Choosing an Eb Tuba (Bass)

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by busman, Sep 15, 2015.

  1. busman

    busman New Member

    Hi all

    My first post so please be kind!

    Looking to buy a tuba for my daughter. She is currently playing a single Bb that is over 100 years old, leant to her by the band. They are talking about moving her on to Eb and happy for this as she is soon to start playing in the school symphonia and I understand orchestras use Eb Tuba in the UK.

    Was wondering whether anyone had some good advice on makes and models or if there was a comparison review website somewhere? The Wessex tubas seem to come up a lot in searches here, are they any good, not heard of them before? What should I be looking for in an instrument?

    I am an occasional trombone player nowadays so have some brass experience!

  2. Thom

    Thom New Member

    Hopefully someone more knowledgeable will come along in a bit and give you more reliable advice but here goes with mine - I think Wessex Tubas are as good as anything (up to a point) at half the price. You (can) get a pretty poor quality "named" product like a Besson Sovereign for double the price or, if you're lucky, a great quality Besson Sovereign for double the price, it can be a bit of a lottery (if you'll excuse the pun). I would suggest that for your daughter a Wessex Tuba, together with all the sound (another pun for those not paying attention) advice they can offer, is a good choice.
  3. busman

    busman New Member

    Thanks Thom for the advice, look forward to hearing others. Are you a bass player?
  4. Thom

    Thom New Member

    Yes. I use a Sovereign but they vary so much in quality that unless you are something of an expert and are prepared to try a few and can discriminate you might end up with a duff one for a whole load of money. I think the Wessex guys have pretty good quality control and these generic tubas are much better quality than they used to be.
  5. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Active Member

    Thom's advice is sound.

    I know much less about Eb Basses but have played them from time to time. I have also done a little playing with an amateur Orchestral group. My comments are more general but I hope that they help.

    Tuba's are available with three or four valves, with compensating or non compensating valves and with larger and smaller bells. They are also available with piston and rotary valves. A lot of complex choices to try and figure out what would best suit your daughter's needs and at what price.

    Ask the band she plays with whether she can borrow an instrument, consider renting for a while and ask whether the pitch range of a three valve instrument is sufficient for the pieces they would want her to play - what are the Orchestra's and the Band's musical needs?

    Basically Tubas are heavy and expensive, three simple valves and a small bell is the lightest and cheapest route but does it and will it later match her needs? IMHO Eb is the better pitch/instrument to go for rather than F, CC or BBb - adding the fourth valve (which acts like the trigger on a Trombone) for the EEb's additional low range is probably a bit better again.

    As I understand it Wessex Tubas have been refined over the years, an earlier one might not be as refined as the current offerings. Packers also sell student Tubas and there have been positive comments on this forum, and others, about Packer badged instruments.

    If you go for an older instrument you might get real value but I would try to avoid anything originally built in high pitch and anything not in really tidy condition.

    I hope that helps.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2015
  6. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    Indeed - looks like very good advice.

    There have also been some seriously negative comments as well about Packers - I should know, I've made a number of them. Many of their own-badged instruments are cheap for a reason. Their quality control is nowhere near most others. Fine for beginners, but will need replacing if you want to improve.

    Does your daughter have a teacher?
    Have you asked what they think?
  7. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Hi busman, welcome to the forum. Could you let us know your budget? Also, do you think your daughter will stick with it? And how soon do you need it?

    A new EEb of any quality is going to be fabulously expensive. My first port of call would be eBay, and spend a few weeks or months looking at the going rate. knowing the market means you won't get done over.

    Don't bother with a three valve, or a single Eb. You'll regret it if she ends up sticking with playing, because you'll end up having to buy a new one, and you'll regret it if she doesn't stick with it, because you won't be able to sell it on without losing your shirt.

    Look at some old Imperials and Sovs on eBay.

    If you could let us know some answers to the questions above, then we'll be in a better position to advise.
  8. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Active Member

    Guess I stand corrected on a few things.

    For information an older four valve Eb I have in my shed weights 16 kg cased, that might be a little on the heavy side for most school girls to carry around or any distance.

    I wouldn't recommend a parent spending a lot on a new three valve instrument as their resale market is limited to the quite young/not yet strong, the aged/now weak, the intermediate player and the poor (like me). Wessex used to sell three valve Eb's but they don't seem to be listed on their website now.

