Wagner Tuba

Wagner TubaThe Wagner tuba was created for composer Richard Wagner. Wagner really liked the sound of the tuba but he found the tuba’s tone was too heavy to play the melody, so he conceived of a hybrid instrument that was a cross between a horn and a tuba. The body of the instrument looks like a French horn (also just called horn for short), but the bell part at the end of the instrument – which kind of resembles the end of a trombone – points upwards, like a tuba. Wagner used the instruments in his later operas and Bruckner, who was a big fan of Wagner, used them for the first time in the slow movement of his Symphony No. 7, in honor of Wagner.

The style of playing is most similar to that of the French horn and the mouthpiece is the same as the horn, so it’s horn players who play them in the orchestra. For this concert, we will hire four additional horn players to play a quartet of Wagner tubas which function almost as a choir, comprising different voices that each play a different part.

Been to a movie? Chances are you’ve heard this music before. The first phrase of the Universal Pictures signature logo theme is played by horns and the second (starting at the eight second mark) is played by eight Wagner tubas.