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Player of fine trumpets
Date Joined Oct 2001
Total Posts : 2943
| Posted 9/28/2016 2:29 AM (GMT -6) |
Tuba is written at pitch, except (apparently) in the world of British Brass Bands where it is treated as a treble clef transposing instrument. Go figure. Traditions!
It wasn't really "tradition".
In the early days of the brass band movement in the UK there were sound practical reasons, because it meant that all the valved brass instrument players in the group worked to the same fingering system, making it easier for players to switch between instruments as the need arose (often quite frequently) due to changing personnel. It didn't matter whether your instrument was pitched in soprano Bb (Cornets), alto Eb (Horns), tenor Bb (Baritones/Euphoniums), bass EB (Tuba) or Bass Bb (Tuba), a written 'C' scale was still a written 'C' scale and was fingered the same way, so you didn't have to learn a new fingering system if you had to change instrument.
Trombones were left out of the system, because it was felt that learning a slide position system as against a valve fingering system was harder, therefore players didn't switch to and from trombone so much. So tenor trombones in early scores were written in concert tenor clef, and bass trombone in concert bass clef. Over time, the tenor trombones became transposing instruments and changed to treble clef Bb transposing, the same as baritones/euphonium. Players realised that by equating the positions of a descending chromatic scale from a written 'C' (or any other "open" harmonic) to the fingering pattern of the same scale, it was relatively simple to figure out how to read the same transposed parts.
The bass trombone was left out of this and remained as a concert pitch bass clef part, because up until the mid-'60's (approx.) the British bass trombone (not just in brass bands) had a fundamental pitch of 'G', and so the slide positions were completely different from that of a Bb tenor, and didn't lend themselves to re-learning. By the time the US-origin Bb/F triggered bass trombone became common in the UK there was so much "legacy" repertoire written in bass clef that it was never going to be practical to change the bass trombone part to treble clef transposing, and so it remains the only instrument in a brass band score to be written in concert pitch (apart from tuned percussion).
The odd thing is that some modern publishers who provide so called "world parts" with their brass band sets (F horns, bass clef concert baritones/euphs/tubas etc.) also provide a Bb treble clef transposed bass trombone part. Almost full circle ...
Where it becomes really confusing is that in some parts of the world, and in some mixed woodwind/brass ensembles, "World Parts" sometimes also include parts for bass clef transposed Eb and Bb tubas. I guess this is for the same reason as the old UK treble clef transposing system, ie. a player who has learnt a fingering system for the 'C' tuba can now play a part on an Eb or Bb instrument without having to relearn the fingering. Again, almost full circle!
Now, if I can just collect up all these worms and get them back in the can ...
Gareth J. Green
Windows 10 (under duress ... )
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