The Bass Tuba Question

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by brassneck, Jul 27, 2005.


What is the bass player's role in brass bands?

  1. A player can only specialise in either EEb or BBb. No further discussion!

    14 vote(s)
  2. Modern day tuba players should be able to play both.

    25 vote(s)
  1. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Whenever I see a band advertising for a bass player, they always want either an EEb or a BBb. Rarely do we see an advert for a tuba player (in general) to join a section. Surely, as bass players tend to buy deeper and bigger rimmed mouthpieces and are expected to comfortably play in the pedal registers as well as occasionally using ledger lines above, the modern tubist should be able to play either EEb or BBb in the brass band? Some of the top bands regularly have had players utilise both positions successfully over the past decade or so! Are we stereo-typing the positions now because of tradition?
  2. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    I do hope that was a typo :)

    In response to your question I would say that from personal experience I cannot switch between Eb and Bb bass. I find it very difficult to mentally pitch notes on the Bb, although moving up to euph/bari I do not have the same problem. I could no doubt play Bb after a couple of weeks retraining but it's not an instrument I am particularly at ease with. On the other hand both of our Bb players can switch to Eb with comparitive ease.
  3. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    :eek: :oops: :eek: :oops: :eek: :oops: ..... Oops! I've now corrected my typo! (... heheheh! better not put ideas into people's heads!).
  4. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I think that ideally players should be able to switch from one to the other, but I do accept that the Bb bass is a beast that not everyone is able to come to terms with, and particularly someone who's been more used to playing smaller instruments. (In the light of the shortage of bass-players in some areas, it is also very helpful if you can play either part on either instrument, or should we rephrase the question to read " . . . play both EEb and BBb at the same time" :?: :shock: ;) )
  5. JDH

    JDH Member

    Because the tuba music in brass bands is written in treble clef, the pitching is different. This means from my experience that it is not easy to swop back and forth, as many players cannot hear the other pitch straight off. There are some clever ones who can go back and forth, but not most bass players.

    Of course, many bass players prefer one, or the other - they are very different beasts to play. The Eb is really a bass tuba and the BBb a contrabass tuba.

    Lastly, those of us tuba players which also play in an orchestra, prefer Eb bass because the treble clef Eb music is the same pitch, bar for key signature to the bass clef music in the orchestra.

    For those reasons the vacancy should always be advertised as Eb bass, or BBb bass ;)
  6. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Now, now! ;) That's making things too easy for band bass players! I am not talking about orchestral playing here, which would be a nightmare for a bass-clef reading EEb, CC or whatever player trying to read a band BBb treble clef part from scratch! What if your band advertised for a BBb player and a player comes along who can play both EEb and BBb, and just happens to be better than the EEbs? Wouldn't it be better getting an existing EEb player to fill the vacant BBb chair to possibly improve the section? It doesn't take long to adjust to the change in pitch and the player has the benefit of reading the same same treble clef. With players opting for larger mouthpieces these days, the transition should be a lot easier as well.
  7. michellegarbutt

    michellegarbutt Supporting Member

    That depends if the present EEb players are willing to swap. If they are great. If they're not then the new player goes on BBb. After all I need to keep my present players happy and the new player has answered an ad for BBb.
  8. JDH

    JDH Member

    Some players would be prepared to switch but many others would not. The mouthpieces used today are not the issue. The change is like asking a Bb cornet player to play soprano. Bands should advertise what they require!
  9. nickjones

    nickjones Active Member

    It's not such a big deal to move from Eb tuba to Bb , just one of the things you have to do , this weekend I have to play Eb for a concert on Saturday , play Bb in a competition and switch back to Eb for an ensemble competition next week .
    It's all good experience , as long as you have a stong lip and a decent mouthpiece you should be able to play both with no hassle.
  10. Chunky

    Chunky Active Member

    I have played Eb in the past, but much prefer the BBb. If I went to a band and was offered the choice of the 2 would always plump for the beast that id the BBb!

