Missing Bass Players?


Looking through '4 Bars Rest' classified section I found that over half the bands are advertising for BBb and EEb bass players.
Where have they all gone?
Doesn't anybody like these instruments any more?
Is anyone teaching the Bass in School or Junior Bands anymore or is everyone taught that being on smaller instruments is best as you get to do solos?
Even in '4 Bars Rest' profiles on lower section bands they mention a solo(?) EEb Bass player but no mention of the poor BBb players. Are they less important than the EEb Bass because they can't play the high notes?
It's strange that when there are promoters for the instrument like Steve Sykes out there the number of bass players are dwindling.

Edit: Moved from 'User News' as it's not a News Item. Please try and post things in thier correct categories. (dyl)
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i play BBb bass i am only 15 but only know 4 people the same age as me who play basses in the southwest which i think is sad as i thing bass is one of the best instuments i have played
from my experience, kids are put off by the size. They don't realise it's easier to produce a note on an Eb bass than a cornet (depending on your physiology, of course)

toby hobson

Its probably because not everyone can take the responsibility of being part of the most important section in the band these days!!!!


I play EEb, and we have 2 other young EEb players in our youth band, and 2 BBb players. We always win best bass section at the contest we play at in Hungerford every year!

Will the Sec

Active Member
Is it a question of "where have they gone", or "why aren't enough youngsters playing tubas?"

I am a good reader, with good musicality, rarely make the same mistake twice and never three timea, and can flip from Eb to Bb pretty much at will - BUT I haven't seriously practiced for years. Were I a cornet player, I expect I would be "found out" soon enough, and find my "correct" level.

I turn down as many dep jobs as I take, and am frequently asked if I wish to join the band I've depped for.

So, why can a player like me get by? Because the youngsters are not as actively encouraged to play big instruments, becuase the biggest instruments cost the most wonga, (duh!) blaggers like me who can play Bb Bass, (even when they don't readily want to!) could play at anything but the top level if we are so inclined to do so.


Reckon the cost is a serious consideration.
If a school has a budget of say £2000, they are much more likely to buy 4 or 5 second hand cornets/trumpets in order to teach 5 pupils than 1 tuba that only 1 pupil plays.
It is also quite hard to find 2nd hand basses small enough for kids. I'm talking primary school ones, usually around age 10.

However if anyone can't pitch very well, or play very high, the path to bass playing is clear. This is not a swipe at bass players! The gaps between the notes are much bigger on a bass and harder to miss. Problem solved.
there are a lot of young tuba players out there who dont know about brass banding and even more that aren't being given a chance by bands as they arent "experienced" enough.


Staff member
BeatTheSheep said:
It is also quite hard to find 2nd hand basses small enough for kids. I'm talking primary school ones, usually around age 10.

However if anyone can't pitch very well, or play very high, the path to bass playing is clear. This is not a swipe at bass players! The gaps between the notes are much bigger on a bass and harder to miss. Problem solved.

That probably explains the number of bass players who can quite happily be a 4th or 5th out in their pitching and not realise it for several bars!!! I agree with those who've cited the size and cost of instruments as being a drawback. We have only had one lad in our junior band who showed any interest in playing bass, and he is now very hit and miss and seems to have lost interest.

In the senior band, I'm currently the only BBb, and there is a definite reluctance for people to give it a go which is a shame, as it is a great instrument to play. (It should be said that there are three others who have played it in the past, but who are no longer able to do so on health grounds). I actually think that the difficulty in pitching so low puts a lot of people off, especially if they've had a go and found they naturally pitch an octave too high, whereas most people can adapt to EEb fairly quickly.
Quite a number of the bass players I know have stopped/retired/moved to smaller instruments. There are a number who will help out, and that's appreciated, but will not join. Such an important section and constant work to try to fill! We have managed to pretty much fill most of our sections, but bass trombone and basses are still a problem.

As far as our training band, we have increasing numbers and are intending that some of our youngsters will move on to bass when they are big enough, to then feed into the main band in the future.

