Tuba  The tuba is the largest and lowest-pitched instrument in the brass family. Sound is produced by vibrating or "buzzing" the lips into a large cupped mouthpiece. It first   appeared in the mid 19th-century, making it one of the newest instruments in the modern orchestra and concert band. The tuba largely replaced the ophicleide.  A person who plays the tuba is known as a tubaist or tubist. In the United Kingdom a person who plays the tuba in an orchestra is known simply as a tuba player; in a   brass band or military band they are known as a bass player.  History  Prussian Patent No. 19 was granted to Wilhelm Friedrich Wieprecht and Johann Gottfried Moritz (1777–1840) on September 12, 1835 for a "basstuba" in F1. The   original Wieprecht and Moritz instrument used five valves of the Berlinerpumpen type that were the forerunners of the modern piston valve. The first tenor tuba was   invented in 1838 by Carl Wilhelm Moritz (1810–1855), son of Johann Gottfried Moritz.  The addition of valves made it possible to play low in the harmonic series of the instrument and still have a complete selection of notes. Prior to the invention of valves,   brass instruments were limited to notes in the harmonic series, and were thus generally played very high with respect to their fundamental pitch. Harmonics starting three   octaves above the fundamental pitch are about a whole step apart, making a useful variety of notes possible.  The ophicleide used a bowl-shaped brass instrument mouthpiece but employed keys and tone holes similar to those of a modern saxophone. Another forerunner to the   tuba was the serpent, a bass instrument that was shaped in a wavy form to make the tone holes accessible to the player. Tone holes changed the pitch by providing an   intentional leak in the bugle of the instrument. While this changed the pitch, it also had a pronounced effect on the timbre. By using valves to adjust the length of the bugle   the tuba produced a smoother tone that eventually led to its popularity.  Adolphe Sax, like Wieprecht, was interested in marketing systems of instruments from soprano to bass, and developed a series of brass instruments known as saxhorns.   The instruments developed by Sax were generally pitched in E♭ and B♭, while the Wieprecht "basstuba" and the subsequent Cerveny contrabass tuba were pitched in F   and C (see below on pitch systems). Sax's instruments gained dominance in France, and later in Britain and America, as a result of the popularity and movements of   instrument makers such as Gustave Auguste Besson (who moved from France to Britain) and Henry Distin (who eventually found his way to America). Afterwards there   have been many other various types of the Tuba including some with different types of valves different numbers and more.  Role  An orchestra usually has a single tuba, though an additional tuba may be asked for. It serves as the bass of the orchestral brass section and it can reinforce the bass   voices of the strings and woodwinds. It provides the bass of brass quintets and choirs (though many small brass ensembles will use the euphonium or bass trombone as   the lowest voice). It is the principal bass instrument in concert bands and military bands, and those ensembles generally have two to four tubas. It is also a solo   instrument.  Tubas are used in marching bands, drum and bugle corps and in many jazz bands (see below). In British style brass bands, two E♭ and two B♭ tubas are used and are   referred to as basses.  Well known and influential parts for the tuba include:      Modest Mussorgsky (orch. Ravel): Pictures at an Exhibition - Bydło, Night On Bald Mountain     Richard Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra, Eine Alpensinfonie, Til Eulenspiegel     Shostakovich: All Symphonies, except for the Fourteenth symphony     Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, Petroushka     Edgard Varèse: Déserts     Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Lohengrin, Ride of the Valkyries, Faust Overture     Sergei Prokofiev: Fifth Symphony     George Gershwin: An American in Paris     Silvestre Revueltas: Sensemayá, Noche de los mayas, Homenaje a Federico García Lorca     Gustav Holst: The Planets     Gustav Mahler: First Symphony, Second Symphony, Fifth Symphony, Sixth Symphony, Eighth Symphony     Ottorino Respighi: Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome     Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Hungarian March     Paul Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphosis  Concertos have been written for the tuba by many notable composers, including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Gregson, John Williams, Alexander Arutiunian, Eric   Ewazen, James Barnes, Joseph Hallman, Martin Ellerby, Philip Sparke, Kalevi Aho, Arild Plau, Simon Proctor, James Woodward, Victor Davies, Josef Tal, Bruce   Broughton, and David Carlson.  Types and construction  Tubas are found in various pitches, most commonly in F, E♭, C, or B♭. The main tube of a B♭ tuba is approximately 18 feet long, while that of a C tuba is 16 feet, of   an E♭ tuba 13 feet, and of an F tuba 12 feet. The instrument has a conical bore, meaning the bore diameter increases as a function of the tubing length from the   mouthpiece to the bell. The conical bore causes the instrument to produce a preponderance of even-order harmonics.  A tuba with its tubing wrapped for placing the instrument on the player's lap is usually called a concert tuba or simply a tuba. Tubas with the bell pointing forward   (pavillon tournant) instead of upward are often called recording tubas because of their popularity in the early days of recorded music, as their sound could more easily   be directed at the recording microphone. When wrapped to surround the body for cavalry bands on horseback or marching, it is traditionally known as a hélicon. The   modern sousaphone, named after American bandmaster John Philip Sousa, resembles a hélicon with the bell pointed up and then curved to point forward. Some   ancestors of the tuba, such as the military bombardon, had unusual valve and bore arrangements compared to modern tubas. During the American Civil War, most brass   bands used a branch of the brass family known as saxhorns, which, by today's standards, have a narrower bore taper than tuba—the same as true cornets and baritones,   but distinct from trumpets, euphoniums, and others with different tapers or no taper. Around the start of the Civil War, saxhorns manufactured for military use in the USA   were commonly wrapped with the bell pointing backwards over the player's shoulder, and these were known as over-the-shoulder saxhorns, and came in sizes from   cornets down to E♭ basses. However, the E♭ bass, even though it shared the same tube length as a modern E♭ tuba, has a narrower bore and as such cannot be called   by the name 'tuba' except as a convenience when comparing it to other sizes of Saxhorn.  