Volume Vs Quality

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Thirteen Ball, Jun 21, 2006.

  1. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    I've found recently that our conductor's demands for more and more volume from the basses is almost completely destroying my tone as I play.

    I used to have a nice warm and fairly broad sound, albeit i had difficulty generating higher dynamics, and I could fine-tune notes with my lip rather well - something which was instilled in me very early on as it's so important on a big instrument.

    Now It seems I'm so focussed on trying to generate the volume asked for, my tone's become hard, thin and flat-sounding, I find it hard to lip the note in to those around me as blowing too hard compromises my (and their) tuning so I never know if I'm flat or sharp. Add to that my note production's gone to pot and I'm not having much fun playing at the moment.

    I can't seem to find a compromise that keeps me happy on quality, or him happy on volume. I know if I was sat in B&R or Grimey's bass section they'd barely notice I was there, compared with the noise that standard of player can generate, but I'm not expecting to reach that standard overnight (if ever!)

    How do I work on improving my volume without completely ruining my sound? It's really starting to annoy me not being able to find a good balance of the two.
  2. Find a place to practice where you can blow the roof off. Practice blowing it off, and getting your tone back.

    I'm having a whale of a time with my little rural church, surrounded by fields :)

    TIMBONE Active Member

    My teacher always told me to aim for the furthest point to make sure that my sound was produced from the bell not the mouthpiece. Of course, you are playing a tuba, not a trombone, but I think that this is more to do with the phsycology of sound production. The next point he made was diaphragm support, with an open throat and embouchure. His aim was to fill whatever room he was playing in with a big, warm sound. I think that "Nog's" sound still fills the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, even though it is now an hotel. :biggrin: He never did tell me what to do outdoors though! :confused:
  4. RandomHornPlayer

    RandomHornPlayer New Member

    Heard someone mention once to put a pillow down a tuba while practicing - the extra resistance helps open up your throat to compensate in creating a sound - only over time would you notice a difference I imagine and then be use to having a wider volume of air flowing through the instrument may improve quality + volume.
    Might want to check with other basses.
  5. JDH

    JDH Member

    Don't try and blow so hard, but think about keeping your throat and mouth apertures open and wide.

    Think big and concentrate on the sound coming out of the bell. Ease back on it and let the tuba do the work, rather than blowing your guts out.

    It works for me. Using this technique, I can easily project over a 100 piece orchestra with a big full sound.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2006
  6. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    I don't know much about tuba playing so this is general advice which you may wish to take with a large pinch of salt but - try practising outside, preferably in a field. It's the Whit Friday effect, your sound will be deadened by the lack of reflective surfaces and the grass, you will feel as though you are playing too quietly and gradually adjust to compensate. After you've done it a few times when you get back indoors you should notice a significant difference.

    I read about a cornet player (might have been Jack Mackintosh) who used to boost his volume by driving round until he found a haystack and blowing into it. Not sure that's practical for the tuba though ;)

    As with most of these sort of questions I suspect the real answer is get a really good teacher, though.
  7. starperformer

    starperformer Member

    i was hoping for a poll
  8. winterman

    winterman Member

    I had this recommended to me recently when struggling to rattle around on the upper register notes on Euph for a certain recent test piece, basically I was (and still am, it's a work in progress) getting a very narrow, strained and quiet sound, however daft it sounds it does help, I do feel more comfortable on louder and higher notes, but it's gonna be a long process.

    I don't know if, like me, you are a pressure player (I have a permanent ring on my upper lip from where I literally screw the mouthpiece onto it), but if so that does make it harder to produce a quality loud sound. I am working on relaxing off the mouthpiece and playing through comfortable mid-range and lower notes using less and less pressure at whatever comfortable volume I can achieve each note at and am finding that as that progresses the sound is becoming bigger and louder when playing 'normally'.

    Hope that helps, I know absolutely nothing about technique when playing but that is what I am experiencing at the moment.
  9. RandomHornPlayer

    RandomHornPlayer New Member

    Proper breathing exercises and good air flow can help with pressure, basically taking the pressure from the lips and putting it on the diaphragm. But you won't believe that until you can experience it for yourself - takes a while to get there physically and physiologically.
  10. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Thanks for the advice everyone. I think I've got into bad habits a bit but I'm working on moving out of them and pushing my volume on gradually, rather than tazzing it is hard as I can straightaway.

    I'll keep at it.

  11. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    Damn good advice.

    One problem, especially with basses, is that when playing in a standard low roofed bandroom the sound you as a player hear does become thin and distorted to you because you hear just what is reflected of the roof, not necessarily what it really sounds like.

    A general technique for sound development I was taught was to start off playing in a 'phone box, and work on filling it completely, then gradually work up to bigger and bigger rooms until you are outdoors.

    Outdoor playing means you get none of the reflected sound from the roof, and so you can play as loud as you like but still hear the tuning and production. The lack of reverb means that you really have to work hard on both volume AND a big fat sound, and as suggested by others, when you come back inside the results can be fantastic.

    Try going up into the top of the peak district or the dales for an hour or two - even better if you can do it when it's snowing !!
  12. SteveT

    SteveT Member

    Hello Andi,

    What you really need to do is concentrate on developing lung capacity. Believe it or not, the bass trom needs more air than anything else in the band, tubas have curved pipes and resistance to help.

    To be fair the biggest sound I ever had was when I used to jog every day, it helped expand my lung capacity and breath control, which is what you need. I know those who know me now will not believe that I used to jog about 5 miles a day. But it's true!

    Jogging is as boring as hell, but by god does it develop your ability to produce a big sound. I am talking SOUND, not volume. But this helps both.

  13. Sharpy

    Sharpy Member

    Just as a debating point, if an ensemble plays together and in tune then you would be amazed at how much bigger and louder a sound the ensemble produce. I sometimes think that conductors(myself included!!) often forget this and ask for players to play louder, when really just getting them to play together and in tune will produce the bigger sound we are striving for!! Its abit of a physics thing too, the overtones that are produced when chords sit together in tune make things sound bigger, I think!! Im sure someone will correct me if Im wrong!! ;)
  14. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - I totally agree with you :) Get the quality of sound with tuning/intonation/balance worked on and the audible results are significant.
  15. toby hobson

    toby hobson Member

    Try these handy household rifting tips, they may help!!

    Breath as much as is humanly possible as often as possible.

    Make your sound grow with the sections i.e. don’t carry any weak players all 4 players working as hard as they can all the time.

    Practice playing loudly without using any tongue (huff it in).then add your tongue.

    Don’t waste energy with attacking the note to much, try for soft attacks ( slow tongue) even at loud volumes.

    Save energy by developing a really good pp for the 90% of um chucks um pars and general carpet underlay work that is our bread and butter (then the illusion of ff becomes easier).

    Save your real nasty sound for special occasions most of the time think wide and fat.

    P.S careful with the pillow down the bell thing, tends to make your instrument a tone or two sharp (f tubas are for little thin French blokes usually called Claude and C tubas are for fat Americans often called Bob or Gene!!!!! )
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2006

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