The tuba is a musical instrument that belongs to the brass section of an orchestra. From the brass family of instruments, the tuba is considered the grandfather of the family due to its massive size. It can be as short as 9 feet and as long as 18 feet. When played, it produces a rich, deep, mystical sound with the lowest pitch range of all the brass instruments.
Facts & History of The Tuba
German musical instrument inventors Johann Gottfried Moritz and Wilhelm Friedrich Wieprecht were awarded a bass tuba patent in 1835. Three years later, Johann’s son invented the tenor tuba. It has evolved through the years, but it basically retained the overall design except for some tweaks to make it easier to handle by tuba players. It was not utilized in the orchestra in the past but was more of a fixture in military marching bands. However, when Wagner incorporated the sound of the tuba in orchestral music, it has found its rightful place in the orchestral family of instruments. Today, it is being used not only in orchestra and marching bands but also in concert bands and jazz bands.
How Much Is A Tuba Instrument?
Tuba is not the most affordable musical instrument out there. It is expensive. The price range can be from $1000 to $20,000, and if you are not that sure that you will want to play it for a long time, better think twice before swiping that card.
There is no way to mince words or sugarcoat it. Tuba is an expensive instrument. Not only due to its massive size, which required a huge amount of raw materials used to create one, but the labor of work that was put into it was significantly mammoth too. Just imagine a good quality trumpet, which is quite smaller in size, too expensive for the sole reason of the intricate way of creating one. Expect a good quality tuba would cost a little bit more.
Prices range depending on the brand, size, material, surface finish, and whatever additional accessories you would need to play and care for it. Do not forget the mouthpiece that you are already accustomed with. It has to fit well with whatever it is you are about to purchase. Bringing the preferred mouthpiece is a surefire way of making it easy during the selection.
Factors That Affects The Price Range of The Tuba
Almost no one buys a cheaper version during the first year of learning how to play the tuba. Most students would have the instrument on a loaner agreement with the school. However, as soon as the tuba student players get a bit better, they would immediately outgrow it and would want a better version without the dent or the murky sound.
Brass Material: Yellow Brass vs. Gold Brass vs. Rose Brass
The kind of material used in creating a musical instrument can affect the sound that comes out of it. This is why inventors and developers of instruments have meticulously picked the right material for it. In tuba, there is a slight effect on the pitch or tone if it is yellow brass-made, gold brass-made, or rose brass-made. They found out that yellow brass tuba with 70% copper and 30% zinc produces bright and well-toned sound whereas the gold brass tuba with 85% copper and 15% zinc creates rich and full-bodied sound. The rose brass tuba, on the other hand, has around 90% of copper content, which gives a warmer timbre than those other two cannot recreate.
Surface finish: Clear Lacquer Coating vs. Silver Plating
If the material used in creating the tuba can affect the sound coming from it, does it mean the kind of surface finish also has its impact?
Generally, The silver-plated tuba is more expensive than the Clear Lacquer Coated tuba by at least $300. However, it is considered a myth, but some tuba players would claim that the silver-plated one gives out a brighter tone, whereas the lacquered one produces a more mellow or serene timbre. Basically, in the durability standpoint, lacquer coating offers protection, and it is easier to clean while the silver plating can tarnish with black spots if not polished regularly.
Number of Tuba Valves Needed (3, 4, 5)
A basic tuba with three valves can produce all notes, and beginners would generally learn to play with this type of tuba. However, having four valves would create all the low range notes that a regular tubist would need. Those in marching bands or small groups use this type of tuba. Professional tuba players, on the other hand, use five valves when performing in an orchestra or a concert band. It allows a player to reach a broader range of notes and keys. Each additional valve would mean a pricier tuba. Unless it is for professional use, a four-valve tuba is enough.
Type of Tuba Valve: Piston vs. Rotary Valves
Both types of valves can achieve the same thing with minimal difference. People who owned both types only purchased them individually to want to experience the difference of the playing attributes, not much on mechanical reasons. It boils down to personal preference.
Most starter-student tubas are made with piston valves, and players would gradually upgrade to the rotary valve tuba. Both require maintenance care, but pistons need lubrication more than the other type and are easy to dismantle. However, it will cost you more because of its higher price point and maintenance/repairing cost if you opt for the tuba with rotary valves.
Tuba Brand or Manufacturer’s Reputation
When buying a tuba, whether online or in-store, it is wise to depend on the known brand or manufacturer when considering its quality. When you are not that informed about tubas, the only recourse is to bank on the reputation of popular brands such as Yamaha or Miraphone. If the price does not meet the budget, the second-best thing to do is to read and learn more about tubas, so buying a less popular brand will not be difficult at all. In summary, tubas made by Miraphone and Yamaha are generally more expensive than other brands.
Renting vs. Buying Tuba
When you are a beginner, renting the tuba is a legit option. It is not unheard of, especially that it is not your average low-cost instrument, and paying a monthly fee is the most affordable way to continue to learn how to play it. However, keep in mind that a huge part of a budding player’s interest and technique will depend on the kind of instrument he or she has during the beginning phase of the training. Even the most enthusiastic wannabe tubist can be easily discouraged with a low-quality tuba instrument.
Buying a brand new one certainly has its advantages, but it has its own drawbacks too. One of the considerations is the time spent using the instrument. What if the budding tubist decided to stop playing and moved on to another instrument after just six months or a year? In the case of buying for a child’s musical interest, the commitment level of the parent most of the time encourages the child to pursue his musical inclination even more.
Buyer’s Guide & Recommendation
Choose The Right Pitch
This brass instrument can be pitched in different keys such as Bb, C, Eb, and F. It is most common for tuba players to go for the Bb tuba, often used in orchestras and bands. However, if it is not what you want, it is imperative to check the key of the tuba you are buying before even considering checking other aesthetic qualities.
Measure Up for Perfect Fit
Generally, a tuba is quite big, and it is played by either sharing the bulk of the instrument with a chair next to you or resting it on your knee. It does come in a variety of sizes, and it would be wise to try each size to check which one will yield a perfect fit. The mouthpiece’s height should be at level with the mouth, and the valves must be reached comfortably when you are holding the instrument. The size of the bore varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Never assume that they are all the same.
Make sure that you are presented with different options within the prepared budget that you have for the tuba. Try them one by one to see which one fits best with your stature before ordering is recommended. Spend time in comparing each option to find the ideal one that will suit your needs and match your budget requirements. Patience is a virtue and diligence will pay off in the end. If unsure, start with a good quality student tuba and if the budding player’s interest does not wane, invest with an upgraded one.
If you cannot shell out a huge amount of money for one purchase, look for rent to own instrument stores or buy a used one. However, take into account that you will spend more in the end if you take this approach instead of being able to save up. There is an advantage as well as a drawback to every option. Look for competitive prices within your budget spectrum. There is no perfect solution but only ideal intention. Ultimately, it will be your choice, but bear in mind that when buying a tuba instrument investing in quality can never go wrong.