Bollinger Tuning

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Matt K
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Bollinger Tuning

Post by Matt K » Tue Apr 24, 2018 8:32 am

Another thread was mentioning cutting a 2nd valve on a bass to G or bG and was wondering about the use of such a tuning system. This area is a better fit for that so let's talk about that here.

What is "Bollinger" Tuning? What are the advantages/disadvantages? WHat's the best way to learn the setup once one has a horn setup in such a way?
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Re: Bollinger Tuning

Post by JohnL » Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:25 am

I arrived at the bG tuning from the "other direction"; rather than shortening up a Gb attachment, I pulled the slide on a G attachment.

This goes back to my college days (1982 or so). I started tinkering with the second valve tuning on my P-24G to see if I could put a Gb in first position (it wasn't long enough for that). At the same time, I developed the habit of playing low F using the second valve so I had more room to match the tubas, as they tended to pull sharp on that note, which naturally led to playing a lot of second-space C's the same way. What I found was that the positions for a chromatic run (Bb-B-C-Db) just seemed to lay really well with the second valve about halfway between G and Gb; it's 1-(T1)2-(T2)3-5. The slide's still moving, but you don't have to reverse direction. A Gb tuning would put the second-space C in almost exactly the same position as the B below it, and I found that I was more comfortable (and more fluid) with the C out around third.

The other thing was that I never used the second valve to play notes in first position. In lengthening the second valve to bG, I was only "giving up" valve/slide combinations I wasn't using anyway, while the B and C below the staff became a bit less of a reach.
Last edited by JohnL on Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bollinger Tuning

Post by boneagain » Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:39 pm

Great reply from John!

Re: "What's the best way to learn..." I'd recommend Bollinger's book, "You've Got TWO Valves, Use BOTH" (that's the subtitle, but it's better than the fairly generic "true" title.) Has very specific examples of how this tuning can be very advantageous, and exercises to get the combinations into muscle memory.
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Re: Bollinger Tuning

Post by EZSlider » Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:06 pm

Got the book a few days ago.. Have not had time to get to deep in to playing material just yet.
Appreciate the info.
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Re: Bollinger Tuning

Post by Mv2541 » Wed Jun 13, 2018 6:11 pm

Thought I would give my 2 cents (after only a few practice sessions). Explained to me by the guy I got the horn from (idk if he is on the forum) the Bollinger system puts the second valve halfway inbetween G and Gb. The levers are also different from standard shires axials (shorter throw but more force required).

He told me I should tune the first valve to F in first and the second valve to F in exactly 3rd position. With the second valve only, F and C are in 3; E and B are in 4; Eb and Bb are in lowered 5.

On the double valve, Db is in 3 and B natural is in 6. Don't ask about C because I am still trying to find exactly where it sits best. Actually I am trying to find where EVERYTHING sits. The blessing is that the horn lines up similarly to my tenor (which makes sense since they're both Shries).
Bard College Conservatory 2020
Shires- Kanstul MV42 Pipe, TW47, Axial, TY, 7YLW- Greg Black 4G-5GL w/Lexan 106 rim
Rath R100- Lexan N105.C+.C+2
Shires- B62-78, Bollinger Axials, B, Bollinger Bell- Pickett 2
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Re: Bollinger Tuning

Post by hyperbolica » Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:31 pm

What I originally wrote here was rambling and unfocused, so here's a second try.

The Bollinger method as set out in his book is all about improving technique by making better use of alternate positions using all valves. He calls his tuning "1/4 tone G" in the book to avoid the bG/Gb confusion. Early on he gives a fingering chart, and something you might notice is that there is no note associated with 1st position second valve. He lists a lot of the alternate positions, for example, C, B, Bb, low F, E, and D all have 3 possible positions/fingerings.

If you go through the exercises and look at the annotated fingerings, in the scalar stuff, the slide motion keeps a consistent direction. So that's pretty much what he claims in the book as the advantage for his tuning.

I was originally a fan of G tuning for the second valve until I realized that you can't line up in-tune 1st position notes with the open horn, v1, v2, v1&2. The result is that one valve combination (probably second valve alone) is unusable in 1st position, or you push 1st position out a couple inches.

I'm not a full time bass player, I just play to increase my opportunities in this area. So the bass is not my daily driver. I don't play a lot of what I think Bollinger was aiming at with his method. I found for me, through some trial and error, that the Bb/F/Gb/D tuning lines up better with the kind of playing I do.

I went through several horns (including indies, dependents, and singles) trying to find a tuning, sound, ergonomics, and other characteristics I liked. Yamaha 613r, 50b2, tr181, tr159, 72h, 70h, P24g, custom Wessex double valve tenor, Duo Gravis, and finally a Kanstul 1662i. My favorites were the P24g because it was just an overall great instrument (and the G is for G tuning). Maybe not the best low note player, but a really fun to play, and good sounding horn. I also liked the tr159 because it sounded great and could double as a tenor, although it didn't have a second valve, I had thought of having a plug in valve added to it.

The Kanstul has a lot of flexibility with replaceable leadpipes, nice big valves, a great price, the unique sound of TIS, modeled as an update to iconic horn (62h), and was fairly light weight. Plus, it has a usable 2nd valve. Gb in 1st position is right in tune, even with the 1&2 combination being only slightly sharp. Second space C is about 25 cents sharp in 1st position, and low F about 5 cents flat (which is close enough on fast passages).

If you're doing a lot of fast scalar stuff on the staff with a high tolerance for alternate positions, the Bollinger tuning is meant for you. If you're doing more chord tones/arpeggios in nice bone-friendly keys, then the Bb/F/Gb/D tuning is probably better for you (because you've got the Bb chord right in 1st position, pedal Bb open, D v1&2, F v1, Bb open, and then on down the slide for arpeggios down to the pedals). If I had it to do all over again, I'd probably wind up with a single valve with a P24g or some sort of insertable second valve, like a plug in on the tr159, or a Yamaha 622. My section mates in one band I played with loved the sound of the Kanstul over the P24g, just that big warm velvety dark sound, so I sold off the rest of the horns, regretting of course the Olds and the Holton.
Last edited by hyperbolica on Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:44 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Bollinger Tuning

Post by brtnats » Thu Jun 14, 2018 8:52 am

There was a Bollinger video on this back in the mid-2000s when I was a trombone student, so this is paraphrased from that. He basically believes that since Western music is structured on chords, the instrument should be set up and optimized for chords. I believe Bollinger’s setup goes like this:
In the harmonic series, the 3rd partial is sharp and needs to be flattened. Flat-G tuning places the D, Db, C, B, and Bb in “normal” positions as opposed to extended valve positions. You lose the G in first position, but you have a quick-access D instead, and you essentially line up the Bb, A, Ab, G, and possibly Gb and F arpeggios from the pedal register through the high register in positions 1-7. Now I’ve not played a Bollinger-tuned horn, but I have played around with a G valve as my second valve. Having immediate access to middle D-Bb in the same positions as their higher counterparts is revelatory, and Bollinger’s tuning actually makes it easier to play these notes in “normal” positions.

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