By Brendan Lai-Tong
Since its introduction into symphony orchestras in the mid-19th century, the tuba has gone largely unheralded as a vital member of the brass section. Its large collection of brass tubes creates a deep rich tone.
Although it is the anchor of the orchestra’s brass section, most people know little about the instrument. Once you get to know a few facts about the history and use of the tuba you’ll find a new appreciation for the instrument, or at least you’ll be able to recite enough rare tuba facts to amaze a captive audience.
- The Tuba was invented by Willhelm Friedrich Wieprecht and Johann Gottfried Moritz in September 12, 1835.
- Tuba is a Latin word meaning trumpet or horn.
- Tubas were introduced into the orchestra to replace the ophicleide, a keyed bugle of the Renaissance age.
- There was nothing wrong with the ophicleide that required its replacement in the orchestra. Instead, a successful marketing campaign representing the Tuba as a more up-to-date instrument forced its replacement.
- The tuba is capable of being more than the bass instrument that reinforces the bass string and woodwinds. Several concertos have been written for the instrument, using it as the featured performer. Some popular examples are concertos by Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Williams, and Edward Gregson. You might be surprised at how much tuba sheet music there is!
- Early tubas were altered to possess forward-facing bells in order to make recording the sounds of the instruments easier. These tubas were aptly named recording tubas, while those that remained unaltered were known as concert tubas.
- Tubas come in a variety of pitches ranging from the deep bass of the extremely rare subcontrabass tuba to the much higher pitched tenor tuba.
- Marching bands use a specially designed tuba for ease of carrying. These marching tubas rest on the players shoulders for support and look like large trumpets.
- Some marching tubas are convertible, allowing the player to change the direction of the mouthpiece in order to perform with the tuba held in the lap.
- Early jazz bands used tubas as a replacement for the stringed bass to avoid exposing the bass to weather extremes when playing outdoors.
We hope that you enjoyed these facts. Please feel free to chime in if you have other interesting tuba facts!
Brendan Lai-Tong holds degrees in trombone performance from University of Miami and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.