Sometimes deductive reasoning, when it can clearly negotiate the barriers of preconditioning, prejudice, dogma and habit, will lead us into unexpected territory.

In the poll of issue 22 the question was asked: Which tuba do you think is the best to start beginners; the results were very enlightening.

The results were also a little disappointing to me, still; personally they stimulated a change in my thinking that was quite unexpected.

I did expect the BBb tuba to be the first choice but I did not expect the high percentage that it got. It’s obvious that BBb tuba would be the first choice; it’s the tuba most tubists I know, including myself, started on. In one way the BBb is a good choice because it starts our tuba experience on an instrument with a rich and full low register, the register that we tubists are required to provide most of the time, and it allows us to develop that very necessary and idiomatic tuba sound.

I voted for the CC tuba. It’s richness of sound in the low register is equal to the BBb plus it has the advantage of being just a little more physically friendly than BBb tubas, especially for younger players who have not yet reached physical maturity. Still, CC tuba is difficult to manage for a young or small player.

Even more surprising to me in this poll is that the euphonium was 2nd choice at 18.9%. Certainly the euphonium is a more agile instrument than a BBb or a CC tuba but equally certain is that it lacks the depth in sound concept needed to develop in a young player who wishes to be a tubist.

F tuba was also a surprise with a very low 7.19%.

But the biggest and most unexpected surprise caused by this poll was the course of my thinking when I followed my logic. The BBb and CC are inappropriately cumbersome to a young not yet fully developed player, the euphonium and F tuba lack the richness and stability in the low register for a aspiring tubist to develop an appropriate concept of low register needed for the mass of idiomatic tuba parts.

Quite truthfully, I have to admit that I have arrived at the opinion that Eb tuba may be the best compromise for an all around instrument, especially for a beginner, it has enough depth that a low register concept can develop in a healthy way and it has the mobility, higher register and corporal friendliness, which can also develop in a virtuoso way. We all know the playing of Øystein Baadsvich and Patrick Sheridan on Eb tuba.

This may be a good moment to bring up an old and sensitive point. There is a big difference between the front action horns of Baadsvic and Sheridan and the top action instruments used in most of the UK including euphonium; that difference is the longer lead pipe of the front action instruments. There is a big difference that we should all be aware of, but that should be discussed in the forum or perhaps in a future article. That question needs to be represented by both sides.

Like most things there is a positive and negative in the selection of the Eb tuba for a beginning student. On the positive side I feel it is the best compromise, the best all round instrument for the reasons stated above. On the negative side there is an abundance of music where the Eb tuba may not be the best choice. I feel many Eb players become lazy (or perhaps a more diplomatic words would be ‘too comfortable’) with what works “well enough”.

Please excuse my digression, this is an article about which tuba is the best for a beginner to start with. If I had a young beginning student I would not hesitate to recommend he or she start on Eb.

Tokyo, Japan, April 5, 2006

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