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Mellophone
Mellophone.jpg
Classification
Playing range
Range frenchhorn.png
in F: sounds one fifth lower
Related instruments

The mellophone is a brass instrument that is typically used in place of the horn (sometimes called a French horn) in marching bands or drum and bugle corps.

Contents

General characteristics

The present-day mellophone has three valves, operated with the right hand. Mellophone fingering is identical to that of a trumpet, not the French horn as is commonly assumed. Mellophones are typically pitched in the key of F. The overtone series is an octave above that of the F horn, exactly like playing the high F side of a descant or triple horn. Many drum and bugle corps, however, use mellophones pitched in G, although the number has dwindled somewhat since the two major United States drum and bugle corps circuits (first Drum Corps International and then Drum Corps Associates) passed rule changes allowing use of bell-front instruments in any key (although corps using mellophones pitched in G typically have the whole of their brass section also using G instruments, whereas those using mellophones pitched in F generally have the remainder of their brass section using B♭).

The direction of the bell, as well as the much-reduced amount of tubing (as compared to a concert horn) makes the mellophone look like a large trumpet. In fact, many mellophones use trumpet-style parabolic ("cup") mouthpieces rather than the smaller, lighter, conical ("funnel") mouthpieces used on concert (French) horns. When using a horn mouthpiece, an adapter is commonly used so that it fits in the lead pipe of the mellophone. However, use of a "cup" mouthpiece results in a more trumpet-like sound, when compared with the horn-like sound produced from a "funnel" mouthpiece.

History

A distinction must be made between mellophone 1) as manufactured and used from the late 19th century through (c.) the early 1950s, and 2) in recent decades. The "vintage" instrument was visually modeled on the (French) horn, with turned-down bell; it was used as a horn substitute both outdoors and, by amateurs and school ensembles, indoors as well. The new instruments (2), visually modeled on the trumpet, are marketed strictly for outdoors use (by marching bands and drum corps).

Mellophones manufactured exclusively for American drum corps use (1950s-60s-70s) had one horizontal piston valve (2-1/2 steps) and one (half-step) rotary valve, operated by the thumbs. When the prohibitions against vertical pistons were lifted, corps mellophones received three valves, permitting a complete chromatic scale.

[[Image:Mellophonium_Discription-xr.jpg|thumb|right|The type of Mellophone used by Stan Kenton's orchestra, which uses a mellophone mouthpiece Mellophones are more directly related to bugle-horns such as the flugelhorn, euphonium and tuba. Their design is more radically conical than horns, producing a sound generally considered more suitable for martial music; a mellophone tends to be easier to articulate sharply as is required by martial music. In rare instances mellophones (usually old ones) have been made shaped like horns, but newer instruments are almost always built as bugle-shaped marching horns. A mellophone shaped as a concert horn is built with piston valves and with the bell facing the left, in reverse of the traditional horn.

Difference from the horn

The marching mellophone is used in place of the horn for marching because it is a bell-front instrument allowing projection of the sound in the direction that the player is facing. This is especially important in drum corps and marching bands because the audience is typically standing or sitting on only one side of the band. There are also marching B♭ horns with a bell-front configuration; mellophones also are usually constructed with a smaller bore for louder volume than marching horns. Marching B♭ horns do use a horn mouthpiece and have a much more horn-like sound, but are much more difficult to play on the field.

Another factor in the greater use of mellophones is the considerable difficulty of playing a concert horn consistently well, even in a seated concert setting. The mellophone, and other alto-range instruments with a cup mouthpiece, are better suited to the physical demands of playing while marching.

One of the most substantial shortcomings of mellophone stems from its nature as a single horn. The single F-horn (regardless of tubing arrangement) is itself a very difficult instrument to play effectively in the upper ranges because of the shrinking gap between partials. This is why the double horn (which combines F and B♭ tubing into a single instrument) has become the dominant form of the horn in concert use. As a single horn, the F mellophone inherits this same deficiency, and further complicates issues by (typically) employing a tubing arrangement that emphasizes compactness and carry-position at the expense of sound quality.

Makers

One maker/instrument of this type has proven to be of particular interest: the Conn Corporation (U.S.) and its 16E Mellophonium. They were developed by Conn and were embraced by legendary bandleader Stan Kenton, and appeared in Conn's advertising in 1957, with the earliest examples having production codes dating even to 1956. Contrary to popular legend, Kenton himself was not involved in the design of the Mellophonium. The new instrument was used by Kenton to "bridge the gap" in tonalities between his trumpet and trombone sections. Kenton utilized a four-man Mellophonium section between 1961 and 1963, turning out 11 albums; two of these, Adventures in Jazz and Kenton's West Side Story earned Grammy awards.

Literature

Owing to its use primarily outside of concert music, there is not much solo literature for the mellophone, outside of that used within drum and bugle corps.

External links








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