• Trying a New Horn

    Posted by Maxwell WANG

    What to try when trying new horns


                So you’ve decided that you want to buy a new instrument and you have the thing in your hands. How do you tell if it’s a good instrument and what you really want? What do you play in order to fully test it out? Hint: You probably shouldn’t just play the loudest excerpt you know and if it sounds good, you get the horn.

                The first thing you should do is find a place to try the horn that is quiet and where you can actually hear what the horn sounds like. If you’ve ever been to a music conference with a showroom full of instruments, the room with everyone playing obnoxiously loud is not the place to test a horn that you’re seriously considering buying. You can always bring the horn to a practice room or empty classroom (Just let the vendor know you’re taking the horn so they know it wasn’t stolen!). Once you’ve settled down and can hear yourself think, then it’s time to pull out your tuner to get into the nitty gritty of the horn’s intonation and tone quality. It’s a well-known fact that to win a musical audition, you need to play in time, in tune, and with good tone. Well, being in time is really just down to you as a player, but the instrument affects both your tone and intonation and should be what you are testing when trying out a horn.

                Now that you are in a quiet space and able to gauge the important aspects of your instrument, what do you play? You might be thinking that this new instrument is like a fancy sports car, and you need to put it through its paces by playing all the fast and loud excerpts you know, but by doing so, you’re skipping over what will give you a true representation of the horn. You SHOULD play your daily warm up and slow scales. Why, you ask? Sounds boring, but you have hopefully played your daily warm up and scales enough that you know them like the back of your hand and exactly what they’re supposed to sound like. Then you can directly compare how you sound on the new horn with how your old horn sounds, and scales will also check for intonation and how much slide pulling you’ll have to do. It’s also very important to play everything slowly, so you can hear any subtleties.

                Finally, if your warm up and scales check out and you really like the horn, then you can play your loud excerpts to see how the horn responds from a lot of air and volume. After all of this, you’ll have tried about every type of playing you’re going to do on the horn, from soft to loud playing, slurs and articulations, scales, and low and high register playing (all of this should already be in your daily warm up!). Buying a new instrument should be taken seriously, and you should really take your time when trying one out. Here at the Tuba Exchange, we have a quiet room specifically for you to sit down and try out our instruments and we give you plenty of time to get a good feel for how your new horn plays. We hope this blog was helpful, and if you’re ready to try out some new horns, come see us!
  • Brass Mouthpiece Guide

    Posted by Maxwell Wang

    So you’ve decided you want to buy a new mouthpiece that will drastically increase your range and flexibility and produce a fantastic tone. And to find that magical mouthpiece, you have decided to visit your local music store and try every single mouthpiece they have to find the perfect one. If they don’t have it, then on to the next store to try out all their mouthpieces! This blog post is to save you some time and to tell you that mouthpieces make up a very tiny percent of your overall playing and most likely won’t magically fix your playing.

    The main components of a brass mouthpiece are the rim, cup, throat, and back bore. The rim and cup make up almost all the change in how a mouthpiece plays, while the throat and back bore don’t affect the mouthpiece significantly as long as they aren’t too open or closed off.

    The rim is what you press your lips to and that facilitates the lip “buzz.” When picking what type of rim you are going to go with, you will want to consider its width, contour, and inner edge. Beginning players should opt for a medium width, slight contour, and sharper edge, as this will be the most comfortable on the lips while providing a sufficient air seal and limited flexibility. Here’s the non-magical part: once you get comfortable with and are successfully playing with a beginner mouthpiece, then you can start looking to upgrade mouthpieces. And with rims, you’re really only looking to switch to a more rounded rim and smoother inner edge. These changes make it more difficult to control your sound, but increase your overall playing flexibility by making it much easier to move your lips around the rim. Like it sounds, more flexibility takes more finesse, so should be reserved for a more experienced player. No magic shortcuts here!

    The cup is the bowl behind the rim with which you blow into. A beginner will want to go with a medium-sized cup. A medium cup requires less air volume than a big cup while you still get a more uniform response across all registers, better than a smaller cup. As you develop as a player and find out what kind of playing you want to do, like lead trumpet in the jazz band or the solo tuba in an orchestra, then you can switch to a smaller cup for a brighter tone and quicker response or a bigger cup for a darker tone and more mass of sound.

    Like mentioned above, the throat and back bore make small changes to your playing, and are usually made by the manufacturer to work well with the cup you have picked. Some more advanced players like to drill out the throat of their mouthpiece to make it more free-blowing and to increase volume, but this requires even more air from the player, and when you drill away part of the throat, there’s no going back. However, if the throat becomes too open, your tone can be too spread and require too much air, or if the throat is too small, tone with be stifled and you’ll be playing against too much back pressure. It’s normally a good idea to just go with what the manufacturer has set up.

    Hopefully this was helpful and will save you a lot of time when searching for that magic mouthpiece. The main point is that if you don’t sound good on your mouthpiece, you can try and get a different one, but nothing will help your playing out more than just practicing and sounding your best on any equipment you’re playing on. With that being said, if you have reached the point on your mouthpiece where you see the need for a different one, the Tuba Exchange has some for you to try out!

