Step-By-Step Guide To Improving Tone Quality On Tuba

tone quality on tuba
Written by Corey Morgan

Steps to better  tone quality on tuba

I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter how good your tuba technique is, how fast you can play, how high you can play, or how quiet you can play. The only thing that really matters is the sound you make, and that is all that matters.

This is because if you have a fantastic technique but sound bad, no one will ever want to hear what you or the tuba can do. Of course, the quality of the sound you produce is quite subjective.

If you’ve been playing the tuba for a while, you may have taken the sound for granted. You have a sense of how it feels, and the sound is vaguely consistent.

In my opinion, a tuba’s most basic sound should be warm and rich, with a velvet-like feel. There are, of course, instances when this sound is the last thing you want, but I believe it is the best sound to utilize for getting things going. As a result, this sound provides an unimpeded tone that is full of natural harmonics and air.

Here are a few tips to help you good tone quality on tuba:

Tuba playing is governed by three “non-negotiables”: tone, intonation, and timing/rhythm. Tone is the most important of the three. Having a strong foundation in all three of these areas increases a player’s chances of success in any performance, competition, or audition.

The most important consideration here is, of course, the tone.  Nothing else matters if you don’t have a good tone. This is the most important thing you can do, therefore here are some tips to help you improve your tone.

  1. Optimal Tone

Make a mental note of how you want your voice to sound before you begin recording. Listen to recordings and live performances. If you have no idea how you want to sound, your chances of attaining a beautiful tone are minimal.

  1. Air

There should be a lot of air flowing through the sound. Take in more air than you think is necessary, and don’t try to meter the air out of your mouth while you play. Getting a full, rich tone is as simple as breathing deeply enough, which is something that the majority of people neglect.

  1. Small or Nasal Tone

For beginner and intermediate trombonists, the most prevalent tone issue is a small, nasal sound. A larger, fuller sound can be achieved by relaxing your lips and opening up your embouchure a little more.

  1. Fuzzy or Airy Tone

If you’ve been playing for a long time and haven’t warmed up, you may have an issue with a fuzzy or airy tone. It’s best to use mouthpiece buzzing or “free” buzzing if you still hear fuzz in your sound even after warming up (buzzing without the mouthpiece). An airy sound caused by orthodontic braces can be alleviated by buzzing, and I’m a big fan of it. Puffing the cheeks and/or bunching the chin can also result in an airy tone.

  1. Pressure and Angle of Mouthpiece

Too much pressure on your mouthpieces can reduce the tone. You’ll notice a ring around your embouchure as you play the tuba; however, if you observe a deep red ring after only a few minutes, you’re probably using too much pressure.

You simply need a small amount to make a seal. The sound is muted and the user becomes fatigued when applying excessive pressure. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to how much pressure or how much angle your mouthpiece is applying to your upper and lower lips. Try varying the pressure on the top and bottom lips to hear what happens to the sound. An instrument’s balance and tilt can have a significant impact on its overall sound.

  1. Tension

In general, too much stress can have a negative effect on the tone. Tubists who play loudly are prone to get overly enthusiastic and anxious, which results in a “blatty” sound.

Your loudness isn’t the problem; it’s that you’re employing the wrong kind of loudness. Try to remain as relaxed as possible while performing or training. Your sound will grow thicker and more free as you calm down. Relax, take a deep breath, and try again if your sound isn’t good on a passage when practicing.

  1. Don’t Worry About the Soft Palate

Do not attempt to raise the soft palate. Many individuals have undoubtedly told you to elevate your soft palate as if yawning or fogging up a mirror. This is an old myth. Don’t pay attention to it!

As a result, your oral cavity becomes strangely tense, and you may have an odd nasal sound or sensation as a result. Your mouth and throat should be relaxed, so don’t try to push or manipulate them in any way. Take a deep breath and blow.

Things will start to open up on their own, and your tone will improve dramatically. Many college students I’ve worked with over the years have tried so hard to raise their soft palates that they’ve ended up with this problem. Their tone ultimately improved when they mastered the art of relaxation in their mouth and throat.

