Tuba Sonora (unknown)

In 1895 Robert Hope-Jones introduced a new type of chorus reed tone, the “close reed”, which Wedgwood says hyperbolizes as “an entirely new departure in the science of reed-voicing”. Hope-Jones coined the name Tuba Sonora for his invention, though in later years the names Tromba and Horn were used for reeds of this type. The first examples were voiced by Willis-trained E. Franklin Lloyd. Bonavia-Hunt writes:

The three main factors in the treatment of this class of reed are: (1) closed shallots; (2) harmonic tubes - i.e., double length; and (3) high wind pressure. Willis as far back as 1870 had been using all three in the treatment of his magnificent tubas: hence we see that Hope-Jones tuba sonora was but the ultra-development of the Willis tuba in the direction of closeness. Somewhat thicker tongues were employed to enable the voicer to tune the reed to a closer (sharper) pitch without causing the tongue to “choke”. The tuning length of the tongue was further controlled (shortened) in the lower half of the compass by the process of loading, which was carried up an octave and a half higher than in the Willis reed, the higher notes being weighted with felt loads. Franklin Lloyd adhered to the brass weights with which his Willis training had familiarized him; but later voicers introduced felt and lead weights in the bass and tenor octaves, omitting the lead in the higher portion. Another deviation from the Willis standard was the increase of scaling adopted for this type of reed. The standard scales for chorus reeds set up by Willis run from a maximum of 5in. to a minimum of 3 1/2 in. at CC (8 ft.). ... As much as 6 1/2 in. has been used for the tenor C (4 ft.) pipe of a tuba, while at Worcester Cathedral Hope-Jones made the tenor F pipe of his solo tuba to the enormous scale of 8in!

Early examples of the Tuba Sonora feature wooden shallots with double tongues, including the one in Worcester Cathedral. Wedgwood reports that it has unusually thick tongues.

The tone of the Tuba Sonora has been characterized as full, round, and pure, being free of most of the higher-pitched harmonics that create dissonance and clang-tone. Bonavia-Hunt says: “what the flute is to the diapason, the close reed is to the normal type”. It is listed in all sources as being of 8' pitch.


Tuba Profunda
Tuba Profundissima


Tuba Sonora 8', Solo; Worcester Cathedral, Worcester, England; Hope-Jones 1896. This example is cited by Wedgwood and Audsley as a particularly fine one.

Tuba Sonora 8', Tuba (division); St. Paul's Anglican Church, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Casavant 1914. (The chorus reeds of the Tuba division were made by Harrison and Harrison, and by Frank Wesson and W. G. Jones in England.)

Tuba Sonora 16', 8', 4' (unified), Great; Spreckles Organ Pavilion, Balboa Park, San Diego, California, USA; Austin 1915.

Tuba Sonora 8', Solo; Town Hall, Melbourne, Australia; Hill, Norman & Beard 1929.

Tuba Sonora 8', Harmonic; Cadet Chapel, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, USA; Moller 1911. This stop was apparently made in 1930 by Bonavia-Hunt.


Audsley[1]: Tuba Sonora. Bonavia-Hunt[1]: Trombone; Trumpet; Tuba Sonora. Irwin[1]: Tuba Sonora. Maclean[1]: Tuba. Skinner[1]: XII Tuba Sonora. Wedgwood[1]: Tuba Sonora.
Copyright © 2001 Edward L. Stauff, all rights reserved.
TubaSonora.html - Last updated 29 December 2001.
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