Also:       euphonion      tenor tuba      basse      Baryton      Tenorbass      eufonio      

Title: Euphonium Music—Cantabile for John Fletcher, by Elgar Howarth; Robert and Nicholas Childs, euphoniums. Label: Doyen. Format: CD. Catalogue#: DOY CD002. Track: 6.

Contextual Associations

The euphonium is an end-blown lip-reed aerophone outfitted with valves (either piston or rotary) that make it fully chromatic. Originating in Germany, the euphonium today (usually pitched in B-flat) can be found throughout the world wherever Western-style military and concert bands have taken root. It is most commonly found in military, marching and concert bands, and in brass ensembles. It has a small solo repertoire associated with it, as well as a number of transcribed works originally for other instruments. A very few orchestral pieces include parts for the euphonium, and some jazz musicians might use it as an auxiliary instrument. One encounters it today most frequently in schools of music, public school music programs (concert and marching bands; solo competitions), military bands, and amateur community bands.


The euphonium is basically a 9-foot length of mostly conical brass tubing pitched in B-flat with a cup mouthpiece inserted at one end and a somewhat funnel-shaped bell at the other. This tubing, initially cylindrical in profile, passes through three spring-loaded piston valves (the first instrument in the gallery) or three rotary valves (second instrument in gallery) that, when depressed/rotated individually or in combination, add varying lengths of tubing to the instrument’s basic length. When a valve piston/rotor is unengaged the air column passes directly through a channel bored into the piston/rotor; when the valve is engaged by pressing the piston or rotor key down two different channels come into alignment, one directing the air column out of the valve and through an additional length of tubing, and a second one allowing the air column back into and through the valve. The amount of tubing that is added is different with each valve: the first valve, closest to the mouthpiece end, adds enough tubing to lower the pitch of the instrument by a whole step (M2); the second valve by a half step (m2); and the third valve by a minor third (m3). The first instrument in the gallery has one additional piston valve that when depressed adds three feet more of tubing to the length of the instrument, making it a 12-foot instrument pitched in F (similar to engaging the ‘F-attachment’ on trombones). Each additional length of tubing has its own tuning slide at a U-bend, and on the first instrument there is a main tuning slide for general tuning at the first U-bend after the tubing exits the final valve. It is after this point that the diameter of the bore begins to increase steadily all the way to the bell with a pronounced conical profile. A detachable, silver-plated-brass mouthpiece with a deep cup is inserted at the player end of the instrument’s tubing.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

For what is called a ‘right-facing’ euphonium such as the first instrument in the gallery, the player, when seated, rests the final U-bend of the instrument on their lap so that the mouthpiece touches their lips and the bell faces upwards just to the right of their face. The four fingers of the right hand operate the valves. The second instrument in the gallery, a ‘left-facing’ design common in Germany, Austria, and Central Europe, likewise rests on the players lap. Its upward pointing bell is to the left of the player’s face and only the first three fingers of the right hand are needed to operate the rotary valves. With any given length of tubing (of which there are seven for a three-valve instrument [the basic length and six combinations of additional tubing] and seven more on the four-valve instrument), the performer may produce a fundamental pitch (called a pedal tone) and the notes in the natural harmonic series above it by controlling the force of the airstream (with their diaphragm muscles) and its modulation (with their embouchure muscles adjusting lip tension). The fundamental of the basic tube length of the euphonium is B-flat1; the practical range of the instrument is E2 to B-flat4, though some players can extend the upper end of this range. Across this range it is fully chromatic. Production of its pedal tones (E1 - B-flat1) is not dependable and therefore seldom written for. A euphonium with a fourth valve/rotor, like the first instrument in the gallery, can more dependably descend to B-flat1 and fill in the notes between E-flat2 and B1 not available on a three-valve/rotor instrument. Euphoniums are in general non-transposing instruments written at pitch in the bass clef; when playing music originally composed for its very close relative the baritone horn, players will need to know how to read transposed parts in the treble clef that sound a M9 lower than written. Because of its wide conical bore, the euphonium has a full and rich sound quality in part acknowledged in its name, which is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘sweet voiced.’  Variation in the timbre of the instrument is achieved through the use of mutes placed in the bell of the instrument (in the first gallery image a straight mute is shown).


A Weimar, Germany, instrument maker by the name of Sommer is credited with the invention of the euphonium around 1843. Its precursors were the Tenorbasshorn and a four-valve tenor tuba with a wide bore designed in 1838 by Carl Moritz of Berlin. The euphonium was immediately well received as a fully chromatic tenor-range instrument for use in military bands, which is the context in which it was most widely employed.

Bibliographic Citations

Baines, Anthony. 1976. Brass Instruments: Their History and Development. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Bate, Philip. 1966. The Trumpet and Trombone: An Outline of their History, Development and Construction. London: Ernest Benn Limited.

Bevan, Clifford. 1984. “Euphonium [euphonion].” NGDMI v.1: 722-724.

Carse, Adam. 1975 (1965). Musical Wind Instruments. New York: Da Capo Paperback.


Instrument Information


Continent: Europe

Region: Western Europe

Nation: Germany

Formation: European

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

423.231.2 aerophone--wide-bore chromatic labrosone valve bugle with long air column (more than 2m); the tube is predominantly conical

Design and Playing Features

Category: aerophone

Air cavity design: tubular - conical with flaring open distal end

Source and direction of airstream: player exhalation through mouth into air cavity; unidirectional

Energy transducer that activates sound: lip reed (player’s lips) placed over cup mouthpiece at end of tube

Means of modifying shape and dimensions of standing wave in air cavity: incremental lengthening with valve mechanism of air cavity in which the standing wave is active

Overblowing utilization: overblowing at consecutive partials

Pitch production: multiple - changing length of standing wave by adding tube length with valves or slide and by selecting partials through overblowing


27.2 in. height (gallery #1) 28.9 in. height (gallery #2)

Primary Materials

metal - sheet
spring - spiral


Conn (gallery #1) unknown (gallery #2)


19I Connstellation (gallery #1) unknown (gallery #2)

Entry Author

Roger Vetter