, but it is actually not stuffiness per se, but simply needs a shallower cup to bring out core brightness that can only be achieved with higher harmonics. How interesting. Thanks for Doug’s insight and craftsmanship in mouthpiece design and his understanding of instrument acoustics.
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Re: F tuba 2nd partial problems solved

Postby MaryAnn » Sat May 25, 2019 7:40 am

You are going down from F to B, right? and assuming three valves available? because on my F tuba it was great down to about D below the staff and then became difficult to center from there on down to pedal F. I was already using a bowl type cup but would have tried the Elliot if I had thought it was something other than just me having trouble. I could play those notes but they weren't like the rest of the instrument in terms of ease or quality. This was on a MW 182, definitely a small F tuba.
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Re: F tuba 2nd partial problems solved

Postby Donn » Sat May 25, 2019 9:02 am

MaryAnn wrote:I could play those notes but they weren't like the rest of the instrument in terms of ease or quality.


They never are, on any tuba - F, BBb, whatever. It may be less aggravating on a BBb tuba, because that F an octave below the staff isn't as useful, as an 8 foot C that's an easy note for 'cello, bassoon etc.

But there sure seems to be a design factor, where bass tubas are a bit more prone to that trouble, ironically maybe because their design pushes the limits on size. I have an old Eb Giant Bass where Bb hardly deserves to be considered a real note - I can hit it, but not sustain it. Your Meinl might have that problem in some degree, or you just might have higher standards for how it ought to sound down there.

That sounds more like what stevennorsworthy is talking about, with "woofy or ill-defined." I'd be deliriously happy to get a woofy, ill-defined Bb from my Eb Giant Bass. I had a couple Cerveny bass helicons, Eb and F, that didn't have that problem really at all; wish I still had them so I could check this idea out.
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Re: F tuba 2nd partial problems solved

Postby stevennorsworthy » Sat May 25, 2019 11:04 am

The brute force way of solving the problem by even the top professional players seems to be a very large F tuba, such as the Yamaha 822 or the Meinl 2250/2260. However easier their 2nd partials become, the quality of a smaller, clearer F tuba is sacrificed to some degree. I now believe there two things that solve the problem: 1) as stated already, a shallower cup mouthpiece that brings out the higher harmonics in the sound, and 2) MAW valves if the tuba is a piston design. The MAW valves remove the turbulence in the airstream caused by the dents/bumps in a standard valve. As for all-rotor designed instruments, they don’t suffer as much in this way because the airflow is smoother through the rotor. However, the newer all-rotor F tubas have stepped bores through the rotors to help, and of course the newer piston F tubas are using stepped bores as well but don’t come from the factory with MAW valves, except for the Gronitz brand tubas. I would definitely start with the mouthpiece and notice how much things will improve with smaller cups. In some ways it seems counter intuitive, that we want a bigger low register and think we need bigger mouthpieces, but the opposite is true.
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Re: F tuba 2nd partial problems solved

Postby MaryAnn » Mon Jun 03, 2019 11:23 am

stevennorsworthy wrote: I would definitely start with the mouthpiece and notice how much things will improve with smaller cups. In some ways it seems counter intuitive, that we want a bigger low register and think we need bigger mouthpieces, but the opposite is true.


I'm just blathering here, but it seems to me that the smaller cup focuses the sound better, and that may be why it is easier.
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Re: F tuba 2nd partial problems solved

Postby Donn » Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:04 pm

Could be something to that. If you consider that "focus" in this context may mean "suppress some partials", and suppose that the suppressed partials were contributing to the tonal instability that makes those pitches hard.

I've been considering this, with a pile of mouthpieces and a full size Eb tuba. My favorite mouthpiece changes from one day to the next, but it's more or less guaranteed to be on the shallow side as one would expect, and fairly small - a.k.a. bass tuba mouthpiece. But that's mainly about tonal quality in the bass clef. At Bb below the staff, there are sure differences from one mouthpiece to the next, but when it comes to bringing out a stable, good sounding note, it mostly seems to me to be a matter of finding out how that particular mouthpiece wants it. The small/large difference, if any, is that the larger mouthpieces have a richer tonal spectrum down there, but probably not something anyone would notice in a real playing situation. "Large" could mean for example Marcinkiewicz H4 (fairly shallow, but wide, and fairly wide throat), or New C-1 (Conn 1, extremely deep, very wide throat.) "Small" e.g. old Dillon S-3, Conn 3. I imagine my Eb is somewhat different than a typical F tuba.

I should add, that note does seem to work a lot better when I can get most of the water out of the 3rd valve. Also, among the wacky stuff that's fighting it out with Bb below the staff is some serious sharpness, like it wants to go a half step sharp.
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Re: F tuba 2nd partial problems solved

Postby Donn » Mon Jun 03, 2019 11:49 pm

bloke wrote:I suspect that most of any "problem", here, is in a player/players expecting the same pitch to be able to be approached in the same way on very different instruments - just because those instruments are are called "tubas", and all look sort of similar.


Well, the great thing about that analysis is that it doesn't matter if it's true or not. In any case, the only possible remedy still has to be to play the note differently in some way, or alternatively give up on ever achieving a satisfactory tone on that note (and possibly trade in for a tuba that's easier to play.)

It seems to me though that the number of people who feel like the 2nd alternative might be calling to them, casts some doubt on your theory. It would have great explanatory value if that note tended to be a problem the first day, but often otherwise skilled players are unsatisfied by that note long after the first day, after presumably trying a range of different approaches. And certain F tubas are held to be particularly prone to this problem, is that not so? What about instruments called "F tubas", could those all be reasonably be approached in the same way?
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Re: F tuba 2nd partial problems solved

Postby Sam Gnagey » Tue Jun 04, 2019 5:56 pm

F tubas with two more U branches in their bugles do not have this problem. There is some acoustical necessity for this. I believe that without those makers are trying to make a euphonium structured bugle perform as what is normal in a true bass tuba bugle.
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Re: F tuba 2nd partial problems solved

Postby stevennorsworthy » Wed Jun 05, 2019 9:35 am

The better description of the 2nd partial region would be ‘too open’ rather than ‘stuffy’, the opposite term. ‘Too open’ gives the feeling that the slot can’t be found as easily, and a ‘hollow’ tone quality happens due to lack of focus or lacking ‘core’ in the sound. The shallower cup changes that focal point in the instrument and mitigates that effect in this critical 2nd partial region. The other issue is the player’s concept that drives the overblowing of that region of the horn. If the player strives for a larger/wider sound with boom that one would expect from a large-bell contrabass tuba, the acoustics of a small F tuba with only a 15” bell simply cannot support that type of sound and by pushing more and using a deeper cup, it only gets worse. The answer is to strive for a more compact focused tone throughout the entire range of the instrument, especially where it is so sensitive. The combination of the more shallow cup and the player changing his expectation and going for the compact sound will produce nearly perfect and amazingly good results.
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