Sergio Carolina Grooves “The Fourth Valve”

Sergio Carolina was raised in the century old band traditions of Portugal and has developed into a world class soloist who is equally at home with Bach, Funk and most everything in-between. The Fourth Valve sails the Atlantic to boogie with master tubist Sergio Carolina. Enjoy!
1. What does your homeland mean to you, and how does it inspire your music?
First of all, thanks so much for considering me for this interview. Well, my homeland has had such a great influence on my development, not only as a musician but also as a man. I come from a small city 100km north of Lisbon, named Alcobaça. It’s near the Atlantic Ocean, the beautiful beaches of Nazaré and São Martinho do Porto bay. It’s a very beautiful region where the culture and tradition of the amateur wind bands are alive and have been for long time. Some of these amateur wind bands have existed for more than a century!! I was lucky to have in my town a very nice amateur wind band “Banda de Alcobaça”. I was very interested in learning music as a child. I joined the wind band’s school of music in order to learn an instrument with hopes to try to become a member of the band. These were my first steps and contact with the music and this wonderful and very special instrument – the TUBA.

2. When did you fall in love with the sound of the tuba, and why?
I’ve tried some instruments before the tuba: the trumpet and the bassoon but with no success. Then a professor told me: “Sérgio, there’s an old King EEb tuba in the corner, lets try it!” Since I already knew the fingerings from the trumpet, I immediately began to make some good sounds and could make a scale right way. So, it was like “Love at the first Sound!” ☺

3. What is it about jazz that makes you want to play it? What are the most satisfying ways that you can imagine a tubist playing in a jazz group?

Since I was a little boy learning tuba to play on the wind band, some of my closest friends and I discovered jazz, funky, Dixieland and second lines bands like Louis Armstrong (and his Hot Five and Hot Seven), Bob Scobey Frisco Band, Dukes of Dixieland, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Rebirth Brass Band, Lester Bowie Brass Fantasy and Sam Pilafian’s Travelling Light.

We all started to catch on to this music, and wrote down on a paper some of these tunes. By making our own arrangements and starting to trying to understand how to phrase like them by spending thousand of hours listening and listening, imitating, trying to understand (so many hours, uffff!!!!)
Many of these friends are today professional musicians and I have been privileged to create bands and special projects with them!
I think that the most satisfying way that a tuba player can have playing in a jazz group would be to making the bass line, to imitate a double bass or electric band and make people forget that they are listening a tuba… Be a part of a great rhythm section with drums, guitar, piano, accordion or vibraphone it’s just amazing! Feeling that you are like the brain of the ensemble by knowing that the bass defines the tempo, harmony, style and controls the dynamic it’s just fabulous!

4. How is your warm-up different known than it was as a college student?
To be realistic, I warm up my body and brain and not my instrument.

When I pick the tuba it’s to make some technical, physical or muscles exercises or to play music. Over the years, and because of playing so many styles of music (and with different musicians coming from different cultures and styles), I become more practical. I developed a strong concept about what kind of sound I want.

Quality of Sound, Tuning, Rhythm and Phrasing/Style are the most important to me and I try to keep developing it Everyday!

5. Which tuba sonatas and concertos do you think are strong enough that a cellist would consider performing them as transcriptions?
I think that a cellist will have difficulty in choosing some good tuba music to play and include in their repertoire, BUT I think that we as tubists are finally beginning to have great music for our instrument that would fit on any string instrument! And many of that music it’s composed by tuba players who become better and better composers and … conductors! Yeah!☺

I think that the future is with us, but I’m always a very positive guy (at least, I try!).

6. What do you look for in an instrument?

Any instrument of music and in particular, the tuba, should try to imitate the voice – which it’s the most perfect and the most natural of all instruments!

We should strive to make audiences forget that we are playing a brass instrument and make them listen the sound, the music and (most importantly), make them understand the message that we have in our mind!

Being a musician is something very special and unique so, we should be happy and enjoy this gift every single second!

7. How did you develop your range and flexibility?
I could simply say that it was only due to so many hours of practice and study of the instrument in a very analytical way, but this not the only thing I have made in order to develop my range, flexibility and elasticity.

In fact, most of what I do is aimed towards getting the most information possible to the brain through my eyes. As with all brass players, what we do when playing the instrument comes from the inside of the mouth and body and can’t be seen. Many times, we are not really sure of the way we are doing most things… we need to be very creative in order to make the brain understand what we are doing, and how we are doing it so that we can do exactly the same thing the same way with no mistakes-everyday!

In order to change my playing and elevate my musical level, my philosophy in this matter needed a huge change! I started to visualize music and its processes through my eyes as much as possible so that the information could be grasped by my brain as clearly as possible!

Any problem or difficulty that a brass player that comes, at least most of the time, is from inside the body so we can’t see it! We are like blind people! If you compare our situation to that of a cellist, their problems and difficulties in playing or posture are much easier for them to see and to correct them. Why is that? Because they can see it! They simply need to look with their eyes and an not only see what needs to be changed, but change it quickly! The visual information goes to their brains very quickly and very clearly so the brain can understand what to change! I have been able to do the same thing in my playing by using my imagination, and have begun to get much better results while exerting much less effort.

For those who might be interested, my writings on this subject will soon be available in a book of mine, which has been edited by the Portuguese Musical AVA Editions ( The focus is on Muscles, The Mind and Mechanical Exercises. The working title is “Mind & Lip Benders”. At the same time, another small book will be also released named “Itchy Bass Lines”.

8. Which music inspires you? Other things?
I like and enjoy any kind of music that is made with artistry and artistic integrity, whether from New Orleans Street second lines brass bands to Australian aboriginal natives or African percussion ensembles!

I listen to several hours of music everyday. For me, this is like putting vitamins, proteins, magnesium, calcium… in my brain and my body!

Some of my main inspirations in music include: Johann Sebastian Bach, Béla Bartok, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Olivier Messiean, Miles Davis, Hermeto Pascoal, Ella Fitzgerald, Pablo Casals, Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey Big Band, Clifford Brown, Jaco Pastorius, Albert Mangeldforff and Gyorgy Ligeti.

9. Whatsoever Things…
To end this little interview, I think that the most important it’s to give always our best in any kind of things we do in life. Be generous, humble, open minded, kind and honest. If you do these things, your life will be much better and you will feel the respect from others around you.

You will feel your to your very soul the richness of life and the peace relaxation.

Peace, Love & Groove to all of you who read this interview!

Sérgio Carolino
Principal Tuba | Porto Symphony Orchestra Casa da Musica Professor at the Porto Superior Conservatory of Music and Arts, ESMAE International Yamaha Artist

c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.

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