A Basic Guide to Sousaphones

John Phillip Sousa created the first sousaphone as an alternative to the tuba to be played in concert settings. Despite his attempt at creating a concert musical instrument, most of these instruments are played in high school and college band settings while a few are played in Dixieland bands. The advantage of this instrument for marching is that it is lighter than the tuba and is easier to carry because it wraps around your body and sits on your shoulder.

What are the different types of sousaphones?

There are many types with the most common being:

  • Fiberglass: These sousaphones are lighter in weight, making them easier to carry. Fiberglass models make a thinner sound than other sousaphones. Fiberglass options are usually a good choice if you're a student or a beginning player. Their bells can be painted.
  • Hybrid: A fiberglass body and a brass bell provide a warmer tone to the music. Silver-plated fiberglass models give an even warmer tone to the music. These options help provide both a warm tone and a light heft for sousaphone performers.
  • Brass: This option is easier to keep in tune than other choices, and they have a richer and darker tone to their music. Consider silver-plated options if the tone of other models is too dark for you. Brass sousaphones generally are rugged with strong bells.
What are the types of sousaphone valves?

This instrument can have piston or rotary valves. Pistons move left and right in addition to up and down while rotaries only move up and down. Musicians playing rotary options use less lubricant, and they are often recommended for beginners because players blow less air when playing them.

During the early years that this instrument was manufactured, most came with four valves. Later, manufacturers started dropping one to make this brass lighter to carry when marching. However, both instrument options are available. Models with four valves allow you to play deeper notes more easily.

What are the different mouthpieces?

Generally, there are two types of mouthpieces for this instrument. Those with a flat contour are viewed as the most comfortable to play, but they do not offer the flexibility in musical styles that a round one offers. Those with deeper and bigger cups allow you to play louder, but they have deeper tones. Those with smaller cups are more responsive, allowing you to play fast beats easier. Instruments with a larger diameter produce more volume.

What sousaphones are available on eBay?

When you're searching for a new, used, or secondhand sousaphone on eBay, choices can be found in various categories, such as:

  • Brand: You can select a sousaphone based on your preferred brand like Conn, Jupiter, King, or Yamaha.
  • Skill level: You can even select a sousaphone based on your skill level. eBay options include beginner, intermediate, and professional.
  • Condition: Refurbished or pre-owned sousaphones are available at various price points.