Whole-Tube and Half-Tube Instruments and the Pedal Range

In his classic text, Orchestration, Cecil Forsyth talked about brass instruments being classified into two categories – whole-tube instruments and half-tube instruments.

Whole-Tube Instrument – a brass instrument capable of playing its fundamental pitch (the so-called pedal tone).

Half-Tube Instrument – a brass instrument that cannot play its fundamental pitch.

harmonic series

Forsyth was never clear as to which instruments fell exactly into what category.  In general, he stated that tubas were most definitely whole-tube instruments while trumpets and cornets cannot.  He neglects to mention trombones in either category, but includes passages that show pedal tones. Continue reading “Whole-Tube and Half-Tube Instruments and the Pedal Range”

Trumpet vs. Cornet vs. Flugelhorn

While all played by the same performer, the Trumpet, Cornet, and Flugelhorn are all in different families of brass instruments and all have different sound qualities.  Knowing the differences between the three instruments is essential for good band and orchestral writing.

The B-flat Trumpet, B-flat Cornet, and B-flat Flugelhorn all have the same range, but it’s a combination of bore structure and mouthpiece design that give these three instruments wholly different characters.

Continue reading “Trumpet vs. Cornet vs. Flugelhorn”

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”

Bass Tuba

Bass Tuba

Bass Tuba range

  • (Note: range does not include pedal notes)

The Bass Tuba, a common sight in the orchestra, is now a rarity in the band.  The tuba we all know and love is the Contrabass Tuba.  The Bass Tuba is pitched either in F or E-flat a fourth or fifth below the Euphonium.  F is the instrument of choice in the United States and for much of Europe, while the E-flat instrument is common in Britain.  At one time, Bass Tubas were quite often seen in the concert band, and many older parts reflect this.  Continue reading “Bass Tuba”

Euphonium or Tenor Tuba

Euphonium or Tenor Tuba

non-compensating Euphonium range

compensating Euphonium range

As the Euphonium is almost entirely a band instrument, it has been neglected by most orchestration texts.  I will try and rectify this and cover as much detail as possible.  The Euphonium is one of the quintessential band instruments.  Every band will have at least one Euphonium player (and possibly a whole section of them).  However, its use in the orchestra is highly limited. Continue reading “Euphonium or Tenor Tuba”

Flügelhorn

Flügelhorn or Soprano Tuba

flugelhorn range

4-valve flugelhorn range

Most of us think of the Flügelhorn as a big, fat trumpet, but the reality is that it bears no relation to the trumpet family whatsoever.  The Flügelhorn is a Soprano Tuba, as it possesses the constant increase in its bore from mouthpiece to bell that signifies a true tuba.  While the Flügelhorn may be a member of the tuba family, it is always played by a trumpeter.  This relates to the rule of thumb of brass players doubling not members of their instrument’s family, but other instruments of the same pitch class. Continue reading “Flügelhorn”