E Flat Alto Horn

It's easy to confuse euphoniums, baritones and alto horns. Most people have no idea what the distinction is.

Alto Horns

Alto Horns are the smallest of these three instruments. They are pitched in the key of E flat. They have the smallest bore (narrower internal measurement of the width of its tubing) and the smallest bell size. Overall, they are the smallest in size. They are intended to play musical parts that are higher in range than the other two. If you look at the photographs of these instruments, you will also see that the flare leading to the bell is also the narrowest.


Baritones are the middle sized of these three instruments. Their bore size is larger than an alto horn and the bell size is also larger than an alto horn. However, if you unravelled the tubing of a baritone and a euphonium, you would find that they are both approximately 9 feet. A baritone is simply more compact because the bore size of the tubing is smaller. Baritones and alto horns each have 3 valves. Euphoniums may have 4 but one should not rely on the number of valves as being a distinguishing factor as not all euphoniums have the extra valve. Baritones and euphoniums are both B flat instruments. However, the sound will be different. Baritones have a cylindrical bore (similar to a trumpet or trombone) producing a tone considered more mellow than the euphonium.


Euphoniums are the largest of these three instruments. They look like a baby tuba. The eumphonium has the largest bore, which is conical instead of cylindrical in the case of the baritone. It also has the largest bell. If you look at the lower left side of the euphonium, you may find a fourth valve for playing with the left index finger. This additional valve allows one to play chromatics (all naturals, sharps and flats) even lower in the pedal range than would otherwise be possible. A euphonium without the additional valve will not be able to play all of the notes in the pedal range. It is called a "compensating valve". British style euphoniums have a bell pointing straight up. That is the type used by the Saskatoon Brass Band. Some American style euphoniums have a forward turn in the bell directing the sound to the front instead of up. True brass band arrangements will have separate parts for the baritone and euphonium but the euphonium should be able to play either.