This list is for younger beginners, older musicians and those wanting a product of the highest grade. There is a lot of choice, so you should check out our Tuba buying guide to find out more. Hopefully you will find this helpful when trying to choose your instrument, and you’ll have a good idea about tuba price. Good luck and happy playing!
How much does a tuba cost?
The largest of the brass family, tubas can be expensive. However, a smaller entry level model costs around £1,000/$1,400. As you progress and grow in size, you would then need an instrument to suit your standard and unlock your potential. These intermediate models in larger sizes cost around £3,500/$5,000.
If you are serious about your music making or even want to go on to study professionally, an industry standard model will cost around £8,000/$11,000. Beyond that, there are some high level brass family models for the orchestra which can cost £15,000/$20,000 or more.
There are cheaper instruments out there but remember: ‘Buy cheap, buy twice’. The models on this list are usually very good in specification and after care service. The brand history of the models listed is also impressive, going back many, many decades.
Factors that affect the price range of a tuba
The grade of materials used, the size of the instrument and the resulting sound quality all influence the price of the instrument. If it’s silver plated, it is usually more expensive due to the extra manufacturing processes needed to create the finished product.
Yellow brass v gold brass v rose brass
The brass family consists of instruments constructed of brass, a mixture of copper and zinc. Easy to shape whilst remaining strong and able to create a project sound, the type of tone can be manipulated depending on the balance of copper and zinc content.
Yellow brass is 70% copper, 30% zinc. Manufacturers use more copper to make the brass softer. The tone created by softer models is mellow, broad and not as clear and direct as models made of harder metal. If there is more zinc used and less copper, the tone will be more direct and punchy.
Brass instruments made of yellow brass are harder than gold brass, with gold brass being harder than rose brass.
Clear lacquer coating v silver plating
Silver plate is thinly applied to brass instruments to protect them and it allows the player to produce finely detailed sounds. Clear lacquer coating leaves it as a yellow, golden colour, but as the lacquer is quite thick the sound can be quite mellow as a result.
Depending on traditions of particular military bands or orchestras, the brass section may be required to use models of a particular finish. Brass bands and silver bands are evidence of these particular traditions.
Number of tuba valves needed
Most entry level models are three valve. The range of more challenging music will require the tubist to carry out delivery of notes much lower in pitch. A fourth valve is found on larger models, allowing you to fill in the low pitch notes missing from those available on a smaller three valve instrument
To produce the lowest notes precisely in tune, the largest models are usually five valve. Here, the right hand operates four with the four fingers and one valve with the thumb. These are normally positioned on the front of the instrument which is known as ‘front action’
Piston v rotary valves
Piston valves are found on most English and American models, including the larger orchestral models such as the C and Bb tuba. In brass bands and military ensembles, pistons are found on basses of the brass section and these are ‘top action’, positioned high up and not on the front of the instrument.
In Europe, rotaries are very common and the fingers stay flatter to depress these. Instead of a piston going up and down to line up holes inside the valve to open and close tubing needed to change the pitch, a rotary valve turns a cylindrical valve to a new position. This rotary system is similar to how a train turntable points the rails towards a new bit of track.
Pistons can provide a very clear and direct tone at the beginning of the delivery of the note on a tuba. With less distance for the fingers to travel, a tuba player using rotary valves often creates a less punchy tone overall. If a brass section all use models with rotaries, they can blend their individual sounds easily.
Tuba brand or manufacturer’s reputation?
Besson is a world famous musical brass maker founded in 1837, and tubas from this manufacturer have been a favourite of soloists, brass bands, jazz bands and military bands for over a century.
In America, many European models have been imported over the years such as those made by the German brand Melton – Meinl Weston. Yamaha is a giant of the music industry and has invested vast sums in research and design.
Tubas for the younger player
Best for younger beginners
Price level: Low cost
More features: 4 Aluminium Lined Rotary Valves
Besson BE177 Eb - Silver PlateBest for advancing students
Price level: Intermediate
Designed for: Young beginners who are serious about making a good tone
TUBAS FOR INTERMEDIATE PLAYERS
Jupiter JTU1020 Eb -
Best for students who have outgrown a beginner model but who do not need a professional model
Price level: high (considering this is not a professional level model)
Designed for: Those who require a full-size model without full professional features
TUBAS FOR MILITARY, BRASS BAND AND MARCHING BANDS
Best for those serious about their music making or at a professional level
982 Eb -
Price level: High
Designed for: adults who need to march and play as well as play whilst seated
Besson Sovereign 994
Best for those who work within a professional ensemble
Bb Bass - silver plate - marching rings
Price level: High
Designed for: Adult musicians who need to march and play as well as play whilst seated
Tubas for the orchestra or large ensemble (advanced and professional players)
Best for those who work within a professional setting, belong to a high level ensemble or are about to study to a high level
Sovereign 981 Eb
Tuba in silver plate - no marching rings
Price level: High
Designed for:Professional musicians or those with no budgetary limits
Besson 994 Tuba
Best for those who work within a professional setting, belong to a high level ensemble or are studying at a high level
in silver plate
Price level: High
Designed for: Professional musicians or those with no budgetary limits
A tuba is unfortunately never going to be super cheap. There are a number of ways to keep the cost down however and some online stores offer hire purchase schemes or participate in instrument funding schemes such as takeitaway.org.uk
It can be best to invest in something long term instead of spending the least money on something that will be too small in six months.
Best beginner instrument
PlayLite Hybrid Tuba
This is affordable and from a company putting lots of effort into their product level as they close the gap between themselves and the main brands each year.
Best all rounder
Besson Sovereign 982 Eb tuba/bass
Easily at home in the orchestra, silver band or military bands. This is a serious piece of equipment which has stood the test of time.
Best Advanced instrument:
Besson Sovereign BE994
This instrument is a mixture of incredible quality, awesome sound and a manageable size. It’s a very popular Tuba in the section, so you’ll tune well to others.