Rotary Tuba...

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Hman1, Mar 23, 2009.

  1. Hman1

    Hman1 Member

    Hello friends. I'm in the process, due primarily to a hand injury, of changing from the traditional Uk upright piston valve tuba (Bb at the moment) to a rotary valve model. I am trialing a Meinel Weston Spezial 25 at the moment and can find absolutely no fault with it whatsoever. It is lightyears beyond the Soverign in terms of sound production, power, clarity, intonation etc It is also physically much easier to handle and fits well and naturaly into the human frame and posture (as opposed to the Soverign/Imperial which is a nightmare unless you're a giraffe with very long arms !).
    I just wonder if there are any tuba players out there (pro or otherwise) who have experience of this tuba (or one like it) with any views or opinions because I'm struggling to find any drawbacks at the moment and don't understand why all bands in the UK don't use them ? - they're sexy as hell too !!
  2. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    I can't say with any certainty what the current situation is, however I know that at one time contest regulations prohibited the use of tubas other than piston-valved ...
  3. Hman1

    Hman1 Member

    Rotary tuba

    Thanks for your response. I understand that the current rules do not stipulate piston valves, the only rules of this type relate to the use of a slide rombone (as opposed to one of those valved things which is verboten). The only reasons I can think of are cost and brass band tuba players/conductors being a bit 'stuck in their ways'. What does everybody think - are there drawbacks/ issues with these instruments (other than the obvious 'drawback' of being non-compensating) or are all us tuba players (particularly BBb!!) making life unnecessarily difficult for ourselves ?
  4. Despot

    Despot Member

    I think cost is one of the big issues. Bands don't buy BBb's that often (well most of us don't!) and the cost makes most less inclined to take a chance with something new.

    I'd think a rotary BBb might be a good idea for our band, but I can't justify spending that much money on a hunch!
  5. Ali.Syme

    Ali.Syme Member

    The only "traditional" use of a rotor valve in brass bands is trombone triggers which, for engineering purposes I suppose, have to be rotors. If rotors were widely used, that may attract French horn players!:eek: But with a large instrument like a bass trombone or a tuba the transition between positions is important - so the sooner you can open and close the dam walls the better!

    There are tricks you can only do with piston valves - it's hard to do half valves with a rotor. Also shaking your valves for a bit of vib won't work too well - but those are mainly cornet concerns.

    Best of luck!
  6. WhatSharp?

    WhatSharp? Active Member

    The only reason I can think of ( other than cost ) is that I would have though piston valves are simpler to maintain and probably more resistance to abuse than rotory.... ?

    ( btw Eb Trumpets were banned sometime back too.. not a clue on why.. just sour grapes I guess... )
  7. Despot

    Despot Member

    One story is that it's because B&H didn't make them, they were protecting their monopoly...or so some say.
  8. Hman1

    Hman1 Member

  9. Hman1

    Hman1 Member

    Thanks Ali, I hadn't considered the aspect of things that you can do with a piston that you can't with a rotar. And I guess the issue of maintainence is a valid one but you are absolutely right - I would have thought that if one is a 'serious' player then the sound that comes out of one's bell is the overriding priority ! - and the speed with which you can start or stop the air is a major contributing factor which is more of an issue on larger instruments because of the mechanics and physics involved in pushing the air through the instrument and opening and of the flow down the larger bore tubing. At the risk of improving everyone else's playing !! - I would urge all serious tuba players (particularly Bb) to give one a go - I reckon you won't want to play a Soverign ever again !!
  10. Hman1

    Hman1 Member

    You have a point - but you can get (let me know if you want to know where from) a 4/4 rotary valve Bb tuba (eg. Cerveney) in good nick for £3/4k. And, as long as they are played regularly and well oiled (which takes about 10 seconds - because there are no valve tops to try and prize open because you keep forgetting to slacken them when you put your instrument away !) they never stick amd I think they are easier to take care of than pistons. They are a bit more delicate than pistons (in terms of the external mechanical linkages) but as long as you don't use the tuba as an axle stand for the tour bus you should be ok !
  11. Ali.Syme

    Ali.Syme Member

    On the subject of maintenance, rotor valves can't be replaced as easily as piston valves. I.e. you can't simply borrow a valve from an idle trombone if your one jams up. Conventional oil evaborates very quickly in a piston valve - since it's not designed for the wear that it goes through in out.

    Paxmans in London have three lubricants - one for the rotor itself, one for the bearings that connect to your triggers and one that goes within the slide itself. I'd urge anyone using rotor valves to get some and keep them maintained. My bassbone was sitting in a shop for 6 months before I got it and went very dry - and it's been having problems ever since! Pricelist Lubricants

    Ciao all!
  12. Hman1

    Hman1 Member

    Thanks Ali, couldn't agree mroe ! I have spearate lubricants for the rotars, linkages and slides - if done regularly it only takes a few seconds every day (assuming that you practice every day that is !) and you can do it while the cornets and euphoniums are trying to show off with their 'warm ups' before the rehearsal starts !
  13. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    We had a thread about this recently... Where did it get to... Ah, there it is:

    You need to be careful about blend with the rest of your section - tuba designs from countries that tend to use rotaries tend also to have rather larger bores, and so the sound can stick out when placed among UK-style tubas - this model is listed as having a .768" bore according to the Meinl-Weston website, which compares to a Sovereign bore size of something like .66" (as I recall - I'm sure somebody will correct me if that's wrong) - a big difference. Also - tuning - looking at the Meinl-Weston website, it seems to me that this model is 4V but uncompensated - you'll have to learn how to tune these notes accurately by working the kicker slide - a complex task to get exactly right. Imagine having a section of four players all fiddling with their tuning mechanisms on every low note... There are valid musical reasons why these instruments haven't supplanted the traditional British design...
  14. WhatSharp?