  • What about the “free shipping”?

    Posted by Todd Rodrigue

    Many Websites promise free shipping (with or without some sort of caveat attached), and you may wonder why the Tuba Exchange does not offer free shipping?

    Well, it is a well-kept secret that “free shipping” is really not free,

    but is always, in some shape or form, actually included in the price.

    There are a number of reasons why we do not offer free shipping:

    1. Our instruments are bulky and delicate.

    They are too large to ship via US Postal Service, so they must ship via motor freight/truckline. They also require special packaging, heavy duty cardboard, and then we also palletize our shipments. By doing so, we can rest assured the instruments are handled by pallet jacks and forklifts, which is much safer, and this also insures the packages are not multi or double stacked.

    1. We ship all over the country.

    If we would include shipping costs in our pricing to cover every destination in the USA, the pricing (if we included the free shipping) would be very unfair to our customers in the eastern part of the USA, because we would be charging them the same averaged price that a customer on the west coast would pay. By separating the shipping charge, we are able to calculate actual shipping costs to your destination zip code rather than some averaged cost included in the sales price.

    1. Some customers buy multiple instruments.

    The total shipping cost for more than one instrument is always cheaper on a per instrument basis because we can put more than one instrument on a pallet. Again, IF we used an averaged freight charge included in the pricing of each instrument to cover the so-called “free shipping”, you would basically be paying double for shipping. This is not equitable in our estimation, which is why we separate the shipping charges from our instrument pricing.

    Please send any feedback as we always welcome your comments!

  • ITEC 2016

    Posted by Maxwell WANG

    Hello fellow low brass players!

    This past week was the famous ITEC! (International Tuba and Euphonium Conference) This blog post is a short summary about the ins and outs of the conference if you don't know about it... I know I didn't when I was in high school and early college!

    First off, ITEC is a conference put on by ITEA, which as you can probably guess by now is the International Tuba and Euphonium Association. You can find their website at  www.iteaonline.org. The conference is a week-long event held at a different location around the country and abroad each year. This year, ITEC took place in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee.

    The conference is full of master classes, presentations, recitals, and concerts. There are also plenty of exhibits from instrument stores to try out all of their awesome instruments, including yours truly, the Tuba Exchange! There's always something going on during the conference, but it's nice to take a break and go check out all the different instruments!

    A typical day in the life of ITEC starts out at 8 AM with a group warm-up which is lead by an influential teacher or performer from the low brass community. The day then breaks off into master classes, presentations, and recitals given by a variety influential teachers, performers, and small ensembles. Each lasts about an hour, and these events continue throughout each and every day. A few examples from this year were a master class given by Gene Pokorny on going beyond what the composer wrote in order to make music, and a joint recital given by Aubrey Foard and Derek Fenstermacher, principal tubists of the Charlotte and New Jersey Symphonies respectively.

    To conclude each day, a concert is given at 8 PM that features the "big hitters" in the tuba and euphonium world. This year, Oystein Baadsvik, Ben Pierce, Sergio Carolino, Roland Szentpali, and Steven Mead (just to name a few!) gave concerts. If you don't know who they are, please look them up because they are the ones leading low brass solo playing and pushing boundaries.

    That about wraps this post up, and I hope it was fairly informative. Though ITEC is officially over this year, start thinking about the one next year! It's a great experience, full of education and inspiration, and you get to meet all the great names in the low brass world like a low brass geek!

    If you have any questions about the conference or if I missed anything, feel free to shoot me an email and I can talk with you more in depth!


    Max Wang


  • We have moved!

    Posted by Luc Kerkhof

    When was the last time you moved (either to another residence, another job or another building)?

    A sales rep from a moving company told me once that moving was right up there with the other two major traumatic events (death and divorce).

    But we didn't listen and decided it was time for us to leave the old yellow house for what it was and find our dream location!

    We needed more storage space that would allow us to have everything under one roof, and preferably on the same level!

    I was most surprised to find out that there was so little commerical real estate available that met our criteria. We needed ample space for big trucks to come and deliver, we needed enough warehouse space, we wanted a decent office and a nice showroom, etc.

    We almost hit paydirt when we made an offer on a building in Raleigh, but alas, the site was so contaminated by the leaking tank of a nearby gas station that it was an environmental hazard!

    So again we started looking. We finally found our new location, and as with many things in life, it was not "love at first sight". Sure it has plenty of space, it has a nice showroom and plenty of office space, but we need more warehouse space.

    So we compromised, we bought it and decided we will add a new warehouse in the back.

    That is scheduled to be our 2016 project (a man always has to have a project on hand or in his mind)!

    We moved in on December 15th. It took us a number of weeks to find our bearings, but by now it has already started to grow on us. We have plenty of plans and ideas to make it our very own place, but you will have to watch us how we do it. I plan to put up regular posts on our progress.

    For all of you who who are interested in our new environment, please come and see us!

    We are here five days a week from 9-5, and our new address is
    2411 S. ALSTON AVE
    DURHAM, NC 27713