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F Tubas

What You Need to Know About Buying an F Tuba

F tubas are among the smaller and highest-pitched members of the tuba family. The unique range of these instruments creates specialized roles for them in performances.

What makes an F tuba different from other tubas?

Tubas are pitched in Bb, C, Eb, or F on the bass scale. F tubas are popular with chambers, soloists, and in situations where its higher bass pitch allows groups to explore additional areas of the bass register. Performers who purchase one typically have prior experience playing other instruments in the tuba family because of its complexity.

How to select an F tuba

There are several factors that musicians use in selecting an F tuba, most of which apply across the entire family of tuba instruments and include the following:

  • Pitch – Because of its higher bass pitch, F tubas are more suitable for specialty and solo roles in chamber groups. Students should work with their instructors to determine the pitch of their training tuba before purchasing.
  • Size – F tubas are smaller than most tubas, but they all arent the same. Individual models can have slight structural or weight differences that may be comfortable or uncomfortable to a player.
  • Bell material and timbre – If your playing role requires an abundant amount of solos, then the brighter tone of yellow brass piping will help your instrument stand out. Gold brass has a higher percentage of copper, which provides a full-bodied tone that helps it blend in with other instruments.
  • Surface finishes – Lacquer provides a slightly darker tone that projects during strong playing. Plating silver gently brightens the sound which brings out more of the instrument’s characteristics and allows musicians to play with nuances.
How do four-, five-, and six-valve F tubas differ?

These valve choices add complexity to the purchasing process. This tuba is pitched a fifth (seven semitones) above the standard Bb tuba, which is the more widely used of all tubas. Adding valves along with more tubing enables it to play lower than its natural F pitch and improves intonation and tuning. It’s important for you to know in advance how low you want this tuba to play before choosing the number of valves. The number of valves available and their differences include the following:

  • Four valves – Although this option is rare, the fourth valve enables this tuba to play five semitones lower than its natural pitch and contributes to better intonation.
  • Five valves – The fifth valve produces additional semitones down to an accurate low Bb.
  • Six valves – The sixth valve adds even more low tones down to a low G.