Couesnon, “French Tuba”, C tuba, 6 pistons, c.1985


This instrument is representative of the size and type of tuba used in the French symphony orchestras up until the 1960’s.  It is sized similar to a modern euphonium, and is pitched in concert C, one whole step higher than a modern euphonium.  The 6 valves are tuned as thus:  1 – two half steps, 2 – one half step, 3 – four half steps, 4 – 5 half steps , 5 – one flat half step, 6 – 7 half steps.  Valves 1-4 resemble the combinations found on modern American standard 4 valved instruments, with the exception of the French custom of pitching the third valve to 4 half steps instead of 3.  This tuning was also used on cornets around the turn of the 20th century, and is discussed in the original Arban’s book text.

A period method book for this instrument lists the following suggested valve combinations:

C – no valves

B – 2 or 5

B flat – 2+5, or 1

A – 1+2 , or 1+5

A flat – 3, or 1+2+5

G – 4, or 2+3, or 3+5

G flat – 2+4, or 4+5, or 1+3

F – 6, or 1+2+4, or 1+4+5

E – 3+4, or 5+6, 2+6

E flat – 1+5+6, or 1+2+6, or 2+3+4, or 3+4+5

D – 3+6, or 1+2+3+4, or 1+3+4+5

D flat – 1+3+6, or 2+4+6, or 4+5+6, or 4+6

It can be seen that for the lower notes, several different valve combinations exist, but having six valves certainly does complicate things.

The use of six valves, and their combinations, permits a completely chromatic range to be played, right down to the lowest pedal tones, although the tone produced is much closer to a modern euphonium than a modern tuba.

While this instrument worked well alongside the original French “peashooter” trombones, by the 1960’s the French had begun using the American standard large bore trombones in their symphony orchestras.  This led to the demise of the French C tuba.  It is used today primarily for period presentations, such as the Bydlo solo in Pictures at an exhibition.

In 2003, the Philadelphia orchestra presented a special concert program that was devoted entirely to pictures at an exhibition.  This very instrument was used for the Bydlo solo at that concert.

Tag #: 02508
Serial #: 8061

Bell Diameter Bore Size Height
11.0″ .610″,1-3; .650″,4-6 24″



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