Rotors and pistons ...again! Bookmark and Share

The bulk of the musical talk

Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby lost » Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:37 pm

Ok not another one of these threads...lemme explain though...

I went to an unnamed tuba christmas for the first time and out of the 10 tuba players, only 2 had pistons, which included me and a former student i brought who i started on a 3 valve king 2341.

The rest had miraphone or miraclone 4 valve rotory horns.

This made me wonder.

Then at rehearsal in unnamed community band, a younger tuba player going into music ed at university insisted he should get a 4 valve rotory horn.

Are band directors buying 4 valve rotary horns for their program and why? Do tuba teachers push 4 valve rotary horns?
Are there not a lot of options for piston players for advanced horns?

Just questions. Nothing against rotary valves...It just seems rotary valves are more popular in my very small sampling size and wonder if this a new/old trend.

Enlighten me tubenet...
J.W. York & Sons Artist

http://www.tubaist.com
User avatar
lost
moderator
moderator
 
Posts: 1198
Joined: Sun Mar 30, 2014 10:54 pm
Location: TubeNet Land

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby MartyNeilan » Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:43 pm

Depends on the generation and background of the band director. Some only know Conn 20J, some Mirafone 186, some King, etc. Whatever they were exposed to earlier on is probably what they push.
User avatar
MartyNeilan
6 valves
6 valves
 
Posts: 4724
Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2004 4:06 am
Location: I play the tuba and ride a motorcycle. Hi, I'm your new neighbor!

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby bloke » Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:44 pm

I'm pretty sure that many band directors (whether older or younger) are stuck in the broken-record *"Miraphone craze" era, which began around the late 1960's or early 1970's. I also wouldn't be surprised to hear that most band directors are still telling their clarinet players to buy Vandoren B45 mouthpieces, and to use really hard reeds...and so it goes...

There are three types of tubas:
- good
- not particularly good
- bad
___________________________________________________
*and with NO disrespect to Miraphone intended, as I view the models 186, 188, and 98 as fine-to-amazing instruments...which, parenthetically, are outfitted with rotary valves
User avatar
bloke
musician/technician/innovator
musician/technician/innovator
 
Posts: 41755
Joined: Sat May 08, 2004 6:04 pm
Location: western Tennessee

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby Donn » Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:41 pm

186
User avatar
Donn
TubeNet Sponsor
TubeNet Sponsor
 
Posts: 5290
Joined: Fri Aug 19, 2005 3:58 pm
Location: Seattle, ☯

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby Matt Walters » Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:19 am

If you have two quality horns except that is one piston and one is rotor, in theory the Rotor tuba is better for school program because:
1) Piston valves and casings get used to a person pushing and pulling on the finger button at a certain angle and 4 years later when a new student gets assigned that tuba, the piston valves will stick because they are pushing and pulling at a different angle.
2) Rotor valves hold tighter valve compression over the decades.
3) Kids aren't removing the rotor valves to oil them and then droping them on the concrete floor like what happens to school piston tubas.

Of course all this is a moot point because many schools today get told what cheapest model horn from an "Approved Vendor" they have to buy because some clueless bean counter thinks all "Widgets" are the same.
Matt Walters
Last chair tubist
Who Cares What Ensemble
Owns old tubas that play better than what you have.
User avatar
Matt Walters
The Tuba Whisperer
The Tuba Whisperer
 
Posts: 378
Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2004 10:20 am
Location: Woodbridge, NJ

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby bloke » Fri Dec 07, 2018 9:50 am

I'm not willing to become involved in any sort of disagreement...particularly not with Matt...because he is very skilled/knowledgeable, and because he is a very good friend.

My practical experience, though, tells me that rotary instruments end up with mangled linkage, ruined (hillbilly repairs with music store "repair" people sanding/buffing valve stems, or "students" breaking off valve stems by continuously knocking the tubas over) rotors, and (at best) very loud, and rattling action. The rotor-related bell kranz, large sheet metal bow guards, and "buried" bottom bow bracing (requiring more time for bottom bow removal and reinstalling) defines more difficult dent removal (which is always epic, with school-owned instruments) and more repair time/expense.

