For those who really don’t get it,
There’s an instrument we hear but regret it.
Why is this so?
It’s just very low-
It’s a tuba, and don’t you forget it.

So low you have to dig.
A sound that’s very big.
Many just stare and say “eeuw”,
But enjoy its brassy hue.

Especially out under the lights,
The shine of those twisted up pipes.
To play it you don’t just blow,
You buzz your lips, you know?

Like a trumpet that took steroids,
It’s the bass the crowd avoids.
It can get a beautiful sound.
It can also get howls from a hound.

So why is it misunderstood?
Its beauty and tone are quite good!
Like a backbone we support the tune,
But it’s difficult to play before noon.

Are there any more rhymes for this thing?
An old song used them up with zing.
It talked about a man from Cuba,
Who played a “funny looking boob-a”.
Perhaps this should be about Aruba.
But in Aruba there is no tuba! ~Kyle Turner

Orchestral tuba playing requires control of a greater range than probably any other wind instrument. It is conceivable that a tuba player could encounter on the same program the Berlioz "Fantastic Symphony" with its passage in the final movement ascending to one-line B flat, and also the Britten "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" requiring a pitch of contra D. At this point perhaps something should be said in regard to the type of instrument employed by the performer in laboring over his part in the orchestra. Unfortunately, most composers have very little understanding of or mercy on the poor tuba player. This is largely a result of the tuba's lineage and its rather dubious association with the serpent horn and ophicleide.(predecessors of the modern tuba) Also to be considered is the fact that "tuba" can be applied to any number of instruments with fundamental tones ranging anywhere from Great C, a tone above our modern euphonium, down to sub-contra B flat. The first tuba mentioned above (ophicleide) is a French instrument with six valves and a fantastic range – it is probably this instrument which Ravel had in mind when he orchestrated that nightmare for all orchestral tuba players, the Bydlo variation from Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." This instrument uses a bass-trombone-size mouthpiece and produces a much lighter quality of tone than our American concept of tuba tone. The modern ophicleide that is seen in my photos, belongs to the American Symphony Orchestra. It was designed with five modern rotary valves and uses a small tuba mouthpiece so tuba players today are able to approximate the sound that Mussorgsky (and others) had in mind. Maybe this modern Ophicleide will begin to make an appearance in today's orchestras.

The tuba players in todays Orchestras must be prepared to cover both extremes of his range. Also, he is usually the only tuba player and does not have a low note or high note specialist in the section as found in the horn and trombone sections of our orchestras. So it is typical to find orchestral tuba players with many different instruments to cover all the repertoire spanning several hundred years of instrument technology. In the United States, for example, an orchestral tubist might own tubas pitched in F, and C, and perhaps a medium bore instrument to cover the wide range of brass quintet repertoire. Whereas in Europe, tuba players might own a large orchestral B flat and F tubas. In Great Britain and Scandinavia the most common instruments used are E flat and B flat tubas. In addition, it is common to find professional tuba players exploring different size mouthpieces, to find that perfect fit with the various instruments he uses. The variations of sounds (high and low overtones) on a mouthpiece can make a significant difference, not unlike the wide range of mouthpieces and instruments that trumpet players often use to make their jobs easier.

Hopefully this explanation of the different instruments will help the layperson understand why I am pictured with so many tubas.