What’s the difference between a baritone and euphonium?

What’s the difference between a baritone and euphonium?

It’s possible that you have never heard of a euphonium and the word “baritone” may make you think of the male voice or perhaps baritone saxophone. In fact, they are both brass instruments, invented fairly recently (in the 1840’s). The confusion between a euphonium and baritone is very common, even among professional players and music publishers, so let’s start with a basic definition of each.

Baritone Horn

The baritone horn, often just called baritone, is a low-pitched brass instrument in the saxhorn family. The saxhorn is a family of piston-valve brass instruments that have conical bores and deep cup-shaped mouthpieces. The saxhorn family was developed by Adolphe Sax, who is also known for creating the saxophone family. The sound of the saxhorn has a characteristic mellow tone quality and blends well with other brass instruments.




The euphonium is a medium-sized, conical-bore, tenor-voiced brass instrument that is part of the tuba family. Its name comes from an ancient Greek word, translated as “well-sounding” or “sweet-voiced.” The euphonium is a piston-valve instrument.


Construction of the baritone vs the euphonium

A baritone has a smaller bore and bell than a euphonium, with tubing that is mostly cylindrical, meaning that the tubing is the same diameter throughout. Its sound is lighter and brighter. Baritones typically have three valves, but may have four.

The baritone horn is more tightly wrapped than the euphonium and has a smaller bell. This makes the instrument more compact, thus easier to carry and handle.

The euphonium has a larger bell and bore, and its tubing is mostly conical, meaning that the diameter of the tubing becomes larger as it extends to the bell. It has a darker, more powerful sound. Euphoniums can have either three or four valves – in the case of four, three are top action, played with the fingers of the right hand and the fourth is mid-way down the right side of the instrument and is played with the left index finger.

Where are baritones and euphoniums used?

Neither the baritone horn nor the euphonium are commonly played in orchestras.  Both of these instruments are relatively new, invented during the 1840’s, and, as a result, there weren’t parts written by the great composers of the 18th and 19th centuries.  These brass instruments became popular for use in brass bands, especially in England, and later in concert bands.  Brass bands, comprised of brass instruments and percussion, have a history of lively competition and importance to local communities, particularly in the United Kingdom.  Concert bands are made up of woodwinds, brass, and percussion and generally perform in concert venues, featuring lighter music, popular tunes, or classical compositions transcribed for concert band.

The baritone horn and euphonium may also be used in marching or military bands.  A specially wrapped version of the baritone has three valves and a front facing bell and acts as the tenor voice.  The baritone can sometimes play parts written for trombone due to similar pitches.

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