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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 183 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BOMBARDON, or BASS TUBA, the name given to the bass and contrabass of the brass wind in military bands, called in the orchestra bass tuba. The name of bombardon is unquestionably derived from bombardone, the Italian for contrabass pommer (bombard), which, before the invention of the fagotto, formed the bass of medieval orchestras; it is also used for a bass reed stop of 16 ft. tone on the organ. The bombardon was the very first bass wind instrument fitted with valves, and it was at first known as the corno basso, clavicor or bass horn (not to be confounded with the bass horn with keys, which on being perfected became the ophicleide). The name was attached more to the position of the wind instruments as bass than to the individual instrument. The original corno basso was a brass instrument of narrow bore with the pistons set horizontally. The valve-ophicleide in F of German make had a wider bore and three vertical pistons, but it was only a " half instrument," measuring about 12 ft. A. Kalkbrenner, in his life of W. Wieprecht (1882), states that in the Jager military bands of Prussia the corno basso (keyed bass horn) was introduced as bass in 1829, and the bombardon (or valve-ophicleide) in 1831; in the Guards these instruments were superseded in 1835 by the bass tuba invented by Wieprecht and J. G. Moritz. The modern bombardon is made in two forms: the upright model, used in stationary band music; and the circular model, known as the helicon, worn round the body with the large bell resting on the left shoulder, after the style of the Roman cornu (see HORN), which is a more convenient way of carrying this heavy instrument when marching. The bombardon, and the euphonium, of which it is the bass, are the outcome of the application of valves to the bugle family whereby the saxhorns were also produced. The radical difference between the saxhorns and the tubas (including the bombardon) is that the latter have a sufficiently wide conical bore to allow of the production of fundamental sounds in a rich, full quality of immense power. This difference, first recognized in Germany and Austria, has given rise in those countries to the classification of the brass wind as " half " and " whole " instruments (Halbe and Ganze Instrumente). When the brass wind instruments with conical bore and cup-shaped mouthpiece first came into use, it was a well-understood principle that the tube of each instrument must theoretically be made twice as long as an organ pipe giving the same note; for example, the French horn sounding the 8ft. C of an 8 ft. organ pipe, must have a tube 16 ft. long; C then becomes the second harmonic of the series for the 16ft. tube, the first or fundamental being unobtainable. After the introduction of pistons, instrument-makers experimenting with the bugle, which has a conical bore of very wide diameter in proportion to the length, found that baritone and bass instruments constructed on the same principle gave out the fundamental full and clear. A new sera in the construction of brass wind instruments was thus inaugurated, and now that the proportions of the bugle have been adopted, the tubes of the tubas are made just half the length of those of the older instruments, corresponding to the length of the organ pipe of the same pitch, so that a euphonium sounding 8 ft. C no longer needs to be 16 ft. long but only 8 ft. The older instruments, such as the saxhorns, with narrow bore, have therefore been denominated " half instruments," because only half the length of the instrument is of practical utility, while the tubas with wide bore are styled "whole instruments."' Bombardons are made in E flat and F of the r6 ft. octave, corresponding to the orchestral bass tuba, double bass in strings, and pedal clarinet and contrafagotto in the wood wind. The bombardon in B flat or C, an octave lower than the euphonium, corresponds to the contrabass tuba in the orchestra. 1 See Dr E. Schafhautl's article on Musical Instruments, section 4 of Bericht der Beurtheilungscommission bei der Allg. deutschen Industrie-Ausstellung, 1854 (Munich, 1855), pp. 169-170; also Friedr. Zamminer, Die Musik and die Musikinstrumente in ihrer Beziehung zu den Gesetzen der Akustik (Giessen, 1855), P. 313. The bombardons possess a chromatic compass of 31 to 4 octaves. The harmonic series consists of the harmonics from the 1st to the 8th.
End of Article: BOMBARDON, or BASS TUBA

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