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> INSTRUMENTOLOGY > BRASS > Bass tuba > Sound Combinations

Sound combinations

The bass tuba is a bass and contrabass instrument. One of its principal tasks is the doubling of other bass instruments, either in unison or an octave lower. Especially in tutti passages its role is to provide a firm fundamental bass. Forte pedal tones are generally played solo and are only combined with other instruments for pianissimo playing.

In especially large brass sections, for example with six or eight horns, two tubas are used, one of them playing the higher compass, the other the lower. In works which place particularly great demands on the tuba, two tuba players often share the task, relieving each other by turns.

Tuba + Brass instruments

Tuba + tuba
In brass bands the bass tuba often doubles with the contrabass tuba, playing an octave above it. This produces a massive sound.

Tuba + trumpet
Poor blending with the trumpet. The bass tuba serves as the bass to the brass.

Tuba + horn
Good tonal blend, since the tuba’s timbre is closely related to that of the horn. Often doubles the 4th horn.

Tuba + trombone
Are similar in force and complement each other, despite their disparate timbres. As bass voice to the trombones often plays the 4th trombone part. Doubles the 4th trombone. In keeping with its character the tuba also provides the bass voice for the entire brass ensemble.

Tuba + woodwinds

Tuba + flute, oboe
No tonal blend. In Benjamin Britten’s violin concerto the tuba and the piccolo play a solo.

Tuba + bassoon, contrabassoon
Doubling, also in octaves, of the bass voice with the contrabassoon.

Tuba + strings

Very good blend with the double-bass. The staccato is comparable to the pizzicato of the double-bass. In early phonograph recordings a bass tuba with a front-facing bell was used to double the double-bass, which improved the quality of the recording.