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The largest and lowest of the brass family, the tuba was invented in the mid 1800s by Wilhelm Friedrich Wieprecht and Johann Gottfried Moritz in Prussia. Tubas are seen and heard in orchestras, marching and circus bands, and jazz ensembles. Jazz musician Michel Godard, Carol Jantsch of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Thomas Leleu of the Opera de Marseille are notable contemporary tubists.

On most contemporary tubas, the mouthpiece fits into the lead pipe. Approximately 18 feet of pipe circles the instrument, including the tuning slide and water key, eventually passing through the valves, which are connected to tubes of various lengths. The pipe gradually widens until ending at the bell.

Types of Tubas

Tuba horns come in various shapes and types. A concert tuba is designed in an ovular spiral for placement in the player's lap while sitting. Recording tubas have a bell (the large open end) that’s bent forward for easier microphone placement.

Helicons and marching tubas are designed to be rested on the shoulder, so are often used by musicians in marching and cavalry groups. The sousaphone, named for famous composer and conductor John Phillip Sousa, is similarly designed, although in the shape of a circle rather than an oval. There are also variations in size and design that allow for portability, such as travel or backpack tubas

Like many other horns and woodwinds, the tuba comes in various sizes for pitch and key. From lowest to highest, some examples are subcontrabass, contrabass, bass, and tenor. Tubas can also vary in the number of valves, with most having 3 or 4. A four-valve tuba is predictably more versatile.

How much does a tuba cost?

Most tubas cost a few thousand dollars, although student tubas can be found under $1,000. Half size and 3/4-size tubas are available for children and beginners and often cost less. Yamaha, Conn, King, Holton, and Weril all make various sizes and levels of tubas.

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