In case you are unfamiliar with the tuba, I should briefly explain that it comes in various sizes and is considered a member of the brass family of instruments.
The tuba is an instrument capable of playing an impressive range of pitches, however, is renowned for playing at the lower end of the frequency chart.
In terms of the entire brass family, the tuba is often required to play the root notes of a brass chord, supporting the harmonic framework. This is by no means the limits of the tuba as it is also a versatile solo instrument for which many concertos have been composed.
How Much Does A Tuba Weigh
In the process of considering weight, it is worth a small pause to think about what tubas are made of. From its orchestral family, you would be correct in assuming that tubas are made of brass. Brass is an alloy.
In the case of brass, this means a combination of copper and zinc. Ratios of these metals vary according to the type of tuba and the kind of sound intended.
This can be dramatically different from tuba to tuba, especially at the professional end of the cost scale. Most commonly, the ratio of copper to zinc is 70/30.
Given the different combinations of metals used in the manufacturing of tubas coupled with the array of differing sizes, the average tuba weighs from 20 – 30 pounds; or 9 – 13 kg.
As tubas are included in the instruments of marching bands, this is quite good news for tuba players who would have to be otherwise able to not only march for a prolonged amount of time with a heavy instrument but also be able to perform to a high standard too.
Marching tubas frequently have an accompanying sling, so the player does not have to support the weight fully. The somewhat comical sousaphone is a close cousin of the tuba, designed with marching in mind.
This instrument wraps around the player’s body like a musical python, with its bell pointing forward towards the audience.
Due to the weight of the tuba, you will observe that in most concert bands or orchestral settings, the tuba player will perform from a seated position.
When you think about the kilograms involved in the average tuba, it makes sense for the performer to be seated when playing the instrument. In this way, the player’s hands are free to operate the valves as well as support the tuba.
As brass instruments go, the tuba is a new relative of the brass family. It was invented by one Wilhelm Wieprecht and one Johann Gottfried Moritz around 1835. Since its introduction to the world, it has become an incredibly popular instrument to play.
The first Friday in May is now established as ‘International Tuba Day‘ when the tuba and everything tuba related is celebrated across the world.
Whilst we now have an average idea of the weight of a tuba, it may be useful to glance purposefully towards the different sizes of tuba. Currently, tubas arrive with the performer in five different keys.
This key refers to the pitch to which the instrument is calibrated in a similar way to that of clarinets in Bb or french horns in F. The five most common keys are Bb, double C, Eb, F, and the contrabass bugle pitched in G.
Most commonly, these tubas have four to five valves that can be of the piston variety or, increasingly more often, rotary valve mechanisms. These are manufactured in nickel to be hard-wearing as well as offer player comfort.
Naturally, the size of the instrument will impact its weight. This is more easily visualised when considering the length of the tubing used to manufacture each instrument. A tuba in F is the smallest and therefore weighs less than its other family members.
Its tube length is around 3.7m which is quite long but not in the same league as perhaps other tubas. In the middle, we have the tuba in C, which has an impressive 4.9m length of tubing, and the biggest, the tuba in Bb, with a massive 5.5m length of tubing. Amongst the family, the Bb tuba is the heaviest.
Adding to the weight is the tuba mouthpiece. These are where the player produces the sound through the practised production of vibrations of the lips. Mouthpieces vary in size and depth but can weigh from 140 grams to around 290 grams.
Whichever mouthpiece the player chooses can greatly affect the instrument’s sound and overall weight. They become a vital part of the performer’s unique sound, with some players commissioning the manufacture of custom models.
The depth of the cup alongside the type of material used in the mouthpiece will directly colour the sound and affect the overall performance.
Like many large instruments, their dimensions pose a challenge for keen youngsters to learn the instrument. The same can be true for other families of instruments too. Consider the half-size violins, violas, cellos, and double basses designed to allow young children to learn to play.
The same is true for the tuba. Whilst ¾ size tubas are not so common in Europe in the US, they make regular appearances in concert bands in the capable hands of relatively young students.
Rather cleverly, these smaller models have the same key as their larger counterparts but frequently have only three instead of four or five valves. In this way, less experienced students from as young as five or six can hone their tuba skills in preparation for the full-size instrument when they are ready.
According to the Guinness Book Of World Records, there is one gigantic tuba that must take the crown for being the heaviest tuba ever. This monster tuba was manufactured for the American composer John Philip Sousa just before he embarked on a world tour.
The contrabass tuba is 2.28m tall and has an immense 11.8m tubing. At more than twice the size of a Bb tuba, the weight comes at around 50kg. As you can imagine, playing this colossus is quite a challenge.