Re: CC or BBb?

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Posted by Rick Denney on May 30, 2000 at 12:58:33:

In Reply to: CC or BBb? posted by Roger B on May 30, 2000 at 11:24:05:

The appearance of this subject heralds the return of Tubenet with one of its most infamous topics.

It seems to this unqualified but perhaps not-so-humble reporter that the determining factors are three: Musical values, cost, and ease. The ease part comes from the predominance of BBb tubas in primary and secondary schools. Most amateur adults don't want to learn a new key, and ensembles that attract amateurs therefore will have more BBb players.

The musical values are most complex. Every person must find their own voice, and they may be a BBb for some and a CC for others. I've had the privelege of playing in bands alongside fine players of both keys.

For pros, my suspicion is that the biggest difference is in the available stock of horns. This is ultimately a musical value, but it leaks over into the cost consideration also. CC's have been more popular in orchestras, and so the manufacturers have targeted their best horns to that key. Orchestra pros prefer these better horns, and more of them play them, and aspiring pros emulate them by playing C instruments. I've seen the same thing with the movement from piston valves to rotary valves and back again.

The cost issue cannot be overlooked. Few bandsmen are professionals, and won't pay the cost of a five-valve hand-made CC York-o-phone. Their musical needs are different, too, and that BAT would be perhaps unwelcome in a band where the section wants to sound like a section.

The cost issue surrounds the musical issue in another way, too. There are fine BBb instruments out there in the used market starting at a couple of grand. CC horns with four valves in the same condition and quality get another grand, and the extra valve on a five-valve horn seems to attract yet another grand. Is the used, $4000 186-5U CC Miraphone better made than the used $2500 186-4U BBb Miraphone? Some say yes, others no--but the difference does not glow in the dark. If I'm playing in a band, I'd sure rather have a King 2341 or a Miraphone 186 BBb than a four-valve Cerveny CC that still costs more.

So, consider the issues of musical values, cost, and ease of playing. For many amateurs, the extra cost of a CC is rewarded with an instrument that is harder to learn (because they have to switch keys), and whose extra quality, if it exists at all, is unreachable by that player.

Rick "What do *you* need?" Denney

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