3.2.5 Tuning


Survey responses: 


    1. I think there are a number of factors: 1 no hand in the bell 2 much more responsive to the embouchure: it’s very possible to change the intonation by your embouchure. You can play a note in the center and still change the intonation a lot (especially on F-tuba) much more than on the horn. 3 more difficult to hear and balance each other, because of your own sound in your ear loudly and the other voices rather softly 4 Wagnertuba bits are often exposed which makes it noticeable 5 often you have to start after not playing for a while 6 many pieces have both horn and Wagnertuba (fast) changes can be challenging 7 range is an issue; middle and lower range often is difficult on a single B-flat Tube. Very low passages on a F-Tuba can be challenging too as they are different from response than hornplaying. Some rare higher passages on F-Tuba can be hard too, but it’s not often.

    2. I self have No problem with the tuning… 

    3. The tuning is without exception the biggest issue in every group. The inner tuning of the instruments is just way underdeveloped in comparison to the horn. And another thing is that most of the notes seem to have more moving space within them in terms of intonation. Therefore its more difficult to find the real ‘center’. So i use sometimes different fingerings than on the horn. For instance in the middle register: G on B1, G# on B2, and an A on B0. I think its the combination of the hornplayers not so much practicing on them and the horn/tuba builders not really developing the instrument so much as they do with the horn. 


    • Yes the Tuning is different and needs a lot of attention. 

    • The reception of the sound is very different so makes (the player) insecure. Sometimes you notice the quartet is not tuning well, but it's not always clear who has to adjust. 
    • We always do extra rehearsals as a quartet. Spend time on the instruments together and use the tuning device a lot. Also find alternative fingerings. 
    • I spent quite a lot of time to analyse chords and functions in order to know where to go if I seem to be out of tune. 
    • I think with our tuba's the blending is not an issue. If it is an issue, then it's probably the tuning or the balance causing the issue. 
    • It appeared to be very helpful to ask a fifth person to judge and help with the tuning. 
    • You can't use the hand to adjust intonation, so you need to have alternative fingering options ready.
    1. Different fingerings the on the double horn. Basically F horn between c''and g.

    2. Since their is no hand in the bell, it is sometimes hard to keep intonation low enough. in general low notes are rather sharp and high notes rather low (compared to the horn).

    3. My experience was that you have to learn your own instrument first, to find out the problems for tuning, and then do a lot of ensemble practicing.

As can be seen, tuning is one of the biggest differences regarding the horn, which even becomes one of the biggest problems. Construction factors of the instrument that are mentioned, such as not having the hand in the bell (something that really helps to balance the tuning of the horn), the lesser constructive evolution of the instrument with respect to the horn or the difficulty of finding the exact centre of each tone, makes it individually already complicated to find the tuning (something that depending on the register and type of tuba can become even more complicated). This makes the tuning of a Wagner tuba quartet an even more complicated task.


As can be read from the answers, Wagner tuba quartet passages in orchestral music (shown in the chapter 4) are often exposed and sparse, which means that players have to start playing cold or with little time for adaptation and without a solid tuning reference (as may be the case in the second movement of Bruckner's seventh symphony). Moreover, the perception of the sound between the horn and the Wagner tuba changes, something we are not used to and which can generate complications in listening to the rest of the section.

In addition to this, Ericson J. (2019), in agreement with the results obtained from the survey, qualifies the difficulty of finding the centre of each tone (which in many cases results in a sound that does not match well) as one of the main factors that makes the work of intonation and tuning so complicated. For this, he underscores the importance of working with the tuner, adjusting the valve slides well and using different fingering that can correct the intonation of the tones (especially including the use of the fourth valve). As for the latter, he gives us a list of the fingering he uses (which is obviously personal and varies from instrument to instrument).


In this situation, the most effective solution, according to the experience of professional players, is to use different fingering than on the horn and find the centre of each tone, in addition to a deep individual work of knowledge of the instrument that you are going to have to play. Also, if we have to play in section, there is no doubt that additional sectional work (both practical and harmonic) is required in addition to rehearsals in order to adapt to all the new things that playing the Wagner tuba entails.