Most music for the tuba is written in bass clef in concert pitch, so tuba players must know the correct fingerings for their specific instrument. Traditional British-style   brass band parts for the tuba are usually written in treble clef, with the B♭ tuba sounding two octaves and one step below and the E♭ tuba sounding one octave and a   major sixth below the written pitch. This allows musicians to change instruments without learning new fingerings for the same written music. Consequently, when its   music is written in treble clef, the tuba is a transposing instrument, but not when the music is in bass clef.  The lowest pitched tubas are the contrabass tubas, pitched in C or B♭, referred to as CC and BB♭ tubas respectively, based on a traditional distortion of a   now-obsolete octave naming convention. The fundamental pitch of a CC tuba is 32 Hz, and for a BB♭ tuba, 29 Hz. The CC tuba is used as an orchestral instrument in   the U.S., but BB♭ tubas are the contrabass tuba of choice in German, Austrian, and Russian orchestras. In the United States the BB♭ tuba is the most common in schools   (largely due to the use of BB♭ sousaphones in high school marching bands) and for adult amateurs. Most professionals in the U.S. play CC tubas, with BB♭ also   common, and many train in the use of all four pitches of tubas.  The next smaller tubas are the bass tubas, pitched in F or E♭ (a fourth above the contrabass tubas). The E♭ tuba often plays an octave above the contrabass tubas in   brass bands, and the F tuba is commonly used by professional players as a solo instrument and, in America, to play higher parts in the classical repertoire (or parts that   were originally written for the F tuba, as is the case with Berlioz). In most of Europe, the F tuba is the standard orchestral instrument, supplemented by the CC or BB♭   only when the extra weight is desired. Wagner, for example, specifically notates the low tuba parts for Kontrabasstuba, which are played on CC or BB♭ tubas in most   regions. In the United Kingdom, the E♭ is the standard orchestral tuba.  The euphonium is sometimes referred to as a tenor tuba and is pitched in B♭, one octave higher than the BB♭ contrabass tuba. The term "tenor tuba" is often used more   specifically to refer to B♭ rotary-valved tubas pitched in the same octave as euphoniums. The "Small Swiss Tuba in C" is a tenor tuba pitched in C, and provided with   6 valves to make the lower notes in the orchestral repertoire possible. The French C tuba was the standard instrument in French orchestras until overtaken by F and C   tubas since the Second World War. One popular example of the use of the French C tuba is the Bydło movement in Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an   Exhibition, though the rest of the work is scored for this instrument as well.  Larger BBB♭ subcontrabass tubas exist, but are extremely rare (there are at least four known examples). The first two were built by Gustave Besson in BBB♭, one   octave below the BB♭ Contrabass tuba, on the suggestion of John Philip Sousa. The monster instruments were not completed until just after Sousa's death. Later, in the   1950s, British musician Gerard Hoffnung commissioned the London firm of Paxman to create a subcontrabass tuba in EEE♭ for use in his comedic music festivals.   Also, a tuba pitched in FFF was made in Kraslice by Bohland & Fuchs probably during 1910 or 1911 and was destined for the World Exhibition in New York in 1913.   Two players are needed; one to operate the valves and one to blow into the mouthpiece.  Size vs. pitch  In addition to the length of the instrument, which dictates the fundamental pitch, tubas also vary in overall width of the tubing sections. Tuba sizes are usually denoted by   a quarter system, with 4/4 designating a normal, full-size tuba. Larger rotary instruments are known as kaisertubas and are often denoted 5/4. Larger piston tubas,   particularly those with front action, are sometimes known as grand orchestral tubas (examples: The Conn 36J Orchestra Grand Bass from the 1930s, and the current   model Hirsbrunner HB-50 Grand Orchestral, which is a replica of the large York tubas owned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra). Grand orchestral tubas are   generally described as 6/4 tubas. Smaller instruments may be described as 3/4 instruments. No standards exist for these designations, and their use is up to   manufacturers who usually use them to distinguish among the instruments in their own product line. The size designation is related to the larger outer branches, and not to   the bore of the tubing at the valves, though the bore is usually reported in instrument specifications. The quarter system is also not related to bell size, at least across   manufacturers. The largest tuba is the contrabass tuba (Besson) and is the lowest.  Valves  Tubas are made with either piston or rotary valves. Rotary valves, invented by Joseph Riedl, are based on a design included in the original valve patents by Friedrich   Blühmel and Heinrich Stölzel in 1818. Červeny of Graslitz was the first to use true rotary valves, starting in the 1840s or 1850s. Modern piston valves were developed   by François Périnet for the saxhorn family of instruments promoted by Adolphe Sax around the same time. Pistons may either be oriented to point to the top of the   instrument (top-action, as pictured in the figure at the top of the article) or out the front of the instrument (front-action or side-action). There are advantages and   disadvantages to each valve style, but assertions concerning sound, speed, and clarity are difficult to quantify. German players generally prefer rotary valves while   British and American players favor piston valves — the choice of valve type remains up to the performer.  Piston valves require more maintenance than rotary valves — they require daily oiling to keep them freely operating, while rotary valves are sealed and seldom require   oiling. Piston valves are easy to disassemble and re-assemble, while rotary valve disassembly and re-assembly is much more difficult and is generally left to qualified   instrument repair persons.  Tubas generally have from three to six valves, though some rare exceptions exist. Three-valve tubas are generally the least expensive and are almost exclusively used by   beginners and amateurs, and the sousaphone (a marching version of a BB♭ tuba) almost always has three valves. Among advanced players, four and five valve tubas   are by far the most common choices, with six-valve tubas being relatively rare except among F tubas, which mostly have five or six valves.  