Top-action piston tubas (again: ALL school tubas are repeatedly knocked over) suffer from casing damage, as the vertical slides (upon impact with the floor) bend inward, and - thus - the valve casings are jacked. It's difficult to repair the casings, because the bell flares on such instruments block access to the tops of the casings.

Though front-action piston tubas (particularly if "large bore") tend to be some of the most expensive, they are best - in my view - for school use. When front-action piston tubas are routinely knocked over, often the only significant ~mechanical~ damage is low-cost bent piston stems and water keys. That having been said, I sell band directors whatever they ask to buy.

bloke "...and yes, ~routinely~ knocked over...and it's pointless to post any 'not at my school' rebuttals. I know what I have dealt with for four decades, and its far too much experience - from schools with students at all sorts of income and cultural backgrounds - to refer to it as 'anecdotal'."
User avatar
bloke
musician/technician/innovator
musician/technician/innovator
 
Posts: 41755
Joined: Sat May 08, 2004 6:04 pm
Location: western Tennessee

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby hrender » Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:28 pm

bloke wrote:I'm pretty sure that many band directors (whether older or younger) are stuck in the broken-record *"Miraphone craze" era, which began around the late 1960's or early 1970's.


From my experience talking with local students and directors, this still seems to be true.
hal.

1927 King Symphony 3v bellfront; 1935 Martin Handcraft 3v bellfront
User avatar
hrender
6 valves
6 valves
 
Posts: 2232
Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2004 5:18 pm
Location: Fruited Plains

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby swillafew » Sat Dec 08, 2018 12:30 am

I have whittled my own collection down to two horns, a MW 182 and a MW 2182. Now I have pistons vs. rotors covered, as well as lacquer vs. silver. I think the bore and taper is what makes the sound, but that's just me. I think the biggest difference between them is the bore of valve #5.

What a school needs is a horn that you can drop many times, compromising every surface, but still plays owing to the top action pistons. If this horn is so big it can only reside in a Wenger stand, then it lives an even longer life, paying for the stand.

As for the Miraphone craze, I wanted one too but never had that plan work for me.
MORE AIR
User avatar
swillafew
4 valves
4 valves
 
Posts: 996
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2009 7:20 pm
Location: Aurora, IL

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby MaryAnn » Sat Dec 08, 2018 12:03 pm

bloke wrote:] most band directors are still telling their clarinet players to buy Vandoren B45 mouthpieces


Hijacking the thread, sorry, hopefully just temporary. bloke, what IS the mouthpiece those clarinet players should be getting? I got a Fobes debut and am consistently flat on it even with short barrel. Gave up. Good strong sound 1/4 step flat.
User avatar
MaryAnn
Occasionally Visiting Pipsqueak
Occasionally Visiting Pipsqueak
 
Posts: 2840
Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2004 10:58 am

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby WC8KCY » Sat Dec 08, 2018 1:42 pm

MaryAnn wrote:
bloke wrote:] most band directors are still telling their clarinet players to buy Vandoren B45 mouthpieces


Hijacking the thread, sorry, hopefully just temporary. bloke, what IS the mouthpiece those clarinet players should be getting? I got a Fobes debut and am consistently flat on it even with short barrel. Gave up. Good strong sound 1/4 step flat.

I realize this question was directed at bloke, not me, but I'll chime in...

The Fobes Debut, as with today's Vandoren M13 and also the Selmer HS-Star that was once extremely popular, is a close-tipped mouthpiece that is easy to get a great sound out of...and therein lies the rub. All of these seem to play well even when a player is biting and/or maintaining a sloppy or otherwise incorrect embouchure. While the student sounds great, nobody suspects that they're actually playing with seriously flawed technique that they may never be able to unlearn.

The Ridenour Encore is the one I start students on. It's a little more open than the Fobes Debut/HS-Star/M13--just enough where you can't easily get away with biting and other embouchure nonsense.

