Frequently Asked Questions

A: Big Mouth Brass is a tuba company initially founded as part of the W. Nirschl brass division of the Gemeinhardt flute company in 2006. Models J-844, 845 and 744 were, and still are, built on German tooling purchased from Walter Nirschl. The other models in the line were designed and developed by Richard Barth. When new ownership at Gemeinhardt decided to focus solely on woodwinds, Mr. Barth decided the tuba division was too important to let fade and so BMB was born in 2010.

A: No different than many bass trombones, the dependent valve was controversial from its inception. Now a German company offers a dependent rotor valve F tuba used by a famous German brass quintet. I’m flattered. Some of the greatest players in tuba history played four valve tubas. There is an undeniable more open feel to the tuba without the addition of a fifth valve in the open horn. On the other hand there are some distinct advantages to having a fifth valve in the low register. The dependent fifth valve joins the advantages of both. The argument against the dependent fifth valve is the loss of an alternate fingering for the half step or whole step above the open second partial. There are other ways to deal with that one note. In fact many great tuba players have done so with four valve tubas. If the player agrees that the overall quality of the instrument is preferable without the fifth valve in the open bugle, the question is simply whether an alternate fingering for one note (two with compromise) outweighs the advantage of feel and sound on 47 other notes. Putting the valve in the large side of the main tuning slide as on the Chicago SymphonyYork means .812” rotor on CC and BBb tubas. The F tuba would require a whopping .866” rotor. Big, sluggish and a significant interruption to the open horn. Putting it in the small side of the main tuning slide means taking 2” out of the tuning slide and still putting an interruption in the open bugle. Putting it ahead of the main cluster, in the lead pipe, is the most interruptive of all and requires the smallest tubing of any choice. Putting it in the fourth tubing allows it to be the larger .750” bore for a great low register and keeps it out of the way of the open bugle when not in use. By positioning the fifth rotor in the fourth tubing it was possible to design the operating lever without rods and levers. The action is direct and positive.

A: It works well, is simple to replace, is easy to adjust for more or less tension. I During testing two F tubas, one with a clock spring and one with resistance bands were compared by over 100 players. For action and feel, every player chose the rubber band. Admittedly many players think it looks like a proto-type. Since production has begun players who try the BMB system more often than not say they like the feel and the simplicity as well as the ability to adjust to their personal preferences.

A: The fifth valve was designed to be customizable. Not only can the tension be changed with more or fewer resistance bands, the position of the thumb rod can be rotated to suit the player’s hand. The thumb ring can likewise be adjusted. The down side, of course, is that the thumb ring is not a handle for picking up the tuba. Some players, when they have the position they prefer, may chose to have the thumb ring soldered in place.