The valves add tubing to the main tube of the instrument, thus lowering its fundamental pitch. The first valve lowers the pitch by a whole step (two semitones), the   second valve by a semitone, and the third valve by three semitones. Used in combination, the valves are too short and the resulting pitch tends to be sharp. For example,   a BB♭ tuba becomes (in effect) an A♭ tuba when the first valve is depressed. The third valve is long enough to lower the pitch of a BB♭ tuba by three semitones, but it   is not long enough to lower the pitch of an A♭ tuba by three semitones. Thus, the first and third valves used in combination lower the pitch by something just short of   five semitones, and the first three valves used in combination are nearly a quarter tone sharp.  The fourth valve is used in place of combinations of the first and third valves, and the second and fourth used in combination are used in place of the first three valves in   combination. The fourth valve can be tuned to lower the pitch of the main tube accurately by five semitones, and thus its use corrects the main problem of combinations   being too sharp. By using the fourth valve by itself to replace the first and third combination, or the fourth and second valves in place of the first, second and third valve   combinations, the notes requiring these fingerings are more in tune.  The fifth and sixth valves are used to provide alternative fingering possibilities to improve intonation, and are also used to reach into the low register of the instrument   where all the valves will be used in combination to fill the first octave between the fundamental pitch and the next available note on the open tube. The fifth and sixth   valves also give the musician the ability to trill more smoothly or to use alternative fingerings for ease of playing.  The bass tuba in F is pitched a fifth above the BB♭ tuba and a fourth above the CC tuba, so it needs additional tubing length beyond that provided by four valves to play   securely down to a low F as required in much tuba music. The fifth valve is commonly tuned to a flat whole step, so that when used with the fourth valve, it gives an   in-tune low B♭. The sixth valve is commonly tuned as a flat half step, allowing the F tuba to play low G as 1-4-5-6 and low G♭ as 1-2-4-5-6. In CC tubas with five   valves, the fifth valve may be tuned as a flat whole step or as a minor third depending on the instrument.  Resonance and false tones  Some tubas have a strong and useful resonance that is not in the well-known harmonic series. For example, most large B♭ tubas have a strong resonance at low E♭   (E♭1, 39 Hz), which is between the fundamental and the second harmonic (an octave higher than the fundamental). These alternative resonances are often known as   false tones or privileged tones. Adding the six semitones provided by the three valves, these alternative resonances let the instrument play chromatically down to the   fundamental of the open bugle, (which is a 29 Hz B♭). The addition of valves below that note can lower the instrument a further six semitones to a 20 Hz E0. Thus, even   three-valved instruments with good alternative resonances can produce very low sounds in the hands of skilled players; instruments with four valves can play even   lower. The lowest note in the widely known repertoire is a 16 Hz double-pedal C in the William Kraft piece Encounters II, which is often played using a timed flutter   tongue rather than by buzzing the lips. The fundamental of this pitch borders on infrasound and its overtones define the pitch in the listener's ear.  The most convincing explanation for false-tones is that the horn is acting as a 'third of a pipe' rather than as a half-pipe. The bell remains an anti-node, but there would   then be a node 1/3 of the way back to the mouthpiece. If so, it seems that the fundamental would be missing entirely, and would only be inferred from the overtones.   However, the node and the anti-node collide in the same spot and cancel out the fundamental.  Some tubas have a compensating system to allow accurate tuning when using several valves in combination, simplifying fingering and removing the need to constantly   adjust slide positions. The most popular of the automatic compensation systems was invented by Blaikley (Bevan, 1978) and was patented by Boosey (later, Boosey and   Hawkes, which also, later still, produced Besson instruments). The patent on the system limited its application outside of Britain, and to this day tubas with   compensating valves are primarily popular in the United Kingdom and countries of the former British Empire. The Blaikley design plumbs the instrument so that if the   fourth valve is used, the air is sent back through a second set of branches in the first three valves to compensate for the combination of valves. This does have the   disadvantage of making the instrument significantly more 'stuffy' or resistant to air flow when compared to a non-compensating tuba. This is due to the need for the air to   flow through the valves twice. It also makes the instrument heavier. But many prefer this approach to additional valves or to manipulation of tuning slides while playing   to achieve improved intonation within an ensemble. Most modern professional-grade euphoniums now feature Blaikley-style compensating valves.  Materials and finish  The tuba is generally constructed of brass, which is either unfinished, lacquered or electro-plated with nickel, gold or silver. Unfinished brass will eventually tarnish   and thus must be periodically polished to maintain its appearance.  Variations  Some tubas are capable of being converted into a marching style, known as "marching tubas". A leadpipe can be manually screwed on next to the valves. The tuba is   then usually rested on the left shoulder (although some tubas allow use of the right shoulder), with the bell facing directly in front of the player. Some marching tubas are   made only for marching, and cannot be converted into a concert model. Most marching bands opt for the sousaphone, an instrument that is easier to carry and almost   always cheaper than a true marching tuba. The earlier Helicon is still used by bands in Europe and other parts of the world. Drum and bugle corps players, however,   generally use marching tubas or Contrabass bugles. Standard tubas can also be played whilst standing, with the use of a strap joined to the tuba with two rings. The strap   goes over the shoulder like a sash, so the musician can play the instrument in the same position as when sitting.  Jazz  The tuba has been used in jazz since the genre's inception. In the earliest years, bands often used a tuba for outdoor playing and a double bass for indoor performances.   In this context, the tuba was sometimes called "brass bass", as opposed to the double bass (string bass). Many musicians played both instruments.  In modern jazz, tubas usually fill the traditional bass role, though it is not uncommon for them to take solos. New Orleans style Brass Bands like the Dirty Dozen Brass   Band and the Rebirth Brass Band use a sousaphone as the bass instrument. Bill Barber played tuba on several Miles Davis albums, including Birth of the Cool and   Miles Ahead. New York City-based tubist Marcus Rojas performed frequently with Henry Threadgill.


