Subcontrabass Tuba

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The subcontrabass tuba is one of the rarest brass instruments in the tuba family. It is pitched a full octave below a contrabass tuba and sometimes even more. It also has the lowest relative pitch of any tuba in the tuba family and the lowest sounds are reportedly “barely audible”. As such it is a difficult instrument to both find and play.
History of the Subcontrabass Tuba
Early constructions of the subcontrabass tuba began in the 19th century. Adolphe Sax, the creator of the saxophone family, allegedly created a subcontrabass tuba that was exhibited at The Great Exhibition in London in 1851. Some evidence claims that prototypes of a subcontrabass tuba were exhibited at science fairs a few earlier than this date. The size of this brass valve instrument is the lowest in the tuba family and the lowest notes on this instrument are a full octave below a contrabass tuba. The subcontrabass tuba never went into mass production though there is some evidence to suggest it re-emerged in popularity for brass festivals as a novelty, comedic extra during the 1950s and then subsequently disappeared. Due to their enormous size, limited use and expensive production the subcontrabass tuba has always been a rare instrument to find. Harvard University currently houses a restored subcontrabass tuba measuring 7 feet tall.
Inventor: Adolphe Sax

Where to Buy

Over £10,000

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How to Play

The largest member of the tuba family, capable of producing incredibly low, rumbling sounds. It's played like a regular tuba, but requires even more breath support and a stronger embouchure due to its size.

In Popular Music

The subcontrabass tuba is an extremely large instrument and is therefore rarely if ever used in the popular music recording studio. However, the subcontrabass tuba has parts can be featured in written parts for 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik' by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and 'The Planets' by Gustav Holst (particular in the movement titled 'Saturn')

Famous Players

Roger Bobo, Øystein Baadsvik

Close Relations

Contrabass Tuba, Octobass
Video Credit: Daniel Ridder - Tuba
Understanding the Subcontrabass Tuba
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