Tubas Buying Guide

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If you are interested in tubas, I created a guide on what to look for when purchasing tubas. Tubas buying guide can help you choose what tuba is best suited for you, especially if you are shopping for one for the first time. I will try to give you as much information on tubas as I can to make it easier for you.
The best tuba to choose for you is one that you can physically handle. Tubas can be very large and if you are a small person, you may purchase the wrong one making it hard to hold and play.
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Size of the Tuba
tubas are available in fraction sizes or quarter system. The most common tuba is 3/4, but also available are 4/4, 5/4, and 6/4 tubas. There are no set dimensions, tuba sizes can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The 3/4 tuba is a smaller tuba for some manufacturers which would mean a 4/4 tuba would be standard, a 5/4 would be large, and a 6/4 would be extra large.
Younger tuba players usually play the 3/4 tubas since the full size ones can be too large for them. These 3/4 tubas are tuned and keyed just like the full sized tubas, but usually has three valves and are less expensive compared to the 4, 5, or 6 valves used by professionals.
With this instrument the lead pipe plays an important factor in its location, the lead pipe is where the mouthpiece is inserted. The lead pipe can be either too high or too low, making the tuba more difficult than it has to be, even if the tuba is the right size and weight for you.
                        Construction and type of Tubas
The tuba is the lowest pitched and largest brass instrument. Its body is composed of the mouthpiece, main tube, valve tube, valves, water key, and the bell. They are generally made of brass, and can be unfinished or lacquered, electroplated with gold, silver, or nickel. The Latest technology has tubas also being made out of plastic, which would be less expensive.
There are basically two major types of tuba categories, one is the contrabass, the other is the bass, and any other tubas are categorized under either one of these types. The F and Eb tubas are considered a bass tuba, they have a brighter sound than your contrabass and play in a higher key. Bb and C tubas, which are also called CC and BBb tubas, are categorized as contrabass tubas. The BBb tuba has the lowest pitch compared to your standard tuba sizes.
                                Different Types of Tubas
1 – Marching Tubas – This type tuba has a lead pipe that is manually screwed on right next to the valves. The instrument can rest on the left shoulder, and some can rest on the right shoulder. The bell of this tuba faces directly in front of the player Marching tubas are only used for marching, they cannot be converted into a concert tuba.
2 – Sousaphone Tubas – Most of your marching bands use what they call the sousaphone because it is easily wrapped around the body of the player. The sousaphone is lighter and less expensive than the marching tuba. They are also a lot easier to carry and not as awkward and for this reason they are also used in concert.
Sousaphones are made either in brass or fiberglass, and they project their sound above and ahead of the player and out towards whatever is in front. It has a large bell and a very distinctive sound.
3 – Upright Tubas – A tuba can weigh as much as 25lbs and are referred to being upright tubas because the bell is facing out away from the player and placed on the lap of the musician. Their upright design makes them easier to carry even on the marching field.
The keys are in front facing outwards, making them easy to press while playing, this type tuba is easy to maneuver and carry around.
4 – Baritone Tubas – This type is low-pitched. It has pistons valves and a mostly conical bore. Its mouthpiece is shaped like a cup and is wide rimmed, similar to the trombone It also has just about the same length of tubing that the trombone has, the difference is the shape or design, which is the shape of a small tuba. It has a much mellower sound than the trombone. Instead of a hand slide, the baritone tuba has valves. It creates deep, dark, powerful tones that most people would recognize the sound as a tuba.
5 – Contrabass Bugle/Tubas – This type tuba is the lowest- pitched of all your tubas. It is pitched in either C or Bb, referred also as CC and BBb. The CC is tuba is most commonly used in orchestras. The BBb tuba is popular in Germany, Austria, and Russia. Also, the BBb tuba is used in schools and amateur musicians in the United States.
There are at least five different types of contrabass tubas, most of which are pitched in BBBb, and they sound a full octave lower than your basic BBb contrabass. The most common music written for this tuba is in bass clef.
6 – Bass tuba – This type is usually played an octave higher than the contrabass tuba when playing in a brass band. The bass tuba is usually in the key of Eb or F. The F tuba is more popular in Europe, and the Eb tuba is more popular in the United States, and both of these can be supplemented by the CC or BBb tubas when necessary. The F tuba is used a lot by professional musicians for solos, and assorted ensembles.
Most professional tuba players have both a bass tuba, and a contrabass tuba because most of the music have parts for one or both of these tubas. The bass tuba is becoming more rare in bands today, but you will still find them in many orchestras today.
7 – Euphonium – This type tubas name comes from the Greek word, meaning well- sounding or sweet-voiced. It is very large, and has conical-shaped bores. It is mostly found with pistons valves, but some do have rotary valves attached. It is usually played in bass cleff, but can be played in treble clef when used as a transposing instrument. It is also known as the tenor tuba, and it is pitched in Bb. When you hear it called the tenor tuba it normally refers to the Bb rotary-valve tubas pitched in the same octave as euphoniums. There is also a small Swiss tuba in C, which is a tenor tuba in C which has six valves to reach lower notes of a composition.

