There are some major similarities and differences between Tuba and Sousaphone. The tuba belongs to the brass group of instruments. As a brass instrument, it produces the lowest pitch among the brass instruments. It also produces sound by lip vibration made into its large mouthpiece. As an instrument, it belongs to the new kids on the block. It made its first appearance in the middle years of the 19th century. At present, concert bands and orchestra often have the tuba section in their ensembles.
The sousaphone, however, is an innovation over tuba. As a redesigned tuba, it also has almost the same size as that of the tuba. The sousaphone was originated by the popular American composer and conductor, John Philip Sousa. Thus, it was named after him. He first conceived of it as a replacement for the large tuba and the helicon, which are impractical for use in a marching band.
As an innovation over the tuba, the sousaphone carries a special design that is convenient for marching bands. It still has the same tubing length as that of the tuba. Yet, the main differences between the two lie in its sap, which makes it easy to fit around the player’s body and its bell, which positions itself over the musician’s head. Plus, you can detach its bell for easy storage.
The sousaphone’s bell is the most prominent feature that distinguishes it from the tuba. Its bell sits naturally on the right shoulder of the player and faces forward. Thus, the sousaphone can project its sound forward. On the other hand, the tuba’s bell faces upward. Additionally, you would play the tuba while seated, while you would play the sousaphone while standing. This allows the user of sousaphone to focus on playing it well, even if the user is standing.
Throughout the years, the sousaphone has become symbolic of troupes and marching bands. As a brass instrument, the sousaphone appears bulky and heavy, with its 12.5 kilograms of weight. Yet, its weight is reduced to 3 kilograms if it is wrought in ABS resin materials.
What Do These Two Brass Instruments Have in Common?
The tuba and the sousaphone have some succinct similarities aside from both belonging to the tuba family of instruments. Before the invention of the sousaphone, it wasn’t easy to use the tuba for marching bands. Hence, they wrapped tuba around the body of the tubist when used by cavalry bands, and they call this type of tuba “helicon.” Tubas and helicons also have almost the same main tube’s length as that of the sousaphone.
Experts brand the sousaphone as a type of tuba. You may mistake one for the other if you don’t have a keen eye for musical instruments.
The tuba, as a brass instrument, has the lowest tonal range. Its primary pitches include B♭, C, E♭, and F. You can categorize the tubas according to pitch. Based on these pitches, the tuba’s main tube varies from 18 feet for Bb, 16 feet for C, 13 feet for Eb, and 12 feet for F tuba. Sousaphone also carries these primary pitches, and both may have variations in structures, based on the pitch it produces.
When it comes to sound production, both instruments produce almost the same sounds. The sousaphone, for example, produces sound by moving air through the lips. This causes the lips to vibrate into the mouthpiece as that of the tuba.
Both instruments are also made of sheet brass. They both come in silver, yellow, gold plated, or lacquer options. Yet, the sousaphone may be wrought in fiberglass. Moreover, the parts played by this instrument are usually inscribed in concert pitch. Despite having a restricted range than the tuba, the sousaphone can play all the parts written for tuba.
What Are The Major Differences Between Sousaphone & Tuba?
The tuba and the sousaphone, despite being in the same musical instrument family, have obvious differences. As mentioned above, you may not distinguish their differences if you don’t have a keen eye for musical instruments and if you are not musically inclined. Here are several differences between these two musical instruments that are noteworthy:
Sousaphone Pitch: The sousaphones mostly come in the BB♭ (Low B Flat) key. The tubas, on the other hand, come in BB♭, CC, EE♭, and F keys. The sousaphone has a more restricted range as compared to their counterpart concert tubas. And instead of having 4 valves, they only have 3 valves for weight reduction.
Tuba Pitch: As mentioned earlier, the tubas come in different pitches, and you can categorize them according to pitches. The contrabass tubas, for example, are the lowest-pitched tubas. They are pitched in B♭ or C. They are also called BB♭ or CC tubas. The CC tubas have a fundamental pitch of 32 Hz, while the BB♭ tubas have a fundamental pitch of 29Hz.
There are also bass tubas. These tubas are pitched in E♭ or F. There are also the tenor tubas, pitched in B♭. They are pitched higher than the BB♭ contrabass tubas by an octave. There are also the euphonium or tenor tubas. They are pitched one octave higher than those of the BB♭ contrabass tubas. There are also subcontrabass tubas, but these tubas are very rare.
The sousaphone comes with a bell that you can position right above our head when you play this instrument. Its bell projects forward as compared to the tuba’s bell, which projects upward. It also has a wide bell as compared to the tuba. The Conn model 20K, for example, which came out in the 1930s, comes with a 0.734 of an inch bore.
Moreover, the sousaphone’s design allows it to fit snugly into the body of the player. You can prop it up on your left shoulder. On the other hand, the tuba has a bell shape that doesn’t reach the player’s head. Moreover, you play it while seated.
Sousaphone Size: The sousaphone comes with a very large bore, which can be around 0.750 inches. It also features an oversized bell that can be as large as 32 inches in diameter.
Tuba Size: The tuba, on the other hand, comes with varied lengths for its main tube. It may be 18 feet, 16 feet, 13 feet, and 12 feet. It also has a conical bore that increases in diameter along the length of the tubing.
Sousaphone Uses: The sousaphone has a design that allows you to carry it around while playing it. It is designed explicitly for marching bands and troupes.
Tuba Uses: On the other hand, you can use the tuba for different performances such as in brass ensembles, orchestras, jazz bands, concert bands, and wind bands. There may be one or two tubas in a performance, such as in the case of military bands that have 2 or more tubas.
Tagged as the two biggest instruments of the brass family, the sousaphone and the tuba can be easily confused with each other. These two instruments, of course, are akin to each other and are almost the same. Thus, if you know how to play the sousaphone, you will also know how to play the tuba. They are also easy to play. So, if you want to master this instrument, you should not hesitate to learn the rudiments of playing these two great instruments.