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> INSTRUMENTOLOGY > BRASS > Bass tuba > Brief Description

Brief description

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Bass tuba in F
German: Basstuba in F
French: tuba basse en fa
Italian: tuba bassa in Fa

The tuba is currently used in four tunings: the bass tuba in F and Eb, and the contrabass tuba in C and Bb. In Austrian and French orchestras tubas in F and Bb are used, the contrabass tuba in Bb being found primarily in opera orchestras. In some regions of Germany and in Scandinavia, the United Kingdom and the USA the C tuba with four valves is common as a kind of all-round instrument: it is played not only in the orchestra but also in chamber music and as a solo instrument.

Tubas are made in four different patterns and have a variety of names: there is the oval form; the sousaphone (rounded, made of fiber-reinforced plastic with a forward-facing bell; the instrument is hung over the shoulder for the purposes of marching); the helicon (round form) and finally the tuba form (upright with bell facing upward). There is also a wide variety of sizes, bore profiles and valve mechanisms.

The bell passes the musician’s head either on the left or the right, depending among other things on the type of valves the instrument has: Périnet valves and rotary valves are equally common. The double tuba has a valve which enables the player to alternate between two tunings – it is a combination of a bass and contrabass tuba.

The bass and contrabass tubas are the largest and lowest-pitched brass instruments not only in the orchestra (where the tuba player sits together with the trombone section) but also in wind band and military music. Beside the tubas in Eb, C and low Bb, other instruments of the valved bugle horn family covering all pitches (e.g., cornet, flugelhorn, euphonium) are common in wind band and military music, whereas in modern orchestras the bass tuba is the only instrument of this kind in use.

Classification
Aerophone, lip-vibrated instrument, brass wind instrument. Belongs to the valved bugle-horns family.

Material
Brass, gold brass, nickel silver, gold lacquer.

Mouthpiece
Deep cup mouthpiece

Tubing
Length 350–400 cm, conical along entire length

Bore
Very wide, inner diameter 17.3–19.5 mm

Valves
Four to six valves (lowering pitch by 1, ½, 1½ steps, fourth-valve, fifth-valve – this can also be a compensating valve with a wide whole step. The 6th valve is a compensating valve with a wide half step).

Bell
Rim diameter 35.5–41.9 cm