Contrabass Tuba

Contrabass Tuba

Contrabass Tuba range

  • (Note: range does not include pedal notes)

We finally come to the bottom of the common band instruments, the Contrabass Tuba.  To most people, when we say tuba we are only referring to the Contrabass instrument, the Bass Tuba being an afterthought.

There are two sizes of Contrabass Tuba, the C and the B-flat.  The B-flat is used by students and amateurs, while the C is the instrument of choice for professionals.  To the bandestrator there should be no distinction between the two.  The sound and range will be identical.  Continue reading “Contrabass Tuba”

Tubas Part 2 – Tubas in the Band

Tubas in the Band

            The only tubas we can expect to have regularly in the band are the Euphonium and the Contrabass Tuba.  One is a master tenor/baritone soloist, while the other is often considered the foundation of the entire band.

I look back to my days of playing, and I always remember there being two Euphoniums and two (or more) Contrabass Tubas in the ensemble, yet rarely would the parts ever divide.  There is no reason in the world not to have parts that say Euphonium 1, Euphonium 2, etc.

The Flügelhorns should become a more regular member of the band.  Every trumpet player should have access to a Flügelhorn.  I have always said that we have too many trumpets in our band, let’s put some of those talented players on the Flügelhorn.

We can experiment with all sorts of arrangements for the tuba ensemble.  Here is a simple scenario that I have used before:

2 Flügelhorns

2 Euphoniums

1 Bass Tuba

1 Contrabass Tuba

This is a total of six players.  The spacing and balance is even, and we get a warm, homogenous sound with this group.  But, I think more potential lies within the group.  I foresee the Flügelhorns being as, or more important than the trumpets.  Why not a group like this:

3-4 Flügelhorns

2 Euphoniums

2 Bass Tubas

2 Contrabass Tubas

I feel that we have yet to fully explore the sound world that lies in the tuba family.  Beautiful harmonies and fluid melodies await us.


Tubas – Introduction



Tubas and Euphoniums and Flügelhorns, oh my.  When we think about these three instruments, we don’t normally associate them into a single coherent family, but that’s what they are.  The tubas, as I collectively call this group, are brass instruments whose bore is almost completely conical from the mouthpiece to the bell.  Their mouthpiece is also deeper than that of the trombones, trumpets, and cornets, but not as deep as the Horns.

This family has four extant members (and two extinct ones).  Two of these are of utmost importance to the standard wind band: the Euphonium and the Contrabass Tuba.  The Flügelhorn is a regular visitor, and the Bass Tuba may make an occasional visit, but more often than not is at home in the orchestra.

When we think of the tubas, we think of bass and the oom-pah sound, but the tuba family is noble and sonorous, warm and melodic.  Creative thinking and bandestration can change how we view this family.

With the exception of the two true tubas, none of these instruments have ever been sufficiently covered in orchestration texts, so I will go into slightly more detail here than I do for some of the other instruments.

As muting rules apply across the board for the tubas, I shall cover it in the broad introduction.  The only available mute for any of the tubas is the straight mute (though I have heard of creative tuba players making cup mutes out of ice cream cartons).  Mutes are rare for the Flügelhorn.  Mutes for the Bass and Contrabass Tubas are huge (resembling something NASA might put into orbit).  Make sure the player has enough time to insert and remove the mutes.


Piccolo Flügelhorn


Alto Flügelhorn/Alto Tuba/Mellophone

Euphonium/Tenor Tuba

Bass Tuba

Contrabass Tuba