Sadly, the tuba is one of the most difficult instruments to get into. Not so much because it is a difficult instrument to play.
It is more the fact that the entry price for a tuba is far in excess of most other instruments.
In fact, playing the tuba can be quite an expensive hobby to get into, particularly when you add the lessons into the mix. It certainly isn’t a hobby for those with limited bank accounts, which is a shame.
In this article, we want to talk a little bit about how much a tuba costs to either buy or rent.
We also want to cover some of the things that you should be on the lookout for when you are tracking down a tuba for yourself, particularly if you are a beginner.
This way you can be sure that you will be ending up with something that is incredibly awesome.
How much does a tuba cost?
This is going to be highly dependent on the type of tuba that you pick up. We are going to go through some of the differences in a short while.
A decent beginner’s tuba is going to set you back somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000. Obviously, the more you spend, the better the tuba will be. Many people seem to steer clear of the $1,000 range tubas as they simply are not that good.
If you are going up to the highest quality tubas, then the potential price is virtually endless. Some models are going for as much as $20,000-$30,000.
Of course, you probably aren’t going to be picking one of those up unless you are performing in an orchestra, but it isn’t uncommon for an intermediate tuba to be around the $5,000-$10,000 price point. As we said, this really is an expensive instrument to learn.
How much does it cost to rent a tuba?
This is a bit more difficult to determine since there are so many different companies offering rentals for tubas.
We did a little bit of scouting around, and it seems that the average amount it costs to rent a tuba will be between $125 and $150 per month. There will also be an initial security deposit. After all, these are very expensive instruments, and the company wants to know that they are not going to lose out should you break them.
This is the route that we suggest you go down if you have never used a tuba before, or if funds are quite limited. However, a lot of these tuba rental contracts are limited to a few years, and thus you will probably want to purchase your own tuba eventually.
You don’t want to constantly be renting tubas. In a year or so, it would have just been cheaper to buy a basic one.
Can you buy a tuba secondhand?
You can. However, we have often found that tubas retain their price pretty well on the secondhand market.
This means buying secondhand probably won’t net you that much in the way of savings in comparison to buying something new.
Where possible, we would always buy something brand new. At least that way you can guarantee the quality.
If you buy secondhand, then even the smallest of dents on the tuba can have a massive impact on the sound that it produces.
Why are tubas so expensive?
Tubas are massive chunks of metal. Obviously, they have a few sophisticated parts thrown in there, but tubas are made from a lot of metal.
Even before you get to all of the sophisticated components that have to be specially machined for a tuba, it is going to be expensive.
This big chunk of metal then needs to be finely shaped and machined. A lot of this work will be done by hand.
This is especially true when it comes to the smaller components that have been loaded into the tuba. All of this is going to cost a lot of money and tons of man-hours to do.
The tuba then needs to be assembled (again, by hand) and the company needs to make sure that the tuba lives up to their standards.
If it doesn’t, then it is scrapped. All of this is just going to add more and more to the cost of the tuba.
Obviously, it means that you do end up with a better quality instrument, but it certainly isn’t going to be a cheap one at all.
Remember; tubas are not that popular as an instrument (in comparison to other offerings).
With instruments like guitars, there are enough buyers that companies can buy the parts that they need in bulk.
This can help to bring down the cost of their raw materials, and this saving can then be passed on to the customer.
Finally, you have to remember that there isn’t a lot of competition in the tuba market. You have a few major companies and that is it.
They aren’t really competing on the price of their products, they are competing on the quality of the product.
This means that you will never see companies try to outshine one another on price.
If they do, you may see a few dollars shaved off of the price, and that is barely anything when the tuba costs thousands in the first place.
Is it worth buying a tuba?
If you are just starting to learn the instrument, then we recommend that you start by renting a tuba. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, this is an expensive instrument. Lots of people are excited to buy an instrument, only to find that it isn’t for them.
If you were learning the guitar, then this is fine. While it isn’t ideal, most people would be willing to write off a few hundred dollars loss.
The story is very different when it comes to tuba. If you don’t like the instrument, then you are thousands of dollars in the hole.
