Is this tuba part ok?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Andrew Liddell, Sep 12, 2017.

  1. Andrew Liddell

    Andrew Liddell New Member

    Ok, this is the first time I'm writing for tuba so I thought I'd run this past some players to check everything is ok, playability-wise. If anyone's able to have a look and give any suggestions, it'd be much appreciated!

    Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 20.10.05.jpg

    It's a short tuba duet in the middle of a longer piece for wind band.

    Thanks for looking!

    Attached Files:

  2. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Please would you clarify what you mean by Tuba as it's a big family :Euphonium, F Bass, Eb Bass, CC Bass and BBb Bass. Brass Band music, which by some margin is what the most people here play, is written in transposed treble clef for the Euphonium, Eb Bass and BBb Bass; for here it would be a help if your music was written in (transposed into) treble clef for Bb instruments and for Eb instruments (two transpositions needed)

    From what little I recall of Bass Clef the four valve Euphonium should be fine and likewise a four valve BBb but an octave below. A good Eb Bass player will play it fine (if knock off three flats / add three sharps and read as treble clef is true) but otherwise it goes a bit high. I'm not sure about what pitch you intent and whether you intent some notes to be played an octave different to written. The bar three back from the end seems to have a pointless shift in pitches between the two Basses in the triplets, surely just as effective and easier for the players to each keep on the same pitch?

    Mine is the first voice to respond but far from a particularly informed one, following responses can surely only be better.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2017
  3. Andrew Liddell

    Andrew Liddell New Member

    Hi, thanks for your response. It's an orchestral piece, so I guess the tuba players will have BBb or CC tubas?
  4. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    If you're in the UK, the default instrument will usually be in Eb, whether the context is orchestra or wind band. And you may find a player choosing an instrument to suit the part if you write something particularly extreme.

    This is a challenging passage range-wise, but certainly not out of bounds. What level of players are you writing for?
    2nd tenor likes this.
  5. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I suggest that this might be a help:

    That top man is playing an old B&H Imperial EEb, but he has others dependant on what the composer is considered to have wanted and the pitch range of the music.

    If you would clarify the range you expect it would be a help. My instinct is that a good Eb player could do this even if some of the 8ve parts did drop an octave. If you give Dave the all information requested then you will get an answer that you can rely on being correct.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2017
  6. Andrew Liddell

    Andrew Liddell New Member

    Thanks Dave and 2nd tenor. It's a good student orchestra (and yes, in the UK) so I'm assuming that they will have tubas which cover the range.

    Maybe my orchestration textbooks are US-biased, but they tend to give the impression that the choice of specific instrument is down to the player rather than the composer. They just give a 'tuba range' rather then a range for specific tuba sizes.

    That video is helpful though, thanks.
  7. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    If it is a help then the Eb Tuba range, for a good player, is from Concert Eb above the Bass Clef Stave down three Octaves plus a couple of extra full tones (assuming a strong player and a four valve instrument). I'm glad if my comments have been a help but Dave's is the 'voice' to listen to. I'd expect a music undergraduate to be able to play this because they're all grade eight plus players on arrival at Uni, but someone who is at Uni and not studying music might not play to that high level.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2017
  8. Andrew Liddell

    Andrew Liddell New Member

    Ok. In that case it seems like my part would seem to fit on an Eb tuba anyway then (as well a CC or BBb)?
  9. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    My instinct is that the octave drop (8 Ve ?) would leave you with notes outside of the BBb's (and CC) lower range: because the higher notes in your piece are well above BBb range they will play the passage an octave lower than the Eb and so run out of (contrasting) range at the bottom. The Eb doesn't have that problem because of how its range overlaps with the playing range (contrast) you are asking for; you are asking people to play at the extremes of what those instruments are normally considered capable of. I believe that you need to look at a grand stave and then overlay the individual ranges of the two different Basses. A BBb's highest note is effectively the Bb below the EEb's highest note and its lowest is roughly three octaves plus below its highest. This gives you a start on the process: Range of Instruments

    American text books work in America, sometimes they work here too and sometimes they don't.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017
  10. Andrew Liddell

    Andrew Liddell New Member

    Well I'm a bit confused then ... my orchestration books show the low D as being within the range of BBb or CC tubas (or F, actually).
  11. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I suggest that there is some misunderstanding about what I've said to you above.

