The tuba has a beautiful warmth and richness in its sound. The most basic writing for the instrument treats it as just a loud ´oom-pah band´ instrument used to just pick out the bass line of the music, but this falls a long way short of what the tuba does best. In great orchestral writing it plays expressive bass melodies that, due to its depth of tone, loom through the lower half of the orchestral texture. It is also perfect for creating tremendous swells which can be used to heighten the emotional peaks of the music in much the same way as the timpani is often used. And of course, when playing loudly alongside the whole brass section its effect of its immense power can be awesome.
There are several different tubas (or saxhorns), including the tenor tuba or euphonium, the bass tuba, and the BBb or contrabass tuba. Most modern instruments have a conical bore, but there are variations in construction and name from country to country. In the USA a 'baritone' refers to a euphonium, whereas in the UK it means a tenor horn. The 'Wagner tuba' is called 'Tenor-Tuba' in Germany, and so on. The three most common instruments in orchestras are the bass, the contrabass, and the euphonium, which are featured in these pages. The tubas are of course the bass instrument of the brass section, but they are more than capable of playing melodies in the tenor register.