Euphonium is a conical-bore, baritone-voiced brass instrument. The euphonium derives its name from the Greek word euphonos, meaning “well-sounding” or “sweet-voiced” (eu means “well” or “good” and phonos means “of sound”, so “of good sound”). The euphonium is a valved instrument; nearly all current models are piston valved, though rotary valved models do exist. The euphonium is a non-transposing instrument known for its distinctive tone color, wide range, variety of character and agility A person who plays the euphonium is sometimes called a euphoniumist, euphophonist, or a euphonist, while British players often colloquially refer to themselves as euphists, or euphologists. Similarly, the instrument itself is often referred to as eupho or euph.

Name recognition and misconceptions

The euphonium is part of the family of brass instruments. It is sometimes confused with the baritone horn. The euphonium and the baritone differ in that the bore size of the baritone horn is typically smaller than that of the euphonium, (leading to a “darker” tone from the euphonium and a brighter sound from the baritone horn) and the baritone is primarily cylindrical bore, whereas the euphonium is predominantly conical bore. The two instruments are easily interchangeable to the player, with some modification of breath and embouchure, since the two have identical range and essentially identical fingering. The cylindrical baritone offers a brighter sound and the conical euphonium offers a mellower sound.

The so-called American baritone, featuring three valves on the front of the instrument and a curved, forward-pointing bell, was dominant in American school bands throughout most of the 20th century, its weight, shape and configuration conforming to the needs of the marching band. While this instrument is in reality a conical-cylindrical bore hybrid, neither fully euphonium nor baritone, it was almost universally labeled a “baritone” by both band directors and composers, thus contributing to the confusion of terminology in the United States.