    As in all things there is the theory and the practice; in my experience they don't always match.

    I've reach the limit of my knowledge and experience now and you must hope for more expert help from others.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
  12. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    Everything you have written is "theoretically" playable on a tuba of any pitch. In practice, no-one in their right mind would elect to play the upper notes on either a Bb or C tuba (forget the "BBb" and "CC" nomenclature - meaningless in this context), unless they were a top professional player. Even on an Eb tuba, the range demands are such that I would not have written them unless I were expecting the players to be of Music College or "Conservatoire" standard at least.

    Hope that helps.
    mikelyons likes this.
  13. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    I would echo this - everything is playable but it is challenging - I suggest that you get two tuba players to try it for you, you may find that the reality of what you've written does not quite match your expectations.
  14. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Depending on the level of the orchestra, tuba players will often select an instrument according to the requirements of the piece. What I would say is that the range of the second part is very wide, and the upper notes are possibly a little high for anyone playing on a C or Bb tuba.
    mikelyons likes this.
  15. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Apart from the pedal Ds in the lower part, I would have no real problems with either of those parts on Eb tuba at the marked speed. Those super low notes would not speak well and you might find their relative volume difference an issue. The range of a tuba is some 3 1/2 octaves for most decent players and some pro players can get much more, but at uni level, maybe not so much. The 4 octaves you are asking for in the bottom part is a little extreme. However, as suggested above, ask your performers.
  16. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I'm hearing from that that you'll likely have players whose study is not tuba performance playing the parts. Which university is it, if it isn't indiscreet to ask? It makes quite a difference to the expected standard of the players regarding what kind of music courses the institution offers.

    Assuming it isn't say a music college, then I suspect you'd be well advised to tone down the range demands here at both ends - lopping about a 4th off either end of what you've written is a great deal safer when you don't know the standard of the player in advance. You may luck out and pick a group with two excellent amateur players, or you may luck out in the opposite direction and find it well beyond what's available. In your shoes I would ask your question to the conductor and tuba section of the group directly.

    It's common everywhere for the player to be the chooser of the instrument size with orchestral and wind band tuba. Usually it'll be whatever they have, which will be whatever is most generally accepted culturally - tubas are expensive! Brass bands are rare in specifying two tuba sizes.
  17. Andrew Liddell

    Andrew Liddell New Member

    This is all very helpful, thanks for all the responses. It wouldn't be the end of the world if I altered the second tuba parts to remove the top Ds. I think I'll see how it goes in rehearsal first though.

  18. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Wow, what a fantastic response the OP has had. I can't think how it could have been better, excellent Tuba players, conductors, teachers and people who compose as well - a real 'brains trust'.

    I wouldn't recommend leaving it to see how it goes in rehearsal; to me that seems a bit unfair on the players and they might well voice some concern about your parentage and capability too - well I would if it proved exceeding hard to do but then I'm sometimes considered to be a grumpy old git. Whatever, it was ever thus that young men are resistant to advice. Good luck with it all - perhaps that should be 'continued good luck with it all'.
  19. Slider1

    Slider1 Active Member

    Keep it in Concert Bass Clef, If you have a Bb Bass he should be able to get the Low D (which would be his E ) I would put the upper part on Euphonium changing lower notes over to the Bb Bass where poss.

    as I said keep it in Concert Bass clef for your score but you can transpose it for whatever players you get.

    Good Luck :)
  20. pbirch

    pbirch Active Member

    these are interesting parts, and actually both within a playable range, the low D sounds well on an EEb tuba, as for the high D, most tuba players will have it in their range, I think that the most challenging aspect of your excerpt are the rhythms - thats what I would have to work on rather than the range especially tied triplet crotchets in a slow time in 5/4
    as to the pitch of the tubas -in general, the Americans like C and Bb tubas, the Europeans seem to go for F and C tubas, in the UK you see Eb and Bb tubas in brass bands and Eb and C tubas in orchestras, but that is a generalisation and other players will make their choice according to what they have available and what they feel about the ensemble or repertoire etc
    phildriscoll likes this.

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