Saturday, December 29, 2012

Concept of Sound: What a Tuba SOUNDS like..Arnold Jacobs: Portrait of an Artist

I originally just wanted to do reviews of Tuba recordings but I think this is better. I want to review and suggest recordings not only for our listening pleasure but also to help develop a concept of sound for students and educators who don't have a background in low brass. A concept of sound with regards to any instrument is so crucial because our brain will imitate what we hear when we try to create music and if you don't know how your instrument is supposed to sound it can be a major set back for some students. In my opinion, the more educated a student is with regards to how their instruments SOUNDS the more successful they will be as they progress as a player. 

What better place to start than with the gold standard: Arnold Jacobs. Not only is Jacobs one of the finest Tubists to play the instrument, he is arguably the greatest brass teacher ever.

The recording put out on Summit records is Arnold Jacobs: Portrait of an Artist. It is one part of a two part series. The second is Arnold Jacobs: Legacy of an Artist. One of the great features of these recordings is that there are recordings of Jacobs with chamber ensembles, solo practice in his studio, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and intertwined between the music are excerpts from Jacobs' lectures about music, song and wind. 

My favorite bits from this recording are the lectures. Much of Arnold Jacobs' philosophy revolves around getting out of your own head, getting out of your own way and making music. A few of his former students would tell me that Jacobs said "You have two horns; the one in your hand and the one in your head." All of his philosophy put more simply is song and wind.

Since this is an article about developing a concept of sound PLEASE purchase these recordings and listen to them. I will make it easy for you and provide links where the records can be purchased:

Truly the only way to develop a good concept of sound is to listen to the recordings...

A better version..."I'm using my F tuba, and no, I'm not transposing."

 Rachel Matz

I wanted to write something on this topic and just when I think I am ready I go to Rachel Matz's  blog and she has done a better job on the subject than I could. So I do what any sane person might...I link to her version because I honestly think it is terrific. Check it out!

Rachel Matz is a great Tubist and educator. Please check out her other blog posts.

SPAM! Yeesh...

Okay, so it looks like I have made it! My blog is now being graced by spammers. I try to clear this up as soon as I can, but sometimes I miss it. It makes me sad that so many great places on the internet get all gunked up by spam. If you are a regular visitor to this blog and run into some spam, send me a note and I will burn it from my blog. 



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sousaphones and Tubas: The jokes of the advertising world... (or are they?)

above: if Buddy Rich were to switch instruments, at least he would have good taste...

In advertising and movies Tubas and Sousaphones are usually used as comic relief. Here are a few examples of Tubas and Souasphones in advertising. 

above: from Capri Sun's Disrespectoids campaign

On a previous blog post I wrote a little about Sousaphone Simon.  Simon's story is explained in detail from their wiki: 

"Simon Timpanelli is a tuba player in a marching band. He was extremely talented at playing tuba. Simon was jealous of another tuba player named Susie Violini. He was fed up with Susie always trying to kiss up to the band leader, Stan Mandolini, to make Simon look bad. So while Susie was practicing, Simon secretly dropped his Capri Sun into Susie's tuba. Unfortunately for Simon, sabatoge was a super stupid idea! Simon's neck turned into a sousaphone, keeping his normal head sticking out of the wide end, and keeping his normal body. Now he is known as Sousaphone Simon."

above: ACEA "rhythm" ads

The Italian public utility company ACEA put out a few advertisements with the caption at the top reading "Get the right rhythm for your water bills." I think this particular ad is great.  

above: Can you find the Sousaphone?

In 2009 First Bank ran three different ads similar to this one with a sort of "Where's Waldo" style to them with an obvious answer. The other two used a komodo dragon and a submarine instead of a Sousaphone. The caption in the lower left corner reads "Find the sousaphone to win free checking." 

above: I love that "for strength" is in lower case...oh sweet irony

According to some beer connoisseurs, this is Guinness ad #41.  This is one of those ads where Tubas or Sousas become "Suessian" creatures.  

I am sure that there are MANY more ads that I have missed. Do you know of any? Please share if you do!


 above: I LOVE the Ohio State University Marching Band

A reader sent a link to this great Hyundai Sonata commercial. The Ohio State University Marching Band performs the "script Ohio" as part of their pre-game show. This involves the band spelling out "Ohio" in cursive. When this is done a senior Sousaphone player will run out and literally
dot the I in Ohio. This commercial involves a man wanting to live his dream of dotting the I.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Great Tuba Solos: Bydlo from Pictures at an Exhibition

above: Arnold Jacobs performs the solo from Bydlo 

In orchestral Tuba literature there are a few well known great solos. One of my favorite is Bydlo from Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. 