Several late 19th century music catalogs (such as Pepper and Lyon & Healy) sold a euphonium-like instrument called the “B♭ Bass” (to distinguish it from the E♭ and BB♭ bass). In these catalog drawings, the B♭ Bass had thicker tubing than the baritone; both had 3 valves. Along the same lines, drum and bugle corps introduced the “Bass-baritone”, and distinguished it from the baritone. The thicker tubing of the 3-valve B♭ Bass allowed for production of strong false-tones, providing chromatic access to the pedal register.

History and development

The serpent, the oldest ancestor of all low brass instruments

The serpent, the oldest ancestor of all low brass instruments

As a baritone-voiced brass instrument, the euphonium traces its ancestry to the ophicleide and ultimately back to the serpent. The search for a satisfactory foundational wind instrument that could support masses of sound above it took some time. While the serpent was used for over two centuries dating back to the late Renaissance, it was notoriously difficult to control its pitch and tone quality due to its disproportionately small open finger holes. The ophicleide, which was used in bands and orchestras for a few decades in the early to mid-19th century, used a system of keys and was an improvement over the serpent but was still unreliable, especially in the high register.

With the invention of the piston valve system c. 1818, the construction of brass instruments with an even sound and facility of playing in all registers became possible. The euphonium is said to have been invented, as a “wide-bore, valved bugle of baritone range”, by Ferdinand Sommer of Weimar in 1843, though Carl Moritz in 1838 and Adolphe Sax in 1843 have also been credited. While Sax’s family of saxhorns were invented at about the same time and the bass saxhorn is very similar to a euphonium, there are also differences.

The “British-style” compensating euphonium was developed by David Blaikley in 1874, and has been in use in Britain ever since; since this time, the basic construction of the euphonium in Britain has changed little.

Construction and general characteristics

The euphonium, like tenor trombone, is pitched in concert B♭. For a valved brass instrument like the euphonium, this means that when no valves are in use the instrument will produce partials of the B♭ harmonic series. It is generally orchestrated as a non-transposing instrument like the trombone, written at concert pitch in the bass clef with higher passages in the tenor clef. Treble clef euphonium parts transposing down a major ninth are included in much concert band music: in the British-style brass band tradition, euphonium music is always written this way. In continental European band music, parts for the euphonium may be written in the bass clef as a B♭ transposing instrument sounding a major second lower than written.

Professional models have three top-action valves, played with the first three fingers of the right hand, plus a “compensating” fourth valve, generally found midway down the right side of the instrument, played with the left index finger; such an instrument is shown at the top of this page. Beginner models often have only the three top-action valves, while some intermediate “student” models may have a fourth top-action valve, played with the fourth finger of the right hand. Compensating systems are expensive to build, and there is in general a substantial difference in price between compensating and non-compensating models. For a thorough discussion of the valves and the compensation system, see the article on brass instruments.

A euphonium (L) and tuba (R), the two lowest conical-bore instruments

A euphonium (L) and tuba (R), the two lowest conical-bore instruments

The euphonium has an extensive range, comfortably from E2 to about B♭4 for intermediate players (using scientific pitch notation). In professional hands this may extend from B0 to as high as B♭5. The lowest notes obtainable depend on the valve set-up of the instrument. All instruments are chromatic down to E2, but 4-valved instruments extend that down to at least C2. Non-compensating four-valved instruments suffer from intonation problems from E♭2 down to C2 and cannot produce the low B1; compensating instruments do not have such intonation problems and can play the low B-natural.[note 2] From B♭1 down lies the “pedal range”, i.e. the fundamentals of the instrument’s harmonic series. They are easily produced on the euphonium as compared to other brass instruments, and the extent of the range depends on the make of the instrument in exactly the same way as just described. Thus, on a compensating four-valved instrument, the lowest note possible is B0, sometimes called double pedal B, which is six ledger lines below the bass clef.

As with the other conical-bore instruments, the cornet, flugelhorn, horn, and tuba, the euphonium’s tubing gradually increases in diameter throughout its length, resulting in a softer, gentler tone compared to cylindrical-bore instruments such as the trumpet, trombone, sudrophone, and baritone horn. While a truly characteristic euphonium sound is rather hard to define precisely, most players would agree that an ideal sound is dark, rich, warm, and velvety, with virtually no hardness to it. On the other hand, the desired sound varies geographically; European players, especially British ones, generally use a faster, more constant vibrato and a more veiled tone, while Americans tend to prefer a more straightforward, open sound with slower and less frequent vibrato. This also has to do with the different models preferred by British and American players.

Though the euphonium’s fingerings are no different from those of the trumpet or tuba, beginning euphoniumists will likely experience significant problems with intonation, response, and range compared to other beginning brass players. In addition, it is very difficult for students, even of high-school age, to develop the rich sound characteristic of the euphonium, due partly to the instrument models used in schools and partly to the lack of awareness of good euphonium sound models.

