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I'm trying to identify the key of a tuba in the below picture. I suspect it's either a Bb or a Eb but cannot confirm. I tried to measure and it was approx. just over 16ft (although that may be inaccurate). The tuba and the case are of the same brand "Virtuosi". Virtuosi was a British company that's now dissolved which makes it difficult to find information about it.

It has 3 valves, on the valves it has the numbers "0705042" engraved. The diameter of the bell is 16".

I used the wayback machine to try and find more info about the company, but sadly there's a few pictures on the website so I cannot compare images.

The main website: https://web.archive.org/web/20060214044030/http://www.virtuosi.co.uk/

I think a reseller: you can see a EEb and BBb mentioned https://web.archive.org/web/20160808231142/http://www.firstbrass.co.uk/index.php?cPath=1_27_134&

https://web.archive.org/web/20160808230251/http://www.firstbrass.co.uk/index.php?cPath=1_27_133&

https://web.archive.org/web/20100203002313/http://www.jpbrass.co.uk/instrument_cat.php?cat=2

Virtuosi tuba


Update:

So I tried playing some notes with the Tuner & Metronome App open on Android without pressing any of the valves, without purposely trying to play the lowest note possible the app gave back Bb. B-flat

If I tried to play the lowest note possible it would say Ab.
A-flat

I assume this means it's an Bb?

Also, to enforce it's a Bb, I mistakenly previously thought that the additional tube in the case was for some optional tuning but realised it's to hold the mouth piece so it faces the other way. So that would add approx. another 1ft to my measurement which would bring it closer to the 18ft for a Bb.

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    Have you tried playing the tuba? What pitches does it produce when no valves are pressed?
    – phoog
    Mar 24, 2023 at 7:59
  • @phoog I haven't played for over a decade, I'm also not very good at identifying notes or pitches :(
    – Shoejep
    Mar 24, 2023 at 8:01
  • @Shoejep: there is software on the net exactly for that purpose. You play the note (with an instrument, or with your voice) and it tells you the note. In the case of voice, it can help you "adjust" your singing to reproduce clearer notes. For that, you only need a microphone connected to your computer. You might even find such software for the smartphone.
    – virolino
    Mar 24, 2023 at 8:12
  • @Shoejep Even if you haven’t played for a decade you should be able to produce a note. Use a tuning device/application to determine the pitch if necessary.
    – Lazy
    Mar 24, 2023 at 8:22
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    @Richard Bb and Eb are just the main ones I've heard of. I've read somewhere that C is less popular in the UK. It's possible it could be any of them I guess.
    – Shoejep
    Mar 24, 2023 at 18:31

2 Answers 2

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Play the lowest note possible, with no valves pressed. That will give you the fundamental of the instrument. Quite loose lips will help here. As you tighten, the next note up is the 5th, and above that, the octave of the original. Match those to a piano or other instrument, and you have it.

For instance, matching on a piano will give the exact note. Matching the fifth to an open B♭ trumpet base note will reveal it's a B♭ tuba, albeit the notes may be an octave or two apart. It's pretty well going to be B♭ or E♭, as you suspect.

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    The lowest note possible is a bit vague if we consider the possibilty of pedal tones.
    – Lazy
    Mar 24, 2023 at 10:47
  • @Lazy - I don't understand. When you blow to produce a fundamental on a brass instrument, my experience is it's that fundamental. Pedal tones are used in music.
    – Tim
    Mar 24, 2023 at 11:10
  • Pedal tones are lower than the fundamentals.
    – Lazy
    Mar 24, 2023 at 11:31
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    Or perhaps the pedal tone is the fundamental, in which case the next note up is an octave above. And this latter pitch sounds like what Tim is referencing.
    – Richard
    Mar 24, 2023 at 12:35
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    The lowest EASILY playable note is probably an octave above the fundamental 'pedal note'. It's quite possible to loosen the embouchure and bend this down a tone or so. If the first note wasn't particularly well 'centered', this might lead to confusion.
    – Laurence
    Mar 25, 2023 at 0:10
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According to Wikipedia

The main tube of a B♭ tuba is approximately 18 feet (5.5 m) long, while that of a C tuba is 16 feet (4.9 m), of an E♭ tuba 13 feet (4.0 m), and of an F tuba 12 feet (3.7 m).

You can measure the length with reasonable accuracy by attaching a piece of string to the bell and running it around the tubing — straight across the valve section — to the mouthpiece.

As @Tim says, you can just blow the fundamental to determine the pitch. But another trick that works on trumpet is to gently (gently!) tap the mouthpiece with your palm. This will produce, quietly, the lowest open pitch on the instrument.

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  • Actually, tapping is what I used to do before playing a note on trumpet - it gave me the basic pitch, before my embouchure developed.
    – Tim
    Mar 24, 2023 at 9:42
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    Re tapping the mouthpiece GENTLY: I don't know much about brass, but I know that "mouthpiece extractors" are a thing, and it's possible to get the mouthpiece jammed in so tight that they're needed. Mar 24, 2023 at 14:38
  • Thanks for your advice, FWIW I tried the tapping method but it didn't last long enough to register on the app
    – Shoejep
    Mar 24, 2023 at 18:33
  • @Shoejep Good point. I suppose one would have to sing the pitch produced by the tapping in order for an app to identify it.
    – Aaron
    Mar 24, 2023 at 18:35

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