I am honored and flattered that a number of exceptional tubists have chosen Big Mouth Brass J-445 F tubas. Among them are Don Harry, Scott Mendoker, Alex Cauthen, Andy Smith and several others.
Alex Kidston has documented his experience. Alex is the one of the foremost tubists in Ireland. I met him at the Ohare airport where he took delivery. I share his experience edited only to keep it concise.
Alex Kidston, brass tutor at National University of Ireland Maynooth, tuba player at vox merus, and busy freelancer in Dublin Ireland.
As promised, I wanted to write with feedback on the J445 after the week's work (attached is a pic from backstage at Dublin's National Concert Hall before the John Wilson Broadway Sounds programme with the RTE Concert Orchestra).
I have received nothing but compliments from my colleagues, both in the quintet (where I used the PT16) and the orchestra (where I used the Baer). The J445's breadth and colour of sound are reminiscent of the great horns from the American tradition (Conn, York, King) but with the added benefit of the modern layout, bore and 5th valve. Incidentally, I'm using a Perantucci PT50 mouthpiece which is similar in depth to the one you provided.
As I mentioned, I've owned a Conn monster Eb, a Rusk cut Martin CC and a small York Eb through the years so I am very familiar with the warmth and character of sound that these designs and layouts yield. Your modern interpretation is not only true to the original but also the first modern improvement on that design.
Intonation on the J445 has settled easily for me. I'm still experimenting with alternate fingerings and slide pulls but have settled on manipulating only the 1st & 3rd slide. One interesting variation on the fingering chart you have that I noticed is the use of 514 for the A below the staff and 5124 for the Ab below the staff. For me, this allows for a full sound and slots in perfectly.
The piston valves are responding well to the Holton oil, the rotor to a Hetman light oil - the slides are moving smoothly with a combination of both oils and a bees-wax based slide cream formulated by George Wall, ex Royal Opera House tuba player.
In my opinion, the J445 is an all-round F tuba with a more substantial sound capability and character than its Yamaha / Miraphone / Gronitz / Melton / B&S piston counterparts. It is probably most similar to the older Conn 3J / 4J CC tubas but with the clarity of F tuba intonation.
I'm hoping to record the 5tet concert that we have on Wednesday but at the very least will have another picture for you - anything that can help get the word out about your excellent achievements!
Thanks as ever for all of your help & speak soon!
...continues to be amazing - show tonight with jazz singer Kurt Elling, J445 slotting in and giving the round, solid warmth in the arrangements that I'm after - discovered a very effective 3rd valve fake note option for the double pedal F :-)
As promised, some more feedback on the F - we had a quintet recital this past Wednesday and I really put the J445 through its paces.
I enjoyed playing the J445 as although I am still nailing down alternate fingerings / slide pulls, the sound and response is the best match I've found to the perfect F / Eb tuba I've got playing in my head. The J445 in my experience seems closest to the Besson 983 in its weight, timbre and facility but I would argue that its classic design and pitching in F allows it more clarity and more substance when needed.
My colleagues also enjoyed playing with the J445 in the quintet - they are English, Scottish & Irish so have primarily played with Eb tubas. Our previous concert had me on the PT16 and all agreed that your instrument allowed for a much stronger, warmer sound in the chamber music setting, allowing for more contrast of sound and dynamics in the entire group.
To put this in context, I've played my way though the following bass tubas over the years:
Conn Monster Eb, Besson 983 Eb, Besson 982 Eb, Besson Imperial Eb, York small Eb, Willson small compensating Eb, Yamaha YFB621 F, Gronitz PF125 F, Meinl Weston 45SLP F, B&S Symphonie F, B&S PT16 F.
As you can see, I've sampled the lot and have been on the lookout for an F tuba that combines the versatility of the Eb sound with the clarity, timbre and intonation of an F - the J445 really is the closest to this ideal I've found.
At the moment, I'm doing my final set up for fingerings and valve slides, and have settled on using the sharper 12 combination with 1st valve pull on mid range A's & D's as well as 234 for low A, 124 for low Bb and 5234 for low G.
This coming week, we've Traviata on the books, so it will be another contrasting soundscape to fit into!
Hi - just rehearsing Traviata, tuba is slotting in perfectly - I did Aida on the PT16 last autumn and can already feel that the J445 is far more suited and capable in this repertoire. The larger bore and resonant bugle really promote an ease through octave passages with winds & strings as well as absolutely solid tone in tutti brass section passages.
I've adapted my set up, with the 5th slide out 2.5 inches to allow for the true combinations as you've listed on your fingering chart from Bb down...I've also discovered that the best fake fingering for double pedal F is actually 13!
Hope this is all of use - also, let me know if there's anyway to get a silver & pearl set of finger buttons - in a perfect world, I'd be after a set of the same size as on the Baer...I'm happy to contact Melton to get a custom set made but I want to check on the specs - I think the J445 has 3/16 (.1875) inch screws with 32 TPI...close?
Hi - hope all is well with you both - latest update below...
First Traviata in the can, enjoyed your instrument immensely. The sound and feel really frees me up for technical and range passages, as well as giving needed oomph at the end of tutti chords, the latter being something I missed entirely on the German F!
I'm in the process of a few customisations:
. added O rings to the 1st & 3rd valve upper tuning slides to eliminate 'clack'
. have taken the calipers out and submitted valve finger button measurements to Dan Oberloh in Seattle to craft me a bespoke set with pearl inlay - I'll send you pictures!
. looking at a way to replicate the Meinl Weston tuning slide chords for the 1st & 3rd to prevent them falling out when the tuba is on its bell
. trying to source a Baer PVAK kit for the valves - again, will let you know how I get on
All of the above are really expressions of how pleased I am with the J445 - kudos again on a brilliant design feat!
No sign of the ex Chief, but got nothing but compliments on the J445 - this is interesting because the Ulster Orchestra brass section is a truer extension of the UK Eb tuba tradition than their Irish counterparts. The main comments were the breadth of sound and the intonation, based on the slide-pulling 5-valve design vs compensating, particularly in the low register. Today's repertoire was Fanfare for the Common Man & Movement 3 from Alwyn Green's arrangement of Holst's Moorside Suite.
Again, your J44
Worked a charm today on Grieg's Hall of the Mountain King and Sibelius' Finlandia - I can't tell you how refreshing it is to play a moderately sized instrument suited to a light orchestra, that has a bore large enough to take a full dynamic range, a warm, resonant core of sound, as well as being fully tuneable ie. non-compensating :-)
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