The original Pictures at an Exhibition was composed as a piano solo. It later became a staple in orchestral literature following Maurice Ravel's orchestration. 

Pictures at an Exhibition is the musical embodiment of Modest Mussorgsky's trip through an art gallery viewing the works of his friend Viktor Hartmann. Pictures is a suite of ten movements. Between each "picture" movement is a promenade that repeats the opening theme in a different mood. In my opinion, the various promenades act as palete cleanser between each of the movements.  

Bydlo or "The Ox Cart" is the 4th movement. The creaking, motion of the cart is represented by the droning eighth notes in the basses. The song of the cart driver is the solo. This movement starts with the cart prominently out front, builds and ends with the cart moving off in the distance. 

This solo isn't always played by Tuba player. Sometimes it is played by one of the Trombonists. Gene Pokorny says of Bydlo on his recording Orchestral Excerpts for Tuba

"Bydlo: In spite of the fact that playing Bydlo justifies a whopping 2% at most, of the total job description of an orchestral Tubist, be ready for an ill informed conductor or audition committee to put too much weight on this excerpt in the overall evaluation of the player. Be ready to have it played very slow, or very fast as is demonstrated on this recording and try to find an instrument that has some good in tune slots for the highest notes in the excerpt. Incorporate alot of contrasts with the dynamics. After you win the job, get your ego out of the way and decide who can make more music out of the piece; one of your tacit Trombone colleagues or yourself." 

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Did I Play The Original Sousaphone?"

above: Dave Detwiler from his article on the Original Sousa

Friend and amateur Sousaphonist Dave Detwiler wrote this interesting article about the Original Sousaphone. Pretty interesting stuff. I recommend you check it out. You can find a link to his article below. It is in PDF format, so you will need an adobe reader to open it. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Events - 2012 RMPBB Outer Banks Tuba Retreat!

The Rodney Mack Philadelphia Big Brass Outer Banks Tuba Retreat 2012
September 8 - September 14, 2012
Tuition, room and board - $850.00
Price includes: One week of lodging, four gourmet style dinners, four days of seminars, master classes and ensemble practice. Also included is transportation to and from Norfolk International Airport.
Application/deposit deadline July 30, 2012
Full payment deadline August 15 , 2012
*all payments are non-refundable
Featured artists are:
Matthew K. Brown (soloist and Tuba with the RMPBB)
Don Harry (Principal Tuba, Buffalo Philharmonic and Professor of Tuba at the Eastman School of Music)

These retreats and clinics are excellent opportunities to see world class pro players. As an attendee you also get a chance to meet them and pick their brains. Get some rest, relaxation and go to some excellent clinics and performances. If you can manage, you should definitely attend!


Monday, June 18, 2012

Unusual Sousaphone Accidents...Parachutes...

above: a civilian parachuter hits a military band during a ceremony

This is old news but this is the first I heard of it so I thought I would share. This happened on July 17th, 2008 at Ft. Riley in Kansas. I am not trying to make any sort of joke posting this, I just  think that it is an interesting circumstance that doesn't happen very often.

The source for the news story I saw is linked below:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Sousa Savers! Jayhawk Blue

Here are some photos of our latest SousaSaver batch in Jayhawk Blue! You will see these again on the Sousaphones of the University of Kansas Marching Jayhawk band.

Comics! - Dodge Tuba!

From our good friends at Tone Deaf Comics. You can see more band related comics at:

Check out the archives. Good times!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

EVENTS - Cosmopolitan Tuba and Euphonium Workshop

As musicians it is very important to get together, participate in clinics and try to learn as much as you can from other players who have more experience than you do. This workshop is a great opportunity to watch some top notch players perform. If you are anywhere close to this, please make sure to attend. You won't regret it. The guest artists include:
  • Matthew K. Brown - Tuba soloist (see my record review of Mr. Brown's record here.)
  • Jon Sass - Tuba soloist
  • Patrick Sheridan - Tuba soloist
  • Michael S. Milnarik - Tubist and clinic host
  • Demondrae Thurmond - Euphonium (member of Soto Voce quartet)
  • David Childs - Euphonium soloist
  • David Bandman - Jazz Euphonium 
  • Roland Froscher - Euphonium soloist
This is an INTENSE group of players and you shouldn't miss an opportunity to visit with them and watch them perform. 

