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The euphonium is a conical-bore, tenor-voiced brass instrument. It derives its name from the Greek word euphonos, meaning "beautiful-sounding" or "sweet-voiced" ("eu" means "well" (understood as "good") and "phonium" means "voice"). The euphonium is a valved instrument, and nearly all models are piston valved, though rotary valvedmodels do exist.

A person who plays euphonium is sometimes called a euphoniumist or a euphonist, while British players often colloquially refer to themselves as euphists. Similarly, the instrument itself is sometimes referred to as "euph."

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Construction

The euphonium is pitched in concert B-flat, meaning that when no valves are depressed the instrument will produce partials of the B-flat harmonic series. In the United States, music for the instrument is usually written in the bass clef at concert pitch (that is, without transposition), though treble clef euphonium parts, transposing down a major ninth, are often included in school-level concert band music¹. In the brass band tradition, especially in the United Kingdom, euphonium music is always written this way. In continental European music, parts for the euphonium are sometimes written in the bass clef but a major second higher than sounding pitch.

New School of Music teaches euphonium lessons at our music centers located in Buford, GA 30518, Dunwoody, GA 30338, and Lilburn, GA 30047; and our extension schools located in Johns Creek, GA 30097, Fayetteville, GA 30215 & Lawrenceville, GA 30046. We are the southeast's leading music conservatory with over 2000 students enrolled! Our schools serve the communities of Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Chamblee, Doraville, Roswell, Alpharetta, Norcross, Snellville, Stone Mountain, Lawrenceville, Duluth, Sugar Hill, Suwanee, Lawrenceville, Oakwood, Dacula, Gainesville, Winder, Braselton, Jackson, Pendergrass, Auburn, Winder, Gwinnett County, Hall County, Dekalb County, Fulton County, Jackson County, Banks County, Madison County, and Franklin County. Rent a school band or orchestra instrument, shop online, and more.

Professional models have three top-action valves, played with the first three fingers of the right hand, plus a "compensating" fourth valve found midway down the right side of the instrument, played with the left index finger; such an instrument is shown in the above picture. 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 wide discrepancy between the costs of compensating and non-compensating models. For a thorough discussion of the valves and the compensation system, see the article on brass instruments.

The euphonium has an extensive range, from far below the bass clef to F six ledger lines above or even higher in professional hands, though B-flat four ledger lines above the staff is an average cutoff for intermediate players. The lowest notes obtainable depend on the valve set-up of the instrument. All instruments are chromatic down to the E at the bottom of the bass staff, but 4-valve instruments can extend this somewhat further. "Compensating" instruments are chromatic into the pedal range, but "non-compensating" instruments suffer from tuning difficulties from D down to B. Below this, there is a region of obtainable notes from the first harmonic of the tube, extending from the B
below down to a limit specified by the instrument's set-up, exactly mirroring the valve fingerings an octave higher. 4-valve "compensating" set-ups can in principle reach the B over an octave below the bass staff, and many advanced players can readily produce this note.

As with the other conical-bore instruments, the cornet, flugelhorn, French 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 thetrumpet and trombone. However, 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 more 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 models used in schools and partly to lack of awareness of good euphonium sound models.

History

The euphonium, the baritone, the saxhorn family, and the German Bariton and Tenorhorn all trace their descent to the ophicleideand ultimately to the serpent. The euphonium is alleged to have been invented, as a valved instrument replacing the ophicleide, by Herr Sommer of Weimar in 1843, though Carl Moritz in 1838 and Adolphe Sax in 1843 have also been credited. The "British-style" compensating euphonium was developed by David Blaikley in 1874, and has been in use in Britain ever since.

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 a fifth 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 1950's and 60's. In any case, they have become rare (they were last in instrumental catalogues in the late 1960's), and are generally unknown to younger euphonium players. They are chiefly known now through their mention in the song "Seventy-six Trombones" from the musical The Music Man by Meredith Willson.

Today the top makers of euphoniums are generally considered to be Besson, Willson, and Yamaha, though smaller makers (such as Sterling, Hirsbrunner and Meinl-Weston) do exist and are popular among professionals.

Performance venues and professional job opportunities

The euphonium has historically been and largely still is exclusively a wind band instrument; thus, the most common forums in which it can be found are concert bands and brass bands, 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 byJohn Philip Sousa), and in brass band music of the British tradition. The euphonium may also be found in marching bands, 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). A marching euphonium similar to the marching baritone is also used in many marching groups, primarily drum and bugle corps, two of which (Phantom Regiment and Teal Sound) march all-euphonium sections.

King marching euphonium

Other performance venues for the euphonium may include 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), 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's military 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 thus is not 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, and these are universally played on euphonium, frequently by the principal trombone player. In addition, the euphonium is sometimes used in older orchestral works as a replacement of its predecessors, such as the Wagner tuba, the bass trumpet, or the ophicleide. 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). 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 ironically, even though they often play at world-class levels, the members of the top brass bands are, in most cases, unpaid amateurs.

The Euphonium has also long been featured as an integral part and solo instrument in Salvation Army bands.

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