Tuba questions

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BflatBass
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Tuba questions

Post by BflatBass » Thu May 17, 2018 9:28 pm

The other day I was watching a video by Trent Hamilton about the Bb tuba. He said the Bb tuba reads in treble clef. Now, I've been playing tuba parts on my bass trombone in one of my community bands and it's all in bass clef. And as far as I know there are only three types of tubas (not including euphoniums): the Bb (also called the BBb), the Eb and the C (also called the CC). So I'm assuming that all tubas play the same music, it's just the fingerings that change, depending on which tuba you're playing, to achieve the same note. But why are some tuba parts in treble clef and some in bass clef? My tuba parts don't say Bb tuba or Eb tuba etc. They just say tuba or basses. Is it a throw of the dice as to which clef a tuba might have to read for a given score? There has to be a common denominator here or at least a common practice for which clef to use in a given instance.
I'm sorry if I'm being captain obvious here but this is something that I've never been educated on with my limited musical experience.
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JohnL
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Re: Tuba questions

Post by JohnL » Thu May 17, 2018 9:55 pm

In some parts of the world, and in some ensembles, tubas do read treble clef music. British-style brass bands, for example, traditionally have ALL of the parts except the third/bass trombone written in either Eb or Bb treble clef.

In the US, you'll normally see tuba parts written in concert pitch bass clef and it's read by tuba players using F, Eb, CC, and BBb tubas - they just use the appropriate fingerings for whatever key their tuba is in.

Some concert band music is published with additional "World Band" parts to accommodate regional differences in notation and instrumentation. Alfred Music lists the following as World Parts:
Horn in E-flat (EH1)
Trombone in B-flat Treble Clef (TN1TC)
Trombone in B-flat Bass Clef (TN1BC)
Baritone/Euphonium in B-flat Bass Clef (BBBC)
Baritone/Euphonium in B-flat Treble Clef (BTC1)
Tuba in B-flat Treble Clef (TBBTC)
Tuba in B-flat Bass Clef (TBBBC)
Tuba in E-flat Treble Clef (TBETC)
Tuba in E-flat Bass Clef (TBEBC)
Alto Clarinet in E-flat (ACL)
Contra Alto Clarinet in E-flat (ECBC)
Contra Bass Clarinet in B-flat (BCBC)
String Bass (SB)
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Re: Tuba questions

Post by BflatBass » Fri May 18, 2018 4:51 pm

Thank you John L. This is very helpful. So does this mean that the Bb tuba is in concert pitch and the rest are transposing instruments? And is treble clef used for tuba simply to get the notes closer to the center of the staff much like tenor clef is used for trombone music?
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Burgerbob
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Re: Tuba questions

Post by Burgerbob » Fri May 18, 2018 4:56 pm

Treble clef was used by brass bands to make switching to any instrument as easy as picking it up. There's not a great reason it's used now.

Tubas are like trombones- despite some of them being in different keys (like Eb alto trombone, F contrabass trombone, BBb and CC tubas, etc), they are not transposing instruments (outside of a brass band!). An F tuba reads the exact same music that a CC tuba would, but simply uses different fingerings to play the same notes.

This is different than say, saxophones, which all read music that has been transposed for their instrument.
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Re: Tuba questions

Post by hyperbolica » Fri May 18, 2018 5:15 pm

BflatBass wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 4:51 pm
Thank you John L. This is very helpful. So does this mean that the Bb tuba is in concert pitch and the rest are transposing instruments? And is treble clef used for tuba simply to get the notes closer to the center of the staff much like tenor clef is used for trombone music?
They are all in concert pitch if notated in bass clef. If they are in treble, they are transposing. BBb is written in treble to ease with moving from other instruments, like trumpet. It might have some side benefits like fewer ledger lines, but I doubt that was the original purpose. Eb tuba in treble reads like bari sax. It seems like an insane system until you have to read trumpet and tuba at the same time. Euphonium can be written in bass or transposed treble as well. It seems that bass trombone is the only instrument immune from the madness in the British system.
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Re: Tuba questions

Post by imsevimse » Sat May 19, 2018 8:06 am

It is not a silly system at all to have the tubas play in treble clef.

Often a brass band musician is asked to play more than one of the instruments in the brassband family. A brass band has only brass instruments. Without a bass function any music becomes rather pointless. Every chord demands a bass tone. If the tuba player is missing on the rehearsal a cornet player can fill the chair. This is the basic idea

The brass band tradition has been strong within the Salvation Army as well as within some other churches here and they participate in the service and play hymns in Sundays. It is then convenient to be able to move between parts with ease to save the ceremoni if a bass player is missing. Before whole families of several generations could be in the same band. Today the band tradition is not as strong. Earlier many skilled brass players started their careers in the Salvation Army, both classical and jazz players.

In Britain I do not think the brass band tradition is so closely connected to a church. Their tradition is broader and is still wealhy. It builds a lot on competition. I have several recordings of great British Bands who have won their series. They are sprung from work places started by miners and factory workers who formed bands for amusement and recreation. Why struggle with bass clef if you are a cornet player who just need to fill the tuba chair temporary after a day at the factory floor. If you want someone to switch to tuba it is a lot easier if they can just grab the tuba and read the music as before.

Who choose to play tuba as their first choice in the music school? Very few from my experience. If you let them start on cornet in an environment where there are only brass instrument to choose from and later try to make it as easy as possible to move to the tuba, you might be able to persuade someone to give a try.

The point to have additional parts not in concert pitch for tuba players is there are a lot of successfull tuba players coming from the brass band tradition. If you ever played brass band you will notice the technical demands are very high on the tuba players compared to what is demanded from the tuba player in a symphony orchestra or a wind orchestra.

/Tom
Last edited by imsevimse on Sat May 19, 2018 10:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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BGuttman
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Re: Tuba questions

Post by BGuttman » Sat May 19, 2018 9:38 am

In the American Saxhorn Band of about 150 years ago, all parts were in transposed treble clef except for the Tuba. Again, reasons are pretty similar. The Saxhorn band was generally part of a military organization and players could be otherwise occupied when it was time to play a concert (musicians were often stretcher bearers and medics). Since the tuba was in Eb, a bass clef part could be played and read by a transposing clef player; much like trombones can read baritone saxophone parts.
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Re: Tuba questions

Post by BflatBass » Sat May 19, 2018 11:12 pm

Thank you imsevimse. That explains things better. At first I thought the whole clef thing was useless complication but knowing some of the background behind why music is written the way it is expands my understanding. It seems like at one time you weren't considered a trombone or tuba player, you were a brass player. And maybe at one time the term doubling meant you played brass and woodwinds or something to that effect. I was thinking that playing both tenor and bass trombone was doubling ha ha. Me personally, if I was to play all brass instruments in a brass band I would suck at them all. Being able to play just two proficiently is hard enough.
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MoominDave
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Re: Tuba questions

Post by MoominDave » Sun May 20, 2018 12:26 am

I actually don't think that brass bands need to justify their clef choices with a reason. Nobody gives sax players a hard time for playing in transposed treble clef.

But it sounds like Trent's video was being quite confusing here...
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