The tuba is a German instrument designed in 1835 by Wilhelm Friedrich & Gottfried Moritz when they received a Patent for a “5 valved bass tuba”. 1
Pronounced /ˈtjuːbə/, from the Latin meaning “trumpet” and. A person that plays it’s called a tubist or tubaist, they can also be called bass players, especially in brass and marching bands.2
The Brass family meaning it makes sound from vibration on the metal when you blow air.
Although the tuba started with 5 valves, today they usually have 3 or 4 and are pitched in C (CC), B♭(BBb) Eb, and F.
The types are determined by pitch3:
- Euphonium: A BBb tuba for example is twice as long as the euphonium and is an octave lower.
- Bass Tuba: Standar tuba.
- Contrabass Tuba: Bigger with a range of 3 octaves from middle C on the piano to bottom C.
- Subcontrabass Tuba: Insanely big, with the lowest range.
There’s also the Suasophone that has the same range as the regular tuba but it’s made to be carried around the wrist. Similarly, the Marching Tuba was made to be played while resting the instrument on the shoulders.
And finally the Wagner Tuba, a fusion of the french horn & tuba.
The difference with a baritone horn is the sound, they have the same length in the tubing as a euphonium but the baritone is more cylindrical and sounds brighter and the euphonium is more conical and sounds darker.
The best for you
For a beginner we suggest a 4 valve bass tuba since it’s the standard, you can choose if the 4 valves will be on the top or you’ll have 3 on the top and 1 on the side, we suggest having 4 on top so you can play with only 1 hand.
If you’re going to play in a marching band then a sousaphone is the answer, since it’s designed to be carried around.
For kids a euphonium is the answer because of the size and weight, also for them, a plastic euphonium is recommended because it will lower even more the price and weight, remember that the sound will be an octave higher, so if that’s a problem a sousaphone may be the answer.
As tubists become professionals they are required to transition to other tubas like the Eb, F, and C(contrabass), so choose any of them, learn it, get the next, and so on. If you can only buy 1 we suggest the Eb since is the same tuba that the London Philharmonic Orchestra uses a lot of the time.
Getting it another way
So far we have talked only about the physical instruments, but there are more options than that.
You can get an app for android called “professional tuba” if you want to play for free right now, the app is a little bit limited, since you can only play using a keyboard on the screen, but if you just want to play this is it.
For both IOS and android you can get Tonestro, this one only works if you already have the instrument, it’s for learning songs and it will tell you if you’re playing the right note or not and if the timing is correct or not.
If you are on a computer you can try virtual tuba online to play with your computer keyboard, the website is a little bit old but it has preloaded songs and a record button for you to experiment a little.
|Variant||Lowest price||Highest price|
|Euphonium||$400 USD||$2000 USD|
|Bass||$2,000 USD||$4,000 USD|
|Sousaphone||$1,000 USD||$1,200 USD|
|Euphonium||24 x 10 x 18 In (60 x 25 x 45 Cm)||30 x 12 x 20 In (76 x 30 x 50 Cm)|
|Bass||20 x 17 x 11 In (50 x 43 x 28cm)||20 x 18 x 12 In (50 x 45 x 30 Cm)|
|Sousaphone bell||22 In (55 Cm)||26 In (66 Cm)|
The sousaphone size can vary a lot depending on the shape of the instrument and how you measure it, the common way to check the size is just to focus on the bell’s diameter.
|Euphonium||12 Lbs (5.4 Kg)||13 Lbs (5.8 Kg)|
|Bass||11 Lbs (5.2 Kg)||30 Lbs (13 Kg)|
|Sousaphone||20 Lbs (9 Kg)||50 Lbs (22 Kg)|
Brass (copper with zinc) and it might have a lacquer (layer) of gold, silver, or steel with some additional painted color on top of it. Plastic euphoniums are available too, they are harder to find but will cost slightly less and will be lighter than the brass versions. Material has no effect on sound but it does in price and durability.
How to play – first lesson
This instrument is slightly hard but fast to learn mostly because of the amount of air needed to play and the weight of the instrument. Once you get your tuba, start by familiarizing yourself with it, which means posture, embouchure, the way you hold it, efficient warmups, etc. Once you master that you can learn to play each note and use that to start playing songs.
Tuba & Sousaphone – “I played the tuba in high school. I wanted to be a member of the marching band. I thought, what can I play that has the most effect? What can I play to get people to laugh?” -Patti LuPone