The new tuba proved to be a fertile framework for experimentation. Wieprecht himself further refined the design of the instrument, producing a bombardon (a generic term indicating a bass valved instrument) that would be more indicative of the widely-flared, large bore shape that later manufacturers of tubas would adopt for their own designs.[1] Among the many other instrument makers creating their own take on the new design, three would prove to be particularly influential: the Belgian Adolphe Sax (of saxophone fame)[2], Václav František Červený of Czechoslovakia[3], and Carl W. Moritz of Berlin.[4] In 1843, Adolphe Sax set up a shop in Paris and created a series of instruments known later as saxhorns.[5] Like his earlier work in woodwind instruments (most notably the saxophone), the range of saxhorns consisted of alternating instruments in the keys of Eb and Bb, extending from the sopranino saxhorn in Bb to the Bb contrabass saxhorn.[6] Similar to Wieprecht’s tubas, the saxhorn was a horn of tapered bore, excluding the tubing through the valve section (a limitation that Sax would nonetheless eventually conquer, with mixed results).[7] The saxhorns used valves designed in 1839 by Étienne François Périnet, with the notable improvement being a much less circuitous tubing system (especially when compared to the rather large Berliner-Pumpe in common use at the time).[8] The Périnet valve, as it would become known, has remained largely unchanged since this time; modern piston valves fundamentally adhere to the same design.[9]

Although the historical veracity of the following claim cannot be confirmed for a certainty, the popularity of the saxhorn is generally seen as the result of a fortuitous meeting of Adolphe Sax and John Distin, patriarch of the famous Distin family of musicians from London.[10] Upon hearing the saxhorn, the family (nearly all of whom performed on a variety of brass instruments), commissioned Sax to build them their own set, and it was through their tours of the United Kingdom with this instrument set that the saxhorn made the jump from Continental Europe to the British Isles.[11] The growing popularity of the instruments in the United Kingdom provided the impetus for the brass band movement that would come to dominate English musical life well into the 21st century (and which will be discussed in greater length in the section on the British tuba culture).[12] Besides the work of the Distins, the saxhorn would further cement its popularity through a sales pitch given by Sax to the French army bands: after a play-off between the existing instruments in use and Sax’s improved designs, the French army granted Sax a commission for the production of saxhorns for use in the entire band program.[13]

Beyond the mechanical and tonal improvements found in the saxhorns, the idea of a related family of instruments in alternating keys would prove to be highly influential, establishing a pattern of paired key instruments that persists to the present day.[14] Throughout mainland Europe, many different countries would produce their own sets of matched instruments: similarities can be seen in the flicorni of Italy, the fiscorn of Spain, and the flügelhorns of Austria.[15] Additionally, Sax’s tendency to create families of instruments can be seen in the continued existence of tubas in Bb, Eb, and BBb (corresponding to the Bb euphonium, Eb bass tuba, and BBb contrabass tuba). Indeed, modern-day tubas have somewhat clear predecessors within the original family of saxhorns: Sax’s instruments included the Saxhorn Baryton/Saxhorn Tenor en si bémol (equivalent to the baritone, used primarily in British style brass bands), the Saxhorn Basse en si bémol (same pitch as the Saxhorn Baryton, but with a wider bore—essentially correlating with the modern Bb euphonium), and the Saxhorn Contrebasse en mi en si bémol (equivalent to today’s Eb bass tuba and BBb contrabass tuba).[16] Combined with the F tuba of Wilhelm Wieprecht, this accounts for four of the five principle members of the tuba family. For the genesis of the CC contrabass tuba, one must turn to Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), and to the instrument firm of Václav František Červený.

Founded in the Bohemian town of Königgrätz (now the city of Hradec Králové) in 1842, V.F. Červený’s instrument factory had a reputation as a hotbed for experimentation.[17] Shortly after the factory’s opening, Červený would set about making two large contrabass tubas, pitched in BBb and CC.[18] These instruments featured many design hallmarks that would persist to the present-day contrabass tuba: a massively large bore, rotary valves (especially in the case of BBb tubas), and a tall, open bell throat.[19] Prior to Červený’s invention, there existed a Kontrastbombardon of an immensely low pitch in Munich, but since this predated the contrabass tuba, it is unknown whether this was a truly monstrous instrument or simply low in comparison to other known tubas of the time.[20] The new contrabass tuba would quickly gain hold in the wider musical world (for instance, being the preferred tuba in many of Wagner’s operas, starting around the composition of Das Rheingold in 1853-4).[21] From here, there is only one piece remaining in the creation of the modern tuba family: the euphonium.

