décembre 28th, 2020 18 h 02 min

It is not easy to say what a tuba is since the word refers to different instruments.

This thread tends to clarify the situation through instruments history.

Classification 1

A wind instrument is basically a pipe or tube (hence Tuba: a long straight Roman trumpet) made

  • of various stuff (Mineral ,vegetal,animal)
  • either cylindrical( bone such a phalanx;stem of reed ) or conical (animal Horn)

Later on pipes were made of clay,metal or wood

Classification 2

Sound comes from

  • a bevel-edged hole:The wistle and flute family
  • a double reeds or a single reed mounted on a beak : the wood wind family
  • a cupule-likemouth piece (like trumpet embouchure) : the brass family.


Instrumental music,especially military music,used to consist of heteroclite instruments groups.

  • Flute-fife
  • Oboe-bassoon-bagpipe
  • Natural trumpets of various sizes
  • Natural Horns
  • Posthorn
  • Clarinette made of Box-wood,ebony or metal

leading to unbalanced sound and timbre. So, the necessity to create bass instruments for each group occured.


Basson(bass oboe) was made of a 6to 9 feet wooden pipe with holes at wide intervals very difficult to play and therefore not available to marching band.

In ordre to support a bass line,first came the « cornett » :a kind of big curved recorder made of wood or ivory provided with a cupule- like mouthpiece . Later on the Serpent (French for snake),a sinusoidal shaped wood instrument and an related instrument :the Russian Bassoon a kind of two wings-basson with metal bell and bocal , both having cupped mouthpiece, replaced the cornett.

Since the instrument had a cupped mouthpiece it entered the brass group

Forked fingering and partial covering of the holes produced uneasy Chromatic scale .Futhermore, those two instruments were more in the tenor register than bass register and were replaced with Ophicleides

Adding 3 then 9 keys to the serpent leads to ophicleides made of metal instead of wood.There was a large variety of sizes from C-Soprano to E-flat Counter Bass

Replacing the keys of the ophicleide by valves yields to Moritz ‘ tenor tuba with a more homogeneous timbre and the possibility to reach lower partials

Remember ,we wanted to provide Bassoon and counter bassoon equivalents to other groupes.

Mister Sarrus replaced the cupped mouth piece of the ophicleide by a double reeds creating the sarrusophone large group. From Bb soprano to Eb counter bass

Mister Sax used a single reed mouth piece creating the Saxophone group.

So brass had ophicleides and Moritz’ tuba as Bass support while woods had either sarrusophone or saxophone.

The trumpet and trombone are the only cylindrical brass instruments forming the « Bright Brass »group.

Basically the trumpet is a tube ending with a bell and a cupped mouth piece that provides a one tonality according to the length of tube. Tanks to player’s embouchure ,lips select the Harmonics from 3 to 16 (or more) .Thanks to the bending of the tube and valves (piston or rotary types) Seven tubing lengths are selected providing the chromatic scale.

Adding valves or adding a slide to basse trumpet lead to trombone .

However trombone has a second origin: the sacqueboute, a kind of slide trumpet.

Along with he bass trombone ,the Bright brass is a compete group.

Horns form an heterogeneous group. they share the trumpet principle but with a conical tubing producing a mellower sound.

Post horn and bugle is a conical basic trumpet.

With 3 valves Bugle becomes Flugel horn which is the soprano of complete Saxhorn Group :alto horn, tenor for or Baritone, Bass sometimes called tuba,counter Bass F Eb Bb.

A flugel horn with a trumpet mouth piece yields a Cornet which is smaller the a trumpet despite its same tubing length.

The hunting horn ,like the trumpet, consist of an embouchure a tube ending with a bell producing the same harmonics series as the trumpet.The big difference is the conical narrow wrapped into coil tubing ending with a flared bell contrasting with narrow cupped mouth piece.

Adding valves result in French horn which combines two tubing (F Bb)

Wagnerian Tuba is a French Horn with a the Tenor saxhorn bell instead

Mr Besson changed the bore size of the baritone (Tenor saxhorn) that became Euphonium with an increased playing range and a softer timbre.

From the Moritz’ Tuba, Germany has evolved a large series of 3 to 5 valves Tuben in F Eb C Bb .

Summary .Stuff is of no importance

Shape and bore size are of paramount importance for the timbre

The length of the tubing determines the registre.

Like Helicon and Sousaphone that have an ovoid shape , What is currently named Tuba is the bass of Horns with a rather rectangular shape.

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