Re: BB-Flat and C...what?!

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Posted by simple answ. attempt on April 14, 2002 at 15:57:09:

In Reply to: BB-Flat and C...what?! posted by M. Johnson on April 14, 2002 at 12:58:19:

Resolve these sets of facts in your mind, which have NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with each other:

1/ Most all WRITTEN tuba MUSIC that you will ever see is NON-transposed. This means that the notes written on the page for tuba are the notes which sound on any NON-transposing instrument, such as a regular flute, a piano, or a other words, "concert" pitch.

2/ Tubas are built in a variety of lengths. Well over 99% of the tubas found in schools are the **longest common length of tuba (not including the length of the valve section tubing) - about 18 feet long. These are "built in" Bb, because their primary open pitches are Bb's. Why are school tubas built in Bb?...The answer is too complicated and not worth explaining...(like, "Why do Americans drive on the right side of the road?", etc.)

Other lengths of tubas (almost never found in schools, but many folks use these) are 16 foot-long tubas (primary pitches are C's); approx. 13-1/2 feet long (Eb); and 12 feet long (F).


Regardless of the length of tuba that is chosen by (or supplied for) a tuba player, the tuba player must learn which buttons to push on THAT PARTICULAR LENGTH OF TUBA when they are looking at "concert pitch" (almost never transposed [*except in a very few special cases]) music.

Example: WRITTEN "CONCERT PITCH NOTE": "D" just below the staff -

Bb tuba players must use valves 1&2
C tuba must use valves 1&3 (or a substitute valve combination of similar length)
Eb tuba players must use valve 2
F tuba must use valves 1&2 (or a substitute valve combination of similar length)

*In other words, tuba music is ALMOST NEVER WRITTEN to accomodate the particular length of tuba that is being used. It is nearly always the PLAYER'S RESPONSIBILITY to be able to read CONCERT PITCH music with whatever type of tuba they are using.

I tried to leave out some unnecessary details. I hope I answered your questions. If I patronised, I didn't mean to.


*One exception to this is found some brass band music.

**Tubas used in drum and bugle corps are sometimes even longer.

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