Issue: Jul-Sept 2006
Bandworld Magazine Page

 

20 Years Ago in Bandworld
Tuba Embou-Sure (concluded)
by Stuart Turner

CHANGING PITCHES

If the embouchure appears to be formed correctly and the student is having good success in producing the first tone on the tuba, move immediately to a note other than the one which was most natural at first.

If the first note produced was F below the bass clef staff, ask the student to now try second line B-flat. To accomplish this, tell him merely to tighten more on the tube and blow more air. Remember: Don't tell the student to push the air, as this will bring the tight diaphragm into the picture, a condition we do not want!

"Nicklaus tries to recreate the feeling of a good shot."
Once he has produced the second tone, ask him to play back and forth between F and B-flat, remembering what each feels like. This will begin transference of the feeling into the memory bank so that it may be recalled whenever a particular pitch is needed. Jack Nicklaus once said that when he steps up to the ball to hit a golf shot, he does not try to concentrate on all the minor details which go into hitting the shot correctly; he simply tries to recreate the overall physical sensation of what it feels like to hit a good shot.

Once he has produced the second tone, ask him to play back and forth between F and B-flat, remembering what each feels like. This will begin transference of the feeling into the memory bank so that it may be recalled whenever a particular pitch is needed. Jack Nicklaus once said that when he steps up to the ball to hit a golf shot, he does not try to concentrate on all the minor details which go into hitting the shot correctly; he simply tries to recreate the overall physical sensation of what it feels like to hit a good shot.

The correlation to tuba playing is obvious: Once we have gone through all of the processes which form the embouchure and produce the sound, we should then concentrate on the overall physical feeling which produced that sound. Then we should attempt to recreate that feeling each time we wish to play a certain note.

EXAMPLE #6

If the first pitch produced by the student was second line B-flat, follow the reverse procedure: have him relax the "grip on the tube" and blow slightly less quantity of air in order to produce F below the staff.

ADDING THE VALVES

Now ask the student to take a large breath and play down by half-steps from B-flat to F (open, 2, 1, 1 & 2, 2 &3, open). It is important to start from the top note and work down as this is much easier than working up. The student's chances of immediate success are much greater as well. Also, have the student play this chromatic exercise without use of the tongue; at this point it will only get in the way and cause problems. Instruct the student to think of air movement being exactly the same as playing a single long tone so that he will blow through the chromatic run.

EXAMPLE #7

The next step is to play the chromatic run starting on F and ascending to B-flat. This will generally be more difficult but can be made easier by playing a crescendo throughout the exercise. This will tend to keep air moving throughout the run and will make the F to G-flat break much easier.

EXAMPLE #8

MOUTHPIECE BUZZING

It is my contention that the single most neglected exercise by most brass players is mouthpiece buzzing. Let's face it; there is nothing inside a brass instrument which will itself produce sound. The sound is produced by buzzing the lips--sound which is amplified by the instrument. Therefore, it stands to reason that anything played on the instrument can also be played on the mouthpiece alone if the embouchure is properly performing its function.
So, HAVE YOUR STUDENTS PRACTICE BUZZING WITH THE MOUTHPIECE. They can play scales, etudes, songs, anything. One word of caution: Don't let them just buzz indiscriminately. Make sure they produce definite pitches as this is the only way in which mouthpiece buzzing is beneficial. Also, do not have them buzz their lips without a mouthpiece or a mouthpiece ring to define the area of lip which must be trained and con-trolled. Buzzing the lips without the mouthpiece will provide nothing useful in embouchure training.

Anything done with the mouthpiece can and should be done with the mouthpiece ring as well. You will be amazed at the results.

EXAMPLE #9

FOUR VALVE TUBAS

I have often been asked about the purpose of the fourth valve on the tuba. It is really quite simple as it is merely a compensating valve used to help bring low B and low C in tune. In fact, it is an F attachment much like the one on bass trombone; however, due to problems with intonation it can not be used in exactly the same manner. The fourth valve is used as a substitute for the 1 and 3 valve combination, which means that instead of playing low C with 1 and 3, we can play it was 4 alone. Instead of 1, 2, and 3 for low B natural, we can play it with 2 and 4.
Even with the fourth valve, these notes will tend to be quite sharp, so the fourth valve slide should be pulled out. The exact amount to pull the fourth valve slide will vary and should be determined with each instrument individually.

The fourth valve can also be used to produce the notes between low E and pedal B-flat, but due to intonation problems in this register, the fingerings usually need to be altered:

  • E - 2 and 4
  • E-flat - 1, 2, and 4 (On some instruments this E-flat can be played 1 and 4, but normally all pitches from E-flat on down must be fingered a half-step low to be in tune.)
  • D - 2, 3, and 4
  • D-flat - 1, 3, and 4
  • C - 1, 2, 3, and 4
  • Note that low B natural is lost as a result of pitch compensation. Don't worry; it won't likely be needed.

INTONATION

Every student can and must play in tune from the very beginning! As soon as a note is introduced, there must be instruction which produces correct tone quality. Since out of tune notes seldom contain proper tone quality, it follows that attention to one cures the other. Note the following examples of natural pitch tendencies on tuba which, when corrected, also improve tone quality:

LOW B: natural sharpness and thinness, then corrected. Using 1, 2, and 3 combination.

EXAMPLE #10A

Correction by opening throat to maximum "OH" shape.

LOW B: natural sharpness and thinness, then corrected by using 2 and 4 valve combination.

EXAMPLE #10B

BOTTOM LINE G-FLAT: natural flatness and corrected. The natural flatness of the 2 and 3 valve combination must be corrected by "lipping" up. This fact often makes "centering" of G-flat a problem. Increasing the "grip on the tube" often a help pitch here.

EXAMPLE #11

THIRD LINE D: natural flatness and corrected. The problem of flatness on D is similar to the G-flat; however, several alternate fingerings are available for the purpose of comparison to locate proper pitch level. Valve combination 1, 2, and 3 is an in-tune possibility which can be used to show the student how much to lip up the open D. Even 1 and 2 (sharp in pitch) can serve as an aid in this regard.

EXAMPLE #12

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