Sousaphones can be pitched in nearly any key. Most sousaphones are in the key of B-flat, however, it is not unusual to find instruments in E-flat. The sousaphone notes sound at the same octave as written, so it is a non-transposing instrument. The lowest note written for the sousaphone is the F1 below the bass clef staff. The high range goes to the F1 above the bass clef staff. A professional performer can extend the range more than an octave above this and extend the low pitches into the pedal range of the instrument.
Like other brass instruments, the tuba/sousaphone produces several harmonics (partials above the fundamental) using fundamental fingerings. That is, one fingering can be used to produce several pitches (or partials) within its corresponding harmonic series.
The largest producers of sousaphones today are C. G. Conn and King (originally owned by H. N. White), Jupiter and Yamaha. Most modern sousaphones are 3 valve BBb (double b-flat) instruments... Eb sousaphones are still common in parts of Europe. Sousaphones with 4 valves are less popular than the 3 valve models, due to their additional cost and significantly greater weight (nearly twice the weight of a 3-valve sousaphone) but are still being manufactured by Miraphone - a German band instrument company.
The difference between sousaphones and tubas is very small. They both play the same notes and use the same valve configuration. Other than the obvious shape difference, the other difference is similar to the difference between a trumpet and cornet. The tubing of the tuba and cornet are more cone shaped or “conical” than the sousaphone and trumpet. Both tubas and sousaphones are usable for beginners.
Contrary to popular belief, the sousaphone was not initially developed as a marching instrument. As a matter of fact, the professional band Sousa started after leaving the Marines (for which he wanted this new instrument) marched only once in its existence. Rather, Sousa wanted a concert instrument which would be easier to hold and play, while retaining a full, rich sound.
The sousaphone is played in the same manner as all other brass instruments. The performer vibrates his/her lips against the mouthpiece producing a tone, and the pitch is controlled by three valves.
The sousaphone, Sousa's invention, came about as a result of a request he made to J. W. Pepper around 1893. ... Pepper craftsmen modified one of their largest model BB-flat helicon tubas and fit it with a removable upright bell.
Conn's first sousaphone was built in 1898 and was widely promoted. In 1908 Conn introduced a model in which the bell pointed forward, and this model is in common use today. The bell-front design reverted to the directional sound that Sousa was trying to avoid, so he never used this type of sousaphone.
John Philip Sousa was born in 1854 in Washington, D.C. and died in 1932. He worked as a theater musician and conducted the U.S. Marine Band before starting his own civilian band in 1892. Sousa toured with his band for 40 years and was indisputably the most famous musical act in the world. He composed 136 marches, 15 operettas, 70 songs and many other pieces.
The sousaphone is one of the largest and most colorful instruments of the band.
It is actually a tuba, or bass horn, designed to circle the player and rest on one shoulder, making it easier to carry in a marching band.