Baritones: 4 valves or 3?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Veri, Dec 20, 2006.

  1. Veri

    Veri Member

    Being a euphonium player, who sometimes plays baritone, but doesn't know very much about them, I'm wondering if anyone can answer this question: are 4 valves better than 3? When did baritones start having a 4th valve (or have they always done?). How much of a difference does it make???
  2. persins

    persins Member

    Verity, being a cornet player who has very occasionally played baritone, I would normally expect baritones to have 3 valves.

    I would expect that the 4th valve would make a difference with respect to tuning etc. in the same way as a Euph or Bass. I'm sure that as the prominence and difficulty of the baritone parts grow, 4 valve instruments will become increasingly popular.
  3. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    The downside to the ones I've seen, (a yamaha at Fulham and one of unknown brand seen on a contest stage) is that they are more like small Euphs. The bore seems to be appreciably wider than on the old three valve B&H and Besson that we have at Fulham. If they are authentic Baritones, then a 4th valve is a plus.
  4. Veri

    Veri Member

    Besson's most expensive model is a 4 valve one. But I'm not sure about the bore size - I guess that would affect the "baritone-ness" of the sound. Actually, the last but one baritone I played (as I dep on baritone sometimes, I'm always borrowing different ones), was a 4 valve one, and I had more of a euphoniumy sound, but that could reflect the fact that it was a better model in better condition.
  5. barrytone

    barrytone Member

    Baritones - 3 valves or 4?

    I have played baritone for many years and have predominantly played the three valved models of various makes. I have several friends who also play baritone and their views and opinions seem split, depending on which part they play. If they play solo baritone, most tend to prefer the standard three valves; friends who play second like the four valved version better.

    The only assumption I can make is that the solo baritone tends to play in the higher register and therefore players find the three valved model easier if this is the part they play; whereas the second baritone can often play very low parts and the fourth valve is useful in this respect. Baritone players who are ex-euph players often prefer the four valved version, which I assume is because the euph they played had a fourth valve which they used effectively.

    I prefer a three valved, lacquered Sovereign; lacquered seems to warm up faster than bsp and stays warmer for longer. For me, it gives a glorious sound, warm and resonant with just a little edge when necessary.

    In the end, it comes down to the personal choice of the player, my advice is to try as many makes and models as you can before you decide which instrument you wish to purchase or play.
  6. i prefer 3 valve baritones and euph and bass to have for valves! but this may be because i have found it much easier like this and one of the fourth valve baitones i have played on was extermely heavy for a baitone!
  7. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    4-valve baritones are a gimmick... Consider...

    Firstly, let's deal with the possible positives:

    1) It allows the player to reach the notes below low F#.
    But there are no parts for the instrument that call for these notes, and very few that even approach that range. True, if 4-valve baritones were common, people might start writing below low F#, but the tone is rather like that of a hose, and the notes are not easy to obtain - that's the reason why baritone parts almost never descend below low C.
    In addition to this, the design of the model I have tried on various occasions (Sovereign) is faulty in the compensating tubing on the 3rd valve, which is significantly too short, and not adjustable (whereas on a euphonium that particular loop has a slide). The result is that non-pedal notes below low E (3 leger lines) are uncorrectably sharp.

    2) It aids the tuning in the low register by supplying alternative fingerings.
    No it doesn't. The usual 3-valve compensating system on a baritone does the job very nearly perfectly down to the low F#.

    3) It helps with the fingering on low, fast passages.
    And how many of these are there in the baritone repertoire? In any case, it doesn't - coordinating movement of the left hand with the right hand is just as difficult as coordinating the movement of the fourth fingers. There are passages that one could write that would be easier with a 4th valve - but nobody wants to write them for baritone anyway; it isn't a happy instrument in the low register.

    Now let's look at a few minus points of the design:
    1) It's too heavy.
    Very nearly as heavy as a euphonium, in fact - a recipe for back damage. The Sovereign isn't easy to hold either.

    2) The bore has been increased.
    It feels very much like it on the Sovereign, anyway. Now it sounds much more like an old-style euphonium (think Boosey & Co. "Class A" from the 20s) than what we know as a baritone. The tonal variety in that register will be lost, and bands will sound a bit more big and woofy at the expense of tonal "lightness".
    In addition, playing high for long periods (the baritone's "home territory") will be much harder work.
    Having said that, the German "tenor horn" solo in Mahler's 7th symphony would be pretty much ideally suited to this instrument with its greater tonal weight and saxhorn bore profile. We're straying a little from the brass band baritone though...

    3) The compensating system is poorly implemented.
    As discussed under "positive" point number (1) above.

    It seems like a no-brainer to me to stick with the 3-valve versions...
  8. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    4 valves for me always.
    A god send to us Baritone Players
  9. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    But why?
  10. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Most baritone players only use the 1st two anyway ;)
  11. Griffis

    Griffis Member

    I'm a Cornet/Flugel/Trumpet player, so I can't possibly give any input to this discussion, but I will ask MoominDave a question...does your Bass Trombone have triggers and arent they the same as a fourth valve??