  1. Priority

Tone should be a key emphasis in your playing, as I have indicated. Everything else is secondary to this one. If you’re practicing and you’ve got the right notes and rhythms on a passage but the tone is off, go back and practice it with a better tone.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Improving Tone Quality On Tuba

Knowing what we’re up against and carefully listening to certain samples is only half the battle when it comes to enhancing tone quality. The other half is provided by these six exercises.

  1. Long Tone Pedal Exercises

How can one improve their tone quality on tuba? If you really want to improve tone quality on tuba, I recommend doing long tone pedal exercises.

Tone is mostly defined by the opening up the throat, the use of supported air, and the relaxation of all tension. Pedal long tones are a great method to practice all of these concepts at once. To make a sound, your instrument’s pedal tones need all of these components.

Use the pedal B-flat instead of a note in the center of your range to begin your favorite descending long tone exercise (or whatever fundamental of your particular instrument). If you stick with it for a month, you should start to see changes.

  1. Learn from the Greats

If you’re trying to learn a song, look for a professional recording. Pay attention to the tone quality used by the player. Now, play the piece along with the person. I suggest something calm and lyrical.

Simply mimic their performance. Repeat it every week. You can also use orchestral excerpts or switch up the piece and/or performer.

  1. It’s time to upgrade your equipment.

Let me make one thing very clear before you go out and spend a lot of money on something you don’t really need. Equipment that costs a lot of money isn’t the answer.

Great musicians make even the cheapest instruments sound great, and persons with strained tone quality can still have that quality on expensive instruments. If you’re still using the same mouthpiece you started with, it’s time to upgrade.

If your instrument has a small bore, you might choose to switch to a medium or large bore. It’s probable that your tightness while playing is caused in part by the restricted passages of a small bore.

Relaxing into the sound can be enhanced by using a mouthpiece that is deeper or wider. With a larger bore, you’ll be able to get more air in.

  1. Exercises to Improve Your Breathing

When practicing, breathing exercises are sometimes overlooked. People focus too much on the technical aspects of music and forget about the fundamentals. Although it’s difficult to describe, breathing exercises come in a variety of different ways. For starters, here are some examples:

  • Opens the diaphragm and relieves stress with stretches.
  • Exercises to increase lung capacity by deep breathing.
  • Practicing exhalation exercises will help you get the most out of each breath.
  • Visualization exercises to increase tone by focusing on specific air streams.
  1. Use the Mouthpiece to Buzz the Notes

This is a fairly effective technique: remove the entire instrument. First and foremost, buzzing teaches you how to hear where the notes should be placed on. You’ll hear a more focused sound this way.

Second, buzzing on the mouthpiece eliminates all resistance provided by the instrument. To buzz the same amount of material, you’ll need to utilize a lot more air.

When you put the instrument back together, it feels like magic. Because of this, the piece’s tone is expected to be more free and open.

  1. Tension

Poor tone quality is most commonly caused by tension. What’s the source of this tension?

It might be everywhere, depending on the individual. Sometimes when you’re trying to get high notes out, you’ll feel some tension in your lips. Learning to play with more air will be necessary for this task.

The throat can become tense from time to time. Try yawning. Feel how that openness feels. Now, while you’re playing, try yawning.

You must learn to relax all those muscles. Try blowing on your hand to see if you can tell the difference between cool and warm air.

However, tension can develop throughout the entire body. Look in the mirror while you’re playing to see how you look. Do you have a hunching back? This is a sign of tension. Relax your shoulders. Is your lower back or stomach tense? This may limit the amount of air you can inhale.

It’s hard to list every possible scenario. Identifying the source of your tension is the first step to alleviating it. To do this, all you have to do is play and be fully aware of your body while doing so.

This shouldn’t be as difficult as it seems, because once you know what to look for, it’s generally very evident.

Final Thoughts on Tone Quality on Tuba

Developing tone quality is one of those things that takes time. There will be no quick fixes for young players. In particular, this is true for players who lack the strength to perform comfortably in the upper registers.

With that said, it’s common for a more experienced player who plays with a weak or strangled sound to have a few physical obstacles that can be rapidly remedied by an experienced teacher.

If you believe you fall into this category, try playing while standing up to open up the diaphragm and focus on breathing deeply. Pay special attention to the throat and lips.