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This ain't no piccolo in my pocket, baby.
May 7, 2005 3:32 AM   Subscribe

Consider the tuba and its player. Maligned by flautists and other snigglers, ignored by second-rate composers, the tuba is a musical instrument with a deep history. From serpents to ophecleides to sousaphones, the tuba is truly God's voice box (although some would say it is closer to Satan's).

Tubas represent love. Tubas bring joy. Humor. And beer. Rising above the petty stereotyping of fat men and oom-pah bands, the tuba is inarguably the most important musical instrument that exists today.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies (29 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I played the tuba for many years, and enjoyed it. Marched with a sousaphone for a few years, didn't enjoy that so much, but it gave me some arm strength as a freshman in high school. It's fun to play, and more difficult than most brass instruments. But it's hardly essential. And even when played extremely well, it can't stand alone.

At christmas time, many cities will have a "tuba christmas," when all the tuba and euphonium players get together and play christmas carols. Even with them all together, they'd still sound better with some higher tones.
posted by Candide at 4:25 AM on May 7, 2005


the tuba is inarguably the most important musical instrument that exists today

You'll probably get an amen from these guys. [You'll have to enable popups, but it's cool. No ads, I promise.]
posted by Clay201 at 5:01 AM on May 7, 2005


I wanted to play the sax. The high school had enough sax players, and I was one of the school fat kids, so I ended up with the tuba.

I still have bitter memories of lugging that great heavy bastard of a thing in its great heavy bastard of a nasty other-people's-old-spit-smelling case up the hill from school to home for the hated half-hour of practice.

That said, some of the sounds you can make with a tuba - especially in the upper registers ignored by every composer ever - are really quite beautiful; it sounds like a french horn without the cork up its arse.
posted by flabdablet at 5:08 AM on May 7, 2005


Maligned by flautists and other snigglers

snig·gle
v. snig·gled, snig·gling, snig·gles
v. intr.

To fish for eels by thrusting a baited hook into their hiding places.
posted by Uccellina at 5:15 AM on May 7, 2005


developed by Adolphe Sax in a desperate (and successful) attempt to expiate his guilt for inventing the saxophone two years earlier

Just beautiful.
posted by sourwookie at 5:57 AM on May 7, 2005


The Modern Jazz Tuba Project!
Anyone who has checked out the Modern Jazz Tuba Project on their website or amazon.com has surely noticed quotes like the ones I included above. At first, I was skeptical… they are all from tuba players, and how could it really be that good? My first thoughts, before meeting these guys and their music was, “oh great, more tubas playing jazz.” This is because I’m not usually a fan of jazz recordings and especially not bad tuba jazz. But now I am a bit more educated, and I am incredibly excited about the possibilities presented by this group as well as the doors these musicians are blowing wide open for us all. I think people, including myself, will take tuba jazz, and possibly the tuba in general, a bit more seriously after hearing these guys play!
Seriously, though, Marcus Rojas is an incredible musician; check him out if you get a chance. (For all I know, the MJTP may be great too, but I've never heard them.)
posted by languagehat at 6:29 AM on May 7, 2005


I remember Martin Mull doing "Dueling Tubas". Talk about great compositions......
posted by Eekacat at 6:33 AM on May 7, 2005


Stan Freese (sp?) is the director of entertainment at the Disney theme parks who is a world class tuba player. He did a novelty song called "Play That Funky Tuba Cowboy.", which is very obsecure now, so if you have a copy, let me know. He graduated from my high school and he returned to my school once and he is a very nice man.
posted by wheelieman at 6:40 AM on May 7, 2005


You know what this song needs? More cowbell tuba!
posted by eriko at 6:56 AM on May 7, 2005


Nothing can beat the excitement of watching some spirited playing of the pink trombone!
posted by clevershark at 7:05 AM on May 7, 2005


you can not have a tuba post without mentioning some second line!

tuba fats!

dirty dozen!

and best use of the tuba in the world today, rebirth!
posted by oliver_crunk at 7:11 AM on May 7, 2005


When I graduated from music school, Sam Pilafian (a world-class tubist who used to play with the Empire Brass) spoke at the commencement, where he was awarded a "distinguished alumni" award of some sort. After talking, he pulled out his tuba and proceeded to play the piccolo part to "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

And if that weren't rad enough, he followed it by playing "Flight of the Bumblebee..."

... using only the mouthpiece. No hands.