Popular models

Very generally speaking, the most popular professional models of euphonium in the United Kingdom are Besson Prestige and Sovereign models. The most popular in the United States are the Wilson 2900 and 2950. In both cases, these models have gained popularity through the use and sponsorship of extremely highly respected players and teachers; in Britain, by Steven Mead, and in America, by Dr. Brian Bowman. In recent years, the Yamaha YEP-842 Custom has gained popularity in the United States due to similar activities by Adam Frey. Most recently, Demondrae Thurman has worked in conjunction with Miraphone to develop the Ambassador 5050.

In recent years, the Besson company got into financial difficulties and various aspects of the business and name were acquired by Buffet Crampon of France. The remaining assets were acquired by the German company Schreiber-Keilwerth who lost no time in bringing rival instruments, with the York brand name, to market. In 2010, Schrieber-Keilwerth was also acquired by Buffet Crampon, and the York brand was dropped.

Other highly regarded professional models found around the world are the Yamaha 642, the Hirsbrunner Standard, Exclusive, and Stealth, the Sterling Virtuoso, and the Meinl-Weston 451 and 551. A well-selling and school-inventoried intermediate-model horn in the United States is the Yamaha YEP-321 (and silver-plate 321S), which has four valves and is non-compensating (though a removable 5th valve was offered as an option early on, but discontinued pushing buyers to their “professional” instruments). Other similar models of euphonium are made by Besson, Willson, Jupiter, and under the names of many storied American  manufacturers now within the Conn-Selmer umbrella among others. Besson produces a four-valve non-compensating euphonium with the fourth valve on the side.

Double-belled euphonium

Double bell euphonium being played Double-belled euphonium

Double bell euphonium being played
Double-belled euphonium

A creation unique to the United States was the double-bell euphonium, featuring a second smaller bell in addition to the main one; the player could switch bells for certain passages or even for individual notes by use of an additional valve, operated with the left hand. Ostensibly, the smaller bell was intended to emulate the sound of a trombone (it was cylindrical-bore) and was possibly intended for performance situations in which trombones were not available. The extent to which the difference in sound and timbre was apparent to the listener, however, is up for debate. Harry Whittier of the Patrick S. Gilmore band introduced the instrument in 1888, and it was used widely in both school and service bands for several decades. Harold Brasch (see “List of important players” below) brought the British-style compensating euphonium to the United States c. 1939, but the double-belled euphonium may have remained in common use even into the 1950s and 1960s. In any case, they have become rare (they were last in Conn’s advertisements in the 1940s, and King’s catalog in the 1960s), and are generally unknown to younger players. They are chiefly known now through their mention in the song “Seventy-Six Trombones” from the musical The Music Man by Meredith Willson.

Marching euphonium

A marching version of the euphonium may be found in marching band, though it is often replaced by its smaller, easier-to-carry cousin, the marching baritone (which has a similar bell and valve configuration to a trumpet). Marching euphoniums are used by marching bands in schools, and in Drum and Bugle Corps, and some corps (such as the Blue Devils and Phantom Regiment) march all-euphonium sections rather than only marching Baritone or a mix of both. Depending on the manufacturer, the weight of these instruments can be straining to the average marcher and require great strength to hold during practices and performances, leading to nerve problems in the right pinky, a callous on the left hand, and possibly back and arm problems. Another form of the marching euphonium is the convertible euphonium. Recently widely produced, the horn resembles a convertible tuba, being able to change from a concert upright to a marching forward bell on either the left or right shoulder. These are mainly produced by Jupiter or Yamaha, but other less expensive versions can be found.

Five valve euphonium

The five valve euphonium (noncompensating) is an extremely rare variation of the euphonium manufactured in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Britain’s Besson musical instrument company and Highams of Manchester Musical Instrument Company. Besson and Highams’s Clearbore five valve vintage euphoniums are among the rarest and most valuable in existence.

The Besson five valve euphonium featured the standard three piston valves horizontally on top, but had an additional two piston valves off the side. The standard euphonium has eight possible fingering and non-fingering positions by which sound is produced. The Besson and the Highams ‘clearbore’ model rare fourth and fifth extra ‘side’ valves change the possible fingering and non-fingering positions from eight to thirty-two.

The term ‘five valve euphonium’ does not refer to variations of the double bell euphonium made by various brass instrument companies during the same time period.Some of the double-bell euphoniums had five valves, with the fifth valve either on top with the other four, or by itself off to the side, but the double-bell fifth valve was used for switching the sound to the second smaller trombone-sized bell, and not for changing the fingering pitch of the instrument. Also, Cerveny Musical Instruments
manufactures several euphoniums with five vertical rotary valves today, but this is an unrelated recent development.

Performance venues and professional job opportunities

The euphonium has historically been exclusively a band instrument (rather than an orchestra or jazz instrument), whether of the wind or brass variety, where it is frequently featured as a solo instrument. Because of this, the euphonium has been called the “king of band instruments”, or the “cello of the band”, because of its similarity in timbre and ensemble role to the stringed instrument. Euphoniums typically have extremely important parts in many marches (such as those by John Philip Sousa), and in brass band music of the British tradition.

