Jim Self is certainly one of my most creative customers and his unique personality is heard in his many jazz recordings and movie soundtracks. He is always searching and never quite content with conventional modes of expression (he already has three cimbasso/contrabass trombones and is still looking for the "right" one). He asked me if I could make him a contrabass flugelhorn and I think that I told him that's what a tuba is. Needless to say, that wasn't the right answer. After several discussions, he concluded that it needed to be in F since he is comfortable in that pitch and facility of a small tuba. He wanted to use a four valve compensating system and was eventually able to get one that had been used for a prototype Eb by Yamaha. All the tubing had to be taken off, shortened and remounted and it seemed somewhat sensible to keep the fourth valve in the normal position giving a central place for the left hand to grip the instrument. The bell size chosen is a typical small to medium size for F tuba and I had to make the tapered branches from sheet brass of course. The results were at first quite disappointing with intonation and response problems. Jim was very understanding of the fact that when building a one of a kind instrument, the first try may not be ideal and was willing to pay me for my time to make some major modifications to the large tubing. This time it was much better and even though I was skeptical Jim was very enthusiastic and started using it almost immediately for performances and recordings. The size and weight of this instrument makes in impossible to hold out in front of your body for any length of time, so Jim came up with the idea to mount a camera tripod or monopod on it.
The article to the right is from Brass Band World and Jim has a Fluba page on his website here.