In normal practice, every tuba and euphonium player is at least familiar with the act of pulling slides during performance. For many tubists, it is a vital part of their performance practice, as the vast majority of tubas (regardless of key) require some slide pulling in order to get certain notes in tune. When used as a contemporary technique, the act of slide pulling can be a subtle act, one with a lot of fanfare, or somewhere in between. The primary reason for pulling a slide is to use the tube that is opened up as a way of creating extra noise—when the valve corresponding to that tube is pulled all the way out, the buzz is routed through that tube when depressed. The corresponding sound can be soft, loud, and every dynamic shade in between.
A related technique involves the pulling of slides and adding in various objects to the valve opening. This includes alternate bells and other resonators, allowing for sound to resonate through the now-open valve circuit.
The design of tubas (and to a much lesser extent euphoniums) exhibit a bewildering variety of shapes. A slide that is easy to pull on one instrument may be exceedingly difficult to pull on another. This must be accounted for when using this technique.
The pulling of slides can be noisy, as the slide tends to pop free and clang against the other tubes when it finally is pulled out of its opening.
Pulling slides out to detune certain notes is certainly possible but is of questionable aural impact. Complicating the matter is that some slides tend to be longer than other, to allow for a greater variety of flexibility. The longest tube by far on any tuba or euphonium is the fourth valve, and this slide has quite a bit of leeway. Compare that to the second valve on a compensating tuba or euphonium, which only has about an inch of pull (if that).
Pulling a slide open and then rapidly alternating between ordinario valves and the open slide can create an interesting tremolo effect.
Some performers prefer their valves vented, which means that a hole has been drilled into the valve casing to allow air to exchange while pushing and pulling the slide. Without this vent, the valve would make a popping sound when pressed after moving the slide, due to the change in air pressure created by the slide movement. It can be difficult to plan around the popping sound of the vent, as it is likely to run into situations where the performer of a work has vented valves and cannot create the requisite effect.
If alternative bells are to be inserted into the tuba or euphonium valve slides, some experimentation must be done ahead of time to find the right size of bell.
The composer must be aware of the tuba or euphonium’s valve block when pulling slides, as an open slide negates the valves below it in the block when activated. For instance, if the first slide is pulled on a tuba, then when the first valve is pressed, all other valves are nullified. This is because the open slide breaks the valve circuit, disallowing the air from continuing through the valve block.
A simple text direction is usually enough to suffice for this technique. If the pulling of slides is more complex than a simple direction, any text-or-symbol-based notation will suffice, as long as it is clear and consistent. The example below achieves this technique through a text prompt, but it is also possible to notate the effect viathe use of pitch modifications, (i.e., with a note sliding lower and back to pitch to indicate a slide pulled out and back in, and vice versa). It must be said, though, that this other notational form may be confused with a normal lip bend.
Intermediate to Professional
Works to consider (bolded titles are particularly representative examples of this technique)
19 E. Main St., Alhambra, CA 91801 – Nicholas Deyoe
Three Essays – William Penn
Piernikiana – Witold Szalonek