Advice on BBflat Bass

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Elwood, May 26, 2015.

  1. Elwood

    Elwood New Member

    This might seem a bit of an unusual request for advice, however.
    I play Tenor Horn in a small community band which is struggling to find a BBflat Bass player. As there are four horn players, we’ve been asked if one of us might like to try the BBflat Bass. I’m considering taking up the “challenge” and having a go, but I’m wondering how difficult it would be to transfer. The mouthpiece looks a bit scary as it seems to swallow the lower face.
    Are notes produced in the same way as with other brass instruments? That is, are they tongued, as with the Horn, or are they blown with mighty puffs of exploding lips?
    What would be a recommended mouthpiece? On the Horn, I use a Heritage 2A.
    Any sensible advice would be welcome even if it’s – “leave the beast alone” and I thank you in anticipation.
  2. David Evans

    David Evans Active Member

    Hi, one of our cornets, a twenty year old, was in a road accident and cut his upper lip quite badly. After a month or so he was finding he couldn't play Sop properly so moved to BBb bass. He has never looked back and in the nine months since it happened has improved in leaps and bounds and has now decided to stay on the beast until the end of time. I expect our bass colleagues will help you with sensible advice but I understood from non-basses that you need to have an IQ lower than your collar size to be a real star.
    Good luck
  3. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    I have had the odd go on "The Monster" including one Whit Friday (I was a cornet player by normal trade at the time....)
    Main issue is you have to pre-empt the note a little bit - a tenor horn or cornet is fairly instantaneous, but the length of tubing on a BB means that you actually have to blow a fraction (and it is only a fraction) earlier. Other than that, notes are produced in the same way - just dont expect the instrument to be quite as light on semiquaver passages.....
  4. David Evans

    David Evans Active Member

    meanwhile, back at the ranch...
    I would really go for it, you are unlikely to wreck your existing embouchure and if you have the carrying strength then have a go, some decent wheels may help. Our BBbs like to show off with a few pedals periodically thrown in so everyone gets to know about it.
    You will be sitting directly in front of the drums so you'll get their take on timing, and I am sure your MD, like all MDs will be kind, supportive, encouraging and complimentary so everything to play for -in every sense.
    I would just be a little careful about the 4th valve wrong-note auto-correct function as it is not entirely reliable.
    Best of luck
  5. hobgoblin

    hobgoblin Member

    At the very top level I'd imagine the best Bb players are on a par with any of the other instrumentalists. In the lower sections there does seem to be an element of 'put the fat kid in goal' about selection for Bb bass suitability. I think it's a good thing that there is still room for people who can't read music or perhaps have some fingers missing to participate in banding by playing this much maligned monster.
  6. Bbmad

    Bbmad Active Member

    All this Bb bashing. My eyes can barely believe what they are reading. I recently swapped over to Trombone and I was amazed to have found it incredibly easy, compared to the Bb.

    Granted, there are not so many stellar Bb players around, but that is because it is an incredibly difficult instrument to correctly master. There are only a few players that have achieved excellence on this, the most supreme instrument. Many great players have tried and failed.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 28, 2015
  7. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Well done for being enough of a team player as to be willing to do ‘your turn’ on what seems to be an unpopular instrument. I’ve played a BBb, in the distant past, and recall the music being easy enough (compared to the rest of the band and easier than the Eb Bass’s) but playing the instrument does hold a few small challenges. Setting the small complication of moving from an Eb to a Bb instrument aside transfer should be easy enough; BBb players are often slated for their low IQ – sometimes unfairly – so what can be so difficult about BBb’s?

    Some people who play a BBb use a playing stand to support the instrument, not knowing that they were available I managed without but (now) wonder whether I’d have found one helpful. I suggest that you investigate what might work for you, BBb’s are (IMHO) heavy and unwieldy.

    As I recall the notes are produced in much the same way as on a Tenor Horn (I’ve played one of those too); on a Bass you just use a longer length of your lips to (more slowly) vibrate into the mouth piece plus a lot more air. It might take a while for your chops be adjust and build strength.

