Bass Tuba

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The bass tuba is the most common tuba in classical music orchestras and most often is in the key of F or Eb. This large instrument has 12 to 14 feet of tubing and typically has four valves. The conical-horned bass tuba has been a staple of brass bands, concert bands and symphony orchestras alike.
History of the Bass Tuba
The bass tuba has no direct ancestors in its musical range, however its history dates back to the 17th century when the first patents for an instrument called The Serpent were first made. The Serpent looked just like a snake with a curved, zigzag design, but it was the first to feature a cupped mouthpiece and a soothing tenor tone. The ophicleide (invented by Jean Hilaire Aste) developed the brass instrument by creating an upright design with depressed keys that would operate as tone holes, just like in modern woodwind instruments. The introduction of valve and piston-valve instruments in the early 18th century then ushered in the moment for inventor Wilhelm Wieprecht to patent his first bass tuba in 1835 and this brought about its entry into classical and brass band music. Berlioz was among the first composers to adopt the bass tuba but by the mid 19th century many German orchestras featured it too. Tuba designs that include five to six valves are now common to get the correct intonation from this instrument.
Inventor: Wilhelm Friedrich Wieprecht

Where to Buy

£1,000 - £7,000

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How to Play

A brass instrument that is played by blowing air through a mouthpiece while pressing valves to change the pitch. It is similar to a euphonium but produces a lower, more resonant sound.

In Popular Music

The deep sound of the bass tuba can be heard in the world famous, deep and unsettling 'Jaws' score by John Williams. The exact instrument is uncredited but the bass tuba may have also featured in singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson's 'Everybody's Talkin' from the film Midnight Cowboy and 'Uptown Funk' by Mark Ronson (featuring Bruno Mars).

Famous Players

Arnold Jacobs, Roger Bobo

Close Relations

Euphonium, Sousaphone
Video Credit: philyouthwinds
Understanding the Bass Tuba
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1835

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Brass

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