Is there a good BBb contra?

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MoominDave
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Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by MoominDave » Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:39 am

I have a friend who wishes to purchase one. He's a BBb tuba player in our brass band, and an absolute horse of a man - doesn't train but can lift a 200 kg weight. Once went 40 days without sleep. A gentle giant - this is not someone who will experience any physical challenges with a BBb contra.

He doesn't need it for any gigs, but has been borrowing my Mirafone BBb/FF for the last year or so, and enjoying very much playing it at home. However, I need it back now (realising I had better practise it a bit before Gurrelieder at the end of August...), and he's looking to fill the void...
He specifically wants one in the low key - I've made recommendations for F contra (I suggested Rath - their R90 F contra is excellent and he likes Rath basses), but he prefers BBb. He knows that F is usually quite a bit easier to play, and still wants BBb. He's a BBb tuba specialist - he's comfortable on the long tube.

Far be it from me to discourage a true enthusiast, so I'd like to make some suggestions as to where he could look. However, my contra is the only modern BBb trombone I've ever tried, so I'm short of reference points. I wouldn't recommend one to match mine (much as he loved it) - it's not the most tonally stable trombone ever built. The only other modern maker of a BBb contra that springs to mind is Thein - has anyone ever tried theirs? I'm not a fan of the Thein F contra or any of their basses I've run across (only a couple), finding them all a bit hard to focus, but that doesn't mean that my friend might not like them more (and the craftmanship is second to none). I also can't find the Thein price-list on their website any more. Has it become an "If you have to ask, you can't afford it" kind of thing? :-)

Looking at the Miraphone website, I see that they make a double-valve contra in CC, which might conceivably be a suitable option - has anyone tried one of these?

Then - second-hand - not many contras come up used, but those that do tend to be interesting. Anyone got anything out there?
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Matt K
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by Matt K » Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:58 am

One option might be to go with an F and have one of the valves made in BBb and then reverse the rotor on it so that it is ascending. That way he has an "F" attachment that actually goes up so could be nice for higher range stuff. I had an alto like that which was surprisingly nice playing despite going through the valves. It being built right goes a long way towards that goal which if they're contemplating Thein... they can probably afford for it to be built well.

A contra is on my bucket list for sure and if I were to pull the proverbial trigger on one... I'm thinking about going that route myself... need a great bass first though personally so that's a number of years down the proverbial road!
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MoominDave
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by MoominDave » Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:09 am

I told him how much a new Thein F contra was last time I checked, and he did wince a bit :-) Said he'd have to save a bit longer when I guesstimated that one must be about £15k by now. It would be best to keep suggestions within the 4-digit GBP range, I think - say up to $15k equivalent at the biggest stretch to put it in USD, or €12k in EUR.

Not sure he's going to be keen on an avant-garde valve setup, to be honest, but it's an idea. Sure Rath would manufacture one that way if they were paid enough for it.
blast
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by blast » Tue Apr 17, 2018 8:34 am

Short answer no... no decent ones out there. Long answer.... Rath might build one but as a one off I would guess you would need to wave about 20K at him. Other custom shops might bite but the result is unknowable.

Chris
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JohnL
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by JohnL » Tue Apr 17, 2018 8:42 am

Sell him your BBb and buy yourself an F. Everyone's happy...

and broke. :twisted:
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MoominDave
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by MoominDave » Tue Apr 17, 2018 8:47 am

blast wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 8:34 am
Short answer no... no decent ones out there. Long answer.... Rath might build one but as a one off I would guess you would need to wave about 20K at him. Other custom shops might bite but the result is unknowable.

Chris
I don't think that £20k is on the table, but I'll chat about it with my friend. It would certainly be an extremely cool thing to commission Rath (say) to prototype a BBb contra. In that kind of process, how much does one specify? Does one say "Make me a BBb contra with <valve layout>" and sit back, or does one also say things like "I like <xxx> sounds and responses and admire <yyy> bass trombone design"? Maybe going as far as "I reckon .578 would be a good bore size with the fourth leg increasing to .594"?

Personally, I would use a spare £20k to build a room to put trombones in... But if he wanted to go this route I would be very keen to be involved. However, I suspect that it's unlikely.
Last edited by MoominDave on Wed Apr 18, 2018 2:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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MoominDave
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by MoominDave » Wed Apr 18, 2018 2:32 am

JohnL wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 8:42 am
Sell him your BBb and buy yourself an F. Everyone's happy...

and broke. :twisted:
This isn't the silliest idea anyone's ever had, and it has crossed my mind...

