A Compensating Alternative ?


There's no doubt euphoniums & tubas need compensating valve systems.
In my collction of old euphoniums, there are 2 alternatives that were around prior to the system we know today becoming popular.

Highams of Manchester made 5 valve euphoniums ( as did Besson, Distin, Hawkes etc. ) that were quite popular. The 5th. valve offered yet another combination of fingering to get the required notes into pitch, and with the 5th. valve being last in line, it had the largest bore and gave a good clear sound. The only problem was learning the new fingerings and the design of the instrument. On this model, both valves are positioned straight, not at an angle, which means they are pushed upwards. In addition, less weight can be taken by the left hand as 2 fingers are used to work the valves.
A big advantage was that air was direct through the tubing, not circulated around like in compensation.

Hawkes produced the Dictor model which was only compensated on the 4th. valve. This valve measured some 8 inches !
The 4th. valve also gives C sharp (treble clef) not D.
D is in tune on 1&3 because of an additional loop mounted on the 4th. valve that comes into play on any combination used with valve number 3 !

A rare system to find these days is the enharmonic system. Besson made baritones, euphs & tubas with this idea.
It's similar to the way the full double French Horn works, offering a different set of slides for different notes. Obviously the amount of extra tubing made weight a problem.

Prior to the last century, even cornets & horns were offered with compensating valves !
It would be interesting to see the end product if these old euphs were rebuilt with todays technology.

I have posted some pics. of my collection at;


New Member
Use of compensating 1st and 3rd valve triggers

Talking about compensating, can anybody out there please help a newcomer/improver and give the definitive statement on when and how to use 1st and 3rd valve triggers. I have asked several long standing players and have yet to get the same answer from anyobdy. The only common answer is 3rd valve trigger is used for low C#s and Ds but some say 1/2 way out some say all the way out. Some have told me trigger whenever you use the 3rd valve which can't be right as they would just make the tubing the extended length.
I honestly beleive the first valve trigger is there largely for show because nobody has given me a straight answer when to use it and to be honest I have never seen anybody use it when watching other players.
Also how do you go on if you have a run of quavers/semi-quavers which have notes requiring to be triggered cos the triggers are not remotely as responsive as valves.
Excuse my ignorance but we all have to start somewhere.
I have many more technical questions - perhaps we should have a tips/tricks and techniques thread.?


Active Member
I would say they're there so you can adjust your tuning "on the fly" by increasing the grip on the levers.

If it doesn't sound in tune, then tune it in.


New Member
Fishsta said:
I would say they're there so you can adjust your tuning "on the fly" by increasing the grip on the levers.

If it doesn't sound in tune, then tune it in.

Well of course you are right - using such an empirical approach will work and its about the most sensible answer I've ever been given - but there must be some set, theoretical guidelines - you know, full trigger on this note half trigger on that.


I agree, just tune to sound in tune. Everyone blows the instrument differently anyway, what's right for one person may not be right for another. I don't have a 1st trigger on my cornet, I don't need it anyway, but on my trumpet I use it because my C#s are all out of tune.


Active Member
The Euphonium and Trombone, with the addition of trigger/4th valve, offer all sorts of possibilities for fine tuning.

One thing I once noticed on the Trombone, when playing the 2nd movement of Triptych (which starts on a top G, sustained, with a diminuendo and a crescendo) was that, in order to stay in tune, I had to slide down to about 1/4 way between open and 2nd position on the diminuendo, and back up on the crescendo.

On the Euph, my top G is similar. When it's a quiet part, I have to play it on 1st and 3rd to be in tune, but on loud parts, it's in tune as it is.

Therefore, using the cornet slide triggers, as far as I can see, should only be used for intonation, and not to any "strict guidelines".

Remember, your instrument isn't making the sound... YOU are. :)


Yes I agree, intonation is often the player, not the instrument.

It starts with the mouthpiece !

I can totally change the tuning on my Willson by using 3 different mouthpieces, I choose to use my favourite and adjust accordingly as I know which notes are slightly off pitch.

Then there are the valves on older instruments.
Air leaks or worn plating can affect tuning as well as dents in the instrument.

We have 2 tubists in our band with identical Sovereigns, one player can barely get up to A 440, the other has his slide hanging on by tape ! The instruments are a matching pair !

Take a look around your band and look at the huge variety of different embouchures, let alone playing / holding positions and you can see where the problems begin.

Stanley Boddington always compared a band out of tune to a radio station being slightly off its wavelength, something rarely heard these days with digital tuning.

Maybe that's the answer ?
I use both triggers for bottom c# and Db and third trigger for D, I also use first trigger for 5th line F. How much depends on the individual, you can usually here when you are in tune.


Active Member
We poor horn players have to use our ears. :lol:
No triggers.......how did they manage to play in tune all those years when there no such modern gadgets attached to their instruments???


Supporting Member
No triggers.... but its amazing how much damage you can do (or hopefully avoid) with alternate fingering - top E is a classic on horn - all the horn players I know are pretty much 50/50 split between those who always play it 1 & 2 and ones who always play it open. I guess its the same as triggers on cornets - whats perfect for one person may sound terrible for the guy sat next to them, and the only way to get it right is experiment and be prepared to sound bad for a while!!!


Active Member
hmm, here cmes some vague physics.

it is different for every different model, but for a sovereign,

low D is sharp, and low C# sharper, f is sometimes sharp, G on the stave is very sharp, and mustt be flattened somehow.

these are due to various things, but the above is from experience.


Active Member
We could also get into the harmonics......we could be playing a sharp harmonic against a Bb instruments flat harmonic ....thats when you need ears. Listen and lip work more often than not.

blue euph

Yamaha has a tenor horn that has a first valve trigger. Its the Yahamha yah602. Has any horn players play it and does the trigger help the intonation out?

Product tMP members are discussing