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Wagner Tuba Sound Samples

Scales - listen to different techniques across the entire range of the horn.

The Wagner tuba is a comparatively rare brass instrument that combines elements of both the French horn and the tuba. It was originally created for Richard Wagner's operatic cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. Since then, other composers have written for it, including Anton Bruckner, Arnold Schoenberg, Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, Béla Bartók and Edgard Varčse. The euphonium is sometimes used as a substitute when a Wagner tuba can not be obtained.

Wagner was inspired to invent this instrument after a brief visit to Paris in 1853, when he visited the shop of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone. Wagner wanted an instrument that could intone the Walhalla motif somberly like a trombone but with a less incisive tone like that of a horn.

The Wagner tuba nominally exists in two sizes, tenor in B-flat and bass in F, with ranges comparable to those of horns in the same pitches while being less adept at the highest notes. Several 20th-century and later manufacturers have, however, combined the two instruments into a double Wagner tuba in B-flat and F. Wagner tubas are normally written as transposing instruments, but the notation used varies considerably and is a common source of confusion—Wagner himself used three different and incompatible notations in the course of the Ring, and all three of these systems (plus some others) have been used by subsequent composers. An additional source of confusion is the fact that the instruments are invariably designated in orchestral scores simply as "tubas", leaving it sometimes unclear as to whether true tubas or Wagner tubas are intended (for example, the two tenor tubas in Janácek's Sinfonietta are sometimes wrongly assumed to be Wagner tubas).

The sound of the Wagner tuba is mellower than that of the horn and sounds more distant, yet also more focused. Bruckner generally uses them for pensive melodic passages at piano to pianissimo dynamics. They can hold their own in a forte tutti, of course, but Bruckner generally gives them sustained tones rather than melodic motifs in such passages. In Bruckner's Eighth and Ninth Symphonies, the four Wagner tubas are played by four players who alternate between playing horn and Wagner tuba, which is the same procedure Wagner used in the Ring. This change is simplified by the fact that the horn and Wagner tuba use the same mouthpiece.

Wikipedia information about wagner tuba
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article of the same name.