In the year of 1838, Berlin instrument maker Carl W. Moritz (son of Johann Gottfried Moritz, co-inventor of the original bass tuba) built a Tenorbasshorn in Bb.[22] This instrument was based on an instrument of the same name built by Wilhelm Wieprecht in 1823, and improved the earlier instrument by the use of a wider bore and an additional valve (for a total of four).[23] Following on the heels of Moritz’s Tenorbasshorn was the Euphonion of Ferdinand Sommer of Weimar, featuring an even wider bore.[24] Similar instruments also included the so-called Hellhorn, a structurally identical horn from Ferdinand Hell of Brno.[25] This new instrument proved to be immensely popular, particularly amongst community and military bands. V.F. Červený produced the similar Baroxyton in 1848 for the Russian infantry bands, along with a peculiar instrument called the Phonikon (essentially, a euphonium with a bulbous bell, mimicking the English horn).[26] Both in design and intended usage, the Tenorbasshorn/euphonium was remarkably similar to instruments such as the Saxhorn Basse en si bémol, and the Flicorno Basso in Do.[27] The creation of the modern euphonium is somewhat tenuously linked to Alfred Phasey (1834-1888), an English ophicleidist. Phasey’s main responsibility in creating the instrument supposedly involved taking a saxhorn tenor built by French manufacturer Courtois, enlarging the bore, and giving it the name euphonium.[28] Whether this story is entirely true or not, it is well-established that Phasey was active in promoting the new instrument as a solo voice.[29]

The shared heritage that exists between the tuba and euphonium demonstrates the widespread nature of the search for a true bass wind instrument. That the foundations of the euphonium point back to Wilhelm Wieprecht only further solidifies the connection between the modern euphonium and tuba. This connection will be discussed at length later in this chapter, but first, it is necessary to discuss a major contribution to the evolution of the euphonium and tuba, the Blaikley compensating system.

By the time that Wieprecht and Moritz were perfecting the Berliner-Pumpe and producing the first tuba, it had long been known that there were a few acoustical problems inherent in all valved brass instruments. The first issue had to do with the fact that many conical valved instruments nevertheless contained a section of straight cylindrical tubing through the valve section.[30] Many attempts were made (and still are being made, as in the progressive bore model demonstrated in patent #US7161077 B1)[31], to ameliorate the negative effects of this disruptive section of cylindrical tubing. The more pressing problem, though, had to do with progressive intonation deficiencies inherent in the design of valved brass instruments. As multiple valves are pressed in tandem, minor intonation errors within each length of additional valve tubing start to compound and progressively detune the instrument.[32] With the higher brass instruments like the trumpet and horn, this issue is not as pronounced, but the longer tubing required for euphoniums and tubas only emphasizes this issue. The end result of this issue is that a 3-valve euphonium or tuba will not only have a diminished low range, but will also have severe intonation issues with notes that are technically within the compass of the instrument. Several instrument manufacturers combatted this issue by adding extra valves to the instrument, but due to the increase in cylindrical tubing involved in such a solution, the search for a true compensating system continued. Many different compensating systems were developed to address this issue, but the most lasting automatic compensating solution came in 1874, from the lab of acoustician David Blaikley.[33] In essence, the Blaikley compensating system adjusts the intonation in the low range of the instrument by introducing a second set of slides for each of the primary valves, which are activated by pressing the last valve in the series. In a 3-valve instrument, the compensating slides on the first and second valves are activated by pressing the third valve (compensating for the intonation problems inherent in the fingering combinations of 2+3, 1+3, and 1+2+3); in a 4-valve system, the compensating slides are on the first three valves and are activated by the fourth valve.[34] Thus, there is very little for the performer to do other than to press certain valve combinations down to adjust the intonation problems found within the tuba and euphonium’s low range. By the last few years of the 19th century, the Blaikley compensating system would be in widespread use, and is still the preferred compensating system found on modern compensating tubas and euphoniums; indeed, as Clifford Bevan writes it, “…the first completely automatic compensation system turned out to be the best.”[35]


[1] Ibid, 149-50.

[2] Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family (New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978), 87-8.

[3] Ibid, 113.

[4] Ibid, 90.

[5] Anthony Baines, Brass Instruments: Their History and Development (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1993), 253-8.

[6] Philip Bate, et al. “Saxhorn”, Oxford University Press, accessed November 27, 2016, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.ezproxy.bgsu.edu:8080/subscriber/article/grove/music/24667.

[7] Philip Bate, et al. “Saxhorn”, Oxford University Press, accessed November 27, 2016, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.ezproxy.bgsu.edu:8080/subscriber/article/grove/music/24667.

[8] Lloyd E. Bone, Eric Paull, and R. Winston. Morris, Guide to the Euphonium Repertoire: The Euphonium Source Book (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007), 15.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978), 103-4.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978), 103-4.

[14] Clifford Bevan, “The low brass”, in The Cambridge Companion to Brass Instruments, ed. Trevor Herbert and John Wallace,(Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 149.

[15] Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978), 111.

[16] Ibid, 102.

[17] Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978), 143.

[18] Clifford Bevan, “The low brass,” in The Cambridge Companion to Brass Instruments, ed. Trevor Herbert and John Wallace,(Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 150.

[19] Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978), 143.

[20] Ibid, 122.

[21] Ibid, 135.

[22] Ibid, 90.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978), 90.

[25] Clifford Bevan, “Euphonium,” Oxford University Press, accessed November 29, 2016, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.ezproxy.bgsu.edu:8080/subscriber/article/grove/music/09077.

[26] Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978), 90.

[27] Ibid, 100-14.

[28] Lloyd E. Bone, Eric Paull, and R. Winston. Morris, Guide to the Euphonium Repertoire: The Euphonium Source Book (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007), 10.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978), 78.

[31] Details for this patent, Gradually progressive bore BB-flat, CC, E-flat, F, or B-flat valved musical wind instrument and valved B-flat/F inverted double musical wind instrument, can be found at the following: https://www.google.com/patents/US7161077.

[32] Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978), 79-80.

[33] Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978), 82.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.