Re: Big Horns in Small Ensembles

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Posted by Rick Denney on April 23, 2002 at 09:54:42:

In Reply to: Big Horns in Small Ensembles posted by Tony E on April 23, 2002 at 00:17:10:

Many years ago I went to the recital of a world-class orchestral tuba player. He had two instruments at the time: A German-style F and a 6/4-size York copy. He used the F for most of the solo recital, but the last piece on the program was accompanied by a brass quintet instead of a piano. The quintet comprised symphony pros, and he felt the F would be too small, so he played the Yorkalike.

He played beautifully, with great dynamics, interpretation, and clarity. But at least in that room (a college auditorium), the sound of the big horn was too broad and enveloping for the quintet. Personally, I think it has to do with the size and shape of the bell--the sound propagates in too many directions, while the other instruments (save the inner voice of the horn) are aimed right at the audience. I think the sound of the quintet would have been more integrated had he played the F, despite what would have been difficulties in the lowest parts.

I play a smallish F in brass quintet, though at the other end of the talent and ability spectrum. It is quite large enough, and it has a good low end which makes all quintet literature available. Lee Hipp at one time played a small F like mine in a quintet of symphony pros, and he had no trouble balancing them.

On the other hand, I was recently chastised (in fun) by my teacher for using an F for quintet, which he thinks is the exclusive domain of a C. The C he would use, however, is a mid-sized Getzen G-50, not an earth-mover.

I suppose I'm not answering your question positively, but I hope that I encourage you to get someone to do some critical listening out front. The effect of your large tuba may be perfect for you where you are sitting, but it may have the wrong character by the time it reaches the audience.

Rick "who thinks big horns sound much differently out front" Denney

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