I worked out the other day that I had been playing the Tuba for something like 20-odd years now. What started off as punishment, when I couldn’t get my Baritone out of my Dad’s office, has led me to enjoy playing music more than ever.
I switched to Tuba while still at school and, because of the circle of friends I mixed with, I joined up with the school orchestra. Unfortunately for me, they only published music in Bass Clef (Brass Bands typically use Treble Clef for all their published music, for the majority of instruments) which meant I had to quickly pick up Bass Clef, and work out what the notes were. Fortunately I played the E Flat Tuba at the time, so the notes weren’t too different – it was mainly a matter of working out my key signatures and translating that into what I knew.
When my family moved in the Summer of 1994, I ended up playing with a large Salvation Army Band in Sunderland. This was great fun, but they already had three E Flat Bass players in the band, and couldn’t really accommodate a fourth. This meant moving on to B Flat Bass, a larger and lower instrument that requires a heck of a lot of breath to play, never mind fill.
After spending a couple of years yo-yoing back and forth between B Flat and E Flat, I moved to Brighton where I was stuck onto E Flat on account of them needing a reliable player each week. Since then, I’ve felt that E Flat is my principle instrument and it’s the one I’ve been most interested in playing.
Until a few years ago, when Bath Spa band were short of a B Flat and asked me if I would play for an upcoming contest, which I did. After the contest, I stuck at it some more moving between the two instruments before once gain settling on E Flat at both the Army and Bath Spa.
Lately I’ve been playing B Flat across the board for both the Army and Midsomer Norton and Radstock Silver and have been enjoying it to a large degree. My strength is in getting low notes with a good amount of depth – something that the Bandmaster at Bath Citadel appears to enjoy. However, I do miss playing E Flat – my tone is pretty reasonable considering how little practice I do.
For now I’m content with moving between the two as needed. I’m not and never will be a diva in that regard.