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Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby Watchman » Thu Jun 06, 2019 8:48 pm

A friend of mine, who plays viola, asked me the other day if tuba is a really hard instrument to play. I said it was actually laughably easy compared to some other instruments out there, and then asked why she would think it was difficult.

ASIDE: She's was always a "trooper" back in the day and was willing to listen to my mock auditions when we were in school together. As such, she's a little bit familiar with the tuba rep.

Long story longer, she said our excerpts seem really easy to her. They are just "whole notes, and half notes, and quarter notes" so she just assumed that playing the instrument had to be some great challenge.

That got me thinking, why is it that so many struggle to play this "easy" music? In particular, why is it so easy to eliminate about a hundred people at any given audition on time and rhythm alone?

We're tuba players, darn it! In theory, we're the heartbeat of the band and have been playing "om-pahs" since sixth grade with the goal of keeping "everybody else" on beat. None of us should struggle to play in time.

And yet....
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby Three Valves » Thu Jun 06, 2019 9:26 pm

Watchman wrote:A friend of mine, who plays viola,...
:roll:
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby michaelrmurrin » Thu Jun 06, 2019 9:52 pm

Edit: [I removed the majority of the post because of the tone of the content and the argument it could ignite].

(Edit 2: Although I removed most of my comments from this topic, I will still indicate that I strongly disagree that the tuba is "laughably easy". (Especially the CC or BBb tuba). Even ignoring the vocabulary used, suggesting that the tuba is "laughably easy" seems like a generalized insult to most tuba players, suggesting that most tuba players have some sort of deficiency such that they somehow have trouble playing a "laughably easy" instrument. I just don't understand how anyone who plays the tuba can claim that it's "laughably easy", unless it's someone who has a top orchestra job or something. I just don't get it.)

Now, back to the original post:

To answer your question about why tuba players may have a reputation of having bad time, the answer (according to my understanding) is the following:

The instrument (CC/BBb tuba) is 16-18 feet long, and therefore the air needs to travel 16-18 feet before the sound actually comes out of the bell. Because of this, the player needs to anticipate this and make sure the sound is coming out of the bell on time. If they don't, they will drag the tempo more and more behind, because they are not anticipating the distance the air will have to travel. This happens with many players. (Also, sitting in the back of the orchestra can cause a time delay as well). If all tuba players put an extraordinary emphasis on making sure to stay on top of the time and compensate for the 16-18 foot instrument, tuba players would not have a reputation of having bad time. There was one excerpt we were playing in masterclass, and our teachers said, "Make sure you never drag the tempo when you're playing this excerpt in an orchestra. Well, you can, but if you do, don't say you studied with us." I say this to emphasize that my teachers put an extraordinary emphasis on having good time. I think this is what all players and teachers should do. But not all players do this. Some players do not put enough emphasis on staying on top of the tempo, and as a result, the 16-18 foot length of the instrument causes them to drag the tempo.
Last edited by michaelrmurrin on Fri Jun 07, 2019 3:30 am, edited 9 times in total.
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby bloke » Thu Jun 06, 2019 10:32 pm

fwiw...I'm neither offended by the content, nor the inferences, nor the tone of the original post.

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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby The Big Ben » Thu Jun 06, 2019 10:47 pm

I can understand why a string player would find tuba music "easy". I had a look at a friend's violin part and thought, "Wow. There's a lot of notes there!" Which there was.

I agree with Michael. The tuba moves slower and it is easy to get a little bit off if full attention is not paid to the beat. I played trumpet for years and years and never seemed to have difficulty keeping in time. I've played the tuba for six or seven years and, if I'm not careful, I can get a half a beat behind. Just enough to be wrong. One of the main purposes of the tuba is to provide a foundation for the orchestra or band. You are providing the fundamental pulse of the group and, if you get off, it is really noticeable.
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby roweenie » Thu Jun 06, 2019 10:51 pm

That's funny, I thought the topic was "Why do tuba players have A bad time"..... :mrgreen:

(I think that would be much more interesting, anyway)
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby Art Hovey » Thu Jun 06, 2019 10:56 pm

Why? -because bass players get most of the good jazz gigs these days.
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby michaelrmurrin » Thu Jun 06, 2019 10:56 pm

[Post removed by user (me) (michaelrmurrin)]
Last edited by michaelrmurrin on Fri Jun 07, 2019 1:22 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby roweenie » Thu Jun 06, 2019 11:02 pm

Art Hovey wrote:Why? -because bass players get most of the good jazz gigs these days.


