Equipment, Accessories, and Apps, oh my!
I would guess that the number one thing I get asked is about my tuba and tuba-related equipment.
I often tell students that as long as you're practicing efficiently and effectively, equipment isn't that big of a deal. If you have good equipment, it will work. To that effect, I often share one of my favorite anecdotes.
When I was a TA at FSU, I would always work the FSU Summer Music Camps. For three or four weeks, thousands of middle- and high-school students flooded FSU's campus for all sorts of different camps, starting with Tuba/Euphonium Camp. Boy did they want to know about our equipment: tubas, mouthpieces, literature, mutes - you name it. And that's okay - stay curious, kids. But Professor Ebbers wanted to make a point... Every day we would start by doing some sort of call-and-response type daily routine/warm-up session. A lot of times a TA would run this warm-up, but on this day, Prof. Ebbers decided to do all the demonstrating.
When we finished, he calmly asked all the students how he sounded that morning. He was met with a ton of positive responses - "You sound great, as always!" At this point he even had us TAs curious - why on earth was he asking about this?
"Well I'm glad you all liked the way I sound this morning, because I just did our entire daily routine with you, on my tuba, in the same octave I always do, but with a euphonium mouthpiece!" To say he cracked a wry smile would be an understatement! A hush blanketed the room and he began to talk about the importance of efficient practice.
However, it would be silly of us to think that equipment doesn't matter or that it doesn't affect our playing. It certainly does. Dr. Fun would always equate playing and our instruments to a record player (look it up, youngins'). Our buzz is the record, our mouthpiece is the needle, and our instrument is the speakers/amplifier. If you get a better amp and speaker set, you're going to notice just how bad that old, scratched up record is. The important thing is to find the right needle and amp/speaker setup that works for you and produces the end product that you want to hear. But no matter how expensive of a needle and player you get, that old, scratched up record still isn't going to sound good.
So, what needle and speaker set do I use? I'm glad you asked!
CC Tuba: B&S Perantucci PT-6PS
Translation: 5/4 CC Tuba, Piston Valves, Silver Plated
Other Notes: I really want to try out the MAW valves and their fancy stems and caps
F Tuba: B&S Perantucci PT-15, 40th Anniversary Model
Translation: 5/4 F tuba, Rotary Valves, Lacquer Finish
Mouthpiece: Giddings & Webster "Alan Baer" MMVI
Other Notes: "Limited Edition 40th Anniversary of the Classic B&S F Tuba" is printed on the bell. Basically that means it has a rose brass bell and some gold brass slides. I had no idea what any of that really meant at the time and it was just the one they happened to have in stock.
Euphonium: Wessex Dolce (Silver)
Translation: Large Bore Silver B-flat Compensating Euphonium
Mouthpiece: Schilke 51D (Large Bore)
Other Notes: This is an affordable "stencil horn" made in China and sold by Wessex that I bought just to have a euphonium. I would like to buy a Willson someday soon!
Mutes:Ion Balu Handmade Wooden Mutes
Other Notes: I have two handmade Ion Balu Wooden Mutes that are finished with the darker finish (I want to say he used to call it Onyx) - one for my F tuba and one for my CC tuba. The black finish looks AWESOME with my silver CC tuba.
Gig Bags: Glenn Cronkhite Blue Cordura Bags
Other Notes: These bags are made to fit my specific models of horns... and they are awesome!
Flight Cases: Custom Walt Johnson Flight Cases
Apps I Like:forScore, PitchLab, MET Gnome
Recording: Zoom h4n (check out my other blog post about recording!)
Amplification: Old bass guitar amp hooked to a Hartke 410 Bass Module XL-Series
Effects: Digitech RP360
And if you find yourself wondering, "But hey, you have those expensive handmade wooden mutes and you travel all the time - how do you take care of them?" Well, I've got you covered:
These are handmade mute bags made by my wife! And sorry folks, they aren't available in any stores!
Until next time - hope to see you all at SERTEC!