Tuba or Not Tuba, That is the Question…


tuba_elephant_by_zevahcproductions-d46f92nEarly Every May, there’s a day set aside for the biggest brass instrument.

“Tuba Day” fell on the 5th this year.

Tubas have a lot of twists and turns in them which made me wonder just how long one would be straightened out.

I learned than the main tube of a B flat tuba is 18 feet long.

Good thing they’re coiled up.

That would make things tough in a parade or at halftime of a football game if there was 18 feet of brass in the way.

That’s probably why you don’t see alphorns, alpenhorns or alpine horns at football games in the Matterhorn.

Those carved or bored-wood beauties, wrapped in birch bark can be 12 feet long, six feet shorter than an un-kinked tuba.

I thought about playing a tuba in junior high band but it didn’t work out.

Probably seemed like too much work for me at the time.

“Tuba” by the way is Latin for “trumpet”.

Et tu, Brute!

In 1835, a patent was given to some Prussians for the tuba.

Marching band tubas are often called sousaphones.

They are usually carried on the left shoulder with the bell facing the front.

That way, when you’re the featured performer in THE Ohio State University marching band and get to dot dot the “i” in “Script Ohio”, you can make a nifty move to dip the tuba and doff your cap to the thundering throng.


(The Best Damned Band in the Land)

Most tubas are found in concert bands but you’ll hear them in jazz units and New Orleans-style groups as well.

Tubas are the youngest of all brass instruments.

They were introduced into orchestras to replace the “ophicleide”, a keyed bugle from the Renaissance era.

Interesting note that there was nothing really wrong with the ophicleide.

It was a successful marketing campaign by tuba supporters, showing it was a more up-to-date instrument.

That’s what opened the door for tubas.

Looks like the idea of something new being better is not a modern-day concept.

Early jazz bands used tubas to replace the stringed bass to avoid exposing the bass to weather extremes while playing outdoors.

Nutritional tubas?

Hear me out.

Tubas are  made of brass, a metal from copper and zinc.

Now both copper and zinc are found in vitamins.

So, during your life, you may ingest the equivalent of a “tuba” and that would be good for you.

But don’t let me catch you nibbling on a tuba in the band room.

Bill Barber played the tuba on several Miles Davis’ albums, including “Birth of the Cool” and “Miles Ahead”.

And, Larry the Cucumber in the Veggie Tales animated series, from 1993-2015,  played the tuba for the show’s theme song.

That was no small task because Larry had no arms or hands.

For a vegetable, Larry played a mean tuba.

Then there was “Tubby the Tuba” by Paul Tripp and illustrated by Henry Cole.

Tubby’s been around for 60+ years.

Noteworty or famous tubaists or tubists are somewhat few and far between in most circles.

Maybe if “Chicago” or “Blood, Sweat and Tears” included a tuba, it would be different today.

So,  I did a little research.

Remember the TV family series, “Life Goes On?”

It aired from 19989-1993 and it’s main characters were Corky, Becka,  Drew,  Page and Libby.

They were the Thatcher family.

“Libby” was played by Patti LuPone.

Patti actually played a tuba in the Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd”.

Betcha you  didn’t know that!

BTW, what was the theme song for the TV series?

“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”  from the “White Album”.

Thank you Beatles.

In my research, I also found “tuba jokes”.

Couldn’t find many big names in tuba playing, but, jokes? Well…

What’s the range of a tuba?

Twenty yards if you have a good arm.


How do you fix a broken tuba?

With a “tuba” glue.

(Might be my favorite.)

How do you get a million dollars?

Start out with 2 million and try to make a living playing tuba.


Tuba player; ” Did you hear my last recital?”

Friend;  “I hope so.

(Double ouch!)

What does a tuba player and a lawsuit have in common?

Everyone is relieved when the case is closed.

(Not a good sign when you get matched with lawyers.)

How do you keep your jewelry from being stolen?

Leave it in a tuba case.

(Too easy.)

What’s the perfect weight for a tuba player?

Three and a half pounds plus the urn.

(Now that’s mean.)

Definition of an optimist.

A tuba player with a mortgage.

(No slack for tuba players here.)

A group of terrorists hijacked a plane full of tuba players.

They radioed their list of demands to the airport control tower.

“Meet our demands or we’ll release one tuba player an hour.”

(No that’s funny!)

Are tubas the “Rodney Dangerfield” of the music world?


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