Wednesday, August 7, 2019

6/4 tubas

Interesting to see the “6/4” piston valve CC tuba becoming “the standard” around the World. When the “Original York” was created by Pop Johnson for Phillip Donatelli of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Donatelli found it difficult to fit on the chair with his considerable girth. So he recommended it to his student at the Curtis Institute, Arnold Jacobs. At Curtis, Arnold auditioned to play string bass but when the teacher, in broken English, asked him to play a minor scale, Arnold played the C minor scale. The teacher, wanting the A minor scale, rejected him. And so Arnold spent more time with the tuba. The orchestra director at Curtis, Fritz Reiner followed Arnold to the Pittsburgh Symphony and then the Chicago Symphony. And so the 6/4 York was the tuba sound with which Reiner was most familiar. Bottom of Form
Only two of those “6/4” CC tubas were built before York went out of business. Although Frank Holton, who shared many parts with York built his version in the 50’s, it was not exact so the York was not an available tuba. When I studied with Mr. Jacobs in 1968-72, we referred to his tuba as “5/4”. Now it is referred to as “6/4”. The tuba hasn’t changed. It is an arbitrary moniker based on perspective.
Anyway, it is a fascinating story of how the standard sound of the tuba has changed. Then there is the story about why the CC tuba (America only) and August Helleberg.  Another story.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

2017 Midwest Clinic Chicago

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

2017 SUNY Fredonia

Adolph Moser, Cleveland Orchestra

Adolph Moser was an interesting guy. He was the tuba player in the Cleveland Orchestra 1928-1950. That was before Chester Roberts. Sam Gnagey posted a question (2013) on Tubenet. I stumbled onto it today. Not a member, I couldn’t post a reply so here it is on my blog.
Adolph Moser came from Germany with two (maybe three?) Alexander tubas, the CC pictured lying on the floor and an automatic compensating, hollow valve F tuba. I asked Philippe Alexander about the F. He said they never made such a thing. I showed him a picture and he had to admit it was Alexander engraving. I’ve since seen another. The Alexander tuba from the Cleveland Orchestra files appears to be a BBb because of the horizontal tuning slide. I can verify the the Alex pictured without a player is Moser's and is pitched in CC. 
Moser also owned a Holton CC purchased in the U.S. It was a 4/4 with pistons like the Chicago York but with a .912 bore in the slides. I’ve seen these in BBb and CC.
Moser did take a year or two off. I don’t know if he played in NY or what, but his student Rudy Brehl filled in. When Moser retired, Brehl bought all three of Moser’s tubas. I played some green sheet concerts with Rudy when I lived in Cleveland. Rudy shared some stories about Moser. Moser would walk from his home in Cleveland Heights with both tubas under his arms and take the train from Terminal Tower into New York City to have Sansone clean his valves. On Sunday nights, Moser would often walk the 15 miles from his home to the Westlake Hotel in Rocky River for diner. He did this in full dress attire complete with spats. Then another 15 miles back home.

On Rudy’s death, his widow had the Alexander tubas overhauled. I took them home and photographed them and volunteered to help her sell them. Sadly, holes were buffed into the valve cluster on the CC. An amateur tubist bought the Holton and a Tuba player from Lakewood Ohio bought the F.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Dallas Wind Symphony to release album #16, Music of John Williams.

The Dallas Winds recently recorded our sixteenth album with Reference Recordings. It is a cross section of John Williams’ music from the movies, and we were told the arrangements were authorized by John Williams’ office which is very involved in this long-term recording project. Reference Recordings said this album will be released in the spring of 2017.

In this music every aspect of playing was challenged. “The Imperial March” and “The March from Superman” are from two of Williams’ oldest scores from the 1970’s, written for an orchestra with a full section of string basses. Basses have no problem playing those low articulated pedal point parts for page after page but on tuba it can become an athletic assignment.

The 844 responds so well in the low register that three pages of that repeated pattern isn’t the workout I expected. Trying to be heard over timpani is never fun but all I had to do was fill up with air and go. The color of the BMB tuba was up to the task.

The “Suite from JFK” (I’m not sure of the title will be, the suite was just completed) was a challenge for a different reason. While there were a lot of parts that were obviously string bass sustaining parts, the section of the suite representing the three fatal gunshots required an almost visceral performance. The notes had to be short but there also had to be substance in the sound. This tuba had it!

“Jedi Steps and Finale” from The Force Awakens had a menacing melodic motive. Scored just below the staff, I relied on the efficiency of the horn and the color of the 844’s sound to stand out from the low woodwinds without having to overbalance them.

On the other side of the spectrum, the music from the movie Lincoln, “With Malice Toward None,” was a huge challenge. Chris Martin of the Chicago Symphony & the New York Philharmonic played the solo for the movie and he was brought in to play it with us on the recording. The tuba part required the very softest attacks in the low register, extremely exposed.

There were also two sections that seemed to be tuba and solo trumpet duets. Playing in the same group with Chris Martin is intimidating, playing alone with him requires an instrument with consistent response and intonation so you can think about the music and not the tuba. I was happy to have BMB’s J-844 in my hands for that situation.

The technical challenges showed up in spades during the “Scherzo for X-Wings” from The Force Awakens. Thank the arranger for having the great idea to score tubas with the woodwind section on a musical line that moves like leaves in the wind. Just when you start to settle in, the line skips an octave… and then jumps back down. With a lesser tuba I would have been seriously challenged.

Rapid articulation in the low register was tested to the max by Williams in “The Cowboys.” Maestro Junkin likes fast tempos and he likes them a little faster than most people. That 16th note theme becomes an obstacle if your tuba has any response problems. No worries with J-844.

I’ve had people ask me if a 4 valve tuba is really a professional instrument. I can answer with a resounding yes! I did have to pull slides for one sustained low Db but in a brutal series of recording sessions, I only had to pull slides for low notes for that one note.

No challenge in this music was a problem for an instrument like the 844. Yes, I had to practice but I never had to fight the horn and that’s what we all look for. Don’t let the price fool you, this is one serious tuba.

Alex Cauthen

editor's note: The 845 plays like the 844 because the fifth valve is not in the open horn.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Fifth Valve Tension Strap aka Rubber Band aka Braid Band

After trial and error with different tension straps, players often see the wisdom of my original setup. Two, THREE or four small white rubber bands. There is security in numbers. Should one fail there are two more. They have the preferred tension and response. BTW I tried clock springs and 100 players who tried both preferred the 'tension strap'. So there you have it. Q. But where do you get those little white rubber bands? A. They can be found many places. One of the easiest is horse grooming for braiding mains. Here are a few sources averaging $5 for 500:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Well...I have now used my 845-16 in two concerts, and I am most happy with my purchase! My first chair alto saxophone player even commented on the difference in the sound just out of the blue. The sound is very clear and focused, the horn has a really nice pop to it, and is comfortable to play. The York was, and is, a great horn, but this one takes less effort to get a better result, especially in the low range. My "west coast" low range, which had all but disappeared for a long time, is well on its way back to normal. Playing is so much fun, I really feel like practicing all the time (I know, right?)-like a good book, it's hard to put down. Thank you for your flexibilty in helping me purchase this tuba. It's a definite advancement for me. You make a terrific product! 7/22/15 Regards, Richard Watson Prof. of Low Brass Valparaiso Univ.