Given that we're having building work done at the moment though, I think that what would happen would be that I'd sell him my BBb, and then the temporary funds would get sucked into the building project... Let's see where we stand next year.
sf105
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by sf105 » Wed Apr 18, 2018 5:47 am

Or perhaps talk to Wessex? Apparently their new contra is much better than the first version.
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by johnnymack » Wed Apr 18, 2018 9:10 pm

Brass Ark has a "One Of a Kind " BBbb made by Brad Close for Noah Gladstone. Go to Brass Ark's Facebook page and check it out.
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MoominDave
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by MoominDave » Thu Apr 19, 2018 4:56 am

johnnymack wrote:
Wed Apr 18, 2018 9:10 pm
Brass Ark has a "One Of a Kind " BBbb made by Brad Close for Noah Gladstone. Go to Brass Ark's Facebook page and check it out.
It's a beautiful instrument - but not for sale, I don't think?
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by Burgerbob » Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:31 pm

The Miraphone is sadly the best one on the market.

I'm in possession of one right now. It's actually not nearly as bad as I was led to believe, and a little easier to play than a friend's (his is all red brass- mine is all yellow).

It's still not great, and other than a couple recordings I've put down on it I'm not sure if I would ever play with people on it.
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JoeStanko
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by JoeStanko » Fri Apr 27, 2018 9:11 am

I have a good one..it's a JinBao Miraphone copy in yellow brass but has had a bass trombone leadpipe installed. Somewhat convoluted to explain, but the stock JinBao does not come with a leadpipe. It is supplied with a small shank tuba mouthpiece that just sits in the end of the slide. The result it a foggy, uncentered sound with more than a few poorly responding notes.

I came across a unique Shires B3.5 L leadpipe, had it fit into the slide and can now use a large shank contra mouthpiece (Greg Black contra model). It takes time to find the pitches and slide positions - the double slide is terrific - smooth and fast.

One problem is holding it for an extended period of time. A lot of practice is needed to learn how to articulate and even the response, but given time this instrument can be usable.

Joe Stanko
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StephenK
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by StephenK » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:28 am

Maybe it's worth asking Wessex Tubas if they have anything hidden away. I can't see one on their site at present, but I'd thought they had done one. I remember playing a trombone with a double slide on their stand once, though I can't remember much more than that.
https://trnewcomb.wordpress.com/2014/12 ... -trombone/
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Finetales
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by Finetales » Fri Apr 27, 2018 2:15 pm

StephenK wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:28 am
Maybe it's worth asking Wessex Tubas if they have anything hidden away. I can't see one on their site at present, but I'd thought they had done one. I remember playing a trombone with a double slide on their stand once, though I can't remember much more than that.
https://trnewcomb.wordpress.com/2014/12 ... -trombone/
Stephen
For a while they had the Jin Bao Miraclone in their lineup. I don't think it was fettled like most of their other models though.
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MoominDave
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by MoominDave » Fri Apr 27, 2018 3:02 pm

I've spoken to Wessex, and my friend's going down there shortly to have a look - they have a couple in stock. We'll take my Mirafone down and make some back-to-back comparisons.
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StephenK
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by StephenK » Sat Apr 28, 2018 11:36 am

Hope it goes ok; I didn't have a lot of success when I tried, but it's nothing like my normal instrument. I'll have to get myself down there one day as it's under an hour away.
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by slipmo » Sat Apr 28, 2018 11:08 pm

johnnymack wrote:
Wed Apr 18, 2018 9:10 pm
Brass Ark has a "One Of a Kind " BBbb made by Brad Close for Noah Gladstone. Go to Brass Ark's Facebook page and check it out.
Hey guys, yeah Brad made that for me from scratch. It's a great BBb contra but still not super user. It's a one off, so not for sale (it'll stay with me in my collection)

I was inspired after consigning Murray Crewe's/Bobo's 1901 Conn contra, which is probably one of the best trombones I've ever played. It is by far the best BBb contra in the world and 100% usable. Brad and I based my beast on similar specs to this Conn contra, which is one of the reasons why I think my Close instrument works as well as it does.
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MoominDave
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by MoominDave » Mon Apr 30, 2018 3:49 am

What were the Conn contra specs that made the difference, in your opinion?
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by sf105 » Mon Apr 30, 2018 11:46 am

How did we know how to do stuff in 1901 but not nowadays? Or is it just that only the good ones survived?
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MoominDave
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by MoominDave » Mon Apr 30, 2018 11:48 am

Jake Burkle had something to do with it, I'm guessing?
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BGuttman
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by BGuttman » Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:30 pm

First, Conn only made 3 of the BBb contras. One was for August Helleberg (which I don't think was the one Noah sold).

Also, in 1901 Jake Burkle was a beginner, so I don't think he's the brains.

