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Thread: Sax Horn versus a Euphonium or Baritone

  1. #1

    Sax Horn versus a Euphonium or Baritone

    Willson has just come out with a new Sax Horn. I understand these are popular in Europe, especially France. Characteristics of a Sax Horn are a smaller bell than a euphonium, a very conical shape, a very long lead pipe with the tuning before the valves and a bell closer the the player than with a euphonium. My question to this group is does anyone here know the tonal differences among the euphonium, baritone and sax horn? When would you choose one over the other? In looking at the general configurations of early double belled euphoniums, they strongly resemble the sax horn. Could this suggest that the double bell developed from a sax horn? Could a double bell substitute for a sax horn? I know a lot of questions......

  2. #2
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    A saxhorn has a euphonium-like sound to it. I had the opportunity to try Highpitch's saxhorn a while back. It was a very beautiful, warm sounding horn, rebuilt by Dan Oberloh too. Last time I checked I think it was for sale.
    Miraphone 5050 Ambassador
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  3. #3
    A modern saxhorn basse is essentially a French version of a euphonium. Slightly smaller bell and bore than a British-style euphonium with a more sudden flare at the bell end. It's got a slightly brighter sound, but not significantly. It's used in French military bands (in place of the euphonium) and as a solo instrument. There is also a saxhorn baryton which is very similar to a british-style brass band baritone, but this is rarely used anymore.

    Adolphe Sax patented the family of saxhorns in 1845. The chief distinguishing facets of the saxhorn were that they were upright, had a short leadpipe going into the valves (so as to maximize conical bore after the valve set), and came in a family of Eb and Bb instruments.

    This Sax catalog from 1850 shows the baryton and basse (both Bb instruments) which would be the equivalent of today's euphonium and baritone.

    http://www.jayeaston.com/galleries/s...ogue_1850.html

    Now, upright conical valved instruments existed before Sax's patent. His chief innovation was that they came in a complete family of Eb and Bb instruments. Sax saw a lot of success with his instruments, because he was an extremely high quality maker and his instruments were very good, but there was also a lot of controversy about his patent. A lot of other makers stole his ideas, improved upon them, combined them with pre-existing ideas, etc. Some of them were even defiant enough to call their creations "saxhorns" even though Sax had nothing to do with them. Most notably, the set of American-designed over-the-shoulder instruments used by military musicians in the civil war were marketed as saxhorns even though they are a much different form than what Sax himself had envisioned. There were a lot of legal battles over it.

    Later in the 19th century, Sax created a new family of saxhorns in an attempt to recapture the market with a more enforceable patent. He called these Saxhorn Nouveau. The chief distinguishing features of these instruments were that they had a swiveling forward facing bell and usually had a five or six valve system. You can also see that the leadpipe was lengthened on these instruments and often had a loop or a tuning slide in it. These also came in whole families, but the basse and baryton were among the most popular -- although overall these instruments were pretty much a commercial flop. There are some beautiful examples in instrument museums around the world, though!

    http://collections.ed.ac.uk/mimed/record/15784

    As 20th century instruments developed, French makers such as Couesnon and Courtois used these Saxhorn Nouveau as the basis for their equivalents for the tuba, euphonium, and baritone. The swiveling bell disappeared, but a lot of the other ideas were retained. The French used a "saxhorn basse" (also known as a French tuba) usually in 8' C (one step above the euphonium), with five or six valves and a larger tuba type of mouthpiece as a substitute for the orchestral tuba up until the 1950s.

    http://myeuph.up.n.seesaa.net/myeuph...68/01.jpg?d=a1

    The same instrument also developed into a solo instrument and concert/military band instrument paralleling the development of the euphonium. Usually in Bb, usually with five or four valves. Very similar bell profile. Also called the "saxhorn basse".

    http://www.musique-et-art.com/en/ins...bass-7684.html

    You could say that today's euphonium and (and tuba, and baritone, and alto/tenorhorn) are descendants of the saxhorn, but you could also argue that they aren't. At the very least, one would have to admit that there is some saxhorn DNA in all of these modern brass instruments.

    The modern saxhorn basse has cross-polinated with the British-style euphonium to some extent. Compensating 4-valve system is more typical than the 5 or 6 valve system. Tuning trigger is now a common feature. But the bell profile and overall shape still owes a lot to these late 19th century and early 20th century saxhorns, in the same way that the modern british-style euphonium owes a lot to certain late 19th century designs.

    I'd say that the modern saxhorn basse is no more a direct descendant of the original saxhorns than the modern euphonium is. It's really just a parallel development encouraged by a strong national tradition in France and a few French instrument makers who kept it going rather than just dropping their designs and copying what was happening in Britain. Similar to how German and Bohemian makers kept making oval rotary valve instruments and how bands in that area of the world still prefer that style of instrument. Or also similar to how Conn and King and others made the American-style baritone (euphonium) which was popular until American players started migrating to British-style euphoniums. But the name saxhorn stuck with the French instruments, and now we use the word "saxhorn" to differentiate this unique style of instruments.