    As a (past) player my recollection is of three valves being enough for nearly anything but only someone playing a bass at a similar level and setting to your daughter will know whether a fourth valve is essential for her. It is difficult to know how far she will progress but I believe that post ABRSM grade 5 a fourth valve is needed for some exam pieces - sorry to have forgotten to mention it earlier - so up to that level just three valves should be fine enough? A teacher's view is needed on this please.

    Wish I'd thought to spell out talking to your daughter's teacher(s) and bandmaster, etc.

    Edit. For this question the most expert person in this forum that I can think of who might help you is Mike Lyons. He used to be a Secondary School Music Teacher, plays an Eb Bass, conducts and composes. Worth a private message to him?

    Edit. I have now checked the ABRSM site for Grade 8 Tuba and discovered that whilst some pieces might need a fourth valve to play them as written those pieces can be modified.

    This syllabus may be offered on an Eb , F, Bb or C tuba. The syllabus is suitable for three-valved instruments at all grades. For those pieces containing notes that require a 4th valve (and where an ossia is not published), candidates may adapt the affected.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2015
  9. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Member

    The Wessex Tubas offer very good value for money and would highly recommend them to anyone.
    After sales service is good too.
  10. busman

    busman New Member

    Thanks everyone, there is some really helpful advice in here.

    To answer some of the questions:
    She is around Grade 4 so am thinking of getting a used instrument for about £1000, then in a couple of years upgrade to something better.
    I'm looking at getting as a surprise Christmas present so got a few months to keep an eye on things.
    Her teacher is the bandmaster and I will be chatting with him when I can without my daughter being in earshot!
    The band hasn't got one they can lend, the only bass they have at the moment is the Bb that she is currently playing, it's only a small village band.

    Thanks again for all your help guys.
  11. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    OK, Grade 4, so you almost certainly want a 4-valve, full-size EEb if it is to last her a few years. Just had a quick browse on eBay and found this: Tuba EEb 4 valve Imperial by Boosey & Hawkes
    It's an Imp from the late 60s and costs £850. Looks in pretty solid nick, but would need a service. Depending where you are based, geographically, folks on here can recommend repair shops. If you can haggle the guy down, then you might be able to use the difference between the actual price and your budget to have it professionally serviced and have the dents removed.
    busman likes this.
  12. busman

    busman New Member

    Good spot DS2014 and not far away from me. I'll keep an eye on it. Thanks
  13. pbirch

    pbirch Member

    just to throw a practical question here for you before spending a lot of money on an instrument,
    How is music (and particularly playing the tuba) going to fit in with her academic activities over the next few years ? Many parents buy instruments only for them to remain silent during GCSEs and A levels, the university and then it is abandoned. This is not so bad when spending a couple of hundred pounds cut £1000 or more might be a different matter
    2nd tenor likes this.
  14. Thom

    Thom New Member

    Join a brass band which has one which they can lend her?
    2nd tenor likes this.
  15. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Active Member

    The two posts above (by Tuba players) reflect my own thoughts and experiences.

    I bought a lovely trombone for a fraction of its original new price, when new it had been a gift to a young person who after playing it for a short while went off to University without it. The instrument then sat and gathered dust to be eventually sold when funds were needed. Young people have a lot going on in there lives and their preferred activities change quite a lot over what is a relatively short period of time.

    It might be best for her to belong to a band who can provide a EEb for her, in my experience it is normal practice for brass bands to provide basses and unusual for players to own their own four valve instruments. If she really needs her own four valve bass (check this out by reading their music and talking it over with bass players and her teacher) then it will be an expensive purchase for you. I know many players who own their own instruments but only one is a bass player (who has a three valve BBb). A second hand Sally Ally made three valve Eb recently sold for £149 on EBay, as I recall it was sold by a reputable seller as suitable for a young person.


    Reading further on this forum into compensating and non-compensating valves is worth doing. As I understand it a four valve instrument is only compensated when the fourth valve is used, and a three valve instrument is compensated when the first and third valve are used.

    So, if you go to the expense of buying a four compensated valve instrument remember not to use the first and third valve combination or you'll not get the benefit of compensation. The comments I read were from pbirch and thirteenball - sorry if I've not understood them correctly - who always give good answers, please do check my findings for yourself.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015
  16. busman

    busman New Member

    Thanks everyone. Have had a chat with the bandmaster/teacher and the band has a 4-valve EEb but it is not available. So going to look to purchase own instrument. Unfortunately I missed the Imperial that came up on eBay, so if anyone sees anything under £1,000 please let me know. I'm watching eBay and Gumtree.

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