Tuba Buying Guide

If you’re like a lot of tuba players, then deciding that the tuba was exactly the right instrument for you was most likely an easy decision. The tuba is bold, yet supportive. It’s distinctive, yet blends perfectly when matched with other instruments. That said, it’s easy to see why this instrument is an integral part of ensembles and orchestras everywhere.

However, the decision to go from renting or borrowing a tuba to investing your hard earned money in an instrument of your own are two different matters. It can be difficult to know where to start and how to make sure you get a good value in exchange for what you pay.

How can you be sure you don’t get stuck with too much or too little bang for your buck? How does a tuba that’s just right for beginners or young people differ from a tuba meant for seasoned experts? Let’s take a look at the answers to these very important questions and many like them. You’ll have your hands on the perfect new tuba for you in no time!

What Are the Most Important Points to Consider When Buying a Tuba?

Just as there are many different kinds of tuba players out there, there are hundreds of different options in tubas today. In order to determine which one is just right for you at this point in your skill development, you’ll need to learn what to look at in order to assess a tuba’s appropriateness for your needs.

Selecting the Right Size Tuba

Size is important when it comes to any musical instrument, but it’s especially the case when it comes to a large and heavy one like the tuba. The size of a given tuba is usually described in the form of a fraction, which you’ll notice once you begin the evaluation process. Examples include but may not be limited to 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, or 6/4. The bigger the fraction listed, the bigger the tuba attached to it.

Different size tubas are often directly related to specific uses or types of ensembles. The largest tubas – usually the 6/4 options – are the kind found in big orchestras or major brass ensembles. They deliver a lower, broader, bigger sound. Smaller tubas tend to sound brighter and higher than their larger cousins, so they’re better picks for smaller or more intimate applications.

If you’re unsure of which size tuba is right for you or the type of band you play in, ask your musical director or instructor for help. He or she will be able to point you in the right direction. Alternatively, a music shop owner may also be able to give you some great advice.

Know Your Tuba Types

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all tubas are created equally. In actuality, there are several different types. These include baritone, sousaphone, euphonium, and tuba proper.

Sousaphones are the type of tuba most often seen in marching bands. Baritone horns are also sometimes seen in smaller ensembles. These types are more often recommended for younger, less experienced players than proper tubas or other alternative, as they’re smaller, easier to handle, and easier to control. Again, if you have any doubts as to which type of tuba you should be looking into, ask your music instructor for guidance.

Know Your Keys and Your Valves

Like many brass ensemble instruments, tubas also come in various keys that you’ll need to consider while shopping. Popular options include B-flat, C, F, and E-flat. Key dictates a lot about how low or high-pitched a given tuba is going to be.

Valves are also important to think about when purchasing a wind instrument. Tubas can vary in valve set-up from a mere three valves all the way to six-valve models. Generally speaking, fewer valves make for simpler instruments that are easier to play and better fits for beginners or casual players. However, tubas with more valves are considered to be more accurate, so they’re more sensible choices for experts and very ambitious players.

Know Your Budget

Obviously, your budget is going to have a lot to do with what kind of tuba you ultimately wind up buying. The more complicated or meticulously crafted the tuba, the more it’s going to cost you. Naturally more accurate tubas with more valves or finer finishes are going to cost more than simpler models designed to meet the needs of students and beginners. If you’re a student, concentrate on simple, but well-made and leave the more intricate options for later on in your musical career.

Brand name will also have a lot to do with how expensive a given tuba is. Whether you’re shopping on a tight budget or not, always make it a point to choose well-crafted tubas from well-known brand names. If you do stumble across options that look promising despite being from lesser known manufacturers, be sure to do your homework before you put your money down. Ask the opinion of instructors, experts, or peers to see what they think. Do your research online, too.

Popular ways to save money on a fantastically crafted tuba include buying used instead of brand new. Just make sure you buy from a reputable retailer if you’re buying the instrument that way. Bring someone with you that you trust when looking the instrument over in person to make sure nothing critical is missed. If you buy a used tuba online, be extra diligent about purchasing from a merchant that you’re sure you can trust.

If you’re going with a factory made new tuba, try evaluating your options offline first and then finalizing your purchase online. This will give you a chance to hold the tubas in your arms and actually feel whether or not they’re a good fit. You might be able to play them to see whether or not you like the tone. Then you can purchase identical instruments just like them online and take advantage of greater selection and lower prices.

Buying a tuba can certainly seem like a daunting process at first and understandably so. However, the entire endeavor becomes easier when you know what to look for. Explore what’s out there for yourself today!