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Instruments in Bb and Eb

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Vorago, Dec 15, 2005.

  1. Vorago

    Vorago (((o)))

    Jul 17, 2003
    Antwerp, Belgium
    Can someone please explain me why certain instruments are in Bb and Eb? Why do they do this? Isn't it possible to make the tube of a sax a couple of inches longer (or shorter) so everyone can play happily in the key of C? It would make it a lot easier for musicians to read eachothers sheet music etc.

    Any thoughts?
  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Tradition. You can get some instruments in C, like trumpets, but they're so uncommon that nobody uses them except symphonic players. Really, it's not that big a deal when you play a Bb or Eb instrument. I used to play trumpet and never had a big deal with it.
  3. djcruse


    Jun 3, 2002
    Norwood, MA
    Consider this: If transposing was such a problem, don't you think trumpet and sax (and other) players would have complained long ago and had their instruments designed differently? The fact that they haven't indicates it's not a problem for them.

    And since they have to transpose and you don't, it's their problem - not yours. So who cares?
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Isn't it also the case that fingerings are common, although you get different ranges?

    So a Tenor player can play a Soprano with the same fingering and get a completely different sound...?

    But I thought the main point, was to keep the range of the instrument mostly within the stave - so to avoid loads of leger lines above and below the stave?
  5. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    The fingerings on a sax are common as far as I know, but really they could make them in C and still keep the fingerings the same. Don't know about the ledger lines thing...for a trumpet, it only adds a line and a space, and tenor sax is written an octave higher than it sounds, so that pretty much goes out the window there. So i still stand by my original answer...tradition.
  6. Bruce is correct - I'm not sure why "tradition" has anything to do with it… C'mon guys - you can do this as easy as I can… :rolleyes:


    - Wil
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

  8. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    I don't play any wind instruments and never have, so I could be totally wrong here.

    It lets you have a family of instruments with common fingerings and members sized a fourth (I think... or is it a fifth?) apart. You could make a family of only C instruments with common fingerings but then they'd be a whole octave apart. That would only give you two or at most three functional members before the smallest got way too small and the largest way too large.

    Imagine doing the violin family in octaves. Start with the violin. You can't go up an octave and make a useful instrument - it would be too small. So go an octave lower and you get something like a child-sized cello. OK. Go another octave lower and you'd need a body the size of a large living room to make the low G sound good... not that anyone could really hear it anyway. So you'd end up with a two-member family. That's not really enough for orchestras or chamber groups.
  9. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Why do those nutty Brits drive on the left side of the road? :smug:
  10. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Something about having your horse facing the correct way and not standing in the middle of the road when you're trying to mount it while wearing a sword.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Jousting and lances!! ;)

    You have to hold your lance in the right hand!!

    Did the United States ever drive on the left? -
    Yes. It seems almost certain that in the early years of English colonization of North America, English driving customs were followed and the colonies drove on the left, gradually changing to right-hand driving after independence.

    Kincaid quotes an English author writing in 1806 as saying, "in some parts of the United States, it is a custom among the people to drive on the right side of the road," implying that in other parts, people still drove on the left.

    We also know for certain that the colonies farther north along the coast drove on the left well into the 20th century.

    The first law requiring drivers to keep right was passed in Pennsylvania in 1792, and similar laws were passed in New York in 1804 and New Jersey in 1813.

    Other anecdotes from various sources also support the conclusion that most states drove on the left until some time in the early 1800s. American cars had their steering wheels on the right (the best arrangement for driving on the left-hand side of the road) until the early 1900s.
  12. JazzBassvb


    Aug 5, 2003
    Beautiful! This is exactly what I wanted to learn about. I also appreciate the list at the end of various instruments and their keys.

    I only care about this because I would like to get back to trumpet and for writing music for other instruments.

    Thanks very much!
  13. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    The different keys for instrument have a lot to do with their tone and playabliity.

    A C trumpet and a Bb trumpet are two completely different instruments in terms of tone and flexibility. Check with a pro player if you don't believe that. Jazz on a C trumpet would be a lot harder, simply because its not as flexible. Far easier to transpose from a lead sheet than to try to sound like Louis on a C trumpet.

    If all saxophone were in the key of C then there would be an octave difference in the fundamental pitch between an alto and a tenor.... and another octave lower for the Bari. The tone colors would differ greatly with a section made of all C saxophones and you could never get the blend of the big band sound.

    There were some "C Melody" saxes made in the 30's, and I would guess that they didn't cut it for pop music or they would have kept making them. Buecher made most of them, but the company re-tooled for WWII to make speedometers and never looked back.

    To deal with them is nothing at all. Players learn to cope. I play in a band with 3 horns (trumpet, tenor and trombone) and you can hand a concert pitch part to any them and they can sight transpose it. The trombone players book is mostly in treble clef too. Being able to deal with a lead sheet is just part of being a 'well-dressed' horn player.
  14. SnoMan

    SnoMan Words Words Words

    Jan 27, 2001
    Charleston, WV
    Well, I always played BBb tubas. That's pretty much the norm as far as I know when it comes to school's.

    There are C, E and F available.

    F is a favorite for Soloists due to it's extended high range. E isn't quite as popular to my knowledge.

    C's seem to be becoming more popular from last I checked.

    I'll never know what the purpose is of the first B in BBb...... :confused:
  15. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    Don't most of us play basses in the Bcool range anyway?