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What is the Difference Between a Sousaphone & a Tuba?

The sousaphone is used in marching bands.
Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Peter Dutton

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.


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.


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.


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.

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