Four types of Euphoniums

1 – Compensating Euphonium – It has 3 upright valves and 1 side valve. It has extra tubing for its unique sound. Not all euphoniums with 4 valves are compensating, however, because only the ones that have the extra tubing in them will be considered in this category.
2 – Double-Bell Euphonium – besides having a main bell, this type has a 2nd smaller bell. It has a lever that allows the musician to switch back and forth between the bells. This type euphonium can be substituted for a trombone when there isn’t one since it sounds like a trombone. This is a very old type instrument invented in the late 1800s and are very hard to find today, they are rarely known by young players today.
3 – Five Valves Euphonium – This is the rarest and most valuable euphonium today. It has 3 main pistons valves with 2 extra piston valves on its side.
4 – Marching Euphonium – This type euphonium is made lighter and smaller to make them much easier to march with. There are 2 types of these, one of them being the convertible and is light enough to be used on the marching field. The 2 most common manufacturers of this are Yamaha or Jupiter.
8 – Helicon Tubas – This type tuba is usually in the key of Bb, but can also be in the key of E, B, F, and tenor sizes. This tuba when first made had an upright bell, which they named this tuba the rain catcher. The sousaphone is a specialized version of this type.
There were 2 main changes with the Helicon tuba, the first one was the bell faced forward with a larger flare and a diameter of up to 28″; They added a lead pipe that was shaped like a goose-neck which was the 2nd change. They added the lead pipe for better adjust ability of the position of the mouthpiece, and both the sousaphone and Helicon are worn on the shoulder and have circular shapes.
9 – Saxhorn Tubas – This type sounds mellow and blends very well with your other brass instruments. It has bores which are conical shaped and a mouthpiece that is deep and shaped like a cup. It has valves like a lot of other brass instruments. They can range from soprano to contrabass. They were modified after the bugle for their final result. There are a variety of saxhorns such as, the Bb soprano saxhorn, Eb alto/tenor saxhorn, Bb baritone saxhorn, EB bass, and Bb contrabass saxhorns which are the same as the modern tuba, Eb bass tuba, and BBb contrabass tuba.
10 – Subcontrabass Tubas – This is an extremely rare tuba that is pitched in BBBb; You have 4 different types of this tuba, two of which are in BBBb, one octave below the BBb contrabass, a tuba pitched in FFF, and one pitched in EEEb. The FFF contrabass tuba needs 2 players, one plays the valves and one blows into the mouthpiece. You may sometimes see them in concerts but it is a very rare instrument.
11 – Wagner Tubas – This is another rare instrument used today. It has characteristics of the trombone and french horn. This tuba is also called Wagner horns, Bayreuth tubas, Bayreuth tuben, or just tuben. This tuba is usually pitched in F(bass), and Eb (tenor), and usually have rotary valves. Some are combined, and can be configured in either key. This tuba uses a mouthpiece just like a horns mouthpiece, and has the characteristics of both a horn and a tuba. It has a limited repertoire, which can have problems with intonations if the musician is using it for parts of the french horn for instance. Still, it does have a great sound when participating in any band or orchestra.
                             Two Types of Valves and Characteristics
1 – Rotary Valve – These type valves doesn’t need as much maintenance as a piston valve, because they don’t need to be oiled as often. This type valve is preferred by German musicians. Rotary valves are not easy to assemble and re-assemble because of their complexity, so you will need to take it to a professional.
2 – Piston Valves – These type valves are preferred by the American and British musicians. They are higher in maintaining these type valves compared to the rotary valves because you have to oil these valves regularly in order for them to work properly to their full potential.
They are easy to assemble and re-assemble compared to the rotary valves. They can point out the front of the instrument or point to the top.
                                 Valve Functions on a Tuba
Tubas can have anywhere from 3 to 6 valves, some may even have different amounts. The least expensive and beginner tubas usually have three. The 1st valve lowers the pitch by one step. The 2nd valve lowers the pitch by a half step. The 3rd valve lowers the pitch by one-and-a-half-step The 4th valve is used in place of the combination of the 1st and 3rd valves, it can be tuned to lower the pitch of the main tube by two-and-a-half-steps. The 5th and 6th valves provides alternate fingerings to reach lower levels and improve intonation.
A BBb tuba can actually switch to an Ab tuba when you press the 1st valve. The 3rd valve can lower the pitch of a BBb tuba by one-and-a-half-steps, but cannot accomplish this with an Ab tuba. You can use the 4th valve to lower the pitch of the main tube by four-and-a-half-steps, which allows you to correct the tone when its too sharp. If there is a 5th and 6th valve on the tuba, you can reach the lowest notes of the instrument more easily, as well as use alternate fingerings when it’s necessary, which also makes it easier to trill which means,( a rapid alternation between 2 adjacent notes, usually a semitone or tone apart, which can be identified with the context of the trill),
One a month you should flush out the interior with lukewarm water, never hot. Scrub the bore and tubing with a bore brush, rinse with cold water and drain the instrument thoroughly. Never use detergents on lacquered finishes. Dry valve casings with a cotton flannel cleaning cloth.
The mouthpiece should be brushed inside with a mouthpiece brush with warm, soapy water on a weekly basis because it is a breeding ground for bacteria if not kept clean.
When not using the tuba, keep it closed in its case to help protect it from damage and keep it away from extreme heat or from direct sunlight.
After playing, open any water keys and blow a steady stream of air through the tuba to eliminate any accumulation of water.
You should wipe the outside of the tuba with a polishing cloth to eliminate any fingerprints, which will stop your instrument from tarnishing.
On a weekly basis you should make sure all slides and valves move easily, oil valves once a week or more often if needed.
          Tuba Prices and Some Best Tubas to Buy on the                                                             Market
Tubas can range anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000. Do not base your choice on price alone because the fact remains that the tuba with the highest price is not always the best in quality. Get a feel on what some professionals are saying about the wide variety of tubas that you can choose from. Below I have listed some tubas that professionals think are good choices and worth their money.



