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.

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



The present-day mellophone has three valves, operated with the right hand. Mellophone fingering is identical to that of a trumpet. Mellophones are typically pitched in the key of E-flat or F. The overtone series is an octave above that of the F horn, exactly like playing the lower portion of a horn in F. 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♭). G Mellophones play much more like Flugelhorns and Trumpets and share the same overtone series. The F Mellophones are much closer to an F horn in playstyle.

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. Most Drum Corps playing on G horns use V-cup Cornet style mouthpieces. 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, but it also shares the same characteristics of a flugel horn


A distinction must be made between:

  1. the mellophone manufactured and used from the late 19th century through the early 1950s
  2. the mellophone 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 indoors by amateurs and school ensembles. The recent instruments are visually modeled on the trumpet, and 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 (1 step) and one (half-step) rotary valve operated by the thumbs. When the prohibitions against vertical pistons were lifted, corps mellophones received two vertical piston valves. In 1989 rules passed to include a third vertical piston, permitting a complete chromatic scale. Mellophone Bugles keyed in G were primarily used until 2000 when rules passed allowing any-key instrument.

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 its ease of use as compared to the considerable difficulty of playing a concert horn consistently well. In a horn, the length of tubing (and the bore size) make the partials much closer together than other brass instruments in their normal range and therefore harder to play accurately. The F mellophone has tubing half the length of a horn which gives it an overtone series more similar to a trumpet or most other brass instruments. This compromises much of the range and tone that horns are famous for, but eliminates the accuracy problems encountered while marching.


Stan Kenton's instrument

The type of Mellophonium used by Stan Kenton's orchestra, which variously used mellophone mouthpieces and a specially designed French horn-trumpet hybrid mouthpiece for Stan Kenton's band.

C. G. Conn developed the 16E "Mellophonium" which was embraced by bandleader Stan Kenton, who appeared in Conn's advertising in 1957. 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 used a four-man Mellophonium section between 1961 and 1963 on 11 albums.

Bach instrument

A Vincent Bach Mercedes F Marching Mellophone

The Vincent Bach Corporation also produced a mellophonium, with the coils of piping more reminiscent of the cornet.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • mellophone — [mel′əfō′nē əmmel′ə fōn΄] n. a valved brass band instrument similar to the French horn: also mellophonium [mel′əfō′nē əm] …   English World dictionary

  • Mellophone — Un mellophone Le mellophone est un instrument de musique de la famille des cuivres, utilisé dans certains types de fanfares déambulatoires (principalement américaines) en remplacement du cor d harmonie. Comme le cor simple, il comporte trois… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • mellophone — /mel euh fohn /, n. a marching or military band brass instrument similar in appearance and range to the French horn but slightly smaller and simpler to play. Also called tenor cor. [1925 30; MELLO(W) + PHONE] * * * ▪ musical instrument also… …   Universalium

  • mellophone — noun Etymology: 1mellow + phone Date: 1913 a valved brass instrument similar in form and range to the French horn …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • mellophone — noun A brass instrument frequently used in place of the French horn in marching bands and similar performance groups …   Wiktionary

  • mellophone — англ. [мэ/ллофоун] меллофон, медн. дух. инструм …   Словарь иностранных музыкальных терминов

  • mellophone — mel·lo·phone …   English syllables

  • mellophone — mel•lo•phone [[t]ˈmɛl əˌfoʊn[/t]] n. mad a valved brass band instrument similar to the French horn • Etymology: 1925–30; mello (w) + phone …   From formal English to slang

  • mellophone — /ˈmɛləfoʊn/ (say meluhfohn) noun a simplified French horn used in dance bands. {mello(w) + phone} …   Australian English dictionary

  • mellophone — ˈmeləˌfōn noun Etymology: mellow (I) + phone : an althorn in circular form sometimes used as a substitute for the French horn …   Useful english dictionary

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