Bass bell sizes

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Jonathantuba, Dec 9, 2008.

  1. Jonathantuba

    Jonathantuba New Member

    I was wondering what opinion is of the effect on the sound of the difference in bell size of the old Imperials with 15" and more modern basses with 19". Do you think the smaller bells project better outdoors?
  2. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Difficult to say how much difference the bell makes because there's so much else that's different between a 15" imperial and a modern sov - mainly concerning the bore and the leadpipe.

    In my experience a more medium-bore-ish instrument will generlly tend to project better - but will sound thinner and will have a tendency to 'bark' if you try and get it to project too much.

    Genrally you're better off playing the type of instrument that suits you as much of the time as you can, rather than chopping and changing, and aiming for a big sound wherever you play.


    Mines an Imperial and has a 19 " bell 4 valves and a sovereign lead pipe fitted to it...Ive yet to find anything better...The older ones with the 15 " bells sounded like a g trom on the march !:p
  4. Aussie Tuba

    Aussie Tuba Member

    if you want to project better out doors get a Sousphone !
    I just got one for just that reason and they are great out doors.
  5. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    I used one for 30 years with my Oompah band, great for showbiz presentation, and they do project well, (If you have a "Gudden"), but, and here Mr B might disagree, I would prefer a good normal tuba and a good pair of lungs for any playing that required musical subtlety. (Go on Steve have a laugh at that !)
    I like the 19" bell tubas, but I found that some of the modern lacquered ones rasped at big volumes in the lower register, but my fairly old SP Besson "New Standard" 19inch is a dream to play.

    - Wilkie
  6. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    Aussies right, Sousas do project better outdoors, probably because they are'nt pointing straight up where the birds and bees pick up most of the sound. But of course I agree with you Ian that for more "serious" music making I prefer the tuba.
    On a recent 7 piece concert, I played the sousa in the first half for the visual impact and "showbizzy" stuff, then sat with tuba (miked up) for second spot and found much more control.

    The bell on my sousa is 26", the tuba 19" and to me the sound is not too different.

    As for rasping, I don't think either of us were ever guilty of that Ian. (even the Pines of Rome "blaring bit" - somebody remind me of the correct term - where we were told it was too loud!) - Too loud? fff!
    Happy days :D
  7. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    As an aside, Sousa originally wanted the bells to point upwards, as he did not want a directional sound, but others felt they looked better pointing forwards :eek:
  8. Beesa

    Beesa Member

    Apologies for going off topic but I need some advice. I actually have both a 15" Imperial and a 19" Sovereign EEb. They are both quite flat throughout the register.

    It gets a bit frustrating having each band (including an Oompah band!) having to tune to me.

    I've tried different mouthpieces but that will only help so much. I can't believe they are both 'duds'. Is there any 'fix' for this?
  9. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    First things first, what size mouthpiece are you on? Playing on a mouthpiece that's too large can send an instrument flat very easily. I knew a chap who used to play Eb on a DW 1XL mouthpiece "for a big sound" :rolleyes: and insisted it was us that were out of tune - even though he was the only one of the four of us who couldn't get within a yard of the note.

    As Geoff Whitham often says when pointing to his ears "They're not just for holding the cap out of your eyes." Thinking the right note and listening to those around you is a big step in the right direction - but if you're not on an over-big mouthpiece, you're in tune when you play on other instruments, and find yourself struggling every time you play one of the 'flat' ones, then maybe they do need a bit chopping off them.

    To be honest, I'd not be surprised at a modern Sov being out of tune - they always need a bit of butchery to pull them into line, but Imperials are usually a lot better than that.
  10. Anonymous_user

    Anonymous_user New Member

    I disagree that old Imperial was a "medium" bore. Much of it is the same as the current sov (in bore) its just that the current sov was squashed down and made much wider that gives it the feel of being bigger.

    The old imperial was cleaner in production because it had a smaller lead pipe. (Limiting the speed of the air hitting the valve block) For me that was a great quality as the sov of today, often is very muddy in quick music.

    The imperial also didnt IMHO have a smaller sound. (Try telling Derek Jackson that!!) This sound business is all to do with what you do with the airstreem. If you are playing on a bucket of a gob iron that doesnt fit your physical stature it will bark !! you are not in control of the airstreem. ie No back pressure!!

    At the end of the day if you are making an instrument sound thin and barking its because you are not playing in the correct way.
  11. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    Ooo the truth hurts! Can they stand it?!?
  12. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    There's no arguing with that.