This workshop takes place July 8th - July 21st at Nichols College in Dudley, Massachusetts. 

For more information on the clinic, please visit the clinic website:

Here are some videos from the artists participating:
Matthew K. Brown, Roland Froscher and Michael S. Milnarik performing Barbara York's Tuba Quartet - 3rd mvmt.

Jon Sass - Voodoo Child (slight return)

Patrick Sheridan - Tiger Rag

Demondrae Thurmond - Pantomime by Philip Sparke

David Bandman - his own jazz arrangement of Holst's Second Suite in F

David Childs - Carnival of Venice

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

NEW MUSIC! - Concerto for Tuba and Wind Ensemble by Gary Ziek

above: CSULB Wind Ensemble - Alan Baer Tuba Soloist

I love new music. Part of what I want to do is share as much new music with people as possible. I have a few excellent selections lined up and I am always looking for more. This one I discovered on accident one evening while having dinner with the composers wife at a French Horn conference. I am very glad I did. 

Concerto for Tuba and Wind Ensemble was written by Dr. Gary Ziek, professor of Trumpet and Director of Bands at Emporia State University. It was written for one of Gary's close friends, Alan Baer, principal Tubist in the New York Philharmonic.

Listen to this work and enjoy. It's fantastic and deserves attention. 

To purchase this music visit

The Cimarron Press catalog number is CM1944.

Let me know what you think of this work!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Stuff Found in Sousaphones: Aliens!

above: aliens have invaded this Sousaphone...

Okay, so I haven't posted in a while. There is a very good reason for that; traveling for work, working day and night and trying to spend a few minutes with my girls once in a while but I have some new material to post about and should have some new posts soon!

While cleaning out a Conn 14K Sousaphone today this doozy came out of the horn. It's a (apparently) homemade bell cover. When it came out of the horn as I was flushing it with water all I was thinking was "please don't let this be underwear..."

Next on Stuff Found in Sousaphones - a love letter...really.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Essential Recordings: Orchestral Excerpts for Tuba - Gene Pokorny

I want to start this series of articles with one of my favorite recordings; Orchestral Excerpts for Tuba by Gene Pokorny of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 

This recording is fantastic. Not only does Gene Pokorny play orchestral excerpts that are commonly played in auditions he also explains important details that will help the player better understand the excerpt like why the excerpt may have been chosen and what particular skill the excerpt is designed to highlight. 

Gene Pokorny does a phenomenal job performing the excerpts. It is important as wind players to have a good concept of sound and having recordings like this one help players in that sense. The quality of this recording is excellent. The recording captures the finer dynamic changes and subtle nuances in Gene Pokorny's performances. 

My favorite piece of advice Gene Pokorny gives regards Bydlo from Pictures at an Exhibition. 

"Bydlo: In spite of the fact that playing Bydlo justifies a whopping 2% at most, of the total job description of an orchestral Tubist, be ready for an ill informed conductor or audition committee to put too much weight on this excerpt in the overall evaluation of the player. Be ready to have it played very slow, or very fast as is demonstrated on this recording and try to find an instrument that has some good in tune slots for the highest notes in the excerpt. Incorporate alot of contrasts with the dynamics. After you win the job, get your ego out of the way and decide who can make more music out of the piece; one of your tacit Trombone colleagues or yourself." 

This recording is an essential educational tool and a great example of a phenomenal Tuba sound. It is a must for all players. 


Monday, February 13, 2012

Help your fellow Tuba players: University of Texas Pan American Tuba Ensemble

 above: The University of Texas Pan-American Tuba Studio circa 2009 or 2010

Dr. Scott Roeder and the University of Texas Pan-American Tuba/Euphonium Ensemble are heading to Linz, Austria for to play in this years ITEA conference. Unfortunately, this isn't cheap and college students aren't exactly hemorrhaging excess cash, so please help support them in any way you can. If you have a few extra bucks skip coffee for a few days and help some young Tuba students fly around the world and get an experience that will benefit them greatly. 

To make a donation, please contact Dr. Scott Roeder at:
or call him at 956-665-7134

Below is the flier announcing their performance, with a list of all the players...
UTPA Tuba Euphonium Ensemble Performance
International Tuba Euphonium Conference 2012 in Linz, Austria

The University of Texas-Pan American Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Scott Roeder, has been invited to present performances at the 2012 International Tuba Euphonium Conference in Linz, Austria. The ensemble is only one of seven collegiate tuba-euphonium ensembles across the United States to be invited to perform. This invitation shows that the hard work, dedication, and performance excellence of the tuba and euphonium students at UTPA is being recognized and valued among tuba and euphonium musicians around the world. In a larger sense it is an affirmation of the talent of young musicians in the Rio Grande Valley and the quality of music education in south Texas.