Others have had success with the Vandoren 5RV Lyre, for the same reasons--but Ridenour's consistency from mouthpiece to mouthpiece is much tighter than Vandoren. Comparing one Vandoren 5RV Lyre to another 5RV Lyre is akin to comparing Bach 18 tuba mouthpieces--no two are exactly alike and often they're not even close.

I don't know why the B45 specification is so pervasive. This mouthpiece was better suited for the wide/cylindrical-bore clarinets (Selmer Centered Tone, Bundy 1400, et al) of yesteryear. These old instruments needed some working resistance provided by the mouthpiece, and this resistance is now built right into the the polycylindrical bores of today's clarinets. The B45 is just awful on the Yamaha YCL-250/255, Buffet B12, and Backun Alpha that most students begin on today.
Eschew Obfuscation.
King 1165 "Artist" baritone - Yamaha YEP-321S euphonium
'29 Holton Monster E-flat tuba - '37 Martin Indiana E-flat sousaphone
'18 Schiller JBBB-520 BB-flat
WC8KCY
bugler
bugler
 
Posts: 155
Joined: Thu May 21, 2009 12:24 am
Location: Not too far from Interlochen

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby tclements » Sat Dec 08, 2018 2:43 pm

My experience after teaching in San Jose, CA since the early 1980's, is that rotors experience less valve FAILURES than pistons over time. When I am asked by local educators, I always recommend a 4/4 rotary tuba, and suggest they stick with a more tried and true brand even if it means paying a little more. I always recommend buying from a local dealer (I give them a list of 4-5 from which to choose) as well, as creating a relationship is very helpful should repairs need to get done.
tclements
TubeNet Sponsor
TubeNet Sponsor
 
Posts: 1231
Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2004 11:49 am
Location: Campbell, CA

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby TheGoyWonder » Sat Dec 08, 2018 3:13 pm

swillafew wrote:I have whittled my own collection down to two horns, a MW 182 and a MW 2182. Now I have pistons vs. rotors covered, as well as lacquer vs. silver. I think the bore and taper is what makes the sound, but that's just me. I think the biggest difference between them is the bore of valve #5.

What a school needs is a horn that you can drop many times, compromising every surface, but still plays owing to the top action pistons. If this horn is so big it can only reside in a Wenger stand, then it lives an even longer life, paying for the stand.

As for the Miraphone craze, I wanted one too but never had that plan work for me.


Stationary tubas in a stand are the way to go for skool. Top action valves are the only kind that won't require awkward reaching around the stand. Even better, add an adjustable height chair so the stand will never even be adjusted. (twice a year you'll have to move them to the stage for concert...pita, but only twice a year)
TheGoyWonder
4 valves
4 valves
 
Posts: 543
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2015 9:11 am

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby bloke » Sat Dec 08, 2018 5:07 pm

TheGoyWonder wrote:
swillafew wrote:I have whittled my own collection down to two horns, a MW 182 and a MW 2182. Now I have pistons vs. rotors covered, as well as lacquer vs. silver. I think the bore and taper is what makes the sound, but that's just me. I think the biggest difference between them is the bore of valve #5.

What a school needs is a horn that you can drop many times, compromising every surface, but still plays owing to the top action pistons. If this horn is so big it can only reside in a Wenger stand, then it lives an even longer life, paying for the stand.

As for the Miraphone craze, I wanted one too but never had that plan work for me.


Stationary tubas in a stand are the way to go for skool. Top action valves are the only kind that won't require awkward reaching around the stand. Even better, add an adjustable height chair so the stand will never even be adjusted. (twice a year you'll have to move them to the stage for concert...pita, but only twice a year)


