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The tuba is the largest and lowest pitched brass instrument. Sound is produced by vibrating or "buzzing" the lips into a large cupped mouthpiece. It 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. Tuba is Latin for trumpet or horn. The horn referred to would most likely resemble what is known as a baroque trumpet.



Prussian Patent No. 19 was granted to Wilhelm Friedrich Wieprecht and Carl Moritz[1] on September 12, 1835 for a "basstuba" in F1. The original Wieprecht and Moritz instrument used five valves of the Berlinerpumpen type that were the forerunners of the modern rotary valve.

The addition of valves made it possible to play low in the harmonic series of the instrument and still have a complete selection of notes. Prior to the invention of valves, brass instruments were limited to notes in the harmonic series, and were thus generally played very high with respect to their fundamental pitch. Harmonics starting three octaves above the fundamental pitch are about a whole step apart, making a useful variety of notes possible.

The ophicleide used a cup-shaped brass instrument mouthpiece but employed keys and tone holes similar to those of a modern saxophone. Another forerunner to the tuba was the serpent, a bass brass instrument that was shaped in a wavy form to make the tone holes accessible to the player. Tone holes changed the pitch by providing an intentional leak in the bugle of the instrument. While this changed the pitch, it also had a pronounced effect on the timbre. By using valves to adjust the length of the bugle the tuba produced a smoother tone that eventually led to its popularity.

Adolphe Sax, like Wieprecht, was interested in marketing systems of instruments from soprano to bass, and developed a series of brass instruments known as saxhorns. The instruments developed by Sax were generally pitched in E-flat and B-flat, while the Wieprecht "basstuba" and the subsequent Cerveny contrabass tuba were pitched in F and C (see below on pitch systems). Sax's instruments gained dominance in France, and later in Britain and America, as a result of the popularity and movements of instrument makers such as Gustave Auguste Besson (who moved from France to Britain) and Henry Distin (who found his way eventually to America). [2]

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