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The cimbasso is a brass instrument in the trombone family, with a sound ranging from warm and mellow to bright and menacing. It has three to five piston or rotary valves, a predominantly cylindrical bore, and is usually pitched in F or B. It is in the same range as a tuba or a contrabass trombone.

The modern instrument can be played by a tubist or a bass trombonist.

"Bent" cimbasso


The modern cimbasso is most commonly used in opera scores by Giuseppe Verdi from Oberto to Aida, and by Giacomo Puccini in Le Villi only, though the word also appears in the score of Vincenzo Bellini's Norma, which premiered in 1831. In addition to opera orchestras, the cimbasso can be commonly heard in motion picture soundtracks.

The early use of "cimbasso" referred to an upright serpent of a narrower bore than the "basson russe", usually made of wood with a brass bell. Later, this term had a more generic meaning referring to a range of instruments including the ophicleide, valved ophicleide, and other instruments. In general, after the advent of the more conical bass tuba, the term was more used to refer to a more blending voice than the "basso tuba" or "bombardone," and began to imply the lowest trombone. Verdi, who at times specified a preference for the blending timbre of a low trombone over the heavier sounding tuba, developed an instrument with the firm Pelliti, which was a contrabass trombone in BB wrapped in tuba form.

The instrument had also been featured on Korn's Unplugged concert with MTV.

You can view this instrument at starting about 1 min 18 sec.