When I was first a band student (1967-1968), there were four brass sousaphones positioned on school-parent-built wooden 2x4's-and-plywood risers in the back of the band room. They sat on stands similar to the modern-day K&M stands (but Hercules stands - though bulkier/heavier for moving around - would work just as well). The sousaphones (King and Conn) offered good intonation, a nice big concert-tuba type of sound, the sousaphones' bells (when on the stands) were turned 90 degrees to the right of the customary shoulder-mounted position, we sat to the left (our left) of the sousaphones, we turned the upper mouthpipes and tuning bits over to the left, put our arms through the sousaphones' bodies, and effortlessly played them. When we felt it occasionally appropriate, we played beautiful/easily-accessible low Eb/D/C/etc. false tones on those three-valve large-bore/large-body (yes) ~concert~ (or marching) sousaphones. I seem to recall that a notable bandleader, J.P. Sousa, effectively used similar instruments in his bands. What was really convenient (for us, as well as the taxpayers) is that they made a beautiful sound in the concert band, but were easily adaptable (as we could carry them around on our shoulders) for marching. ...Imagine that! :|

Were I to suddenly find myself a school band director today (as I actually possess the so-called "certification" to do that sort of a job), I strongly suspect that other band directors would talk about me behind my back (as I would not purchase any so-called "concert" tubas - only sousaphones, ~yet~ I would predict, my students would unseat others - with others using formidably-priced instruments - at so-called "honor band" events). I would also predict that parents would call me at my home with whiny complaints (due to my expected/required levels of student accomplishment and maturity)...and yeah, likely I would be fired for being "mean". :roll:

Pictured is a "butterfly"-style K&M sousaphone stand (quite collapsible/portable, for easily transporting from a band room to an auditorium).

Image

If anyone has difficultly imagining using a sousaphone stand as a playing stand, I'm willing to post a picture with Ms. bloke demonstrating (after she finishes watching her movie).

For those who cannot imagine sousaphones (sonically) being used as "concert" instruments, I might suggest that possibly (??) some of those people listen with their eyes. When our Univ. of Miss. brass quintet would go on recruiting trips and play for high school band students in their own band rooms, often we would begin with a quintet reduction of a Percy Granger band piece, "Shepherd's Hey". The piece doesn't offer the technical challenges, of - say - a David Sampson composition, but the tuba part to the reduction is not particularly "easy". I would make a point of pulling one of the school's sousaphones down from the wall and beginning our recitals using one of their instruments...and yes, there are sousaphone-easy "low Eb's" in that reduction.

Big money and super-fancy stuff, sometimes, aren't the solutions to problems, and nor - sometimes - do either of those things particularly contribute to solutions.
User avatar
bloke
musician/technician/innovator
musician/technician/innovator
 
Posts: 41755
Joined: Sat May 08, 2004 6:04 pm
Location: western Tennessee

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby pjv » Sun Dec 09, 2018 6:01 am

now we're really off topic;
K&M sous stands; often used them as a playing stand in long rehearsals. But in general; they suck!

Why? They're not trustworthy to leave the sousaphone in. There's just one flimsy bolt (screw, whatever) to the adjust the angle of the sousaphone in the stand. I own many K&M stands for many instruments; trombones, euphoniums, sousaphones, tubas (playing stands). They ALL, with no exception, have given out at the bolts (except the euph stand which has the irritating legs which are impossible to keep tightened. As well these stands just loose their bolts). 80% gave out within the first week.

One the other hand, I have two rather old tuba (storage/playing) Walberg & Auge stands that are still going strong (and I often re-adjust the positioning depending on my needs).

OK, maybe I shouldn't expect our modern society to produce a bolts like they used to. Obviously K&M came to the same conclusion since the don't offer the sous stand on the tripod anymore (it's been replaced by slapping their butterfly construction onto a triangular guitar stand.)

If instrument stand companies (K&M, Hercules) would just replace their flimsy parts with the tried and true constructions like seen on many percussion stands (gears and pin wholes instead of bolts that strip and slip sooner or later) they might just corner the market.
User avatar
pjv
4 valves
4 valves
 
Posts: 799
Joined: Sun Jul 11, 2004 4:39 am

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby gwwilk » Sun Dec 09, 2018 7:49 am

Way back in the late 1950's my high school band director furnished the tuba section with these. They worked wonderfully in the band room not only during practice but also to securely store our sousaphones.

