Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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, when 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 two 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 fourth 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.
Tubas generally can have from three to six valves though some exceptions exist. Three-valve tubas are generally the least expensive and are almost exclusively used by beginners, and the sousaphone (a marching instrument) almost always has three valves. Among more advanced players, four and five valve tubas are by far the most common choices, with six valve tubas being relatively rare. Tubas come in both piston and rotary valve models.
Some piston valved tubas have a compensating system to allow accurate tuning when using several valves in combination to play low notes, simplifying fingering and removing the need to constantly adjust slide positions. This does have the disadvantage of making the instrument significantly more 'stuffy' or resistant to air flow when compared to a non-compensating tuba. This is due to the need for the air to flow through the valve block twice.
Tubas have been used in jazz from the music's beginning. In the earliest years, bands often used a tuba for outdoor playing and a double bass for indoor jobs. The role of two bass instruments remains similar. Tubas are usually featured in a supporting role, although it is not uncommon for them to take solos. Many jazz bands actually use a sousaphone, commonly if technically incorrectly called a "tuba" in this context.
Notable jazz tubists include:
- Chink Martin Abraham
- Dave Bargeron
- Ron Caswell
- Ray Draper
- Michel Godard
- Howard Johnson
- Marcus Rojas
- Cyrus St. Clair
- Bob Stewart
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