It’s been quite a few months since I received my Imperial back from Mike Johnson. He did a fair bit of restoration and modification on it and it’s now a fantastic instrument. Here’s a run down of the things that happened in the workshop:

  • Re-solder a number of joints (some of which were hanging on with less than half the joint properly sealed!).
  • Chop a section out the middle of the instrument to take it from low pitch to standard A 440 tuning.
  • Remove the nobble under the bottom bow.
  • New large shank mouthpiece receiver fitted which means I can use my Schilke mouthpieces.
  • Remove piston 4th valve, replace it with a rotary valve and reroute and replumb the associated tubing.
  • Fit a ring on the first valve slide to use as a tuning trigger.
  • Make and put a memorial plaque on the back of the instrument.

As with any new or different instrument it’s taken me a while to learn it’s individual playing characteristics and quirks, but I think I’m starting to get a handle on it!

In general the Imperial has more character to the sound right across it’s range compared with my Sovereign. It also seems to take less effort to play and at first I was quite surprised how much power in the sound I seemed to be producing with relatively little effort, especially in the mid register. The 4th valve register is nice and punchy and easy to play in. To centre a long, loud low F and E I’ve found I need to focus the airflow slightly more downwards than I’m used to, I’ve no idea why but apart from that the low register just plays itself! In short this instrument makes the grunty, fat and fruity sound I’ve been looking for.

Mike’s craftsmanship is second to none. Where he places the forth valve lever means you can also operate a tuning trigger for the first valve which helps tweak any intonation issues, allowing you to get some extra tube length for low F and E is you need to settle them. All the soldering feels really solid and instrument feels ‘air tight’!

In short I love it. Video review to follow……..

Finally a quick word about why I’ve come to get this instrument. In 2011 my younger brother, Graham Fox tragically died. He was an extremely talented drummer (Google him) and collector of drum gear. After he passed away I inherited 4 kits, 10 snares, 40+ cymbals and whole load of other percussive toys. Rather than keep all this and have it collect dust and take up a whole room of its own I decided to sell most of it and buy a memorial tuba in its place. It seems fitting that I have found a 40 year old tuba as a memorial for my dear brother who loved vintage drums.


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