Best Tubas

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

35 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
448 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best tubas

Last Updated September 2020

The tuba provides a sound foundation upon which all other instruments of the band or orchestra can be built. A tuba can drastically affect the overall emotion of a composition, making it trudge heavily along or bolstering it with vibrant energy. Because of this, a tuba player needs a quality instrument with a rich and versatile tone.

If you’re in the market for a tuba, you may be wondering how to select the right instrument. First and foremost, the best tuba for you must be one that you can physically handle. Unlike many other instruments, it is entirely possible to purchase a tuba that is too large for you, making it impossible to hold and play.

There are a number of other elements you will want to consider before purchasing a tuba. Read this buying guide to make sure you understand them all so you can get what you really want. If you're ready to buy a tuba, we invite you to explore the ones we spotlight here.

When you play the tuba, moisture builds up inside the instrument and can produce a gurgling sound. The water key allows you to quickly open the instrument's tubing to allow the moisture to drain out so your instrument sounds good again.

Size first

There are a number of elements to consider before purchasing a tuba. However, the first priority is size. It is possible to purchase a tuba that is simply too large and heavy for a player. This holds especially true if that player is a child.

Like some string instruments, tubas are available in fraction sizes. A 3/4 size instrument is common, but there are 4/4, 5/4, and 6/4 tubas, as well. Unlike a string instrument, tuba sizes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer; there are no set dimensions. The best way to think of it is this: a 3/4 tuba is smaller tuba. A 4/4 tuba is a standard size for that manufacturer. Continuing with that thought process, 5/4 is large, and 6/4 is extra-large.

Another consideration regarding size is where the leadpipe, the part where the mouthpiece is inserted, is located. Even if the instrument is the right size and weight for a player, the leadpipe might be too high or too low, making playing more difficult than it needs to be.

DID YOU KNOW?

Like a bugle, a tuba features a conical bore (the hollow part inside the tubing). This means that the diameter of the bore isn't uniform. Instead, it gradually increases from the mouthpiece to the bell.

Other considerations

After you find a tuba that is a manageable size, there are a few other elements to consider.

Type

In most situations, you will want to focus on a BBb tuba or possibly a CC tuba. These are the  two most common tubas. Generally speaking, a BBb tuba has a richer, broader tone that is best for playing in a band. A CC tuba typically fits better in an orchestra where the lower strings can help the tuba add to the bottom end.

Players who choose a BBb tuba will probably need to learn how to transpose music, but that is not a difficult task once the fundamentals are understood.

Valves

Most beginning students will want a three-valve tuba. However, a more serious performer looking to play in the high school band will likely want a four-valve tuba. A five-valve tuba should be reserved for professional performers, mostly because it will only be found in higher-end models.

There are two types of valves a tuba may have: piston, which works the same as a trumpet (by moving up and down), and rotary. Rotary valves are typically only found on mid- to high-priced tubas. These valves require smaller movements to operate, so they facilitate a smoother playing style.

Materials

Tuba players have a few different choices when it comes to materials. Student models tend to be yellow brass or the darker-sounding gold brass. Rose brass is an option for players seeking a warmer tone.

Plastic is becoming more prevalent among lower-end tubas. It has its flaws, but many players can overlook them due to the considerably lower price and lighter weight, not to mention the nonexistent chance of dents.

Intermediate and professional musicians will likely want to consider a nickel silver tuba. This is an excellent material, but it is also pricey.

Finish

There are not too many options when it comes to finish. A plastic tuba can come in an assortment of colors, which will not affect the sound. A student model will likely have a lacquered finish and, although you can find some unusual colors, most will either be a shade of gold or silver. Besides helping to protect the instrument, the lacquer can add a darkness to the lowest tones.

Silver plating will only be found on high-end instruments. It has a warm sound, but it requires much more care to maintain the instrument's shine.

DID YOU KNOW?

Like a trumpet, you don't produce notes on a tuba by merely blowing into the instrument; you need to buzz your lips, as well.

Accessories

Following are a few tuba accessories you might want to consider.

Tuba stand: K&M Tuba Performer Stand
K&M's Tuba Performer Stand is a height-adjustable stand that may be just what you need to help support that heavy tuba. It works whether the performer is sitting or standing and is manufactured using a soft, non-marring plastic material so you won't damage your instrument.

Music stand: GLEAM Music Stand
There is no question that when you're playing an instrument as large as a tuba, you're going to need a music stand to hold your music. GLEAM's fully adjustable music stand is an affordable unit that checks all the right boxes.

Mouthpiece brush: Herco Brass Mouthpiece Brush
To keep your tuba mouthpiece smelling fresh and remaining bacteria-free, you need to regularly (and thoroughly) clean it. Herco's affordable Brass Mouthpiece Brush will allow you to do exactly that.

Valve brush: Denis Wick Valve Brush
If your instrument has piston valves, the casings will build up with gunk, and the valves will begin to feel sticky. The best fix is a good cleaning to remove all of that unwanted buildup. Denis Wick's Valve Brush has soft extra-wide bristles that will get the job done right.

