Tuesday, December 29, 2020

 Low Register Beauty 


All tubists are looking for ways to improve the low register and there are several low register methods available for that purpose. Some are very good, none are bad, but I would like to suggest that perhaps the very best method available has been available for a very long time.


First, let’s review a couple of the very unique idiosyncrasies of low register on the tuba. Work in the low register is slower to show results than any other aspect of tuba study. In a tubist’s formative period, progress becomes audible in almost all parts of playing but more often than not the low register seems to be at a developmental standstill. It’s during these frustrating times that it’s most important to preserver; improvement is taking place, just slower than we would like.


The other aspect to remember is that there is nothing else (that I know of) in human endeavor that resembles the adeptness necessary to play the tuba in the low register. Of course, I’m referring to the very large volumes of air we need to play low and the maintenance of the air pressure necessary to support the large, fast moving flow of air. Remember that at one octave lower at the same dynamic, a note will take twice as much air. This takes work, patience and perseverance to master. 


This reality of air volume and pressure can sometimes push us beyond our performance comfort zone, which frequently results in a rough and unmusical mode of playing in the low register. Here is one of the major rules of performance: LOUD IS NEVER MORE IMPORTANT THAN BEAUTY. 


Many players work on their low register by playing the Bordogni vocalizes, whether the tuba version or the Melodious Etudes for Trombone, down an octave; this can be dangerous because the physical demands at that extreme low register are so great that they frequently result in the rough and ugly playing as mentioned above. 


I have had very positive success with my basstrombone students in the past by having them play those same Bordogni Vocalizes in tenor clef down an octave, which essentially lowers them a fourth and puts them in the central basstrombone tessitura; since that works so very well for basstrombone why not the same for tuba? Although I will use examples here referring to F and CC tubas, of course, it will work equally well for Eb, BBb or any combination.


Please try the following: When learning the Bordogni vocalizes, learn them on both CC and F tubas. When they are finished, then play the same etudes on the CC tuba using the F fingerings. It puts the vocalize down a fourth and in a way that makes the transposition very easy. It places the tessitura at an optimum Register for the contrabasstuba parts we meet in Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, and it can be played from a standpoint of beauty rather than as a physical feat. 


An extra but wonderful benefit of this method is that when these same vocalizes are played on F tuba with CC fingerings it puts the tessitura up a fourth, in the central bass/baritone Vaughn Williams Concerto and a large number of solo and symphonic basstuba repertoire.


This means that one will play the vocalizes in four different ways; as written on the CC and the F tuba, on the CC tuba with F fingerings and the on F tuba with CC fingerings. These four modes support each other very well and lead to rapid improvement, ... and it’s easy and it’s fun! 

December 29, 2020, ... Oaxaca, Mexico