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Jeffrey L. Funderburk


A four valve instrument is greatly preferred over the three valve version. With the fourth valve, more accurate intonation is possible and the low register is significantly extended. However, if the fourth valve is not used, and used properly, all advantages are lost.

On the four valve instrument, the first application of the fourth valve is to substitute its use in place of 1 and 3 combinations. On Bb instruments, 4 should always be used for the notes low C and F (below the low Bb). This should be better in tune provided the proper procedures for tuning have been observed (see article on tuning). The second substitution involving the fourth valve is to replace the 1,2 and 3 combination with the 2 and 4 combination. Once again, this will correct the sharpness of the previous fingering.

Fingerings for 4 Valve Non-compensating Bb Horns

For extension of the low register, the following chromatic fingerings should be used proceeding downward from the low Bb.


The fourth valve on the compensation instrument provides not only the previous functions, but also allows for additional options. Because the compensation system adds additional tubing length when the fourth valve is used in combination with any other, intonation is further improved.

Some alterations are made in the low register fingerings. The fingerings below low Bb proceed as follows.

Fingerings for 4 Valve Compensating Bb Horns

As another option, the fourth valve may be used as a transposing valve on the compensating instrument. When the fourth is held down or locked in the down position, the instrument is lowered to the key of F. Because of the intonation correction offered by the compensating system, fingerings can proceed from the low F (below the low Bb) in the normal series for a 3 valve instrument. For example:


Application of this system may make certain passages much simpler in terms of fingering patterns. To begin to use this system, slow, legato studies may be learned. As fingerings and response become familiar, use the transposing system on any exercises or etudes. As another application, with the fourth valve held down, horn music may be performed by using the same fingerings as the usual euphonium in treble clef.

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