Difference Between Tuba and Sousaphone (With Table)

Music has been part of our life from the starting. Although it has changed a lot with time still, it is preferred for healing mood, for enjoying, etc., by every generation. Music is produced with the help of few instruments. While we all like to listen to music, but few of us have knowledge of the instruments that are used for producing it. These instruments include tuba, sousaphone, piano, guitar, drums, etc. This article has all the information related to two instruments, tuba, and sousaphone, that have been used for music for a longer period and are still used by musicians.

Tuba vs Sousaphone

The difference between Tuba and Sousaphone is in their structure. Both of them look different, and the first easily noticeable difference is in their bell-shaped part. In sousaphone, it is above the head, and in tuba, it is below the head of the musician. They also come in different ranges and keys. They are played on different occasions, too, except that they are also different in terms of valves and position preferred for playing them.

Tuba is the biggest instrument that comes in several keys and has a low pitch, and comes in a less restricted range. It comes in more valves that depend on its type, it also has a bell-shaped part, but that does not reach the head of the player. It is usually heavy and played while sitting. It was invented before sousaphone.

The sousaphone is a long instrument with a bell-shaped top. It was created around 1893. It mostly comes with a low B Flat key and has a more restricted range when compared to other Tuba instruments. To make it more comfortable and affordable, it comes in more than one material and generally has three valves. This is one of the most comfortable instruments that can be played while marching.

Comparison Table Between Tuba and Sousaphone

Parameters of ComparisonTubaSousaphone
KeyBB♭, CC, EE♭, and F keysBB♭ (Low B Flat) key
Restricted rangeLess restricted rangeMore restricted range
Valves4 to 63
Can be playedWhile sittingWhile walking and marching
Used inPop bands, jazz bands, etc.Marching bands.

What is Tuba?

Tuba is also an instrument made with brass, it mostly has six valves, but some of them can have less than 6 valves too. This is done to reduce the price and weight of the instrument. It is among the biggest instrument in the family. It generally consists of a tube that is 16 feet long. It is played in the bass pitch and is considered to be the lowest-pitch instrument. It is new when compared to the rest of the brass family.

It is played by blowing air into it and is the loudest in orchestras. It was invented in 1835 by Johann Gottfried Moritz. Tuba means trumpet or horn. It was introduced to replace ophicleide. It is replaced as tuba was an upgraded version and was marketed very well. It is said to be more than just a bass instrument.

Several types of tuba are categorized based on their pitches, sizes, and uses. Being the biggest instrument, it is quite heavy to play while marching mostly. Therefore, it is mostly used while sitting in a concert, and mostly there is only one musician playing tuba in a concert.

What is Sousaphone?

The name of this instrument was inspired by John Philip Sousa, who, according to his specifications, made the earliest sousaphone in the late nineteenth. It was more often confused with the other instrument called tuba. It is among the tuba family only and said to be the largest instrument among the rest of the instruments.

Most of them are made from brass, or yellow, golden, silver, as like most of the other brass instruments. Sometimes it can also be made up of fiberglass, as it can be very affordable, have long-lasting durability, and have comparatively lightweight.

Its body has a bell-shaped part that reaches the level of the head of the musician. Also, it generally comes with the 3 valves and is supported by his left arm. It can be played by sitting anywhere but along with it can be easily played while marching due to its comfortable fit to the body.

They have mostly the same tube length as any other tube of tuba. In several countries, this instrument is played while marching for several occasions. Not for only enjoyment purposes, they are also added due to all customs and traditions of some regions.

Main Differences Between Tuba and Sousaphone

  1. Both of the instruments come in different keys. Tubas come mostly in BB♭, CC, EE♭, and F keys, whereas Sousaphone mostly only comes in BB♭ (Low B Flat) keys.
  2. Tuba has a less restricted range as compared to Sousaphone that comes in a relatively more restricted range.
  3. They also differ in terms of valves; tuba comes with more vales when compared to Sousaphone, which mostly has 3 valves. Vales in tuba can be from 4 to 6.
  4. Both of them have a bell-shaped part, but there is a difference in both in terms of whether it reaches the musician’s head or not. In tuba, the bell-shaped cannot reach the musician’s head, while in sousaphone, it is above the musician’s head.
  5. Tuba does not fit the musician’s body as it does not encircle it. On the other hand, the sousaphone is supported by the left shoulder of the musician and, therefore, perfectly fits the musician’s body.
  6. They also differ in terms of the position suitable for playing them. Tuba can be easily played while sitting, whereas sousaphone is more easily handled and therefore can be played while walking or even marching.
  7. They are used on different occasions; tuba is mostly used in orchestras, jazz, bands, brass ensembles, etc., while sousaphone is mostly used in marching bands.

Conclusion

Now there should not be any confusion between both tuba and sousaphone instruments. They are used for several occasions that depend on the religion and customs of every country or continent. Although nowadays modern instruments are being used more as compared to them but they still hold a very special place in the music industry.

Especially for a musician or a person who is interested in music it is very important to understand every instrument and should have the knowledge about the same. They are mostly used for a traditional function or marching and can be used by professionals only as not everyone can play them.

References 

  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2307/3345599
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=rUEZP-STylkC&oi=fnd&pg=PA21&dq=tuba+and+sousaphone&ots=3KWtrfnDYB&sig=PQHkUc5qyZqXttcLofKZqUz4jv4
  3. https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:38217/
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