Looking at buying a horn?
Wondering what you can check out from the university?
What equipment does Dr. Baker use?
Ready to purchase your own instrument?
So, you're ready to take the plunge? Buying your first instrument is a big decision and the best thing you can do is to be patient!
Consider buying a used instrument, much like buying a car, when you purchase a brand new instrument, you're paying a very large markup. Used instruments have already depreciated and you're more likely to get the instrument at a realistic market price.
You get what you pay for, when possible, look at high quality instruments. For tubas, this is Miraphone, Meinl-Weston, B&S, Rudolf Meinl, and Yamaha. For euphoniums, this is Besson, Willson, Yamaha, and Hirsbrunner.
Don't fret too much over rotary v. piston valves or silver v. laquer finish. You want to find an instrument that plays in tune, has a great sound, is comfortable to hold, and most importantly, that fits your budget.
Don't forget ask a professional for help! They would be more than happy to play test an instrument and look it over for you. Most will do it free of charge!
Typically, size is determined by bore and bell size. When purchasing your first tuba (ideally a contrabass tuba in BBb or CC), make sure it is versatile enough to handle all applications.
Contrabass Tuba Comparison
Left | 3/4 Rudolf Meinl CC (17" bell, .765 bore, 4/4 size)
Center | 5/4 Rudolf Meinl CC (20" bell, .860 bore, 6/4 size)
Right | Meinl Weston 2165 CC (19.7" bell, .787 bore, 6/4 size)
Bass Tubas (F and Eb) are utility instruments and are only necessary should the student decide to major in performance and pursue a graduate degree.
Bass Tuba Comparison
Left | Adams Solo F (16.5" bell, .709 bore, 4/4 size)
Center | MW 45SLP (16.5" bell, .768 bore, 6/4 size)
Right | Alexander 155 (15" bell, .728 bore, 4/4 size)
Renting a University-Owned Instrument
The music department at Texas A&M University–Commerce has a variety of tubas and euphoniums for students to check out. While students are encouraged to purchase their own instruments and about half of the studio owns their own instruments, students are NOT required to own their own tuba or euphonium.
All euphonium majors have the opportunity to check out Besson, Yamaha, and Willson compensating instruments.
All Tuba majors have the opportunity to check out Miraphone BBb (186) and CC (188) tubas as well as Meinl-Weston BBb tubas and a Yamaha 822 F tuba.
Dr. Baker's Personal Instruments
Meinl-Weston 2165 Contrabass Tuba
In an attempt to copy the famous J.W. York and Holton 6/4 tubas from the 1950s and 1960s, Meinl-Weston undertook the task of designing a copy of Floyd Cooley’s Holton CC tuba (formerly of the San Francisco Symphony, now instructor at DePaul University). With the help of Warren Deck (former tubist with the New York Philharmonic), the 2165 design has become extremely popular in American orchestras and bands. It’s characteristically broad tone and superb response make it the ideal instrument for the largest of ensembles. Despite its undeniably massive size, the 2165 sports a modest bore (.748”) that makes the instrument very efficient and easy to play. This specific instrument was assembled, owned, and used by Warren Deck in the New York Philharmonic. Dr. Baker uses a Laskey 28H mouthpiece for this instrument.
Rudolf Meinl 3/4 CC Contrabass Tuba
The Rudolf Meinl family has been hand-making tubas, one at a time, for generations. Their small family-owned shop in Diespeck, Germany is quite the opposite setup compared to some of the larger factories like Miraphone and Yamaha. Despite the small size of this tuba, it packs a lot of punch by providing a clear, resonant sound. It is comparable in size and bore to a full-sized F tuba but the 3/4 Rudy has a considerably larger sound. This model is very user friendly and has a relatively average-sized bore (.765") and a medium-sized bell (17"). The 3/4 Rudy is one of the most versatile horns on the market and can be used in a variety of settings including solo, chamber, band, orchestra, and even in the opera pit. These hand-made instruments are hard to find but well worth the time and energy. Dr. Baker uses a Laskey 28H mouthpiece for this instrument.
Custom F Cimbasso
Pronounced Chim-Bah-So, this instrument was developed in the late 1800s and was inspired by Giuseppi Verdi's desire for a low pitched brass instrument to use in his Italian operas. While the word cimbasso could stand for a variety of instruments throughout the 1800s (ophicleide, serpent, Russian bassoon, bass trombone, etc.), the modern cimbasso is a contrabass trombone with valves. The forward facing bell works well in a small opera pit and matches the direction of sound produced by the trombones and trumpets. The taper of the bell is also more similar to the cylindrical style of a trombone rather than the conical taper of a tuba. The sound is focused, piercing, and perfect for Italian music. In addition to this cimbasso, which was custom built by Eric Swanson, Dr. Baker regularly performs on a Meinl-Weston 41-L Cimbasso that is owned and maintained by the Dallas Opera Orchestra. Dr. Baker uses a Thein MCL contrabass trombone mouthpiece for both instruments.
Alexander 155 Bass Tuba
The model 155 has remained relatively unchanged for over 60 years, which seems like a long time, until you realize the Alexander family has been producing musical instruments since the 1770s. This instrument is capable of producing a gorgeous German sound that projects well and is versatile enough for solo, chamber, and large ensemble works. Pitched halfway between a contrabass tuba and a euphonium, the bass tuba is considered more of a utility instrument. Dr. Baker uses a Wedge 28G mouthpiece for this instrument.
Adams Solo Bass Tuba
Adams purchased most of Hirsbrunner's tools, mandrels, and designs before the company went out of business in the early 2000s, and they have been producing hand-made instruments one a time. This particular F tuba is extremely responsive with a clear, compact sound that makes it versatile enough for practically any setting. Dr. Baker uses a Volare F mouthpiece for this instrument.
Rudolf Meinl 5/4 CC Contrabass Tuba
The 5/4 Rudy is one of the largest rotary tubas in production, sporting a 20" bell and a whopping .860 bore. Intonation is quite good, response is fantastic, and the sound is what many define as "Classic German." Dr. Baker uses a Wedge H2 mouthpiece for this instrument.
Holton TR-181 Bass Trombone
Dr. Baker began playing trombone at the age of 14 and has always enjoyed the opportunity to teach and perform on his bass trombone. With its closed wrap and traditional rotary valves, this style of bass trombone is becoming less and less common among aspiring bass trombonists, however the large-flared rose brass bell and smaller bore give this instrument a classic big band sound that makes this instrument really pop in smaller settings. Dr. Baker uses a Schilke 59 mouthpiece on this instrument.
JTB-330 Contrabass Trombone in F
In the 1860s, Richard Wagner helped design the modern contrabass trombone for use in his Ring Cycle operas. Pitched in the key of F, this instrument is the same overall length as a bass tuba, but it is closer in bore-size to a bass trombone (.587"). The cylindrical taper (similar to a bass trombone) helps this instrument sound like the largest member of the trombone family. It is easy to see how the cimbasso developed out of this instrument by simply replacing the hand-slide with a set of valves. Dr. Baker uses a Thein MCL contrabass trombone mouthpiece for this instrument.