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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 bloke » Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:18 pm

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.

example: the sounding/"concert" pitch known as "middle C"...

Bb trumpet, C piccolo trumpet, trombone, dbl. horn, F tuba, kaiser BBb tuba...

' approach that pitch in the very same way playing these various instruments...??

yet another question: If someone plays baritone saxophone 90% of the time, should they just use a special Rodger Boehoe, bari-alto mouthpiece (baritone saxophone mouthpiece with a smaller bore - to fit on an alto saxophone neck cork) for the 10% of the time that they play alto saxophone? After all, it WILL produce a sound on the alto saxophone.

and this one: Rarely-yet-occasionally, people return my mouthpieces within the trial period for either a partial component exchange or a complete refund. Can we really expect one person's singular design to solve everyone's playing issues (and as we've all heard, tuba players execute a VERY wide array of approaches - some of which are logical, and some of which seem to be misguided to the point that no instrument and no mouthpiece will likely either hurt or help) ?

finally: Someone who was using one of my (yes: NOT deep-cupped / NOT gigantic back-bore) mouthpieces on their regular-sized F tuba just sold that F tuba and bought a (well...) jumbo-sized F tuba. They emailed me yesterday and asked what they should use with it. (ie. an opportunity for me to sell them another mouthpiece 8) ). I suggested that they use the same thing for quite a while, and only talk to me a while later if they encounter problems.

post script: (To answer an unanswered question/suggestion by someone who will probably see this post,) I will never offer larger throat sizes (than I've been offering) with any of my four cups - whether those cups are regular, or made 1/8" deeper with my Profundo rims...neither with my own name on them, or something that bolts up smoothly to my cups with someone's else name on them. I've been down that rabbit hole, found my way back out, and would not choose to do anyone else the disservice of such a detour in their own journey. There is another person who uses the same machine shop I use who (I'm fairly sure) sells some shanks with "blown out" throats. You likely know where to find those. Otherwise, anyone can knock themselves out:
:arrow: https://www.mcmaster.com/stainless-steel-cutting-drill-bits After all, it only costs $75 + $4 postage to replace a ruined shank. :|
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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 bloke » Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:10 pm

Donn wrote:
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?


...so you avoid dissecting someone's else theory, apparently embracing it as "scientific/peer-reviewed/certified/degreed/etc."... :|
When I play below the staff on most an F or Eb tuba with a flabby/contrabass-tuba type of embouchure, it doesn't work out very well.
When I try to play an Eb soprano clarinet with a flabby BBb contrabass clarinet embouchure (hey...they're both black and feature the same fingering patterns), curiously that doesn't seem to work out particularly well either.

bloke "and sure, I always use shallower-cup mouthpieces with shorter tubas, just as I would not use a contrabass clarinet mouthpiece (even if adapted to fit) on a bass clarinet. Finally, we've all heard our trombone-playing friends - who don't double on tuba regularly - pick up most-any-tuba, and we all recognize that sound: It's that classic 'wrong-approach' sound."
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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 bloke » Tue Jun 04, 2019 7:01 pm

Willson F tubas allow for a flabby embouchure below the staff, and are only two-loop instruments - as are some of those about which people complain...so I don't suppose that's "the thing" that makes some F tubas more forgiving of their players.

I have noticed this:
Tubas that are more forgiving of players just below the staff also seem to be those which offer the most challenging intonation...EXCEPT for the YFB-621, which (though not an intonation walk in the park) is far from the worst intonation-wise...YET most people consider that a "student" F-tuba, and many eventually move "up" from that one to of of the more out-of-tune models. :lol:
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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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Re: F tuba 2nd partial problems solved

Postby Doc » Wed Jun 05, 2019 12:44 pm

I've had a variety of F tubas and mouthpieces over the years. I've tried large mouthpieces and small mouthpieces, blown out backbores and narrow backbores, deep, shallow, funnel, bowl, etc., and I've been able to find what works best for ME and the instrument. In every case (Alex, 181 6v, a very special Firebird 6v, and 181 6v GB), shallow/bowl/narrow backbore always yielded the best tone, clarity, projection (perceived by me), and control. That combination has always made the range in question easier to play, or at least feels and sounds easier to play.

My current setup is a goldbrass Miraphone 181 6v with a Sellmansberger Solo cup, #2 rim (33.2?), and a #0 backbore (the narrowest offered). I started off with a #2 backbore (the largest offered), but it was much too open. Per Joe's suggestion, I skipped trying the #1 and went right to the #0 backbore, and it is the right combination. And I'm thinking of getting a #2 rim in a smaller diameter to narrow in even further. And that's fine, too, as I will leave my current #2 on my Symphony cup and not have to swap back and forth.

And speaking of different horns needing different approaches...
My 6/4 kaiser BBb is quite the opposite - it doesn't like shallow and narrow, especially down low. I have an old 2pc Sellmansberger Solo with #2 backbore (American shank), extension ring, and Profundo rim, and I also have a 3pc Solo with euro #2 shank, extension ring, and Profundo rim that I use with it. Anything shallower or narrower just doesn't sound or respond as well. And the intonation is better with a large mouthpiece. The 2pc and 3pc cup have ever-so-slightly different interior contours (at least to my feel), and have slightly different sound characteristics. The 2pc has a slightly sweeter, clearer sound, and the 3pc is slightly darker and more authoritative. To the discerning listener across the room, the differences are very minimal, and it would be unnoticeable to the average consumer, but the difference, although slight, is very obvious to me.

I've also tried various combinations (and mouthpieces from other manufacturers) on the Conn 20J I recently acquired. The Sellmansberger Symphony with #2 rim was the clear winner. The Solo with Profundo rim was not bad, but it was not the right match. I have one of the first Stainless Sidey Hellebergs that Paul made, and it works pretty well (low range is pretty easy with it), but the Symphony provides an extra color and vibrancy that matches that organ-like tone I hear in my head.
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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