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Tubas

Tubas are part of the brass instrument family and are the instrument with the lowest pitch. They are by far the largest instrument, but the basic techniques used are fundamentally the same across the brass family. 

The tuba takes the bass part in an orchestra or band, usually only on one singular instrument. 

Tubas are tuned to a number of pitches including F, E♭, C, or B♭. These also all vary in size ranging from 3.7 metres to 5.5 metres.

Tubas are usually played sitting down with the bell facing up and because of this, posture is key. Tubas are also used in marching bands with a strap for support.

The tuba has the lowest register in an orchestra, reinforcing the string and woodwind sections. They are seen as the most essential part of an orchestra because of the low register they provide.

Notable tuba pieces include:

  • Tuba Concerto - Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • Tuba Concerto - John Williams
  • Ordner Seg - Oystein Baardsvik
  • Fantasy for Tuba - Malcolm Arnold

The tuba is also used as the bass for brass quintets, concert bands, military bands and brass bands. Tubas are also sometimes used in jazz bands.

Types of tuba

Contrabass

  • Pitched in C or B♭
  • Many professionals use C tubas
  • B♭ tubas are used for beginners and in schools

Bass

  • Pitched in F or E♭
  • E♭ tuba played an octave above a contrabass
  • F tubas are usually played by professionals and are common in European orchestras

Tenor (Euphonium)

  • Pitched in B♭
  • One octave higher than a contrabass
  • Smaller in size

Subcontrabass

  • Very rare
  • By far the largest and lowest tuba, one octave below a contrabass

Tubas in jazz music

Tubas are often used in the place of a double bass, especially for outdoor performances due to the louder acoustics. They are often used for solos, and many double bass players are also able to play the tuba.

There are many accessories you can buy for tubas, including:

  • Hard cases
  • Soft cases
  • Mutes
  • Stands
  • Straps
  • Valve oil
  • Mouthpieces
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