My tuba gear

Neptune tuba in Gotterdammerung pit

Here’s the tuba gear I use.

I’ve bought and sold a ton of tubas over the decades, the brands including; Rudolf Meinl, Hirsbrunner, Miraphone, Yamaha, Meinl Weston, B & S, Alexander and some that I’ve forgotten all about. At one point I had as many as 8 instruments at one time, but I’ve managed to cull the herd down to 4 tubas and a cimbasso. What follows, is a prattling on about each one.


This is my baby, my voice. It was the third tuba I purchased after a BBb German-made no-name stencil horn that got me into university and a Miraphone 186 CC that I bought in my freshman year. When I first broke into the profession, virtually, all of my work was done on the Rudi as it was the only horn I had. It remained my go-to tuba for 20 years until the Yamaha 822 F came along. It’s been re-built by Ron Partch – twice! It has patches and a few dents, but it still plays great!

Elephant Show Rudolf Meinl tuba
Hangin’ with Elephant on the Sharon, Lois and Bram’s Elephant Show.
Bizzare TV show
with the Rudi Meinl and Moe Koffman, Rob McConnell, and Guido Basso [wow!] on an early (c. 1981?) TV recording (Bizarre, with John Byner and the Henny Youngman Orchestra)
PanAm games recording
A recent gig with the Rudi Meinl – Pan-Am Games national anthems recording sessions


with the 822 F playing John Weinzweig's Interplay for Piccolo, Tuba and Piano with Bob Aitken and Stephen Clarke
with the 822 F playing John
Weinzweig’s Interplay for Piccolo, Tuba and Piano with
Bob Aitken and Stephen Clarke
Bamfield with YFB822S
Warming up on the 822 F in Bamfield, BC

My investigation into the world of F tubas began with the usual German suspects; (Alexander, B & S, Meinl Weston), and while they all sounded great, (particularly the Alex), I was never comfortable with the low register — a common complaint amongst some tuba players. With the development of the 621 F tuba by Yamaha, I thought I had finally found what I was looking for, except I discovered it was a bit small for some of the things that I wanted to do with it. Enter the 822 F, Yamaha’s flagship tuba in my opinion! It does almost everything. I am hampered only by my lack of finger dexterity in the extreme low register. An interesting side note: I Velcro down the 4th valve and pull the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th valve slides to produce a passable CC tuba for the Clarinet Polka tuba encore that we perform on True North Brass gigs. I started my career as a CC tuba guy, but this tuba is now my go-to horn for most stuff now. You can hear it on all of the True North Brass recordings (except Pictures at an Exhibition), and in the background music for an old Disney Channel computer animation kids’ show called Rolie Polie Ollie.

VMI 5198 NEPTUNE MEL CULBERTSON 6/4 CC (piston valve model)

I thought I was done buying tubas but it was announced that in 2006, the Canadian Opera Company would be doing Wagner’s Ring Cycle and I felt that I needed something with a bit more heft. I “visualized” what I was after (thanks, Joaner) and this Neptune appeared. It’s a truly marvellous instrument, but a pain to lug around! (Man, is it big!)

Neptune tuba in Gotterdammerung pit
In the pit with the Neptune for Gotterdammerung with the COC


Having just waxed enthusiastic about the 822 F, the last thing you’d expect me to do is buy another F tuba, but the truth of the matter is, I missed the Yamaha 621 for its compactness and ease of portability. My only complaint about the 621 was its ergonomics: I’m a big guy, and the valve angle used to bug my wrist on long gigs like 3 hour Dixie band strolling jobs! Once I found out about the Roger Bobo-modified, made-to-order 821, with its improved valve angle and its bigger bell, I knew I had to have one. You can hear it on True North Brass’ recording of my arrangement of Pictures at an Exhibition for BQ and Organ. It’s a fantastic instrument and, yes, that’s the tuba in my “martini” photo on this website!



There’s an article that I wrote for the Canadian Opera Company for use in their house programme and on their website about the cimbasso that I’m including here as well. It explains everything. One thing, though. In re-reading Clifford Bevan’s excellent book; The Tuba Family, I see that in my original article, to my horror, I plagiarized his wonderful line; “…render unto Verdi, that which is Verdi’s”. I have rectified this oversight in this version.

Cimbasso on Puccini's TossCat
Playing Puccini’s “Toss-cat”
Valve trombones in Verdi's Falstaff
A recent performance of Verdi’s Falstaff where the trombone section opted for valve trombones. (With our fantastic conductor, Johannes Debus, is Charles Benaroya (with Rob McConnell’s valve trombone), Ian Cowie, Herb Poole et moi.]

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