    To start with just use the mouthpiece that comes with the instrument. If non is with it then I believe that a Wick 3 or 4 is a good place to start, likewise a Bach 24AW. This website might be helpful to you:

    Bye for a while, 2T
    Last edited by a moderator: May 28, 2015
  8. Bbmad

    Bbmad Active Member

    Good points, go for a wick, 2T knows all about them
    Last edited by a moderator: May 28, 2015
  9. owain_s

    owain_s Member

    If in doubt, frown at the slides for a moment, then move one of them. Nobody will have a clue what you actually did.
  10. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    Physically BBb bass is the most challenging instrument in a brass band, I have played all of them except Eb Sop and Flugel.

    technically it may not get as many notes to play but unless you've had a go you can't understand the challenge.
  11. Adamskied

    Adamskied Member

    Ever heard Dean Morley play a BBb?

    He can make a BBb sound better than nearly all EEb players.

    One of our BBB players did a Desford tour and Dean played.

    Our guy said he has never heard someone play a bass like that in his life, plays it like a euph player.
  12. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Several irrelevant, insulting and personal posts have been removed. If we are unable to have a sensible discussion without childishness and name-calling then the thread will be closed.
  13. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    I thought my post was quite humorous, but it's gone !!! ( I wish I'd saved it, I was quite proud of it :) )

    ~ Mr Wilx
  14. Bbmad

    Bbmad Active Member

    I also found your post to be very well crafted and humerous. Unfortunately the Gestapo have had a humour bi pass today.

    Which is a shame.
  15. mattthebass

    mattthebass Member

    I don't know what chairs you have in your bandroom, but the first thing I'd do is invest in a chair with plenty of room. There is nothing worse than your bass slipping off the chair and trying to take your teeth with it! Most basses don't have the knob on the bottom now so bass 'rests/stands' aren't that useful. The modern version I found you slip off, best to rest it on the chair.

    Ok the parts can be boring at times, but I'd concentrate on quality of production before worrying I don't have a demi-semi-whatever to play. Getting your notes short and precious is an art on a BBb, you'll find that diaphragm which most players never use! Believe it or not relaxing your jaw enough to play those pedal notes is actually quite tiring and needs you to be in fettle and skill. Contary to what most people will tell you are is quite a lot of skill in playing BBb, to be honest in many ways it is harder than EEb.

    My dad had a spell on Cornet after 30 years on BBb and found he couldn't get rid of his air playing, he needed to breath out before breathing in again to play. Your lungs will be burning for the first few weeks, but before you know it they're up to the job.

    Once you've got the pitching down I'd get the books out and practise quavers, getting them clean and learning to 'punch' with your diaphragm, it's the best tool you've got and not being derogatory to any other instrument you'll never have used it to it's full power. If you watch a Cornet player they tend to play from their chest, watch a bass player he plays from his stomach.

    All in all don't believe what you hear from those smaller instruments (you know who you are!), anyone can play any instrument, but playing any brass instrument well needs practise and skill. Basses need teamwork more than any other rank ,I think that's why you find we tend to stick together more when socialising. You are very dependant on each other and this makes it a great rank to be part of!

    Hope you enjoy it and don't worry the body gets the idea quite soon!
    Last edited: May 28, 2015
  16. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Hi Ian,

    The problem was that your post - although undoubtedly witty - depended to some extent on some of the posts which had been deleted.
  17. mattthebass

    mattthebass Member

    PS regarding the mouthpiece, the best I've ever played on was a Bach24AW, however these are quite expensive and having said that I play on a Wick 1 at the moment! I'm no expert but I wouldn't go smaller than a Wick 2 to start on, anything smaller I think is too small for the BBb and you'll struggle on the lower register. But as said earlier if there is a mouthpiece there use that for a start, as paying £80+ for a mouthpiece when you are not sure you'll stay on the instrument is a big investment.
  18. MrBaritone

    MrBaritone New Member

    I have to agree with Mattthebass's advice re a chair. You will certainly need a chair with plenty of room. I would also advise seeking one with RSJ. The bass itself is very heavy, as are the people who play them. The last thing you want is a cheap chair that breaks not long after purchase.
  19. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    I'll settle for that Peter, as long as I'm not in disgrace !

    ~ Mr Wilx
  20. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    i have it on an email.....thought it quite humorous too.....

    Would be interested to get the mods thoughts on Bb bass as he plays one.....?

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