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Choosing the best tuba mouthpiece is a process that involves variables such as price, playing styles, the embouchure of the tubist and the music the tubist will play. Although generalizations about the different aspects of a given mouthpiece can be used to determine its worth to a player, the importance of personally testing the mouthpiece itself should not be understated. Choosing the best tuba mouthpiece has as much to do with the player as it does with variables such as playing style and price.
Price, although not an exact gauge of quality, is the variable most often considered when choosing a new tuba mouthpiece. High-density plastic mouthpieces can be found for as little as $30 US Dollars (USD) in 2011, whereas custom silver- and gold-plated mouthpieces may cost well more than $300 USD. It is important for the tubist to consider the material of construction and budget limitations before making a selection.
Different tuba mouthpieces result in different playing styles. The geometric variables of the mouthpiece, such as the sizes and dimensions of the rim, cup, throat and backbore, have profound effects on the playing style of the tuba. A tubist can use the playing style predicted by the tuba mouthpiece's geometry to match the style of play the tubist is anticipating.
Wide, round mouthpiece rims tend to be more comfortable and increase playing endurance, while sharp, narrow rims increase flexibility and attack precision. Large, deep cups give the tubist better control and darker, richer tones while small, shallow cups brighten tone and relieve fatigue. A wide mouthpiece throat helps the flow of air through the horn, the volume, and the tone, whereas small throats increase tone brilliance and playing endurance. A tight backbore will produce a brilliant sound and a wide backbore will produce a mellow sound.
The playing style of the instrument is closely related to the music the tubist will play and the setting in which the music is to be played. Marches, concert pieces, small ensemble pieces and solo music may vary greatly in style. For example, marching pieces may require high volume and brilliant tones, whereas a small ensemble piece may require deep, mellow notes from the tuba. A good tuba mouthpiece should be versatile enough to allow the player to cover a wide range of music styles.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when choosing a tuba mouthpiece is how well the mouthpiece fits both the tuba and the tubist. A mouthpiece that feels comfortable to the tubist may prove useless if it fits poorly in the mouthpiece receiver. It also is entirely possible for a mouthpiece to produce different tones from different players. Personally testing the mouthpiece is an excellent way to determine its true nature and performance.