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Twins from Different Mothers?

By In Uncategorized On August 3, 2017


Euphonium

Many years ago, long before I’d heard of New Horizons Bands, I played in a brass ensemble with a group of close friends. We were sometimes a quartet and sometimes a quintet. One constant was that there was never a tuba player to be found in our rural area. But we always had a euphonium player. Sometimes, as audience members talked with us, they would call his instrument a baritone horn. “Actually,” he would always say, “it is a euphonium.” It turned out that, with this response, he was patiently waiting for someone to ask the question, “What is the difference between a baritone horn and a euphonium.” When I finally took the bait and asked, he laughed and winked and said “What is the difference? About two hundred dollars!” To tell the truth, I never researched whether one was really more expensive than the other. But I did research what the real difference is. Here is some background in case anyone ever asks you.

Although band members from Britain and Europe (and probably Canada) have always been a little more certain of which was which, we in the US were confused for a very long time. I’ve just read that until about 1970 the names baritone horn and euphonium were quite confused here in the US. Both were frequently called a baritone horn over the years. It is the educational work of the International Tuba/Euphonium Association that is given credit for helping many of us learn the difference between the two.

The euphonium and the baritone horn were invented at nearly the same time and in the same general part of the world. The euphonium is said to be invented by Ferdinand Sommer, of Weimar, Germany, in about 1843. The name euphonium comes from the Greek word euphonos which means “sweet-voiced” or “pleasant-voiced”. It is, in fact, the tenor member of the tuba family.

The baritone horn was invented by a famous Belgian musical innovator between 1841 and 1845. Of course you are all familiar with the work

Baritone Horn

of Adolphe Sax, who invented the saxophone family of instruments in this same time period. He invented a great many instruments, including an entire family of saxhorns, of which the baritone horn is the tenor member.

Both the euphonium and the baritone horn are pitched in Bb. This means that, for example, a concert Bb can be played on each with the same fingering. Though it is not a rule, the euphonium is usually a non-transposing instrument with its music written in the bass clef (like the trombone). Baritone horn music can often be found matching this OR as a transposing instrument with treble clef music (similar to the trumpet).

When placed side by side, the euphonium usually has a visibly larger bore. No, I’m in no way saying the euphonist (or euphoniumist) is more of a bore. What I mean to say is that the tubing of the euphonium is slightly larger in diameter. And the euphonium has a more pronounced cone shape to its tubing. Though the baritone is also cone shaped, when comparing the two, the baritone appears more cylindrical.

Double Belled Euphonium

Whereas the baritone horn usually has three valves, the euphonium most frequently has four. This gives the euphonium a slightly deeper range and makes it appear a bit larger. The valves on the euphonium most often are in a vertical position and the fourth valve can be in line with the first three or placed at a different location. The valves on a baritone horn can be in this same vertical position or facing a bit forward.

The bells may or may not be different. Baritone horn bells may face up or be bent slightly forward. The euphonium nearly always has an upward facing bell. One eye-catching instrument many of you may have seen is a double-bell euphonium. It was introduced in the United States by the Conn instrument company in the 1880s and remained a part of the US Marine Band until the 1950s. The player could, at will, switch between the darker tone of the euphonium and the brighter tone of a valve trombone.

Speaking just for myself, and I always do, I’ve come to the conclusion that we would have many more instruments looking like the double-bell euphonium if instruments were invented by committees.

Submitted by Ken Carper, President NHIMA

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