1 – Cool Wind CTU-200 series 4-Valve BBb Tubas – This is one rare tuba that features different color designs, Cool Wind has created this model taking a step farther off the pack by releasing this unique design that features a plastic brass construction. It features a 21 mm and a 4-mouth action valve piece material to aid the overall play turnover. It has rotary valves, an ABS, metal valve material- all laid out in special colors that has never been seen before. Just be careful where you store it in the summer because of high temperatures.
2 Band Directors Choice 995 Student BBb Tubas – This model is the perfect choice for first time tuba players. It has a lacquer body with nickel trim. Pistons are hand tapped which gives them a perfect fit for noiseless, responsive action. Its 3/4 size bore is :0.67, upright bell is 14.88″, which makes it a great directors choice for the beginner. For its price it will deliver in terms of sound quality and overall performance.
3 – RS Berkelely Tuba 3/4 size – A lacquer finish, 656″ bore, 16″ bell, three nickel plated pistons, and unique mouthpiece. This model has great quality for its price. It is a BBb key tuba. It has three top-action monal valves and a hand lapped pistons which helps prevent any unnecessary noises. Hand-lapping pistons are designed to encourage great quality intonation and sound generation by the musician.
4 – Stagg WS-BT 235 Bb Tubas – This model is a great tuba designed majorly for student and beginners who are looking to upgrade their playing. It has a lacquer body finish and simple mechanism that makes it easy for beginners. It features a solid and intuitive three front-action nickel silver pistons, a bore measuring 15.0 diameter, a bell 147.64″, a height of 39-37″, which is great for players looking for a smaller tuba. It has a silver plated mouthpiece and the tuba only weighs 15.43 lbs. It has a deep rich sound and extreme comfort for players at all levels. This model is great for young and professional alike.
5 – Jupiter 378 series 3-Valve 3/4 BBb – The band directors dream, this is 3/4 tuba with detachable lead pipe, valve body, and bell for easy cleaning and repair, durable construction. The tighter wrap and compact size will help young players. It has an ample dynamic range and rich, sweet tone, It has nickel plated pistons valves for easy action, plus a size which makes the sound easy to control for beginners.
6 – Yamaha YBB-105 WC series 3-Valve 3/4 BBb Tubas – Another smaller tuba which is ideal for beginners and it doesn’t sacrifice on quality. Its comfortable to play and has great tone. In Bb key, which is the lowest tuba pitch, produces a warm, rich sound and you can stay with this model as you advance. It has hand-lapped pistons and slides, precision brace design and placement extended mouthpiece taper, and a specially designed 14.3/8″ upright yellow bell flare for enhanced projection, a .661″ bore, three top-action nickel plated alloy pistons, gold. The 3/4 bore size is not suitable for larger ensembles if that’s what you are going to play in.
7 – Jupiter JTU 1110 Concert Tuba Lacquered – This model has an innovative open wrap, a new feature in tubas, it eliminates sharp bends, allowing smoother air flow. Because of its size, its great for small hands and lighter than other models. It has an outstanding low registry. It is a Bb tuba, 732 bore, 17.4″ bell, four bottom sprung position valves front action.
Hopefully you have enough information in this article so you can choose a tuba that will be a right fit for you. If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to ask and I will do my best to answer them to the best of my knowledge.



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