The International Tuba Euphonium Conference (ITEC) is an event held every two years and is a show case for the world’s best tuba/euphonium musicians. Teachers, students, and performers from around the world attend ITEC to hear concerts, lectures, and masterclasses from leading soloists and pedagogues. These conferences are also venues to hear up and coming musicians through international competitions and collegiate performances like the UTPA Tuba Euphonium Ensemble has been invited to present.

Attending an ITEC, especially one held in Europe, is an experience like no other for a music student studying tuba or euphonium. This conference will provide the young musicians of UTPA access to performers and teachers that can only be obtained at an ITEC. They will hear performances that will inspire them to new heights and learn new performance ideas and techniques that will give them the knowledge to get there. The connections that can be made at a conference such as this, have the potential to open doors that would never be possible otherwise. Furthermore, students will be able to hear many great European soloists that rarely make it over to the United States to perform. The guest artists for this conference are nothing short of spectacular. In addition to the great benefits of just attending, students at UTPA will have the unique experience of performing at the conference. Very few collegiate musicians ever get the opportunity to perform at an ITEC.
The students of the UTPA Tuba Euphonium Ensemble are a diverse group of individuals from many different areas of the Rio Grande Valley. Most students in the group are studying music at UTPA. However university students with outside majors also perform with the group. The current members of the ensemble include:

Alexis Alba (Donna HS)
Jossafat Corona (Juarez Lincoln HS)
Loida Guerrero (Roma HS)
Amy Guzman (Palmview HS)
Osvaldo Lopez (La Joya HS)
Abel Ocanas (Economedes HS)
Victor Rodriguez (Economedes HS)
Jesus Ruiz (Nikki Rowe HS)
George Sanchez (Nikki Rowe HS)

This group represents cities and school districts from the entire Rio Grande Valley region and the students came from some of the best high school band programs in south Texas.

While this performance opportunity and trip is a once in a lifetime experience for the students involved, it is also an extremely expensive endeavor that most of the students would find hard to provide all the resources necessary to attend. Therefore the ITEA Chapter at UTPA, it actively seeking out sponsors to help raise the needed funds to allow all ensemble members to participate in this experience. If anyone is interested in helping sponsor the trip, please contact Dr. Scott Roeder (, 956-665-7134) or Abel Ocanas (, 956-624-0601)

Tone Deaf Comics: A Tuba Player's Brain

above: A Tuba Player's Brain from Tone Deaf Comics
(click the image to enlarge)
Tone Deaf Comics creates comics for anyone that was ever in band. Lots of jokes for all the instruments in the band and orchestra. They put them out pretty regularly. I will post Tuba related ones here (and others that I find exceptionally funny). 

You can find them at:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Trip to the Musical Instrument Museum

above: outside the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona

Recently I had the great pleasure of working at the Southwest Regional French Horn conference in Phoenix, Arizona. A few miles up the road from the college was the Musical Instrument I had to go.

  above: a Conn double bell Euphonium

The museum is organized by geographical areas; Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Oceania, Africa with musical instruments from almost every country in each area. When you enter the museum they give you a head set that automatically detects where you are and plays a musical example from the exhibit in front of you. It's pretty great. 

In addition to the world exhibits, there is also an interactive exhibit with Nickelodeons (very elaborate player pianos with drums, accordions, bells, etc) gongs, drums and even a Theremin that you can play. 

Across from the interactive exhibits was the restoration area. The museum had a large window so patrons could see specialists maintaining or preserving old instruments. Unfortunately we were there on a Sunday afternoon so there wasn't much going on.


 above: Mike Riepe masterfully plays the Theremin

above: VERY old Conn Eb Tuba
 above: Miraphone Wagner Tuba circa 1983
 above: Rotary valve set from Cerveny Eb Helicon
above: another photo of the Cerveny Eb Helicon
above: a small Eb Tuba
above: the MIM had MANY helicons
above: 5 and 6 valve Trombones
 above: some kind of strange Sousaphone shaped harmonica like horn
above: Rotor valve set with VERTICAL action and clockwork springs for a tenor Tuba
 above: full view of the same Tenor Tuba
 above: Eric Clapton's guitar "Brownie." He used this one to record Layla.

above: Steve Vai's custom 3 neck Ibanez. The top photo has a "cheat sheet" with the tunings listed for each neck.
  above: Contrabass to be played with a double reed. A link in the chain between Bassoon and Ophicleide. The sort of great grandfather of Tuba...
 above: Ophicleide on the right, the creature at the bottom is the bell of a Russian Bassoon.
above: civil war era "over the shoulder" horns
above: Musical Banana. Need I say more?
above: Paul Reed Smith (PRS) 25th Anniversary Dragon
above: Martin Guitars workshop display
above: the gift shop had Sousaphone magnets!