Other performance venues for the euphonium are the tuba-euphonium quartet or larger tuba-euphonium ensemble; the brass quintet, where it can supply the tenor voice, though the trombone is much more common in this role; or in mixed brass ensembles. Though these are legitimate performance venues, paid professional jobs in these areas are almost non-existent; they are much more likely to be semi-professional or amateur in nature. Most of the United States Armed Forces service bands include a tuba-euphonium quartet made up of players from the band that occasionally performs in its own right.

The euphonium is not traditionally an orchestral instrument and has never been common in symphony orchestras. However, there are a handful of works, mostly from the late Romantic period, in which composers wrote a part for baryton (German) or tenor tuba (most notably, Holst’s Planets Suite, which has many solos for baritone and euphonium), and these are universally played on euphonium, frequently by a trombone player. In addition, the euphonium is sometimes used in older orchestral works as a replacement for its predecessors, such as the ophicleide, or, less correctly, the bass trumpet or the Wagner tuba, both of which are significantly different instruments, and still in use today. At the bottom of the article are some of the well-known orchestral works in which the euphonium is commonly used (whether or not the composer originally specified it).

Finally, while the euphonium was not historically part of the standard jazz big band or combo, the instrument’s technical facility and large range make it well-suited to a jazz solo role, and a jazz euphonium niche has been carved out over the last 40 or so years, largely starting with the pioneer Rich Matteson (see “List of important players” below). The euphonium can also double on a trombone part in a jazz combo. Jazz euphoniums are most likely to be found in tuba-euphonium groups, though modern funk or rock bands occasionally feature a brass player doubling on euphonium, and this trend is growing.

Due to this dearth of performance opportunities, aspiring euphonium players in the United States are in a rather inconvenient position when seeking future employment. Often, college players must either obtain a graduate degree and go on to teach at the college level, or audition for one of the major or regional military service bands.

Because these bands are relatively few in number and the number of euphonium positions in the bands is small (2–4 in most service bands), job openings do not occur very often and when they do are highly competitive; before the current slate of openings in four separate bands, the last opening for a euphonium player in an American service band was in May 2004. A career strictly as a solo performer, unaffiliated with any university or performing ensemble, is a very rare sight, but some performers, such as Riki McDonnell, have managed to do it.

In Britain the strongest euphonium players are most likely to find a position in a brass band, but even though they often play at world-class levels, the members of the top brass bands are in most cases unpaid amateurs. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of brass bands in Britain ranging in standard from world class to local bands. Almost all brass bands in Britain perform regularly, particularly during the summer months. A large number of bands also enter contests against other brass bands of a similar standard. Each band requires two euphoniums (principal and second) and consequently there are considerable opportunities for euphonium players.

Due to limited vocational opportunities, there are a considerable number of relatively serious, quasi-professional avocational euphonium players participating in many higher-caliber unpaid ensembles.

College use in the United States

Unlike a generation or two ago, many colleges with music programs now offer students the opportunity to major in euphonium. However, due to the small number of euphonium students at most schools , it is possible, and even likely, that they will study with a professor whose major instrument is not the euphonium. Most often tubas and euphoniums will be combined into a studio taught by one professor, and at small schools they may be grouped with trombones and/or French horns as well, taught

by one low brass professor. Universities will usually require professors in this situation to have a high level of proficiency on all the instruments they teach, and some of the best college euphonium studios are taught by non-euphonium players.

Notable euphonists

The euphonium world is and has become more crowded than is commonly thought, and there have been many noteworthy players throughout the instrument’s history. Traditionally, three main national schools of euphonium playing have been discernible: American, British, and Japanese. Now, euphoniumists are able to learn this specific art in many other countries around the world today.

German Ferdinand Sommer, if one discounts the claims of Moritz and Sax each of whose horns also approached a euphonium in nature, in addition to being credited with inventing the euphonium as the Sommerhorn in 1843, as a soloist on the horn, qualifies as the first euphonium player to significantly advance and alter the understanding of the instrument. Below are a select few of the players most famous and influential in their respective countries, and whose contributions to the euphonium world are undeniable, in terms of recordings, commissions, pedagogy, and increased recognition of the instrument.

United Kingdom

Alfred James Phasey (1834-1888), English ophicleide, baritone and euphonium artist credited with modifying the bore of the baritone saxhorn, precursor of the baritone horn, to enlarge it and make it more reasonant thereby creating the first true euphonium which he went on to popularize as a performer and author of an early instructional method for tenor brass. Steven Mead, English euphonium soloist and professor at the Royal Northern College of Music noted internationally for advancing the British euphonium sound. David Thornton, principal euphonium of the Brighouse and Rastrick Band and student of Steven Mead noted for winning several prestigious international competitions and advancing the British euphonium sound through broadcast as well as recording media.