I have noticed this trend, too :cry:
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby bloke » Thu Jun 06, 2019 11:08 pm

michaelrmurrin wrote:
bloke wrote:fwiw...I'm neither offended by the content, nor the inferences, nor the tone of the original post.

bloke "popcorn in hand"

The word "offended" isn't really in my vocabulary, so, (at least in the way I put it), I was not offended by the original post either. I suppose I was annoyed at the implication that tuba players (even those at professional orchestral auditions) have worse pitch and rhythm than other musicians. My submission that tuba players have a reputation of having bad time, does not include tuba players at a professional level. I truly believe that the majority of tuba players at orchestral auditions do not have bad time.


but it includes - to a T - legion tuba players who consider themselves "professional"..."professional" being a word misunderstood by the majority of those who use it to describe themselves (as the original meaning is only tied in with remuneration, and not with quality of execution nor personal attitudes). I truly believe that the majority of tuba players at orchestral auditions ~do~ have bad time. Fortunately for committees, sometimes two or three applicants do not have bad time, but when we hear about "no one chosen", I'd wager strongly that those committees were neither being impetuous nor flippant. :D
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby Watchman » Fri Jun 07, 2019 7:34 am

When I said "laughably easy" I meant when compared to OTHER instruments. Tuba isn't even the hardest brass instrument to play. Ask any horn player you know.

Anyway, if the notion were true that "most" tuba players have good time, Die Meistersinger would no longer be asked at auditions. It would be too easy. A "C Major" scale? Half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes? Anybody can do it. Instead, it's the first thing asked. That right there is my "evidence" that the field struggles to play in time. (Let alone in tune, which I'm not even bringing up right now)

To me, this shouldn't be the case since "keeping time" is in the top 5 of any tuba player's job description from the minute they pick up the horn.

My theory is that the way we are teaching people to breathe inadvertently causes them to throw time out the window. In an effort to make every breath a monster breath for optimal sound production, the player loses time.
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby Watchman » Fri Jun 07, 2019 7:36 am

Three Valves wrote:
Watchman wrote:A friend of mine, who plays viola,...
:roll:

Hey! In the not too distant past, a viola player won a Grammy with an album consisting of solely unaccompanied viola music. When's the last time a tuba player pulled that off?
:wink:
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby timothy42b » Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:23 am

In my limited experience, the worst time is found from organ players.

My theory is that the delay between a key press, air hitting a pipe, and the sound eventually bouncing around a church means a neural connection between time and sound never gets really dialed in.

Could there be a similar problem with tuba? I'm not sure the length of tube makes much difference, air flows so slowly through that it is essentially stationary, but the wave goes at the speed of sound. However the start of the note, and the filling of the room air may be less percussive. I hear trombones drag all the time, I'm not sure what causes that.
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby nworbekim » Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:40 am

if by time you mean keeping the beat? in music school, i was admonished for "dragging" the beat when i was a freshman and taught to anticipate the beat slightly because i sat in the back row and there was so much tubing to push the air through.

if by time, you mean counting rhythms? that's MY problem. i've really never had to play much complicated syncopation and i don't sight read it well. i can work it out and play it fine in a couple of runs though.
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby the elephant » Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:59 am

Watchman wrote:Why do tuba players have bad time?


Why do crazy people major in psychology? :tuba:
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby bloke » Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:21 am

Watchman wrote:My theory is that the way we are teaching people to breathe inadvertently causes them to throw time out the window. In an effort to make every breath a monster breath for optimal sound production, the player loses time.


I like Mr. anonymous, here, more-and-more as they post more-and-more.

So many tuba players are method-and-feel players who do as they were told to do (method) in lessons, and also relate "how something feels" when playing to "correct" playing. The only thing that matters is the emitted sound, and the way that others perceive that sound.

In so many disciplines, people concentrate too much on the way they carry out their tasks, rather than what is resulting/what resulted from the execution of those tasks.
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby sugawi » Fri Jun 07, 2019 10:22 am

I see this subject of time along with others coming up every so often.
bloke wrote:
time: One of the most disconcerting things - in small or large groups (as our instruments are rarely solo instruments, and are - nearly always - ensemble instruments) is inaccurate time. It's far more disconcerting than are bad pitch (tuning) or faulty resonance (i.e. "bad tone"). This includes both the accuracy of big pulses and the accurate division of pulses. Again, ~I~ am guilty of poor time, and am quite flawed. Unfortunately, the only way to maintain/improve is to work on this constantly and to pay attention to it constantly. I'm listing no methods...We all know the methods of maintenance and improvement.

http://forums.chisham.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=90081
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby bloke » Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:31 am

The question is obviously this:

Lacquered time or silver time?
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby CranstonTuba » Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:52 am

I personally like the look of silver time more. But prefer the easier maintenance of lacquer time.
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Re: Why do tuba players have bad time?

Postby nworbekim » Fri Jun 07, 2019 12:11 pm

CranstonTuba wrote:I personally like the look of silver time more. But prefer the easier maintenance of lacquer time.


I will agree with that!
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