In praise of Matt Walters...

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Posted by Rick Denney on January 28, 2001 at 22:04:27:

I finally had a chance to meet Matt in person at the Army Tuba Conference. Despite the crowds of pro players and real buyers, he spent the time I needed, and I appreciate it.

He brought one of his new creations. It has a Buescher bell, a Nirschl bottom bow and outer brances, and a Meinl-Weston valveset. It was the mellowest sounding horn I've ever played--just what you'd expect from a Buescher. It confirms Joe S.'s contention that the post-valve taper controls the intonation characteristics and the bell controls the sound.

I also played Kelly O'Briant's F tuba, now owned by Andy Smith, during one of the reading sessions. He and I switched horns so that he could try out a "standard" 621, and I could audition all the slick mods that Matt performed on that horn.

First, the valves. Matt is an artist with valves. I thought mine were good on my 621--but not anymore. The tuning mechansim he built on the first-valve slide worked perfectly, too, and laid in just the right place on my hands.

But the big revelation was the Adjustible Gap Receiver. In a word, it works. I screwed it all the way on direction, and the horn seemed like a slot machine. Slurs were not clean, but notes centered in hard slots. The attacks were hard-edged and knife-like. I turned it all the way the other way, and the slots lost their definition. Slurs were butter smooth, but the notes spoke slowly and sluggishly. In a few minutes I found the right spot, and the horn was just that little bit better than mine.

I'm really happy with my 621. It was a lot closer to Kelly's old horn (I'm calling it that because that's Andy's policy, heh, heh) than it was to a used 621 in one of the booths (one of two that I played). Interestingly, mine and Kelly's are near siblings--his is #89 and mine is #72. I played a later number--in the 200's--that I didn't like a-tall. And I played a silver 621 in the 120's that I thought played just like mine. So, Yamahas are consistent but not perfectly so.

Even though I'm happy with it, I think I'll stop by Dillons on my next drive to upstate New York. (Matt, it will be in early May and I'll set up a time.)

Rick "impressed" Denney

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