Polishing cloth: ammoon Microfiber Polishing Cloths
This set of five microfiber polishing cloths from ammoon is perfect for quickly removing fingerprints without scratching your instrument. These cloths are rather small and thin, but they get the job done.

Tuba prices

Inexpensive: If you'd like to purchase a tuba that is under $2,000, you are going to need a plastic model. It's not a bad option as far as price and durability go, but if you want something that lasts, you may need to look at the higher end of this bracket for models that include metal valves.

Mid-range: From $3,000 to $6,000, you can purchase a tuba that is either 3/4 or 7/8 size. Most of these models have three piston valves, but as you move closer to the higher-end models in this range, you may find tubas with four piston valves or even some with three rotary valves.

Expensive: If you want all the bells and whistles, step-up and professional model tubas can run anywhere from $6,000 to as much as $15,000. However, for the most part, even if you want an extremely high-end tuba, you should be able to find everything you need in the $10,000 to $12,000 range.

DID YOU KNOW?

Playing the tuba requires a great deal of air — up to three times more than is needed to play the trumpet. Additionally, the lower the note is, the more air it takes to produce that note.

Tips

In order for a tuba to respond the way you need it to so you can sound your best, it is important that you take proper care of your instrument. Following are a few tips to help you do exactly that.

  • Guard against dents. A tuba is large and heavy, which means if it’s dropped, even just once, it will be damaged.
  • Place it in its case. Since a tuba is so unwieldy, the best (and only) place you should keep it when not practicing or performing is in its case.
  • Keep it dry. The primary concern for tuba care (outside of dropping it) is moisture removal. After every playing, open your water key and gently blow out all the moisture that you can. After that, run a swab through all accessible parts to remove any lingering moisture.
  • Wipe it down. It's not hard to do, so there is no excuse for not regularly wiping down the exterior of your tuba with a polishing cloth.
  • Clean your mouthpiece. The mouthpiece of your tuba will breed all kinds of bacteria if you don’t clean it regularly. Brush it out with warm (not hot) soapy water and rinse at least once a week to keep those foul odors away.
  • Clean and lubricate. The valves and slides need to be removed, cleaned, and lubricated in order for them to function properly. If you are not comfortable doing this yourself, ask your teacher for guidance.
  • Deep clean it several times per year. Every few months, your tuba will appreciate a warm bath. You must first disassemble the instrument and only clean the parts that can get wet using warm (never hot) soapy water. Take any necessary precautions, such as lining your tub with towels, so you do not damage your instrument ... or your tub. Again, the first few times you perform a deep cleaning, you may want to enlist the help of someone with experience in this procedure.

Another product we considered

It is possible that even the lowest-priced tubas do not fit comfortably in the budget of a beginner. It takes time to know if an instrument truly resonates with a performer — if it doesn't, $6,000 is a costly mistake. However, there is an alternative that may work in some instances: a smaller, higher-pitched version of a tuba called a euphonium.

The euphonium is pitched like a trombone but shaped like a tuba, and you can find models that are priced much lower than tubas. Remember, a euphonium is not a tuba, but it could be a smart entry-level instrument in the world of low brass. If this sounds like something that would be of interest to you, Mendini has a Lacquer Brass Bb Euphonium that features a .566-inch bore, a 12-inch upright bell, and four stainless steel pistons. Additionally, this instrument comes with a tuner/metronome, gloves, a polishing cloth, and a travel bag.

Unlike many other instruments where weight is mostly an inconvenience, it is possible to not be physically strong enough to play the tuba because some models may weigh up to 30 pounds, which is the equivalent of lifting and holding four gallons of milk.

FAQ

Q. Sometimes I see BBb or CC tuba and other times it's written Bb or C tuba. Is there a difference?
A.
Music language can be a little quirky, as it uses a great deal of terminology that doesn't always make immediate sense. However, it is there for a reason. Adding the second capital letter designates the tuba as an instrument that plays in a lower register, one octave lower than a baritone horn or euphonium. However, since no one actually calls either of those instruments a "Bb tuba" or a "C tuba," when you see "Bb tuba" or "C tuba," you can be pretty confident they are actually talking about a BBb or CC tuba but have dropped a B or a C for the sake of brevity.

Q. What is transposing?
A.
In music, not all instruments are written the way they sound. For instance, if a flute player sees a C and plays it, it will sound like a C on his instrument. However, if a Bb clarinet player sees a C and plays it, it will actually sound like a Bb, which is a full step lower. If the clarinet player wants to play the same C as the flute player, he will need to play a D. This is called transposing.

Q. Why is transposing important for tuba players?
A.
Except in rare instances, tuba music will be written in C — so it sounds like it is written. If you play a BBb tuba, you will be expected to know this and transpose the music yourself so it sounds right when played on your instrument.

The team that worked on this review
  • Allen Foster
    Allen Foster
    Writer
  • Ciera Pasturel
    Ciera Pasturel
    Digital Content Producer
  • Lauren Corona
    Lauren Corona
    Writer
  • Melinda Snowden
    Melinda Snowden
    Web Producer
  • Melissa Nott
    Melissa Nott
    Senior Editor

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