The Baritone Horn vs. the Euphonium

Sad to say, many people still confuse the Baritone Horn* with the Euphonium.  Safe to say, if you are in the U.S, you are dealing with a Euphonium.  Only in the rare instances of British-style brass bands will you have a true Baritone Horn.

*Note: I always use the term Baritone Horn and not simply Baritone.  I do this to make sure I am as clear as possible in which instrument I want.  Baritone is an ambiguous term.  Properly, it means a male voice between a tenor and a bass, but it can refer to a size of saxophone, a size of ukulele, a size of flute (in new nomenclature – see my post on flute species), or a string instrument (Baryton).

A true Baritone Horn is a narrow bore, slightly conical instrument that is closer to the Cornet in structure.  A Euphonium is a wide bore, hugely conical instrument that is closer to the Flügelhorn in structure.  The Baritone Horn, Alto/Tenor Horn, and Cornet form a cohesive family, while the Flügelhorn, Euphonium, and Tubas form another cohesive family.

There are even manufacturers who get this difference wrong.  The American maker King has an instrument in their catalog (model 623) that they state is a “Baritone,” but upon inspection, these instruments are actually compact Euphoniums.

Both the Baritone Horn and Euphonium stem from Sax’s family of saxhorns.  The problem lies in that Sax himself created two families and united them under one name, so that the soprano through baritone members were one family and the bass and contrabass members were another.  The only pitch that overlapped the two “families” were the two members in 9-foot B-flat.  Sax called these the Baritone and the Bass.  Today, their descendants are the modern Baritone Horn and Euphonium respectively.

What I’ve found is a series of YouTube videos by the Euphonium virtuoso David Werden who demonstrates three different instruments: a Euphonium, a Baritone Horn, and a Double-Belled Euphonium.  A Double-Belled Euphonium is a Euphonium that has a second, smaller bell (smaller than a normal trombone bell) that will give an echo effect.  It is basically two instruments built into one and can be changed between as simply as pressing a valve.

Mr. Werden plays the same piece (“Neapolitan Dance” by Tchaikovsky) on all three instruments.  Note how much smaller the Baritone Horn is than the Euphonium.


Baritone Horn

Double-Belled Euphonium

After watching these videos, note the drastic sound difference between the smooth, mellow Euphonium and the bright and bouncy Baritone Horn.  These instruments should never be confused for one another.

7 thoughts on “The Baritone Horn vs. the Euphonium

  1. Ben Williams

    I’ve spent a lot of time playing baritone horn at a pretty high level in British brass bands. I think it’s an incredibly underrated instrument. It has all the technical facility and range (with a 4 valve model) of a euphonium, but blends far better in a small ensemble.

    1. Thanks! I always love feedback from players on these instruments. My only experience with a Baritone Horn was a weird instrument I owned years ago that was really more of a midway instrument between a Baritone Horn and a Euphonium. If you have any links to good videos, let me know.

  2. Pingback: B-flat Baritone Horn | Bandestration

  3. Ron Hyatt

    My experience in the USA from 30 years ago is that there were mini tubas (with 4 valves) that had a more tuba like sound, and a front facing bell version with 3 valves that had a more trombone/trumpet-like sound. Former was “euphonium”, latter Baritone Horn. Difference was in the bore taper.

    1. The bell-front instruments have always been a conundrum. From what I understand from Euphonium scholars, even those instruments, smaller as they are, are still classified as Euphoniums and not as true Baritone Horns.

  4. Michael Sidney Timpson

    You can include a few other “families” to mention in this category. First the “Tenor Tuba” which was a heavier bored, conical, rotary European instrument, that is similar to some Bass Tubas. This term is used interchangeably with Euphonium sometimes, but it was originally a different instrument (you can still see them in German marching bands.) Then there is the cylindrical Trombonium, which is essentially a valve trombone/bass trumpet in the shape of a small tuba. In addition (and as an extension of that) there is the Cimbasso, which is an extension of the trumpet family into the bass and contrabass trombone/tuba range, and often appears in differing shapes. Finally, there is the Wagner Tuba, which is a French Horn like instrument in the Euphonium shape that plays in the same register. Also, we may want to mention the Helicon here , a predecessor of the sousaphone, but comes in varying shapes and ranges, still made and played in Europe today. And finally the Saxtuba, Saxhorn and Saxtromba, all of which are various instruments similar to this.

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