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A Guide to Low Brass

Accent Artist Deanna Swoboda answers some common questions about Baritones, Euphoniums, and Tubas.

Accent Product Specialist Jerry Zinn answers some common questions about Trombones, Baritones, Euphoniums, and Tubas.

How do I know what instrument to buy?

In the area of low brass instrument selection, especially in the area of euphonium and trombone, a good place to start in the selection process is determining "how big should the bore be?" Bore size is identified by the size of the mouthpiece shank. Large bore instruments will typically product a full, rich, big sound. They also demand a good deal of breath support to achieve the desired sound. If you consistently feel tired and "out-of-breath" on the big-bore instrument, it might be too big. The smaller-bore instrument (identified by the mouthpiece shank being the same as used for a tenor trombone) may feel like it is easier to blow and therefore grants a little more endurance. The only way to determine what instrument is right for you is to actually play the instruments. In Accent trombone, the smaller bore (0.525") f-attachment trombone is model TB780LF. The larger bore trombone (0.547") is model TB781LF.

In tubas, a determination on overall instrument size, valve style, and valve location needs to be made in order to start your decision process. Sizes most frequently considered are 3/4 (often most used in elementary and junior high situations), and full, or 4/4 size. "Valve Style" refers to piston or rotary valves. The rotary valve consists of a short piston in a casing that is rotated to open or close tubing by a paddle and lever system. 4 front-action rotors can be found on instruments like the Accent TU741R. Piston valves are longer and move up an down in their casing via a spring mechanism. The Accent TU771L and the TU980L both use 4 pistons. "Valve Location" refers to whether the valves are in front, or at the top of the instruments. The TU771L is a top-valve configuration, while the TU741R and TU980L are both front-valve configurations.

Care and Maintenance

Piston valves should be regularly oiled with a high quality lubricant such as Ultra Pure. Rotary valves should use an oil such as Hetman #14 on the bearing shaft and other metal-against-metal parts of the linkage. No matter the type, instruments can and should be bathed at home, at least twice a year. The piston valve instruments can be pulled apart and given a bath. Place the parts in the bath tub and run warm (not hot) soapy water through the pipes using a valve slide brush. Gentle liquid dish soap should do the trick. Rinse thoroughly and let dry overnight. Reapply slide grease and reassemble your instrument. Once a year we recommend taking your instrument to your local repair shop for a flush and playing condition adjustment.

How do I use the trigger on my F-attachment trombone?

The F trigger will extend the low range of the instrument, and most importantly substitute for the 6th and 7th position notes, making technical passages easier to play. When the trigger is engaged, 6th position becomes 1st position and 7th position becomes 2nd position. Both the Accent TB780LF and TB781LF use an open wrap (fewer bends and gentle curves in the tubing) on the F-attachment to help eliminate the feeling of resistance when the trigger is used.

What is a double-independent rotor on a bass trombone, and how do I use it?

The double-independent rotor on a bass trombone is identified by two rotors in-line with trigger to engage the F-side of the trombone (operated by the thumb, like on a regular F-attachment trombone), and a lever on the underside which engages the G-side of the trombone (operated by the second or third finger on the left hand). Using both triggers together produces a trombone in D. An "independent" rotor configuration means that either the F-side trigger OR the G-side lever can be engaged one at a time, or both together. Dependent rotor systems require either the F-side trigger to be used alone, or both systems to be engaged at the same time. All of these configurations both help technical facility by substituting notes in 6th and 7th position, and/or to extend the lower range of the instrument.

What is the difference between a baritone and a euphonium?

A true baritone has a cylindrical bore like a trombone, and an Euphonium has a conical bore that gradually increases throughout all of the tubing. All of the euphoniums in the Accent line (EU580L, EU784L and EU784S) are true euphoniums and not baritones.

What is a Conical Bore?

A conical bore refers to the inner dimensions of tubing on brass instruments. Think of the word "cone" - a round shape that gradually increases from a point to a round base. Conical instruments start small at the mouthpiece and gradually increase throughout the instrument. Conical instruments include the cornet (as opposed to the trumpet, which is cylindrical), French horn, euphonium, and tuba. Cylindrical instruments generally remain the same through the lead pipe and valve nest, then increase throughout the bell tubing. Cylindrical-bore instruments are the trumpet, trombone, and baritone. Generally, the conical-bore instruments produce a more mellow sound, while the cylindrical instruments will have more brilliance to their sound.

Does my euphonium have a Compensating System?

Most euphoniums - even those with 4 inline valves or a 3+1 configuration - are not compensating system instruments. While compensating euphoniums like the Accent EUC981S always have their valves in 3+1 configuration (3 on top and 1 on the side) it is not a guarantee of a compensating system. Compensating euphoniums have little extra loops of tubing on the back of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd valve casings. Those extra loops helps compensate - or adjust - for normal intonation inconsistencies of the instrument.

How many different keyed tubas are there?

For band work, Bb is the most commonly used tuba. For orchestral work, the C, Eb, and F seem to be the most commonly used.

How do I use the 4th valve on my tuba?

The most common use for the 4th valve on tubas like the Accent TU741R, TU771L and TU980L is to improve intonation. Notes that can by played with 1 and 3 can be played with piston #4, and notes that can be played with 1, 2, and 3 can be played with pistons #2 and 4. Low range extension is also a benefit.