Also, one of the problems may be pure logistics - how many parents want a tuba in their house and to transport around!?
I'm finding it increasingly difficult to transport the BBb around with the rest of the family's instruments (Euph, Baritone and Cornet), and that's before son number 3 starts playing (if he wants to)!! May have to go back to cornet, but that'll be another bass player gone!
PeterBale said:
That probably explains the number of bass players who can quite happily be a 4th or 5th out in their pitching and not realise it for several bars!!!

it's the other way around, you can't miss! (on e flat anyway). On Bb its easier to think of it as blowing much harder the higher it gets. This is an simplified explanation for kids but it takes pitching out the equation
Is this just not a result of the swings and roundabouts theory?

A few years ago it was good cornet players that couldn't be had for love nor money. Then just recently, it was trombonists that were facing extinction. Now, it seems that it's bass players.

Andy Cooper

Its now about 7 - 8 weeks since i switched to Bb bass from bari. Its taken some getting used to and Im still not thats secure below low G, Ive developed muscles i didnt know I had lugging it in and out of the car, (a Beamer 1 series - it was never a problem with a Bari lol)), half the house is permanently taken up as if its out the case Ill practice, The younger of the two dogs hates it and howls when i practice, where he didnt mind the bari, Im drinking more beer, i get shouted at by the MD a lot more. Do i regret it - No. its brilliant, im really enjoying it.

My eldest son played Eb for Rochdale Youth and I understand why parents turn their noses up at their offspring turning up with a bass. It is not an easy prospect by any means and hardly a decorative item around the house and makes the neighbours talk to you, but for the wrong reasons. At least when i switched i knew what I was getting into!!!


New Member
Bass player myself, alot of these comments I heartily agree with. I remember lugging an Eb Bass down the road as parents couldn't pick me up from school etc.

For parents, when little Jimmy / Janey comes home with a trumpet, it's all good. Come home with an Eb / Bb bass and there seems to be shock and horror. Ask anyone in the street which instrument plays the tune in a brass band and they will almost certainly say 'cornet/trumpet'. Ask them what a tuba plays and they say "umpah umpah".

I suppose as a movement we stereotype ourselves and most bands, especially when working up contest pieces, know that the Bb/Eb parts can be horrendous. One bar can be a minim, the next a solo line in the upper register.

As for where the bass players are - who knows? I suppose if you have a youth / training band then a 'grown up' bass player (do they exist?;)) could sit in and let lil' Jimmy /Jane have a go on their bass. It can be heart-stopping though when you hear a big clank and see your shiny Sov inthe hands of somoeone who is not yet in double figures!

I haven't really said anything here have I? I suppose by us bass players getting out in front of the band and soloing, showing people that the instrument is more than 'tubby the tuba' and 'oompah', then people may start to notice. Getting kids to try one out whether in band or at school is another idea. I always thought that whilst most people played cornets, I was quite unique on bass, even if I did have to carry the thing all day at school.

Shall we set up a website? www.saveourtubas.com???:)

Dave 2nd2nd Cornet

Active Member
I've played BBb bass myself twice, my second stint finishing a couple of months ago and I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the bass. Why did I move 'down' to cornet then? Well it's such a big instrument (including case) to lug around and storage at home has caused a few domestic disagreements. It was a case of 'it's either the tuba or me!' Now, as the wife can cook and do the cleaning and the bass couldn't, then there was only one option, the bass had to go.


Its odd, because my youth band has never had trouble getting players onto the better instruments! For me, it was because I was so terrible at all the other instruments in the band! I was scratchy on trumpet, sloppy on euph, but it was only when I got to the bass that i found the instrument im most comfortable. I think you have to be a special kind of person to play the bass, if you want to show off at how many notes you can get into a bar then play the cornet, but if you want to be REALLY worthwhile then play the bass!

I think if youve got a few bass players in your youth band and they get along and they have a good laugh together then you won't have any trouble tempting people to switch, our parts aren't always intresting so we make our own fun! We were lucky in our band that we got a few grants to buy instruments, which makes it alot more accesible to the people that want to play. If youre able to play a decent instrument that doesnt sound like its got a sock stuck inside it then youre much more likely to stick at it. For me the most important attribute of a good bass player isnt how many notes they can shovel in, but he sound they make when they play them.

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