Upright tubas (Jupiter from Taiwan, St. Petersburg from Russia, Besson from England).
• Upright tuba Your
basic tuba which sits in the player's lap with the bell pointing up (or
to the side, if he or
she is lazy!) May have 3 to 6 valves. Pitched in the basic four tuba keys: B flat, C, E flat, or F (I saw a
Mirafone ad 20 years ago for aG tuba!) Valves may be pistons or rotaries.
White Fiberglass Sousaphone (some metal ones are at the bottom of the page)
• Bell-front sousaphone
be made of metal or plastic (fiberglass; white or in colors). May
have 3 or 4
valves. Pitched in B flat, C, or E flat. Valves are usually pistons.
• Recording bass (like
an upright tuba with the bell facing forward) It gets its name from
substitute for a string bass, hence, it should never be called a recording tuba (as some tuba players get
ticked off by having their instruments referred to as basses, as many tuba parts are marked in band
music). Rumor has it that the idea came from Enrico Caruso. Tubas had been replacements for string
basses for years but the direction of the bell in the recording studio had been a problem. It was remedied
by aiming the sound of the tuba at the microphone. Tubas continued being used as string bass substitutes
until the invention of the electronic microphone in 1929. The instrument was popular in old time radio (1928-
1950s). May be pitched in B flat, C, E flat, or F, with 4 or 5 valves. Valves may be either pistons or
• "Marching" tuba (an
upright tuba with a mouthpipe coming out the side so that the tuba is placed
player's shoulder) Personally, I think these are hokey. I've marched with an upright tuba (in normal upright
position) with superior results! Usually a B flat tuba with 3 or 4 piston valves.
The Three Marx Brothers try to figure how a helicon works.
• Helicon (forerunner
to the sousaphone; like a raincatcher sousaphone without a bend in the
shoulder) I saw
a recent entry on eBay about a sousaphone manufactured in 1869. This piqued my curiosity. I discovered the
instrument to be a helicon. I thought about e-mailing the seller because some younger and uninformed tubists
might think they have uncovered the missing link! Realizing the one selling the tuba is innocently trying to make
a buck I don't think he or she really cares what is being sold. Pitched in any of the four basic tuba keys, 3 or 4
rotary or piston valves.
Actor portraying John Philip Sousa and an original sousaphone.
• Raincatcher sousaphone
[upright bell] This is the original sousaphone as originally
by John Philip Sousa. The recording bell came out later with the advent of making records. According to
Sousa (in his autobiography, Marching Along), the tuba bells pointing upward had the same effect as
"the icing on a chocolate cake." Again, do not confuse this with a helicon which came out about 25 years before
the sousaphone. (The sousaphone originated in the 1890s.) Pitched in B flat or E flat with 3 or 4 pistons.
The powerful tuba section of the Mount
Carmel High School Sun Devil Band from San Diego "getting together"
in the parking lot of the Santa Anita Race Track just minutes prior to
stepping off at the Arcadia Band Review in November 1998. (No, this
isn't trick photography; they marched with that many tuba players on the
Links to tuba manufacturers.
Last updated August 11, 2001