"Selfone" Baby Sousaphone in F
Jim Self is over represented in the special projects pages because he is the kind of guy that is always looking for unique instruments to use for his musical expressions. When he first saw the Barcone "baby" sousaphone in my shop he was inspired. The second photo to the left shows this encounter. I warned him that they play like crap because of the very small bore for a BBb instrument, but he wanted to try it. He agreed but quickly came back with the idea of shortening it to F and installing a larger bore valve section. I told him that while certainly possible, it would be expensive and purely experimental. I couldn't make any guarantees as to how much better that the original it would play. Upon being reassured that it would be at least marginally better than the original, he told me to go ahead.
I had the body of a Conn 4 valve Eb sousaphone, so that became the donor for the valve section. Every slide tube had to be shortened along with normal repairs. The fourth valve tubing had to be rerouted creatively to fit its new, more compact home but the third tubing was allowed to hang out at the top. A completely new mouthpipe assembly had to be designed and built. Most of the third branch of the main, tapered, tubing was discarded. A 180 degree return crook of correct size was modified to connect to a newly made tapered branch that curved back and down to the main tuning slide. All of this work was done while keeping in mind that Jim had to fit inside it and play it. The last photograph shows that he fits in it as well as Joe Jackson fits in a standard size sousaphone. The resulting instrument is surprisingly playable and indeed, Jim has used it for the cimbasso parts in the opera.