Tubas are usually made of brass or other metal, and usually silver-plated or lacquered. Tubas are found in concert and marching bands, orchestras, and brass ensembles.
The tuba comes in many different designs and sizes. Orchestral and concert band instruments are held upright. Marching instruments have a bent mouthpiece pipe so that the weight of the instrument can be supported on the shoulder. Tubas have always had valves because they were invented after valves were.
On a tuba, the sound is made by the buzzing the player's lips. The mouthpiece helps the sound become clearer. The rest of the instrument makes the sound louder. Any fingering on the instrument can make many different notes so you need to have a good ear for music to know if you are playing the right note.
The tuba comes from a long tradition of trumpet-like instruments first used in the ancient world for signaling and ceremony. Only a few notes could be played on these instruments made of conch shells, animal horns, and hollowed branches. By Roman times, and for centuries thereafter, brass trumpets and horns were common at military and civilian events.
The first direct ancestor of the tuba was the serpent, a large wooden tube covered with black leather. Invented in the late 1500's, this low, mellow sounding instrument was shaped like a snake. It had six finger holes which the player could cover and uncover to create different notes.
While brass instruments had existed for centuries, they remained valveless until 1815. Following the invention of valves, the tuba was invented to complete the choir of brass instruments in military bands. Also called the bass-tuba, it was patented in Berlin, Germany in 1835. Near the end of the 19th century, a version of the tuba, the sousaphone was invented.
Before you play: There is very little to assemble on a tuba. All you have to do is place the mouthpiece into the lead pipe. Do this with a gently twisting motion. Do not hit or pop the mouthpiece into place. Oil the valves every day you play your instrument. Remove the valves one at a time and apply three or four drops of oil. Replace the valve, slotting it into place or turning it until it clicks. If the valve is not in the proper position, you can blow hard, but no air will go through. If this happens, check the position of each of the valves to correct the problem.
Tuning & Playing: To lower the pitch of the tuba, lengthen the instrument by pulling the main tuning slide out. To raise the pitch, push the main tuning slide in.
If your mouthpiece gets stuck while playing, do not attempt to remove it yourself or have anyone yank it out for you. Forcibly removing it can break the braces on the instrument. Your teacher will have a special tool to safely remove the mouthpiece.
Cleaning: Once a week clean the mouthpiece with warm water and a mouthpiece brush. Once a month, give your instrument a bath. Remove all the valves and slides and run snake brushes and valve brushes through the instrument with warm soapy water (hot water may damage the finish). Put the tuba back together. Oil the valves and grease the slides.
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