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Euphoniums

As a tenor/baritone-voiced brass instrument, the euphonium traces its ancestry to the ophicleide and ultimately back to the serpent.  While the serpent was used for over two centuries dating back to the late Renaissance, it was notoriously difficult to control its pitch and tone quality due to its disproportionately small open finger holes. The ophicleide, a keyed instrument which was used in bands and orchestras for a few decades in the early- to mid-19th century, was an improvement over the serpent but was still unreliable, especially in the high register. With the invention of the piston valve system in the early 1800s, the construction of brass instruments with an even sound and able to play in all registers became possible.  Markedly superior to its capricious ancestors, the euphonium derives its name from the Greek word euphonos, meaning ‘of good voice’, or ‘sweet-voiced’. As with the other conical-bore instruments (cornet, flugelhorn, tenor horn and tuba}, the euphonium’s tubing gradually increases in diameter throughout its length, resulting in a softer, gentler tone than that of cylindrical-bore instruments such as the trumpet, trombone and baritone horn. The ‘British-style’ four-valve compensating euphonium was developed by David Blaikley in 1874, and has been in use in Britain ever since.

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