I am very lucky to have some pretty amazing friends and colleagues in the low brass community. As the tuba and euphonium are some of the newest instruments that have been developed in the brass family, there is still a long way to go in terms of pedagogy and equipment to catch up with other other brass-playing friends. I wanted to take a few moments and talk about a few different things that I have come across recently.
Before I do that, I want to take a moment and say that I am not compensated at all for what I am about to write. If I truly didn't think these products were good, I wouldn't be writing about them.
Another of my great friends is Richard Barth. I've know Richard for a few years now, as he was living in Elkhart, Indiana while I was working for Conn-Selmer. Richard is a tuba player, instrument designer for many years, and all around great guy and has designed some fantastic tubas under the name Big Mouth Brass.
Several years ago, I was at the US Army Band Tuba-Euphonium Conference (now Workshop), and saw these tubas in the booth. I had never met Richard at this point, nor tried his products. I was completely blown away by how well these instruments have played. The instruments are well-constructed, produce wonderful tones, and offer an ease of playing that isn't found in most instruments today. However, at the time, I was quite happy with the instruments that I owned, so I just filed the information in the back of my head.
When I returned to UNCG to finish my doctorate, I realized pretty quickly that I needed to upgrade my F tuba to one that was capable of playing the more demanding repertoire that is currently being written for our instrument. The only instrument I considered was the Big Mouth Brass F tuba that I currently am playing today. Again, like with the mouthpieces, I wanted to take a few moments to describe the different instruments that I have tried, and give you my thoughts on them:
Big Mouth 3/4 CC (Model # is 834 or 835): This instrument has surprised me a lot! I'm not usually a fan of such small tubas, but it makes a big sound for something as small as it is. It's a .730"(.750" 4th valve) bore, with an 16" bell. The tuba has great intonation, very easy to play, and although it can be overblown, is capable of playing at loud dynamics.
Big Mouth 4/4 CC (Model # is 844 or 845): The 4/4 CC tuba is based off of the Nirschl 4/4 design, but has many improvements to it. This tuba has become my daily use instrument, and I have played it exclusively with Bay Street on all of our performances. This is easily the best pick up and play tuba I've ever seen from a production instrument. This tuba is a great instrument for the one CC tuba player, and can be used in almost any performance setting. I'm a huge fan of this instrument.
Big Mouth 6/4 CC (Model # is 864 or 865): The 6/4 CC tuba loosely resembles the large Holton tubas played or many years in professional orchestras. The Big Mouth is much more in tune than any Holton I have ever played. What I love about this instrument is the combination of the classic American 6/4 CC tuba sound (think Arnold Jacobs in the CSO, Floyd Cooley in San Francisco, or other similar players), but with better response and clarity than in any of those older CC tubas. I've played this tuba exclusively with the Fayetteville Symphony, and have gotten nothing but positive feedback from the members and director of the orchestra.
Big Mouth F (Model # is 445): The F tuba Richard has designed is the best F tuba I've ever played. It was a no brainer to purchase this instrument. The sound color is exactly what I wanted in a F tuba, it has a lot of substance to the sound, but isn't overly dark and contrabass tuba-like. The clarity and projection on this instrument is wonderful, and I really love how easy it is to play. I feel like it takes no effort for me to play this instrument, and can't recommend this enough to anyone looking for an F tuba.
Big Mouth Euphonium (Model # is I-808): The euphonium that Richard has designed is a wonderful ergonomic improvement over the long standing tradition of compensating euphoniums. Gone is the awkward wrap of the left hand around to reach the 4th valve. It is replaced by moving the 4th valve a bit closer, allowing an easier time to reach the 4th valve. It also has a movable leadpipe, which allows the player to find a comfortable playing position. Like all the other instruments, the clarity in tone and ease of playing are simply amazing. Another great instrument to check out.
To find out more about any Big Mouth Brass Instruments, get in touch with me via the Contact Form, or visit Richard Barth's Blog.
Thanks to my great friends for their wonderful work on making better things for our low brass community!
Andrew Smith currently serves as the Director of Athletic Bands at and Assistant Professor of Low Brass at Campbell University and is Principal Tuba of the Fayetteville Symphony. Andrew also maintains a low brass teaching studio in the Triangle region of North Carolina.