Tips on the High Register on a Tuba

The large tuba mouthpiece makes it difficult to play high pitches.

The high register on the tuba presents specific issues with intonation, density of sound and flexibility. Tubists rarely need to play in the highest registers, but they should develop a degree of comfort and familiarity with higher pitches. A consistent practice routine will allow a tuba player to schedule time to work on their high register. Expert tubists practice simple exercises designed to build strength and endurance on a daily basis.

Long Tones

Long tones will help to build a solid foundation required to play high notes on the tuba. These exercises are simple to perform and will improve your tone quality. Long tone exercises involve starting on a specific pitch, usually a pitch that involves an open set of valves, such as B flat, and then playing chromatically down to the next open valve pitch; in this case, the next open valve pitch would be F. Hold each pitch for at least six seconds before moving to the next pitch. Continue this exercise starting on all the open valves to develop the strength and endurance required for playing high register pitches.

Flexibility Exercises

Flexibility exercises will greatly develop your ability to quickly move from high to low notes. These exercises also build a great deal of abdominal and embouchure strength. When playing these exercises, use the stomach muscles to push air through the horn on the higher pitches. Each exercise should start on the lowest open valve and then ascend through each open valve pitch to the highest pitch possible. Perform this exercise on each of the seven valve combinations.

High Range

Specific high range exercises will improve your endurance and ability to play the highest register. Start with a Bb on the second line of the staff. Without removing your lips from the mouthpiece, play two half notes and a whole note at 60 beats per minute. Rest for four beats, without removing your mouth from the mouthpiece, while breathing in through your nose four full beats. Play this same sequence a half step higher until you are unable to continue. Take a 15-minute break, start the exercise again a fifth below your highest pitch and attempt to go higher.


Scales will improve your practical high range. Attempt to play each scale three octaves to utilize the full range of the tuba. If you can only play two octaves at first, you will still improve your range and eventually you will be able to add the extra octave if you continue playing long tones, flexibility and high range exercises. Play scales in 16th notes at approximately 120 beats per minute. Start slow at about 60 beats per minute and gradually increase the speed with your metronome.


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