Re: Is it the tuba or the player?

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Posted by Rick Denney on January 29, 2001 at 14:46:42:

In Reply to: Is it the tuba or the player? posted by Jay Bertolet on January 28, 2001 at 11:42:32:

Until I heard the new Jacobs CD, my impression of him was not so much a technician as a great producer of sound. Some golfers, for example, are thought to be great strikers of the ball, but they don't necessarily score the best on any given day. I agree with Jay that other players have impressed me more with their playing of specific works.

The notion that the York is easy to play is at the root of its value. Let me see if I can dredge up some paraphrasings of big-name players:

"You get 6/4 out with 4/4 going in" was something Jacobs said of his York.

"After about ten minutes, I put the Alexander aside and went back to the Yorkbrunner. The Alexander was too much work."--Mike Sanders, of his opportunity to play the Alex that he had sold many years previously.

"One of the things I've had to learn with the Yorkbrunner is to relax and let the horn to the work."--op.cit.

"I bought the Nirschl because it allows me to get the effect I want with less effort."--Jay Bertolet.

If I've mis-quoted, then I deserve a thrashing--please do so. But I think I got the gist.

The idea is that this design, unlike a similarly sized Kaiser tuba like a 5/4 Alex or Rudy Meinl, efficiently produces the desired effect. In all professions, practitioners use the most efficient tools. For example, no car mechanic would work without air tools, even though someone lovingly restoring an old Ford Coupe might be loathe to use air tools on it. I, as an engineer, would never dream of pulling out my old K&E slide rule (no Pickering for me, heh, heh). A hand-held calculator is more efficient, and a computer more efficient still, once I learn how to harness the power. Is it better? Not necessarily. Many young engineers have forgotten basic principles like significant figures and the difference between precision and accuracy that were required knowledge for slide rule users. The tool with the greater power requires the greater understanding of the needed result. But it gets the job done more efficiently.

Here's another quote: "The Alex is extremely versatile. It will do anything you ask it to do--but you have to do it."--Mike Sanders again, this time filtered through at least 15 years of faulty memory.

Jay, you once said that you used your big Cerveny about 10 or 15% of the time, preferring for the majority of the contrabass literature your Rudy Meinl 4/4. So, the question I have for you is, do you use your Nirschl only 15% of the time, or is that percentage creeping up with the more efficient instrument?

One of the best things about the Patrick Sheridan master class was when he talked about the enormous pressure of doing a college senior recital. One chance to get it right, and one change only. He talked about performing 100 concerts a year greatly reducing this pressure, because you understand that everything being just right only happens about 10% of the time, and having real problems two or three times as often, with the remainder somewhere in between. This gives him a real workaday approach--professionalism dictates that even on his bad days he gets the job done--but he doesn't stress about the problems. In two days he can erase a bad day with a good one. This resonated with me and my own singular pro gig. After a few hundred theme park shows, I lost the lofty notions about instruments and appreciated the quality that has always been foremost with my little Yamaha--it gets the job done.

I have a deep appreciation for my own B&M York Master, partly borne of its history, but mostly the result of that sound that bounces back to me at band rehearsal. I've never heard that sound bounce back to me before. It's not the horn doing the work, but it is the horn that makes it possible. And the big 6/4 York I played on Saturday revealed just how easy such a horn really is. I could play well on it by my standards, so imagine what it could do in the hands of a real artist.

I think if the Chicago York found the hands of another great player, it would still have been a famous instrument. But we cannot underestimate that the York was the instrument that fit with Jacobs's concept. I wonder how many wonderful players never find the horn that truly reflects their inner voice, and therefore never reach their potential.

Rick "whose potential is not limited by his horn" Denney

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