I agree that the American sousaphones of this era were phenomenal, pistons and all. I played mine (a school instrument) after my sophomore HS year for a week in the NE high school All-State orchestra, much to the initial dismay of the conductor. After a few days rehearsals, he stopped the rehearsal specifically to point out that despite his trepidation the sousaphone worked wonderfully in my hands as an orchestral instrument. In fact one of the factors that led me to give up playing in college was the difficulty I had, given the limited practice time at my disposal, in successfully steering the 'real' tuba I was handed to use in our brass ensemble. It wasn't pretty!

Four years later in medical school my classmate, Charles (Chuck) Brantigan, organized a brass group and he recruited me to play a 4V piston tuba that he had acquired because of significant bell damage/wrinkling. It was then that I learned how to manage a 'real' tuba, but not its intonation quirks below the staff. Because I was practicing alone with no tuner in the 1960's I came to accept these quirks as 'in tune' much to the dismay of the group. :o

Chuck and his wife went on to found the Denver Brass after he established a vascular surgery practice there. Some might recognize her as the hostess of the 2005 ITEC in Denver. BTW, Chuck was a trumpet player. He tried to give me the tuba after we graduated, but I had no room to haul it to my next stop which was in Atlanta, so I left it with him. Much to my surprise he started playing it himself and now he and his wife play tuba (a different one of course) with the Denver Brass.

As you can see from my avatar, I'm all rotors now and can't play a piston instrument because the valves will stick due to my habit of pressing laterally on the valves.
Jerry Wilkins
gwwilk@inebraska.com
Image
User avatar
gwwilk
3 valves
3 valves
 
Posts: 398
Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2004 1:06 am
Location: Lincoln, NE

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby lost » Sun Dec 09, 2018 11:02 am

Wow. Where to begin...

I still play on a B45 and sound great. I grew up in that era. Sometimes believe the hype.

Sousaphones in a band? Sure. They were after all envisioned with bell ups in a band.

Tuba teachers are apparently still recommending rotors over pistons re tony's post.

When i knew little about tubas i assumed rotors were higher end tubas. Ha.

I disagree that angle of stroke would make piston tubas undesirable. Never had a problem with pistons ever sticking based upon this in my 17 years of band directing.
J.W. York & Sons Artist

http://www.tubaist.com
User avatar
lost
moderator
moderator
 
Posts: 1198
Joined: Sun Mar 30, 2014 10:54 pm
Location: TubeNet Land

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby bort » Sun Dec 09, 2018 12:30 pm

Rambling...

Years ago I bought my nearly-new Miraphone 1291 from someone here (wow, like 13 or 14 years ago?!) It came with an Alteiri bag.

First time I put it back in the bag, the drawstring got caught on the 1st valve stem. Of course, I was being careful and slow, and noticed before anything bad ever happened.

I thought, "drawstring, what a terrible idea!"

The I saw the past from Alteiri to cover the valve section, and thought "what a hassle."

Then I saw the cap for the bell (another drawstring), and thought "I'll never use this again"

I ended up using that bag for several years, and never liked it. I didn't have any issues or damage, but I'm sure a less careful person could have easily bent some piston stems.

Not much better with rotary tubas, but different enough to not bend things.

Wait, is this the Alteiri thread or the piston one?

(Side note -- my current Gotz bag for the PT7 is a snug fit, but not problematic for the valves. I like the way Cronkhite bags fit with piston tubas... but there are things about the Cronks that I don't like, too.

Point is, be careful and you'll be fine. School tubas are likely to see a lot of wear and damage no matter what. There's a reason why those old American made tank-metal tubas last so long.
B&S 4198 (PT-7P)
User avatar
bort
6 valves
6 valves
 
Posts: 9611
Joined: Wed Sep 22, 2004 11:08 pm
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby scottw » Sun Dec 09, 2018 2:43 pm

[quote="gwwilk"]Way back in the late 1950's my high school band director furnished the tuba section with these. They worked wonderfully in the band room not only during practice but also to securely store our sousaphones.

