• Stature is adequate to handle the size of the instrument.
  • Lips are medium to thick. Thin lips tend to be better suited for the French Horn or Trumpet.
  • Student is able to sing a common folk song.
  • Desire to play the tuba is unwavering.

Professionals

  • Charles Dallenbach
  • Alessandro Fossi
  • Arnold Jacobs
  • Sam Pilafian
  • Gene Pokorny
  • Patrick Sheridan

If you can hear it clanking around as you put it together and pack it up, then you need to be more careful.

To avoid damage, take your time and be aware of your surroundings as your assemble and put away your instrument.

Assembling the Tuba

  1. Rest the tuba across your lap with the mouthpiece receiver toward you.
  2. Gently twist the mouthpiece into the mouthpiece receiver.

How to Oil Valves

Tuba valves occasionally need oiling. To oil your valves:

  1. Unscrew the valve at the top of the casing.
  2. Lift the valve half-way out of the casing.
  3. Apply a few drops of special brass valve oil to the exposed valve.
  4. Carefully return the valve to its casing. Turn the valve until it locks into place. When properly inserted, the top of the valve should easily screw back into place.

Grease Tuning Slides

Be sure to grease the slides regularly. Your director will recommend special slide grease and valve oil, and will help you apply them when necessary.

Packing Up Carefully

Before putting your instrument back in its case after playing, do the following:

  1. Press the water key and blow air through the mouthpiece to empty water from the instrument.
  2. Remove the mouthpiece and return it to the case.
  3. Once a week, wash the mouthpiece with warm tap water. Dry thoroughly.
  4. You should have no other materials in your case, except for those it was designed to hold. Do not use force when closing your case or you could damage the instrument.
You should know... The most common problems occur in equipment, tone quality, and pitch.

Equipment

  • Improper assembly may damage your instrument
  • Damaged equipment will cause problems

Tone Quality

To get the best sound or tone quality you should:

  • Hold your instrument with good posture
  • Play with good breath support, focused airstream, and strong embouchure formation

Pitch

To control pitch you should:

  • Develop good listening skills
  • Practice different notes (positions and combinations)

Before you learn new songs, you need to learn the notes. Every tuba player should understand how to read the fingering chart below. Practice holding the tuba and placing your fingers in all the different combinations for the notes. You will be able to switch faster as your coordination and dexterity improves.

Articulation

Articulation is the process of attacking and releasing a sequence of notes. Ending the sound is just as important as beginning the pitch. Use the "tip of your tongue at the top of your teeth."

Dexterity

Dexterity is a mental skill or quickness, as well as the readiness and grace in physical activity. In relation to playing an instrument, dexterity is the skill and ease of using your hands and fingers.

Don't get in the habit of curling fingers. Also, you may have trouble if you raise your fingers too far above the keys. Remember that evenness is better than speed. Playing fast, furious, and fumbling is simply not impressive.

Tone Quality is the single most important aspect of your performance. Good tone is achieved by holding the tuba correctly with good posture and poise, using the proper embouchure formation, and breathing with a purpose.

Tuba Embouchure

"Buzzing" through the mouthpiece produces your tone. The buzz is a fast vibration in the center of your lips. Your embouchure (ahm'-bah-shure) is your mouth's position on the mouthpiece of the instrument. A good embouchure takes time and effort, so carefully follow these steps for success:

  1. Moisten your lips.
  2. Bring your lips together as if saying the letter "m."
  3. Relax your jaw to separate your upper and lower teeth.
  4. Form a slightly puckered smile to firm the corners of your mouth.
  5. Think of the letter "p" and direct a full airstream through the center of your lips, creating a buzz. Buzz frequently with and without your mouthpiece.

Start with the Mouthpiece Only

  1. Form your "buzzing" embouchure.
  2. Center the mouthpiece on your lips. (Your teacher may suggest a slightly different mouthpiece placement.)
  3. Take a full breath through the corners of your mouth.
  4. Start your buzz with the syllable "toe." Buzz through the center of your lips keeping a steady, even buzz. Your lips provide a cushion for the mouthpiece.

Holding the Tuba

Always sit up straight and bring the instrument to your mouth. Be sure you can comfortably reach the mouthpiece.

  1. Keeping your right wrist straight, rest your fingertips on top of the valves.
  2. Your fingers should curve naturally like the shape of a "C."
  3. Place your left hand on the large tubing next to the bell.
  4. Lift the instrument up toward you.