United States

Simone Mantia (1873–1951), an Italian-born American baritone horn/euphonium virtuoso and also trombone artist at the start of the 20th century. Playing as soloist with the Sousa and the Pryor Bands, Mantia was the first euphonium virtuoso to record and popularized this non-orchestral instrument in the United States.
Leonard Falcone (1899–1985), Italian-born American baritone/euphonium soloist, arranger, professor, Director of Bands at Michigan State University, and teacher of many noted euphonium artists. Falcone advanced an operatic passionate baritone style and is the namesake of the Leonard Falcone International Tuba and Euphonium Festival, the leading venue for the instrument in the United States.
Arthur W. Lehman, (1917–2009), American euphonium soloist known as ‘Art’, Recording Artist, United States Marine Band, noted euphonium author of works such as The Art of Euphonium. Lehman was a student of Harold Brasch and Simone Mantia and advanced the concept of a rich resonant sound with no vibrato pioneered by Mantia.
Brian Bowman, former soloist with the U.S. Navy Band (1971–75) and U.S. Air Force Band (1976–91); now professor of euphonium at the University of North Texas, co-editor of “Arban’s Method for Trombone and Euphonium”. Bowman innovated a fusion of the mellow British sound with deep passion heard in Falcone recordings, becoming the best known American artist at the end of the 20th century through recording, teaching and the first euphonium recital at Carnegie Hall.


Toru Miura, professor of euphonium at the Kunitachi College of Music; soloist and clinician who was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the International Tuba Euphonium Association (formerly TUBA) for his role in promoting the instrument.


The euphonium repertoire consists of solo literature and orchestral or, more commonly, band parts written for the euphonium. Since its invention in 1843, the euphonium has always had an important role in ensembles, but solo literature was slow to appear, consisting of only a handful of lighter solos until the 1960s. Since then, however, the breadth and depth of the solo euphonium repertoire has increased dramatically. In the current age, there has been a huge number of new commissions and repertoire development and promotion through Steven Mead’s World of the Euphonium Series and the Beyond the Horizon series from There has also been a vast number of new commissions by more and more players and a proliferation of large scale Consortium Commissions that are occurring including current ones in 2008 and 2009 organized by Brian Meixner (Libby Larson), Adam Frey (The Euphonium Foundation Consortium), and Jason Ham (David Gillingham).

Upon its invention, it was clear that the euphonium had, compared to its predecessors the serpent and ophicleide, a wide range and had a consistently rich, pleasing sound throughout that range. It was flexible both in tone quality and intonation and could blend well with a variety of ensembles, gaining it immediate popularity with  composers and conductors as the principal tenor-voices solo instrument in brass band settings, especially in Britain. It is no surprise, then, that when British composers – some of the same ones who were writing for brass bands – began to write serious, original music for the concert band in the early 20th century, they used the euphonium in a very similar role.

When American composers also began writing for the concert band as its own artistic medium in the 1930s and 1940s, they continued the British brass and concert band tradition of using the euphonium as the principal tenor-voiced solo. This is not to say that composers, then and now, valued the euphonium only for its lyrical capabilities. Indeed, examination of a large body of concert band literature reveals that the euphonium functions as a “jack of all trades.”

Though the euphonium was, as previously noted, embraced from its earliest days by composers and arrangers in band settings, orchestral composers have, by and large, not taken advantage of this capability. There are, nevertheless, several orchestral works, a few of which are standard repertoire, in which composers have called for instruments, such as the Wagner tuba, for which euphonium is commonly substituted today.

In contrast to the long-standing practice of extensive euphonium use in wind bands and orchestras, there was until approximately forty years ago literally no body of solo literature written specifically for the euphonium, and euphoniumists were forced to borrow the literature of other  instruments. Fortunately, given the instrument’s multifaceted capabilities discussed above, solos for many different instruments are easily adaptable to performance on the euphonium.

The earliest surviving solo composition written specifically for euphonium or one of its saxhorn cousins is the Concerto per Flicorno Basso (1872) by Amilcare Ponchielli. For almost a century after this, the euphonium solo repertoire consisted of only a dozen or so virtuosic pieces, mostly light in character. However, in the 1960s and 1970s, American composers began to write the first of the “new school” of serious, artistic solo works specifically for euphonium. Since then, there has been a virtual explosion of solo repertoire for the euphonium. In a mere four decades, the solo literature has expanded from virtually zero to thousands of pieces. More and more composers have become aware of the tremendous soloistic capabilities of the euphonium, and have constantly “pushed the envelope” with new literature in terms of tessitura, endurance, technical demands, and extended techniques.

Finally, the euphonium has, thanks to a handful of enterprising individuals, begun to make inroads in jazz, pop and other non-concert performance settings.