The word tuba is actually the Latin translation for trumpet or horn, however, tubas are a whole lot bigger than trumpets and horns.
The tuba is the lowest-pitched instrument in the brass family, it is one of the more modern-day instruments in the brass family having made its appearance in the mid 19th century.
A german instrument builder called Moritz invented the modern tuba, along with a fellow inventor called Ferdinand Sommer.
They modernized the original design for the tuba by making the tubes of the tuba thicker and called it the ‘euphonium. This name was taken from the Greek word ‘euphonos’ which translates as ‘beautiful` sound’.
The deep, low-pitched sound is produced by the tuba players’ lips when they blow into the mouthpiece of the tuba. The tuba usually provides momentum in a music piece and in most average orchestras there is only one tuba player.
An average orchestral tuba weighs 25 to 35 pounds and is around ten times heavier than the trumpet. Tubists (those who play the tuba) have to play their instrument whilst sitting down on a chair, with the tuba on their lap whilst the chair supports the weight of the instrument.
There is also another type of tuba called a sousaphone, which is most commonly used for people in marching bands. This type of tuba is around the same size, however, it coils around the player and is a lot easier to hold and play at the same time.
Tuba’s are used in marching bands, jazz bands, and also drum and bugle corps. They’ve also been prominent in historic musical pieces by composers such as Strauss, Mussorgsky, and Brahms.
Whilst the average tuba will weigh anything from 25 to 35 pounds, it will all depend on its height and also on the manufacturer. There are also different types of tuba, which all differ in size and weight also. Tuba’s can range from 2ft to 5ft in height depending on which tuba you have.
Types of marching tuba
The sousaphone was designed to be easier to play whilst standing by American bandleader John Philip Sousa in 1893. Unlike the common design of the tuba, a sousaphone’s design wraps around the player to fit their body whilst the bell faces forward and above the player and projects sound forward.
The Sousaphone was designed to be used in marching bands and most marching tuba cannot be converted to a model that is fit for sitting in a concert. The sousaphone can weigh around nearly 50 pounds, so is a lot heavier than the average orchestral tuba.
Sousaphones were originally made of brass up until the mid 20th century where they started to be made from lighter materials such as fiberglass or plastic, these tend to weigh around th1 15 pound mark.
The contrabass bugle is the marching field equivalent to the orchestra tuba.
The name is normally shortened to contra or is labeled as the marching tuba. It has the regular design of a tuba apart from the bell facing forward, towards the way the player is walking.
The contra weighs about 25 to 35 pounds. The contra can tend to feel heavier than the sousaphone as it is balanced on the player’s shoulder, whereas the sousaphone is wrapped around the player and rests on the shoulder, and balances itself upright.
The euphonium is most commonly called the tenor tuba and has three piston valves and is a more medium-sized tuba. It is very similar to the baritone horn. The euphonium or tenor tuba weighs on average between 9-11 pounds.
The baritone horn is most commonly known as just a baritone. The baritone is another companion of the tuba.
Like the euphonium, the baritone is equipped with three piston valves and also has the same range. The sound of a baritone is brighter and the tubes are a lot thinner than. It weighs 11 to 20 pounds.
Tuba playing has become so popular that they have their own ‘day’ to celebrate the well-loved instrument. International tuba day is celebrated annually on the first Friday in May.
The day was created by Joel Day in 1979 who claimed that tuba players did not receive the recognition they deserved after he found he had a lack of respect from fellow classmates and orchestra members.
If you or your child wants to get involved with playing the tuba then you need not worry about it being too big for them, as there are smaller tuba’s for smaller people and they look heavier than they actually are.
As most tubas are made from unfinished brass, they must be regularly polished to avoid tarnishing. The most widely used brands for tubas are Yamaha (Japanese brand), Meinl-Wenston, and Miraphone (which are both German brands).
The most common American brands are King Musical Instruments and Holton Instrument Company.