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When I was in high
school, my parents decided to buy a new instrument
for me to replace the student model I had been
using. The music store showed me a top of the
line King 3-valve "baritone." The salesman
said it was a fine instrument, but if I was a
serious player, I should spend another $80. For
the extra money I would get not a mere baritone,
but a genuine ***E*U*P*H*O*N*I*U*M***. When I
asked what the difference was he explained that
a baritone has three valves, while a euphonium
has four. He also told me that a euphonium has
a different bore, and sounds nicer that a baritone.
I ordered the more expensive instrument.
As the years passed, I learned that the only
difference between those two horns was the extra
valve. The salesman wasnt trying to mislead
me--he was simply as confused as most people about
the difference between a baritone and a euphonium.
Over the years I have heard many incorrect explanations
of this difference. Some are: a euphonium has
four valves, a baritone three; if its in
a bass clef its a euphonium, if its
in treble clef its a baritone; a baritone
is little euphonium; a baritone has the bell pointed
forward, a euphonium points up; and (attributed
to Robert King) a euphonium is a baritone played
This confusion of names may contribute to the
somewhat anonymous nature of my chosen instrument.
In the USA, the average man on the street doesnt
know what a euphonium is. This is partly due to
a lack of exposure to the horn, but if he ever
has seen one, it may have been referred to as
a baritone, a baritone horn, a tenor tuba, or
a euphonium. Also, the name baritone is sometimes
confused with baritone saxophone or the baritone
I have consulted over two dozen reference books
to understand the distinction between these two
instruments. These sources included dictionaries,
encyclopedias, music dictionaries, and music texts.
All agreed on the general definition of these
two horns, although none offered anything as specific
as measurements. They agreed on the following:
a baritone has a smaller bore and bell than a
euphonium, with tubing that is mostly cylindrical.
Its sound is lighter and brighter. The euphonium
has a larger bell and bore, and its tubing is
mostly conical. It has a larger, darker, more
powerful sound. Four well-known sources have characterized
the distinction as follows:
Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
warm, large tone; deep-cup mouthpiece;
tenor of tuba family
Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians
bore & tone; semi-conical cup mouthpiece;
These statements are
sufficient to categorize the instruments now on
the market, yet there is a noticeable confusion
about euphoniums and baritones.
The Conn American-style euphonium fits very well
into the range of measurements of the other traditional-style
euphoniums, yet this instrument is more often
called "baritone" than "euphonium."
The Conn line is interesting in this regard. Their
various models all share the same dimensions of
tubing, bell size, and taper, but Conn has usually
listed their most expensive model as "euphonium"
and their cheaper models as "baritones."
Other American companies have followed the same
path, apparently feeling that the name "euphonium"
justifies a higher cost and connotes better quality.
An almost humorous example of the confusion of
definitions is found in the nearly extinct double-bell
euphonium. This was an instrument with an extra
valve to send the sound either to its large euphonium-size
bell or to a much smaller trombone-size bell.
The smaller bell gave it a bright sound, similar
to a true baritone horn. To the best of my knowledge,
this instrument was never called a double-bell
baritone. The same instrument minus the small
bell was (and is) frequently called a baritone.
The inconsistency is that the double-bell version
was able to approximate the sound of a baritone,
while the single-bell instrument could only sound
like a euphonium.
My own instruments are made in England by Sterling
and are typical of the horns made by many other
manufacturers from Europe and Japan. My euphonium
has an upright-bell, side-valves, and a bore of
.592 inches. This type of horn is seldom called
a baritone. I also use an upright-bell, side-valve
baritone horn. This horn has a .522 inch bore
and a bell only slightly larger than that of a
trombone. It possesses a much brighter sound than
my euphonium. This type of horn is virtually never
called a euphonium. The tubing of the euphonium
is almost entirely conical. The tubing of the
baritone is much more nearly cylindrical. The
nature of the baritones bore can be demonstrated
by pulling out the main tuning slide and reversing
it. It will still fit into the horn reversed,
but such is not the case with my euphonium'
While most agree on the names of my particular
instruments, such is not the case with the instruments
in many of our public school bands in the USA.
They are similar to the Conns mentioned above,
and generally have a .560 bore and forward-facing
bells of about 10.5 inches diameter (although
many are made with upright bells as well). Even
a casual examination of the tubing will show that
it is almost entirely conical. I believe the breed
was originally designed to let a single instrument
play both euphonium and baritone music. While
the early samples of this type of "hybrid"
instrument may have had a sound nearly centered
between a baritone and a euphonium tone, the desire
for a smoother, fuller sound has led the manufacturers
to gradually change the instruments characteristics.
The modern version have a sound very close to
that of the European and Japanese euphoniums.
They sound slightly brighter, but not nearly as
bright as a true baritone horn. Also, compared
to my own horns, their .560 bore is somewhat closer
to the .592 euphonium than to the .522 baritone
Notice the relative sizes of the bottom
bows and the "throat"
of the bell; notice also the continuous
taper of the tubing of the two euphoniums.
(With thanks: the upper
photos are used with permission of Yamaha
Corporation of America; the lower
photo is used with permission of The Selmer
my experience from playing most brands of this
bell-front breed is that they sound like euphoniums.
There is an old saying that goes something like
"If it looks like a duck and waddles and
quacks, then call it a duck." These bell-front
type instruments should certainly be called euphoniums.
All the definitions I found would support this
title based on the characteristics these horns
possess. The fact that they are slightly smaller
in bore and sound than the euphoniums commonly
found in Europe and Japan certainly shouldnt
disqualify them from the title "euphonium."
Consider the modern trombone. Most symphony players
use trombones with large bores (around .547 inches)
and large bells. However, many trombones are made
with bores in the range of .500 to .515 and smaller
bells. They sound somewhat smaller and brighter
than their larger brothers, yet they are still
Music publishers share the confusion. As a professional
euphonium player I read a large quantity of music
each year. Roughly 80% of the music I played was
marked "baritone," and yet about 1%
of it was actually intended to be played on a
While it may seem more awkward to have to say
"euphonium" instead of "baritone,"
let us help others get into the habit of using
the correct names for these instruments. It is
time to end the confusion.
Dimensions of several popular
baritones and euphoniums:
All measurements are
in inches. Bore size is an INTERNAL
A graduate of The University of Iowa, Mr. Werden was the euphonium soloist with
States Coast Guard Band for more than 20 years. He has performed throughout
the United States, as well as in Canada, England, Japan, and the former Soviet
Union. Through FM and TV broadcasts, his solos have been heard in dozens of countries
around the world. He is a recitalist and clinician, and has performed at local,
national, and international symposiums. He was a member of The USCG Band Euphonium/Tuba
Quartet, the Atlantic Tuba Quartet, and the Classic
Brass Band. He previously taught at the University of Connecticut and is
listed in the 1996 edition of Marquis' Who's Who in American Education.
His efforts to expand the role and recognition of the euphonium led the British
magazine Sounding Brass in conjunction with the American publication Euphonia
to name him "Euphonium Player of the Year" in 1980. He is the first
American awarded this honor. In 1981 he was elected to the post of Euphonium
Coordinator for the International
Tuba-Euphonium Association (formerly called Tubists Universal Brotherhood
Association: T.U.B.A). In 1987 he was appointed to the Board of Directors of
ITEA. His many solo performances and his efforts to expand the role of the euphonium
in music earned him the prestigious Coast Guard Commendation Medal. He has also
been awarded two Coast Guard Achievement Medals, the Coast Guard Special Operations
ribbon, two Coast Guard Unit Commendations, and three Coast Guard Meritorious