+1!!! :D I used them from 8th grade through HS--sousaphones are all we had/needed and they stored and played [inside] on those Wenger stands. Built like tanks, never tipped over and the weight was not on the shoulder of the player.
Bearin' up!
scottw
5 valves
5 valves
 
Posts: 1398
Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2004 9:39 am
Location: South Jersey

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby bloke » Sun Dec 09, 2018 3:45 pm

pjv wrote:now we're really off topic;
K&M sous stands; often used them as a playing stand in long rehearsals. But in general; they suck!

Why? They're not trustworthy to leave the sousaphone in. There's just one flimsy bolt (screw, whatever) to the adjust the angle of the sousaphone in the stand. I own many K&M stands for many instruments; trombones, euphoniums, sousaphones, tubas (playing stands). They ALL, with no exception, have given out at the bolts (except the euph stand which has the irritating legs which are impossible to keep tightened. As well these stands just loose their bolts). 80% gave out within the first week.

One the other hand, I have two rather old tuba (storage/playing) Walberg & Auge stands that are still going strong (and I often re-adjust the positioning depending on my needs).


Thanks for keeping it off topic. :D

The primary point is that secondary public schools needlessly buy "specialty tubas" and spend a whole bunch of O.P.M. doing so (local property/sales tax money taken from struggling people who don't have the money to be confiscated from them in the first place) purchasing separate "marching" and "concert" tubas, with the secondary point (not "which brand of playing stand") being that sousaphones make wonderful concert band instruments. In the early 1970's we had/used fiberglass ones to audition for our *all-state chairs, but whatever... :|

...yeah...Way down the list of points was "stands" (I guess the came-later/fail-safe/more-difficult-to-knock-over/horrible-to-use for schools are Wenger's "sousa chairs"...??), where I mentioned a heavier brand and lighter brand of stands. We never knocked over our lightweight (USA-made - similar to K&B) sousaphone stands when I was 11 - 17 years old, but - then again - we also never knocked over the 1950's-made worn pistons (no dents/only-one-the-school-owned) King 3-valve tuba (which our director labeled "the bass horn") that the school owned, either...and (yes) I - more than most everyone - know that a huge percentage of secondary schools-owned tubas and sousaphones in schools today are knocked over with regularity...
...and I also know that a very large percentage of school tubas' 4th valves (due to them arriving in my shop lime-frozen) are never used.
=========================================
OK...since I've only seen one or two rotary-valves sousaphones in my 62 years, I guess my on-topic response, then, is :arrow: PISTON VALVES !!! :P :lol:
___________________________
*Is it just me...?? I've been to a few high-school honor band concerts over the years. Seemingly, most of what are programmed these days are graded/formula "band pieces". Occasionally (when a courageous clinic band director stretches out and actually programs a "music piece", eye-opening shortcomings are audible, which are significant (at least, compared to my memories and old analog recordings) when juxtaposed to similar bands' performances a half century ago.
User avatar
bloke
musician/technician/innovator
musician/technician/innovator
 
Posts: 41755
Joined: Sat May 08, 2004 6:04 pm
Location: western Tennessee

Re: Rotors and pistons ...again!

Postby Voisi1ev » Sun Dec 09, 2018 4:12 pm

bloke wrote:
bloke "...and yes, ~routinely~ knocked over...and it's pointless to post any 'not at my school' rebuttals. I know what I have dealt with for four decades, and its far too much experience - from schools with students at all sorts of income and cultural backgrounds - to refer to it as 'anecdotal'."



NOT AT MY SCHOOL!! My kiddos just set the horn valve side down, leave their MPs on when putting horns in cases so they get stuck, run into door jams with bells, never empty their spit, drop MPs on horns causing dents, shove their music in their case on their horns, and wear out sousaphone necks/screws quicker than need be. Other than that they are perfect!
User avatar
Voisi1ev
bugler
bugler
 
Posts: 132
Joined: Fri Jul 03, 2015 11:43 am
Location: Michigan

Next

Return to TubeNet

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: sloan and 27 guests