Posture & Poise

Sit on the edge of your chair, and always keep your:

  1. Spine straight and tall
  2. Shoulders back and relaxed
  3. Feet flat on the floor
  4. Music stand height-adjusted to read the music and watch the conductor

Mouthpiece Workout

Using only the mouthpiece, form your embouchure carefully. Take a deep breath without raising your shoulders. Begin buzzing your lips by whispering "toe" and gradually exhale your full airstream. Strive for an even tone.

Tuning is the process of matching pitch, which requires two sources: your instrument and another instrumentalist or electronic tuner. Experienced players tune to a "remembered" pitch.

How to Tune

  1. Warm up thoroughly before tuning.
  2. Tune to a reliable frequency using "F" or "B-flat".
  3. Play "Concert F-G-A-Bb." When approached as the top note of a tetrachord, "Concert B-flat" is a great tuning note for all brass.
  4. Play the tuning note straight and make adjustments from the main tuning slide.
  5. "Pull out" to lower the pitch.
  6. "Push in" to raise the pitch.

How to Control Pitch

Good intonation depends on good tone quality. Notes on the baritone that are out of tune can be improved with alternate fingerings, such as using the fourth valve. Slightly longer than the 1-3 valve combination, the fourth valve serves to extend the lower register as well. Develop the habit of automatically lipping certain notes in tune. You will have a good overall sense of pitch as you practice with an electronic tuner. Buzzing the mouthpiece alone will develop your ear for controlling intonation.

The causes of poor intonation may be inadequate breath support, a poorly formed embouchure, or poor listening habits. However, every instrument has inherent intonation flaws. They are listed below for the tuba.

Inherent Intonation Flaws

Unlike the woodwind instruments, which have pitch tendencies for different "registers," the brass instruments have different pitch tendencies for each "harmonic level."

  • In general, the 7th harmonic is never played because it is extrememly flat (too low)
  • Specific notes vary in the other harmonics (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th).

Intonation is the process of moving from one pitch to another pitch at a specific interval (vertically). Intonation is controlled by one person because it relies on a trained ear and acquired listening skills while playing.

Specific Pitch Tendencies

Memorize this information

Problem

Sharp tendencies (too high):

  • Pitch centering for many notes on brass instruments call for the performer to make subtle adjustments in breath support, air stream, and embouchure firmness.
  • The notes listed below that are generally sharp need greater attention.
  • In most cases, using tuba valves in combination will raise the pitch center.
  • As valves are used, the tubing length shortens.
  • Therefore, in general, the more valves used in the combination, the sharper the pitch will tend to be.
  • The use of a fourth valve assists in correcting intonation in the lower range.

Solution

Pitch may be lowered through a variety of techniques including:

  • Adjusting the tuning slide (pull out)
  • Adjust (pull out) valve slides (proportionate to length of the slide)
  • Directing the airstream downward
  • Change in air speed
  • Slight relaxation of the embouchure
  • Alternate fingerings
  • Use of fourth valve

Problem

Flat tendencies (too low):

  • While flat tendencies for brass instruments are not as prevalent as sharp, some notes may border on flat.
  • Generally this calls for the player to make natural adjustments in performance.
  • The use of a fourth valve assists in correcting intonation in the lower range.

Solution

Pitch may be raised through a variety of techniques including:

  • Adjusting the tuning slide (push in)
  • Adjust (push in) valve slides (proportionate to length of the slide)
  • Directing the airstream upward
  • Change in air speed and better air support
  • Slight increase in embouchure firmness
  • Alternate fingerings
  • Use of fourth valve
Good technique depends on good playing position. You may not realize bad position until playing a passage that requires great technical facility. Good technique also requires a knowledge and understanding of intonation and the natural flaws or tendencies of your instrument.

Get more familiar with your instrument and learn who invented it, who composes music for it, and who has mastered the art of playing it.

I. Origin

The tuba comes from a long tradition of trumpet-like instruments 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 instruments were common at military and civilian events.

II. Inventor

The first 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 note.

III. Family

While brass instruments had existed for centuries, they remained valveless until 1815. Following the invention of valves, the tuba was developed to complete the choir of brass instruments in military bands. Also called the bass tuba, it was patented in Berlin, Germany in 1835.

IV. Composers & Performers

Manufacturers made tubas in many different shapes and sizes. One of the most successful was an over-the-shoulder model used in the United States during the Civil War. Near the end of the 19th century, the Sousaphone was developed, named in honor of the great bandleader John Philip Sousa. This circular instrument with a forward-facing bell could be carried on the shoulder, making it especially popular for use in marching bands.

Today, tubas are played in concert bands, orchestras, and brass ensembles. Tubas are typically made of brass and other metal, usually silver-plated or lacquered. Instead of metal, some sousaphones are also made of fiberglass or plastic.

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