A guide to buying your first Tuba

A guide to buying your first Tuba

In the UK tubas are generally pitched in either Eb or Bb and are used in wind bands, orchestra and Brass Bands. Both Tubas and Basses (as they are called in Brass Bands) are basically the same shape as each other with the larger one being the Bb.

Many Euphonium players actually start learning to play on a Baritone Horn due to its smaller size and as both instruments use the same type of mouthpiece it is easy to transfer at a later stage.


Types of Tubas

Type Key Application Other Comments
Contrabass C or Bb A professional player’s instrument, used mainly in orchestra, wind band and concert bands. Referred to as CC and BBb tubas. More suited for advanced and professional players
Bass Eb or F Most commonly used in brass bands, training bands and orchestra If a non-compensating tuba, then suitable for students, compensating tubas are also known as EEb

Younger Players

Learning a musical Instrument at a young age has a whole host of benefits but it is important that children are comfortable holding and playing their instrument before they start their musical journey in earnest.

It is recommended that tubas for students have 3 valves and are either the Eb (‘single’ Eb) or the Bb (‘single’ Bb) and are non compensating instruments which are machine made and built for economy and durability. They are quite small (not much larger than a standard euphonium) play well, but don't have all the high-end features and craftsmanship found on intermediate and professional models. 



The bell is where the sound waves emerge from the tuba. Bell sizes vary from 12.5 inches (320mm) to 20 inches (508mm). The size of the bell has an effect on the sound produced and projected.


Valves can be either piston or rotary. Piston valves require more maintenance than rotary valves, but are very simple to disassemble and re-assemble for oiling. It is recommended to always let a qualified instrument repair person maintain rotary valves.

Piston valves can be oriented to point to the top of the instrument (top-action), or out the front of the instrument (front-action or side-action).

Communally tubas generally have from 3 to 6 valves, although there are rare exceptions.

Compensating Tubas

Compensating valves allow for accurate tuning when using several valves in combination, simplifying fingering and removing the need to constantly adjust slide positions, due to the extra tubing of a compensating instrument.


The pipe into which the mouthpiece is placed


The mouthpiece is what the player uses to direct air and lip vibrations into the tuba.

Water keys

A water key is a valve or tap used to allow the drainage of accumulated fluid, consisting of condensed breath moisture.

Popular Student Tubas

John Packer JP077 Eb Tuba

JP077 Tuba Lacquer Instrument Shot

The JP077 Eb Tuba aims to provide well-constructed entry level student instruments at an attractive price/performance balance. 


John packer JP078 Bb Tuba

JP078 Tuba Instrument Shot

The JP078 Bb Tuba provides a well-constructed entry level student instrument for beginners and more accomplished players at an attractive price/performance balance.


Any Questions

Steve, our brass manager is more than happy to answer any tuba related queries that you might have, feel free to contact him via our contact form or leave a comment below.

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