    Excuse my lack of knowledge in this field!!
  12. Di

    Di Active Member

    I have my own sovereign baritone and have had it since new. Rehearsing for the area this year, I had one note which was particularly out of tune, and lipping wasn't helping, so was asked to use the bands spare 4 valve. I've got to say, as one or two others have, I found it very heavy and also very uncomfortable to hold. I couldn't find a happy place for my thumb and my hand seemed to feel more stretched, thus reducing my (already slow) finger movement. I stuck it out for a while after the area because I assumed I was supposed to carry on using it, then one night I thought sod it, I just can't do this anymore and switched back to mine. That evening I was told "thats the best I've heard you play for ages". :-? I had to confess to switching back to my own instrument, but was told if that's what it takes, stick with it. :biggrin:
  13. Baritonedeaf

    Baritonedeaf Member

    A friend of mine who used to work for Boosey and Hawkes, then Besson before the recievership advised me against getting a 4 valve Sovereign Baritone. I have always played a 3 valve version, the brass band standard, and must say that i wanted to try a 4 valve to see what it was like.

    He said that the design had a number of flaws, especially with tuning and the fact that there was so much tubing twisted round in the smaller shape of the Bari that they often play in a more stuffy fashion. But for the odd solo orginally written for Euph, i have never had to play below F# down there, and being a 1st Bari am far more used to playing at the top of the stave and above than down below the stave. I also play a number of notes on 3rd valve at present - top A especially - and tuning on that is perfect, so as the 3rd valve does not have the same compensating system, i would be worried about being out of tune on some of those notes that always pop up in pieces.

    If that makes sense.
  14. Veri

    Veri Member

    Thanks everyone - it's really interesting to read the replies, and especially about the "science" of it! I should have set up a poll with the post!
  15. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    No excusing necessary! Quite right, the thumb trigger is (usually) tuned the same way as a standard 4th valve. The difference between bass trom and baritone is that, while they both have the same basic tubing length, the bass trom plays the notes that require this extra tubing much of the time, while the baritone never does.

    Somebody (a highly respected pro) posted on another board recently that he used to own a couple of bass trombones that he'd had fitted with THREE triggers. Which sounds pretty redundant to me, but he liked being able to play notes in pretty much any given position. Kind of the same order of pointlessness as fitting a baritone with a 4th valve.
  16. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    I think there is some confusion here about the compensating system. A combination of valves always equates to a fixed length route through the instrument. The instrument is not a mind reader it doesnt know if you are playing high or low.
    An Eb and an Ab are both played on 2/3 and therefore use the same length of tubing.
    However these two notes require a different length of tubing to be perfectly in tune.
    And that is what 4th valves are for - they let you play low notes in tune by giving the slightly longer length of tubing required. The larger the instrument the more exagerated the difference, hence the reason Euphs and Bases need the extra valve.

    Theoreticaly, 4 valves should always be more in tune than 3 valves and I can't understand why they are considered unusual on Baritones. Even cornets and flugels have triggers on the 3rd valve for the same tuning reasons and they should be less susceptible than the bigger baritones.
  17. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    The fourth valve enables playing the bottom Fs in Isaiah 40 ?

    Oh no, sorry that's the cornet parts... (see the Isaiah 40 thread...) :p

    Hating to disagree with my esteemed colleague...
    2nd bari DOES quite often operate in that register, and no its not a "happy" place to be - but that doesn't stop the composers and arrangers!
    Mind you, I find its more of a mindset thing - remembering that I've only got 3 valves available!

  18. I would say, of own experience, that the 4 valve baritone is a much better instrument than the 3 valved one. Before I got mine, I used to play on a 3 valved Sovereign. I've actually tried out a lot of 3 valved baritones. My baritone (the 4 valved one) takes much more air, which obviously makes it harder to play. However, I feel that the sound of this baritone is much better, no untuned tones, and it makes a lot of things much easier. I don't know what I would have done without the 4th valve on some of the pieces I've been through......

    Well, the point is that my 4 valved baritone fits me, but I wouldn't say that it's the best choice for everyone. You'll have to try them out yourselves and see whats best...
  19. JessopSmythe

    JessopSmythe Active Member

    Compensating and 4th Valves are two entirely different things! It is quite possible to have 3 valve, comensating instruments as well as 4 valve, none compensating. Having a 4th valve will not help you get an Eb or Ab in tune since the compensating system only comes into play when the 4th valve is in use!
  20. kensar

    kensar Member

    Baritone 3 or 4 valve?

    Definitely 4 valve. Mainly for tuning. If you tune a 3 valve to get Low C sharp/D flat in tune you pass the problem on to D sharp/E flat; G sharp/ A flat etc,etc. I also seem to remember some 1st baritone parts of New Jerusalem that were made a lot more playable on the 4 valve instrument. Very difficult on a 3 valve.