There really hasn't been much call for contrabass trombones until fairly recently. I would guess that a lot of the Conn "secret sauce" was lost in some archives (or possibly thrown in the trash just before the move to Abilene). Mirafone based their design on the original Wagner instrument, but with a wider bore. Besides, Mirafone was a post-World War II entity, so they were copying a lot of older instruments. I think their "Jake Burkle" was a tuba meister; their trombones are not as well regarded as their tubas.
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MoominDave
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by MoominDave » Tue May 01, 2018 6:57 am

BGuttman wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:30 pm
Also, in 1901 Jake Burkle was a beginner, so I don't think he's the brains.
Not the case at all. He started working for them in 1876, 25 years earlier.

Edit: Corrected date
Last edited by MoominDave on Thu May 03, 2018 6:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
sf105
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by sf105 » Tue May 01, 2018 8:41 am

MoominDave wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 6:57 am
BGuttman wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:30 pm
Also, in 1901 Jake Burkle was a beginner, so I don't think he's the brains.
Not the case at all. He started working for them in 1875, 26 years earlier.
Holy cow, so he would have been there for 50 years by the time he started working on the 30/2?

S
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MoominDave
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by MoominDave » Tue May 01, 2018 9:23 am

His career is strikingly parallel to that of David Blaikley at Boosey - both were master brass instrument designers arguably not surpassed since within their contexts, and both had astonishingly long careers over a very similar time period - Burkle with Conn from 1876-(not sure, but he was still there in 1943) and Blaikley with Boosey from 1869-1930 (after first working there in 1859, aged 13). I wonder if they ever corresponded?

Edit: Improved accuracy of dates
Last edited by MoominDave on Tue May 01, 2018 3:31 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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JohnL
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by JohnL » Tue May 01, 2018 9:38 am

MoominDave wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 9:23 am
I wonder if they ever corresponded?
Maybe not, but you can be sure they were aware of what each other was doing as far as instrument design.
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PhilipEdCarlson
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by PhilipEdCarlson » Tue May 01, 2018 10:08 am

sf105 wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 8:41 am
MoominDave wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 6:57 am
BGuttman wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:30 pm
Also, in 1901 Jake Burkle was a beginner, so I don't think he's the brains.
Not the case at all. He started working for them in 1875, 26 years earlier.
Holy cow, so he would have been there for 50 years by the time he started working on the 30/2?

S
I wanna hear more about Burkle.
(and the 30/32H, I've got one of each)
A quick Google search didn't turn up anything. Who's the TC expert on Burke and/or the 32H? Seems like it deserves a separate thread... Maybe two, one for the horns and one for the man.
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boneagain
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by boneagain » Tue May 01, 2018 11:37 am

Not to niggle on the 1875 date, but this link has pages from the October 1943 "Ameri-Conn" newsletter: https://www.saxophone.org/museum/publications/id/42

Check out Page 2. It has Burkle's starting date, current time in service, and age (85) as of 1943. That puts Burkle's birth year as 1858, three years before C.G. Conn enlisted in the Union Army during the American Civil War. So, age and experience-wise, Burkle would have been in the perfect place and time to figure out those double-slide contrabass trombones.
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by PhilipEdCarlson » Tue May 01, 2018 4:04 pm

boneagain wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 11:37 am
Not to niggle on the 1875 date, but this link has pages from the October 1943 "Ameri-Conn" newsletter: https://www.saxophone.org/museum/publications/id/42

Check out Page 2. It has Burkle's starting date, current time in service, and age (85) as of 1943. That puts Burkle's birth year as 1858, three years before C.G. Conn enlisted in the Union Army during the American Civil War. So, age and experience-wise, Burkle would have been in the perfect place and time to figure out those double-slide contrabass trombones.
Great article, Thanks!
Philip Carlson
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MoominDave
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Re: Is there a good BBb contra?

Post by MoominDave » Thu May 03, 2018 6:44 am

MoominDave wrote:
Wed Apr 18, 2018 2:32 am
JohnL wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 8:42 am
Sell him your BBb and buy yourself an F. Everyone's happy...

and broke. :twisted:
This isn't the silliest idea anyone's ever had, and it has crossed my mind...

Given that we're having building work done at the moment though, I think that what would happen would be that I'd sell him my BBb, and then the temporary funds would get sucked into the building project... Let's see where we stand next year.
Looks like the building work might eat more funds than intended... Selling it to him might start to look a good idea for exactly the reason it currently looks like a bad idea :-) I could always borrow it back when needed...

What's the going rate for a Mirafone BBb/FF contra in decent condition? Simply inflating up what I paid for it ~15 years ago suggests £3.5k would be a fair price, but is that about where they sit these days or not?
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