What is the Difference Between a Sousaphone & a Tuba?

By Gwen Bruno
The sousaphone is used in marching bands.

Both the sousaphone and the tuba are brass instruments which produce sound when the musician vibrates his lips against the mouthpiece. Like the large stringed bass violin, these deep-sounding instruments are used to supply the bass line in music.

Sousaphone

The sousaphone has been in existence since 1893. Searching for an instrument that provided the deep sound of the tuba, but was lighter to carry while marching, composer and conductor John Philip Sousa helped develop a new instrument which was named after him, according to the Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary.

Tuba

The tuba's valves are played with the right hand, while the left arm supports the instrument. Tubas can vary in size, with smaller instruments for beginners. Tubas may also vary as to which side the mouthpiece attaches.

Differences in Appearance

Unlike the tuba, which must be held, the sousaphone coils around the body and rests on the player’s shoulder, making it easier to carry while marching. The tuba’s bell may face straight up or be bent forward; the sousaphone bell points straight forward for maximum volume. Tubas are made of brass, while some sousaphones are made of fiberglass, which is lighter in weight.

Difference in Valves

Most sousaphones and beginning tubas have only three valves, while a professional tuba may have four or even five valves, according to Begin Band.

Uses

Both sousaphones and tubas play the same notes, but the sousaphone is primarily used in marching bands. The tuba is widely used in bands and orchestras.

About the Author

Gwen Bruno has been a full-time freelance writer since 2009, with her gardening-related articles appearing on DavesGarden. She is a former teacher and librarian, and she holds a bachelor's degree in education from Augustana College and master's degrees in education and library science from North Park University and the University of Wisconsin.