The double bell euphonium, also known in history as the duplex euphonium, is a unique brass instrument that features two bells and two sets of tubing. In the early days of brass bands, musicians would often play multiple instruments during a performance, switching between different instruments as needed.
However, as bands grew larger and more specialized, it became more common for musicians to specialize in a single instrument.
The euphonium, a tenor brass instrument that is similar to the baritone horn, was a popular choice for brass band musicians. However, there was a need for an instrument that could produce both a mellow, rounded tone and a brighter, more powerful sound.
Enter the double bell euphonium. The first known double bell euphonium was invented by the British instrument maker Boosey & Co. around 1880 in London. The instrument featured two bells, one larger than the other, and two sets of tubing that could be switched between using a valve.
The larger bell of a double bell euphonium is typically designed to produce a larger, fuller sound than a regular euphonium bell. The size and shape of the bell, as well as the placement of the valve tubing, can have a significant impact on the instrument’s tone and projection.
As a result, the larger bell of a double bell euphonium may produce a slightly different sound than a regular euphonium bell, although the exact characteristics of the sound can vary depending on the specific instrument and the preferences of the player.
The player of a double bell euphonium switches between the two bells using a valve mechanism. The instrument has two sets of tubing that are connected to each bell. A valve, similar to those found on other brass instruments, is used to control which set of tubing the air flows through. By pressing down on the valve, the musician can switch between the two bells and produce different tones and timbres.
Some models of the double bell euphonium also have a trigger mechanism, which can be used to quickly switch between the two bells without using the valve. This allows for faster and smoother transitions between the different sounds that the instrument can produce.
The double bell euphonium quickly gained popularity among brass band musicians, as it allowed them to produce a wider range of sounds and tone colors. In the early 1900s, the instrument was also adopted by military bands, where its versatility made it a valuable addition to the brass section.
John J. Pearson was the principal euphonium player in John Philip Sousa’s band and is known to have played a double bell euphonium during his time with the group. Pearson was a highly regarded musician and is credited with helping to popularize the euphonium as a solo instrument in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Meredith Willson immortalized the double bell euphonium when he wrote “The Music Man”. Main character, Harold Hill, sings of double bell euphoniums in the signature song “Seventy-Six Trombones”. Willson actually played in the Sousa band as a young man. He was also a graduate of the New York music school that later became Julliard.
Over the years, the design of the double bell euphonium has evolved, with different manufacturers experimenting with different sizes and configurations of the two bells. Some instruments feature two bells of equal size, while others have one bell that is significantly larger than the other.
Several companies have manufactured double bell euphoniums over the years, primarily in Europe and the United States. Here are a few notable examples:
Boosey & Co.: A British instrument manufacturer that is credited with inventing the double bell euphonium in the late 1800s.
Besson: Another British instrument maker that produced double bell euphoniums, as well as other brass instruments, in the early 20th century.
H. N. White Company: An American instrument manufacturer that produced double bell euphoniums under the brand name King in the early to mid-20th century.
C. G. Conn Company: Certainly one of the most prominent and successful manufacturers of double bell euphoniums in the early 20th century. The company’s “Duo-bore” euphoniums, which featured two bores of different sizes, were particularly popular among brass band musicians and helped to establish Conn as a leading innovator in the field of brass instruments.
Martin Band Instrument Company: Also produced double bell euphoniums during this time period.
Yamaha: A Japanese instrument manufacturer that has produced double bell euphoniums since the 1980s.
Today, double bell euphoniums are still manufactured by a number of companies, including Yamaha and Besson. While the instrument is not as widely played as the standard euphonium, it remains a unique and interesting instrument that continues to be valued by brass band musicians and enthusiasts.
- Year Started: 1880
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Descriptive
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Generic name – not owned
- Owner While In Use: Generic name – not owned
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Euphonium
- Naics Code: 339992
- Location Headquarters: London, UK