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Brief description

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Contrabass tuba in Bb
German: Kontrabasstuba in B
French: tuba contrebasse in si bémol
Italian: tuba contrabassa in Si bemolle

The contrabass tuba is currently made in two tunings: C and Bb. It is used primarily in opera orchestras and in brass and military bands. It is rarely asked for in symphony orchestras.

Contrabass tubas are basically made in two different forms: the tuba form and the spiral form. Spiral tubas are also known as helicons.

The sousaphone was invented by the American composer John Philip Sousa and modeled on the helicon, the first one being made in 1908. The instrument was wrapped around the shoulder for the purposes of marching and was especially well-suited to playing in the open air thanks to its tremendous volume. The tubing ranged in length from 3.6 m to 17 m. The long tubes and oversized bell were really only meant for show.

There is also a great 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.

In Austria and Germany contrabass tubas in Bb with a particularly wide bore profile are known as “Kaiser basses”.

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

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

Mouthpiece
Large cup mouthpiece

Tubing
Length 540 cm, conical along entire length

Bore
Very wide, inner diameter 19–21 mm

Valves
Five valves (lowering pitch by 1, ½, 1½ steps, fourth, fifth). On instruments with six valves: 5th valve wide whole step; 6th valve wide half step.

Bell
Rim diameter 38–48 cm