    Also our 2 Eb basses are scared of the dark force that eminates from me and Big Phat Bass Boy and would refuse to swap!
  11. satchmo shaz

    satchmo shaz Active Member

    My top Bb player can play both so I am lucky :) BUT..................... he needs a mate on Bb bass/tuba and another mate on Eb bass/tuba:biggrin:

    any takers for this happy fun loving band?:cool:
    PS we have a new march written for us by Will the Sec and its brill!
    Stunning bass/tuba parts:tup
  12. BbBill

    BbBill Supporting Member

    Ive been swapping between EEb and BBb since Ive started. But it was the EEb I started playing on and have my own instrument, but since Im on BBb the now, it usually sits doing nothing, but often use it to practice on, if BBb is still at band hall, or use at carols etc...

    I dont have a problem with swapping at all, but think I would opt for the BBb out of preference now! But if depping, I wouldnt mind and would do either to suit the band. At the Troon contest this year, Im playing EEb with Newmilns and Galston and BBb with Campbeltown!

    Although recently Ive done a few solo competitions and use the EEb, but Ive got some good solos for the BBb now, so dont need to worry about that, currently working on "if I were a rich man" and "Blue Bells of Scotland", bit of a contrast!!

    I get round playing BBb parts on the EEb, by simply keeping 4th valve in all the time and just playing the BBb part, works for me...! ;)
  13. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    The problem there is when you come to a note that you would normally use the 4th valve for . . . and find you can't, because you're already using it :oops:
  14. Band_Beefcake

    Band_Beefcake Member

    I'm lucky that I have a bass player that can play both, although Im still looking for another Eb and Bb player (just thought I'd mention it in case anyone wants it :D ) Even if players can't play both Eb and Bb, I think its good when a Bb player can sight transpose an Eb part and vice versa. Just as a sop player can sight transpose a solo cornet or rep part if needed. I know this is difficult but I always find it useful in rehearsal if people can do it and you might have parts missing.
  15. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    Surely the answer is for all bass players to play CC tuba;)

    The big problem I have heard bass players talk about is not so much the problems associated with swapping between instruments (heck - for most trumpet players, just having two instruments would be bliss), but the fact that so many basses (BBb especially) are just terrible instruments.
  16. Adrian Horn

    Adrian Horn Member

    Thats not such a daft idea! A band I am occasionally involved with 'borrowed' a couple of players from teh RNCM to help out in the tuba section. They were both Americans and brought CC tubas to play the BBb parts. The sound was much richer to my ears than that of BBb. Possibly because they were good players, but more because the instruments were a lot better than their standard 4 valve BBb british cousins!

    As you say, it would be nice as a trumpet player to only have to carry 2 instruments. May bag at the moment has 4, and I know that is less than you take out on your Surrey Brass gigs Mike!
  17. tubadaz

    tubadaz Member

    I personally get along fine with either Eb or BBb Tubas and have been known to play both on the same gig. ;) I also play Bass Trombone, Euph., Bari. and Trumpet with various different Bands, but that's another story!! :D

  18. Phil Green

    Phil Green Supporting Member

    In my opinion it isn't the pitching or the mouthpiece size that's the issue. The problem most Eb players have is actually filling a BBb bass. In my experience I can think of only a handful of BBb players that can actually fill a BBb in all ranges at every dynamic. I played on BBb for 2 years in my last band and was lucky to have one of the best sitting next to me, covering up my rather edgey, too focussed sound as only he could do.
    You can of course adapt and given time, lessons and hours and hours of practise make the sort of noise needed but switching to BBb isn't something that can be overcome in days or weeks.
    Conversely of course, playing Eb after a spell on BBb is also difficult as the way you 'blow' through the instrument is different on Eb (or EEb) so most BBb players sound very crude given a 981 and a 3L.
    However there are exceptions, with our own Mr Gourlay proving this.

  19. catherine_S

    catherine_S Member

    Never mind filling it, for me the problem is simply reaching up to the mouthpiece! :)

    I'm only 5'4" and with the best will in the world playing a BBb is struggle! I'll do it if I have to but I generally spend the next few days with a crick in my neck and an achy back as even using a bass stand at its lowest I'm still too short! Marching is OK as the strap lets you get comfortable (relatively!) - but then there's the weight:(
  20. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... there's always a cushion (or two)! :cool:

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