Sure, you could probably sell it on and recoup some of your losses, but the market for a tuba is going to be quite limited. It could be a rather hard sell in some areas.
Secondly, many people that do enjoy the tuba will probably want to upgrade their instruments at some point. Remember what we said about tuba valves earlier?
Well, 3 is going to be perfect for a beginner. However, at some point, you are going to be progressing past that beginner stage.
This means that you may want to upgrade to a 4 or 5 valve model. This means even more expense.
Sometimes, it is better to rent in the short term and save up your cash to buy a better tuba later on.
Obviously, it is all down to what you want. However, if you have never picked up the instrument before, then we seriously suggest you rent a tuba for a short while.
This way you are not going to be majorly out of pocket should you decide you don’t love the instrument.
Please do not make the same mistake that countless people have made before you.
How can a beginner get an affordable tuba?
So, let’s go through a few of the things that a beginner can think about if they are deadset on buying their own tuba, but do not want to spend huge sums of cash on the tuba.
We are going to run you through the places where you could potentially save a little bit of money.
We are not going to touch upon the major features of tubas, just those that may be a bit more relevant to beginner players.
To be honest, the brand of the tuba shouldn’t matter all that much. We see no reason why you shouldn’t be purchasing one of the cheaper brands if you are looking to make money.
Since breaking into the world of tubas isn’t the biggest moneymaker, you will never really find instrument manufacturers trying to make a quick buck on your tuba purchase.
Every company is going to be good. Of course, the better the brand, the more you get for your money.
However, this probably isn’t going to matter to a beginner all that much.
There is a difference in the sound when it comes to the surface finish of the instrument.
However, this isn’t something that is going to be worrying to beginners all that much.
It isn’t until you become more advanced with the instrument that the sound is going to be a huge deal for you.
So, if you want to save a few hundred bucks, then you may want to choose a clear lacquer coating for the instrument as opposed to a silver plating.
Beginners only need three valves on their tuba. You do have 4 and 5 valve options available, but you are never going to need that sort of range until you hit the intermediate to advanced level.
Of course, we are purely speaking from a beginner’s perspective here. Ideally, 4 valves would be preferable, but if you are looking to save money at the start of your tuba career, then 3 is more than sufficient.
Almost all tubas aimed at beginners will have piston valves. This will be the cheapest to produce for tuba manufacturers.
The problem is that these can be a little tricky to maintain. In our opinion, you may want to spend a little bit extra to get rotary valves on your tuba.
That being said, both are going to be the same when you are playing. It doesn’t change how you use the instrument, and some people will have their own preferences about which type is right for them.
This, again, is another reason why we suggest you rent first. You can find out whether you prefer playing with piston valves or rotary valves.
That is all you really need to think about when you are a beginner. We wouldn’t really suggest you pay that much attention to the metal alloy that the tuba has been constructed from.
The tone that each metal produces won’t matter all that much when you are new to the instrument. Just go with whatever option is within your budget.
Do you need additional accessories for your tuba?
Finally, when you are budgeting for your tuba purchase, you need to factor the following into the equation. After all, you are going to need to be kitting yourself out with some accessories too:
- A bag or hard case for your tuba. The latter option will be more expensive. This is an expensive instrument and you want to know that it is properly protected from bumps and scrapes.
- Tuba care kit. This way you can ensure that you keep your tuba in pristine working condition.
- A strap so you do not drop your tuba when you are playing it.
- A mute to help to provide a more consistent tone with your instrument. Maybe not essential for a beginner, but something that you may wish to consider eventually.
- A tuba rest to help support your instrument when you are playing it.
- Tuner. Although proper tuners for tubas can be expensive, so your instructor may be able to loan you one during your lessons. They will also show you how to tune the tuba, which can be a touch difficult.
All of this may add $100-$200 to the cost of your tuba. All of this is going to be an essential purchase too.
Tubas can be expensive. If you are still not sure whether the tuba is the correct instrument for you, then it is recommended that you spend a little bit of money to rent a tuba.
You only have to do this for a few months, just to get a feel for the instrument.
It is only worth purchasing a tuba if you genuinely believe that this is going to be a brilliant instrument and you will be using it regularly.
Related: How Much Do Tubas Weigh?