While at the museum I took many photos, but due to a technical problem I lost over half the photos I took. This entry is just dips your toes into how cool this museum is. The admission is (at the time of this writing) only $15.00 and in my humble opinion is worth every penny. If you are going to be near the Phoenix area anytime soon, please make plans to visit. I don't think you will leave disappointed.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tips for Flying with Musical Instruments - Large and Small

above: the author, awaiting his flight back to the midwest...

Whether we like it or not, sometimes we have to fly with our instruments. I really like to travel, and I have traveled all over the world with musical instruments so I am used to it and quite honestly it doesn't really bother me that much. If you have never flown with a musical instrument it is important to know a few things that might help the process move smoothly and help you to get where you are going. 

These tips are just my opinions and come from my personal experience. Your experiences may vary.

Tip #1 - Unless you have to or have a case designed specifically to allow the instrument to be put into checked luggage, carry the instrument with you.

Your instrument will change hands many times between when you check it and when you arrive at your final destination. Not everyone handling it will be as careful as you are when handling your musical instrument. Some people assume that because it is in a case that it is indestructible. Your best possible solution is to KEEP THE INSTRUMENT WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES if possible. 

The airline employee might ask to gate check the bag, which means that they will handle it until you board the plane. Ask them if you can hold onto it. You never know what could happen to it when it is out of your hands. 

If you are traveling with a Tuba, this might mean that you have to buy the instrument a seat on the plane which in some cases is cheaper than putting it into check luggage. I did it with the horn above. You can see it strapped in and ready to go below.
above: a very happy CC Tuba observing the "fasten seatbelt" sign

Most airlines allow musical instruments to be carried on the plane. If the instrument won't fit into the carry on compartment above the seat, check with the airline to see if they have a closet on the plane that will fit your instrument. I have personally traveled with a Tenor Sax, Trumpets, French Horns (cut bell), 5 Trombone hand slides (please don't ask), and (obviously) a Tuba. I have carried them ALL onto the plane.

Tip #2: Pack your instrument in a compact, lightweight but durable case.

When I have had to travel with instruments, I have found it best to pack them into a gig-bag style case with back-pack straps. I like to reduce the amount of weight I have to carry as much as possible and smaller cases make getting around and through security much easier. When flying with a musical instrument I usually travel with a shoulder bag, a suitcase full of clothes and one musical instrument. Having a lightweight but durable case is a must. For the Tuba above, all I had was the hard case so I had to work with what I had, but it could be done.
Tip #3: Allow yourself more time than usual to check in, get through security and board the plane. 

You should give yourself more time than usual and expect to be asked many questions. If you have a larger item, like a Tuba, it will take more time to go through security and more time to board the plane. The TSA will not be able to put your Tuba through the X-ray machine so they will want to open it up and look inside. Once through security, go to the check in desk and let them know you have a Tuba (that has paid for a seat) and you need to get it aboard, but don't want to inconvenience any of the employees or other passengers. 

Tip #4: Through all of this BE NICE, BE NICE, BE NICE. 

The people who work for the airlines and the TSA agents deal with grumpy people all day and I have personally found that a good attitude and a smile help things get done much quicker. 

Tip #5: Before flying, check with your airline to check their policies. 
Every airline has different policies for musical instruments. Please check the links at the end of this article for different airline policies. Don't be afraid to call customer service or ask questions if you aren't 100 percent sure about an airlines policies. Like I said before, I have flown with lots of stuff and never once had an issue with any airline.

If you have to check your instrument, use a case designed to be checked. The case needs to be able to withstand movement in the "belly" of the plane, be able to have luggage and other stuff stacked on it without crushing your instrument and be able to withstand being dropped. These cases can be VERY expensive, but if you travel frequently and check your horn it is worth every penny and can save you lots of money in repairs. 

If you have any tips that I have forgotten or have any interesting travel stories involving musical instruments, please let me know!

(select musical instrument, pick your origin and destination and they will provide info)