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Tuba
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Tuba

The tuba is the largest of the low-brass instruments and is one of the most recent additions to the modern symphony orchestra, first appearing in the mid 19th century where it largely replaced the ophicleide. There is usually only one tuba in an orchestra, and is used as the bass of the brass section, though its versatility means that it can be used to reinforce the strings and woodwind, or increasingly as a solo instrument.

Tubas are also used in wind and concert bands and in brass bands, although in the latter instance they are referred to as E♭ and BB♭ basses, there being 2 of each.

In the hands of a skilled player, it has a wide range (some 4½ octaves) and can be remarkably agile.

Tubas are found in various pitches, most commonly in F, E♭, C, or B♭. The most common tuba is the contrabass tuba, pitched in C or B♭ (referred to as CC and BB♭ tubas respectively). The next smaller tuba is the bass tuba, pitched in F or E♭ (a 4th above the contrabass tuba). The euphonium is sometimes referred to as a tenor tuba, and is pitched one octave higher (in B♭) than the BB♭ contrabass tuba. The "French tuba" corresponds to the tenor tuba, but is pitched in C.

The tuba can have up to 6 rotary or piston valves, although 4 or 5 are by far the most common. 3-valve tubas are generally used only by beginners. Some early models of the contrabass bugle (a type of tuba which sits on the player's shoulder and is used in some marching ensembles) have only 2 valves, presumably to reduce the weight of the instrument. Some piston valved tubas have a compensating system to allow accurate tuning when using several valves in combination to play low notes, thus obviating the need for additional valves beyond 3.

See Also: brass instrument, wind instrument, euphonium, Sousaphone


Tuba, now a desolate location called Umm el-Marra, was a major city during the 3rd millennium BCE, in northern Syria.