    WhatSharp? Active Member

    Something else occured to me, is it simply just a case that piston valves are cheaper?. If you look at photos of all the old brass bands from year dot and their all using piston valves. we know rotories where around then so the only conclusion I can draw is that rotory valves where just too expensive. Also why are 90% of trumpets piston valve ( rotories tend to be kept for more specialist pitched instruments... wish I could afford one :) ).

    Just some food for thought thats all.
  15. Ali.Syme

    Ali.Syme Member

    Aha! Very well spotted!
    Yes economics may well have been the foundation of the modern brass scene! In fact I think that's probably likely since the old G bass trombone (the earlier form of a bass trombone) simply had a rather long slide which was later replaced by rotor valves. I've a feeling Germany was at the forefront of rotor valve development - but Germanys brass ensembles mainly recruit from orchestras and are more classically orientated.
    I'd rather not trade in my German-made rotors for an extra meter of slide thanks!

  16. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Steve -

    But then in some other countries (e.g. Germany) rotaries won out. It doesn't seem logical that rotaries were cheaper than pistons in Germany, but pistons were cheaper than rotaries in the UK...

    I think it's just a fashion thing - the instruments that became band instruments originally came from French and Belgian makers, where pistons ruled. As to why the Francophone world went to pistons early, I'm not really sure.
  17. Hman1

    Hman1 Member

    Thank you Dave, your comments are very welcome and you make very valid points. I imagine that the tuning issue in the bottom register might well be the main reason (along with cost) that more bands don't use them - it wold be virtually impossible with 4/5 tubas all trying to fiddle with their slides to tune a long note (though trombone players seem to be able to manage it occasionally !!) In my particular case I really needed an instrument with which to lead and the other 4 tubas in the section, who are all of varying abilities and have very different tones to start with so covering rather than blending is the order of the day ! Also - I'm not sure that I would have considered a solo on the traditional upright Soverign BBb (but maybe thats just my lask of ability) but with the Meinl Weston rotary - well, I've dug out all my old solo's and started practicing again and I guess anything that gets someone playing with enthusiasm has to be a good thing ! - just feel sorry for my neighbours who used to think they were safe because we live in a detached house !!!
  18. Jonathantuba

    Jonathantuba New Member

    I have been playing rotary tubas for 4 years now so can give you some insight from my experiences.

    There were two main reasons for my change to rotary valves. I got just fed up with problems with sticking pistons and the poor (at least to me) ergonomics of the traditional British tubas causing me shoulder and back pains.

    I have never looked back! :D Rotary valves are a LOT more reliable and barring damage, or lack of maintenance are completely reliable. You just need to oil about once month - heavy oil on the rotor barings and linkages and a few drops of standard thin valve oil down the mouthpipe. The latter is mostly to stop calcium build up in the valves rather than lubrication as if used regularly the inside does not need oil to work as the valve revolves on the spindle, rather than rubbing against the wall like pistons.

    Then I would advice every 3 months rinsing through the valves with hand hot soapy (fairy liquid) water just to get out any little bits of muck (e.g. food crums) which have blown in. If you really want to sterilise the inside add a drop of Dettol, but be warned the smell will deter you from playing the tuba for a couple days, so best to do just before leaving to go on holiday or such like!

    For rotaries being non-compensated - I really do not find that an issue with little slide pulling required. In the low register simply use alternative fingerings;
    F = 1+2+4
    E = 2+3+4
    Eb = 1+3+4
    D = 1+2+3+4

    Low C# is not theoritically possible on a non-compensated BBb. However, large bore rotary tubas usually have what are called 'false tones' which are not just possible on the British tubas. Using 'false tone' C# can be played using 2+3. Just play an octave above to get the pitch and try it! With a bit of practice you will soon master.

    For tone and blending, I have also not experienced an issue. The conductor of my brass band (an ex-BBb bass palyer himself) actually likes the sound from my Cerveny BBb. When I first took it in he made the comment "now that is a real BBb bass sound"!

    Enjoy your Meinl-Weston 25. They are really good tubas. My Eb is a Meinl-Weston ;)
  19. Hman1

    Hman1 Member

    Thank you Jonathan, that's very useful. I hope you continue to enjoy your playing and your apparent position as the founding member of the UK brass band rotary valve tuba club !!

    ROBTHEDOG Member

    Many years ago when we formed "Heart of England" band in the Midlands following to demise of Jones & Crossland we bought a 5 vale Miraphone BBb (Paul Jones drove it very well) amazing sound - a real bitch at the Whit Friday marches though ;-) -- There seems to be several discussion forums comparing the Meinl-Weston & Miraphones .. Good luck - If I played Tuba regularly I'd deffinately look at rotary and I'm sure Mr Tuba would help in finding the best fit for job and player.. Good luck

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