    PS. Here's a modern saxhorn baryton, you can see the similarity to a modern baritone:

    http://instruments-musique.pgm-coues...nte-fr-22.html
    Last edited by bbocaner; 09-26-2015 at 10:48 AM.
    --
    Barry

  4. #4
    When would you choose a saxhorn over a euphonium? If you were studying saxhorn at the paris conservatory or were employed by a French military band, for sure. Other than that, the reasons get pretty thin.

    Perhaps if you were doing a recital and were playing one of the French pieces that were originally intended for Saxhorn. Barat, Bozza, etc. It might add some timbral variety to your program. That's an awfully small reason to spend $6000+ on an instrument you'll need to build familiarity with and will rarely use, though.

    You could make a case for using one for Bydlo in the Ravel orchestration of pictures at an exhibition, too. Since that was originally intended for French Tuba, a modern saxhorn might be closer. Although, the French Tuba was a larger version of the saxhorn basse than what you can get today and you could argue that a euphonium might be a better substitute.

    As an American player, I see very little reason to have one -- unless you want to collect "euphoniums of the world" or something like that
    --
    Barry

  5. #5
    OK, so a Sax Horn is a slightly brassier euphonium with little practical use here in the US.

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Another quirk of Saxhorns is 3rd valve is 2 full steps. Yep. 2 steps.

    Hence, they have to have at least 4 valves to play chromatically. More of them have 5, in a 3+2 arrangement.

    The first, second, & 4th are as we know the usual setup.

    It takes a bit of getting used to, but it is not the end of the world.

    My 1905 deVries has an 11mm bore, uniform till after the 4th, then conical with a pretty standard euph taper & 11' bell.

    It plays well for being a 100 year+ oddball.

    Dennis
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 012.JPG   004.JPG  
    1966 Besson 181 highly modified New Standard
    1918 Hawkes & Son euph 3&1 original
    1915 York Bb tenorhorn original

  7. #7
    As a French player of saxhorn bass I concur with the very good summary made by Barry.

    There are two historical manufacturers of Saxhorn Basse: Antoine Courtois and Couesnon. Courtois' instruments are very goods ones (mine is 25 years old!) and used to be manufactured in France but now all the brass instruments of Buffet Crampon's group are manufactured in Germany (b&s). Couesnon instruments are still produced in France in a very traditional way.

    Traditional saxhorn basse has 4 or 5 pistons. Courtois has developped a compensated saxhorn fifteen years ago for french military bands (same fingering as the Euphonium).

    There are two other manufacturers of saxhorn basse: wiseman (manufactured in poland I guess) and wessex (but this product line is now discontinued)

    The new comer is Willson, which is very good news: they just launched a brand new compensated saxhorn with a trigger.

    The sound of a saxhorn basse is brighter/clearer than an euphonium: there is a great cd by david maillot called "saxhorn et piano". I recommand it to discover this instrument. There is also a saxhorn quartet called opus 333 (they have developped the new willson saxhorn).

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by highpitch View Post
    Another quirk of Saxhorns is 3rd valve is 2 full steps. Yep. 2 steps.

    Hence, they have to have at least 4 valves to play chromatically. More of them have 5, in a 3+2 arrangement.

    The first, second, & 4th are as we know the usual setup.


    It takes a bit of getting used to, but it is not the end of the world.

    My 1905 deVries has an 11mm bore, uniform till after the 4th, then conical with a pretty standard euph taper & 11' bell.

    It plays well for being a 100 year+ oddball.

    Dennis
    It's a great sounding horn Dennis.
    Miraphone 5050 Ambassador
    Mp: Wick SM4 Ultra X
    The San Diego Concert Band
    Big Brass Quartet- tuba ensemble (EETT)

  9. #9
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    Mar 2006
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    Hidden Valley, AZ
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    Hi Dan,

    Good to hear from you and thanks.

    Dennis
    1966 Besson 181 highly modified New Standard
    1918 Hawkes & Son euph 3&1 original
    1915 York Bb tenorhorn original

  10. PM for interest in Courtois AC162 - 3 valve version of Courtois saxhorn. I'd sell for a couple hundred, no need to spend thousands on a compensating system you'll never use. The leadpipe is the classic Courtois shape not the new slanty version, everything else looks just like the new models.

    It plays a lot like a euphonium, but sounds way different. Much brassier, you get a bite to the sound you can't even get with euphonium. But at low volume, it does sound sweet and exactly like a euphonium.

    3rd valve is easy enough to pull with your left hand to play a good B-natural. Middle C requires 1-3 fingering. Beyond that it's pretty point-n-shoot to play.
    I'd say it's great for soloists, offering a range of tones to contrast with ever-steady euphonium. If a concert band uses both American and British euphs, I'd say that ship has sailed and you can use it in concert band too.

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