The tuba and euphonium both are resonant tubes of metal, and as such can be used to perform a variety of percussion sounds. This includes the use of implements to hit the instrument, using the fingers and hands to strike the instrument, and applying rhythmic gestures to the valves and tuning slides. The tuba and euphonium both can be struck in different locations to create different sounds; hitting the rim of the bell creates a loud sound that is not relative to the amount of effort required, while striking the bottom bow creates a dull thud (since it is deadened where it rests against the performer’s body). This is a more viable option with the tuba, given its larger size compared to the euphonium, but the fundamentals of the technique are the same across both classifications of instruments.
The valves can be alternated in a rhythmic fashion, similar in concept to the key clicks on a saxophone or flute. This technique is more viable with the piston valve, as its increased mass and throw create a larger variety of sounds than the rotor. In a similar fashion, the slides can be pushed or pulled in rhythm, but this is not an effective technique. It is available to the intrepid composer, nonetheless.
The performer can also make a sudden squeaking sound by placing their palm flat against the bell or other appreciably flat portion of the instrument, and quickly pulling the hand down. This can be an inconsistent technique, however, and may also be painful to some performers.
The number one rule of this technique is to never require the performer to do something that may feasibly damage the instrument. Some performers (such as the author of this guide) may be fine with creating a few tiny dents in the instrument while learning a work, but the majority of professional-level performers will find such small damage to be enough to cease the performance of the work. A few ways to prevent such damage is to use implements that have been wrapped in a soft material like foam or cloth, or to utilize spots like the bell rim that create loud sounds without damaging strength.
The use of the valves as a rhythmic sound-making device likewise can cause damage to the instrument. If done with enough force or improperly, this technique can seriously damage the components of both piston and rotary valves. It is still a viable technique, provided that proper care is taken to ensure that the demands of the composition don’t necessitate the kind of damaging gestures described above.
This technique is outside of the usual body of technical work that a tubist/euphonist learns to do on their instrument, and as such may be seen a very advanced technique. For those not specifically trained as new music specialists, it can be difficult to coordinate both the performance of the tuba/euphonium and the ancillary rhythmic activities. As such, caution is advised when utilizing this technique extensively.
This technique is best handled with the use of typical contemporary rhythmic notation. This may be applied to the traditional staff within the score or written on a separate staff or graphic score component. Additionally, the use of clear, precise text prompts to tell the performer what techniques to use is highly suggested. The provided example demonstrates two different kinds of rhythmic notation, both of which are suited for their respective techniques (bell and valve notation). It is also possible to notate these techniques with an alternate notehead, especially when mixed with standard notation. When utilized on its own and separate from buzzed materials (as in the example), common noteheads will suffice.
Intermediate to Professional
Works to consider (bolded titles are particularly representative examples of this technique)
Jonah and the Whale – Garth Knox
Tabula 51 – Kari Besharse