    The old imperial I used to have was a very much narrower bore than the sov I moved onto when I joined my current band though. To the point where I had to change mouthpiece because the shank of my old one disappeared almost entirely into the leadpipe of the sov and sent me so sharp the tuning slide had to be sellotaped in to stop it falling out.

    It may have just been a peculiarity of that particular imperial though. I couldn't swear to it being absolutely standard, and I don't pretend to have even a quarter the experience that you do! :)
  13. tubbytuba

    tubbytuba Member

    I play an old Besson 4v Bb (the frosted finnish model) it seems to be a bit of a rairety as its got a 19" bell, its a great old instrument to play ive played models with the smaller bell but this old boy sounds beautiful,its got a super tone and great sound production,ive also managed to recase it into the new modern design winter case all in all a good combination.Can anyone give me some more info on this model,i would say its a late sixtys early seventies tuba and serial no if req can be posted
  14. BbBill

    BbBill Supporting Member

    We've got an old besson frosted 4 valve BBb Bass, altho 17" bell I think. Looks like it was made out the same metal a spitfire's engine is made out of, hardy stuff! I played it when I was younger but never had a mouthpiece with the smaller shank, so my mouthpiece continually kept falling out!

    Havnt really played it for years, so cant remember what its like, altho there was word of them getting rid of it, but is it a good model to keep and maybe get overhauled?
  15. Tim Fermor

    Tim Fermor New Member

    My pennyworth
    I play the Besson Eb sovereign with a Denis Wick 2L mouthpiece and this seems to be the best combination for me - nice and lots of tone when played sensibly but gets a real raspy bark if I want it to. (of course when the stlye of music needs it - not my poor technique - ha ha ha ha ha). having played a couple of smaller "belled" instruments I have to agree that it does not seem to make much difference as long as the mouthpiece suits the player.
    On the subject of raspy barks I would just say that at a practice recently the conductor (who is very good and a nice bloke but seems to have no concept of double meanings) said (aimed at me) following one particularly triple fortissimo eruption: " basses, you dont have to blow your bell-end off, it wont work so well in the future if you do"
  16. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    Well I agree with using a Wick 1 XL to test them with. Generally big bells produce a bigger sound and take more air. Smaller bells take less air and are more nimble.


    Since Wick makes sizes 3, 2, 1, 1XL, 2 XL, 3XL -- the 1XL is a great mouthpiece.

    And if you REALLY want to have fun on the march, find an old Eb helicon. :biggrin:

    By now you have probably found a solution -- I hope all the advice was helpful
  17. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    I used this combination for a lot of years and it suited me very well, I just felt so comfortable with it.
    - Wilkie
  18. Anonymous_user

    Anonymous_user New Member

    The shanks were smaller. Thats why they were more nimble. I used to send my gob iron to an engineer to make it fit.

    Dont you think bands tend to sound very "Muddy" today?

    Les Niesh plays on a tuba with a small bell and his sound is fantastic. Very clear and huge at the same time.
  19. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    Apparently Andy Cresci at Bournemouth Symphony has just swapped back to a 15" bell EEb Imperial from a Sovereign. That's what I've been told anyway, might be rumour!

    I'm certainly enjoying my 30 year old 17" Bell BBb Imperial a lot better than the Sovereign 994GS, and even LMI Royal (Built for me!), that I regularly use. In fact I'm using it for everything I do publicly, and the others just sit in band rooms for rehearsals!!

    I've shaved down one of my usual Mike Finn 3's to fit the smaller reciever, and it works like a dream. Lot easier to play, clearer, better projection and better in tune.

    I also have a 15" EEb Imperial (With a Mike Finn 4) that I use at school (or for standing up stuff!) and I love the sound I get out of it. Certainly a lot better than the sound get out of a modern Sovereign EEb, but that could definitely be me!

  20. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Ah, that explains it!

    Now that you mention it, I did find it much easier to play twiddly stuff with clarity (well, as much clarity as I can usually muster...) on the old imperial. It just seemed to all come out a lot easier. I used to use the imperial for 10-piece/small ensemble jobs as recently as a couple of years ago and it was a great instrument for just about everything.

    It's always been one of my major frustrations since moving onto BB on our current sovs. I haven't ever got the same sort of clarity I used to have back into my playing even after 4 years. Looks like there may be a reason other than me not practising enough. (Though that'll still be the main one!!) :oops: