[Dixielandjazz] Sousaphone (and other low pitch musicalinstruments)

Mike Durham mikedurham_jazz at hotmail.com
Mon Nov 17 19:45:05 PST 2003

>From all my reading on the subject, it seems that the over-the-shoulder (or 
OTS) style was predominantly American and intended mainly for military 
bands. The original such instruments were Saxhorns. In catalogs from the 
1880's many instruments are offered in two or even three different styles: 
OTS, bell up or bell front. I guess the switch after the civil war from 
primarily military to primarily concert use caused the demise of OTS horns, 
though why bell-front tubas, baritones, euphoniums and alto/tenor horns 
became increasingly rare (in favour of bell-up models) is harder to 
understand. OTS horns had effectively disappeared by the early years of the 
20th century. And by the way there are great recordings of civil war era 
music on authentic instruments played by a band called Heritage Americana. I 
picked mine up at the Gettysburg Battlefield Park Visitor Center a couple of 
years ago.

Yours, more belly-up than bell-up,

Mike D.

>From: david richoux <tubaman at batnet.com>
>To: "DJML" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
>Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Sousaphone (and other low pitch 
>Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2003 08:59:12 -0800
>I have a replica "Saxhorn" (Over the Shoulder) Eb tuba that as made for me 
>by Robb Stewart. There are two obvious problems with the design - in a 
>concert setting you have to play facing away from the audience and the horn 
>is awkward and a bit more fragile than the later tuba/helicon/sousaphone 
>shapes. Also, when marching the bell end of the horn is a dangerous weapon 
>when making turns!  There are still a lot of these old horns around and 
>there are many groups that have formed to play them in period brass bands.
>I would use this horn in a Civil War Era Recreation band (if there was one 
>in the San Jose area) but it is obsolete for very good reasons. I also have 
>a replica Serpent and a real Ophicleide but the sounds I can make with 
>those beasts are not quite right for jazz (except as a novelty act ;-)
>I play a variety of helicons, sousaphones and tubas from my small 
>collection - depending on the gig: indoor or outdoor, amplified or not, 
>mobile or stationary, how long will I be holding the horn, any particular 
>"image" needed - all of that helps me determine what  kind (and pitch) of 
>tuba I bring to the gig.
>If you are interested in all low musical things I recommend a visit to 
>and the SmartGroup http://www.smartgroups.com/groups/TubaEuph
>Robb Stewart's website is 
>and a very good Saxhorn Band (but not the only one) 
>Dave Richoux
>On Monday, Nov 17, 2003, at 05:10 US/Pacific, John Farrell wrote:
>>Brian Wood's comment :
>>"a sousaphone is really a tuba adapted for marching"
>>reminded me of the time I went to Kentucky to hear Mr. Jack Daniels' 
>>Cornet Band - what a marvellously accomplished outfit they are! Also on 
>>same bill was a sizeable military band which wore Civil War uniforms and
>>replicated the music and instrumentation of the period (it was so long ago
>>that I can remember only one of the tunes they played - "Eating Goober
>>Peas"). The bells of many of the larger brass instruments pointed 
>>when the conductor explained that this was to enable the troops marching
>>behind to hear the music I thought "What a sensible idea" and wondered why
>>the backward facing bell was discontinued.
>>Does anybody know?
>>John Farrell
>>Dixielandjazz mailing list
>>Dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com
>Dixielandjazz mailing list
>Dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com

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