Almost 200 graduating music majors collectively lost their shit. It was amazing.
posted by the_bone at 7:43 AM on May 7, 2005


Last night I watched Devotchka putting the sousaphone back into rock & roll. It was good.
posted by liam at 7:50 AM on May 7, 2005


I just looked up the serial number on my Conn tuba the other day to help me find out it's age. I was quite surprised to find out that it was made in 1907. I only wish that I hadn't stopped playing 10 years ago and could still get a decent sound out of it.

Playing tuba & string bass was such an invaluable experience for me musically. When I started playing in rock bands, I always understood the importance of a good bass line. Now that I've come full circle & switched back to bass full time, I find that all those years of being yelled at by my instructors finally paid off.
posted by password at 8:00 AM on May 7, 2005


Don't Miss OcTUBAfest!
posted by kortez at 8:01 AM on May 7, 2005


Has anyone ever noticed how many people think a sousaphone is a tuba? I've corrected quite a few people on this, only to be met with a blank stare.
posted by reidfleming at 8:08 AM on May 7, 2005


...it sounds like a french horn without the cork up its arse.
Oh yeah? At least the cork stops the fat, farting noises. You're just jealous because the French horn has a certain je ne sais quoi.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:16 AM on May 7, 2005


I played tuba/sousaphone in the band in high school.

During halftime shows we did the guillotine. I can't find any good definitions of this on Google, but it basically involves standing side-by-side with the rest of the section and swinging your sousaphones around in a certain pattern that, well, if you messed it up you could get your head chopped off. Hence the name.
posted by elisabeth r at 8:40 AM on May 7, 2005


Yeah, but will any solo Tuba piece EVER top "Jabba's Theme" from Star Wars?

I think not.
posted by InnocentBystander at 8:40 AM on May 7, 2005


I like the tuba. But personally, I think bassoon is tops! Beautiful range and unique tone (I used to play in high school). And I think that of all instruments and instrumentalists, bassoons have the worst name: in Italian, it's the faggotti, and we are faggottists.
posted by papakwanz at 9:09 AM on May 7, 2005


i used to work in a record store. on one of my shifts, some kid came in to buy a cd of tuba concertos...so that he could test the bass in his car's new subwoofers. i fell in love that day.
posted by pxe2000 at 9:46 AM on May 7, 2005


The band I'm in right now has a Tuba-er(tuber?)/Sousaphonist , and it definitely adds something (considering it's the only horn).
posted by drezdn at 11:00 AM on May 7, 2005


Maligned by flautists and other snigglers

snig·gle
v. snig·gled, snig·gling, snig·gles
v. intr.

To fish for eels by thrusting a baited hook into their hiding places.
posted by Uccellina at 5:15 AM PST on May 7 [!]


I think we know who the flute player in the group is now...
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 11:55 AM on May 7, 2005


The modern valved tuba dates from 1842 and was developed by Adolphe Sax in a desperate (and successful) attempt to expiate his guilt for inventing the saxophone two years earlier. It is no accident that most great orchestral music was written after 1842. Modern musicologists can only wonder that 18th century composers such as Bach, Mozart and Haydn were able to write so much (more or less) serviceable music while lacking tubas.

Is this a joke?????
posted by klik99 at 12:34 PM on May 7, 2005


*sigh*
posted by languagehat at 2:20 PM on May 7, 2005


No mention of the Baritone? I started on the euphonium with the ungainly 4th valve. It was a beat up instrument that I wish i had today. The baritone has a much fuller sound than the trombone and actually sounds better than the french horn. Sold the baritone years ago and still miss it. The tuba was too hard to handle and play. But, I loved the sound. And yes, you can play high registers with the tuba. You just need a strong armature.
posted by razzuli at 4:14 PM on May 7, 2005


You just need a strong armature.
posted by razzuli at 6:14 PM CST on May 7 [!]


Although a strong armature might be useful, I'm fairly certain you mean a strong embouchure.

I'm a 6-time veteran of TubaChristmas, both on Tuba and Euphonium. Great experience every time.

And a tip for any budding brass player, but especially low brass... mastering dynamics will have the greatest impact on your perceived talent than any other single thing you can practice.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:35 PM on May 7, 2005


What tops Jabba's theme? How about a certain tuba solo piece that every good Canadian knows... the A&W Root Bear song!
posted by evilcolonel at 7:44 PM on May 7, 2005


Tubafilter. Self-polishing since 2005.
posted by hoskala at 1:29 PM on May 8, 2005


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