Mellophone vs. Baritone (What’s The Difference?)

In this article you are going to learn the differences, similarities and which one is easier to learn and play.

Although the mellophone and baritone look quite similar they are a lot different. The mellophone is a brass instrument with three-valves pitched in the F or Eb key. Commonly played in the drum corps and marching bands. It has a tighter embouchure that is similar to a flute.

For most beginning brass players, it is easier to play. At the same time, the baritone is a low-pitched piston-valve brass instrument in the saxhorn family.

The instrument has a piston-valve that has deep cup-shaped mouthpieces and conical bores. Its sound has a characteristic mellow tone quality that blends perfectly with other brass instruments.

Key Differences Between The Two Instruments

Since the brass instruments are designed differently from the flute, I am not sure either the mellophone or the baritone is better-suited for transitioning from a flute. It will now depend on your personal preference.

However, mellophones are lighter, smaller, and easier to handle on the field compared to baritones. Any 3rd bari can tell that in the typical DCI arrangement style, the general parts of mellophones have more intricate countermelodies and runs more than baritone parts.

Mellophone

In addition, it is not easy to get an excellent tone on mellophones compared to baritone. There is also high competition for mellophone spots compared to baritone spots.

With a high brass instrument, it is also quite challenging to get the right feet out of your sound when marching.

Therefore, to hold a baritone, one has to invest in physical work, which takes time and thorough practice. Besides, it is essential to note that trumpet players switch from mellophones to do drum corps.

Those not willing to put in work to hold up a baritone and look confident and strong definitely go for mellophones. It is easy to improve and less competitive compared to high brass.

A baritone has closer air resistance to a flute. However, it is heavy and not easy to manipulate. A mellophone has a tight embouchure like that of a flute. It is easy to play, especially for most beginners.

Baritone

Therefore, if you are an experienced flute player, you may be used to seeing a drum major in front of you and not depend on alternative techniques of finding time like the one a mellophone does. 

As mentioned earlier, a mellophone is lighter than a baritone. However, a baritone is much easier coming from the woodwind. That is because it has a larger mouthpiece.

The parts of a baritone are easier to learn compared to those of a mellophone. A user claimed that a baritone they used did not seem to interfere with their flute playing as the mellophone did.

Mellophones are the most pitchy brass instrument. The huge issues of using this instrument will be intonation and tone. Its partials are closer compared to those of a trumpet or baritone.

To change them, it only takes a twitch of the embouchure. To get a good feel for the horn, pick any horn and play on it for some time. Various notes are out of tone on various horns.

For instance, if you use a Jupiter Quantum mellophone, you will find it extremely difficult to keep the Concert Bb or the High F in tune.

When Concert G or a D is not on a Dynasty mellophone, the High F’s are in tune, but the D’s are not. Therefore, depending on your horn, you will experience various problems with the notes.

You may want to sound similar to a French horn for tone, depending on your director’s mouthpiece choice.

However, it is easier to get that dark sound switching from a baritone to a mellophone. It is also easier to get a dark sound on a mellophone mouthpiece than a trumpet, which most mellophone players use. 

Which One Is Better?

As mentioned earlier, a baritone has close air resistance to the flute. However, it is heavy and difficult to manipulate. While on the other hand, a mellophone has a tight embouchure like the flute. It is easier to play for beginning brass players.

A user in one of the online platforms claims that they have tried a mellophone several times and finds it better than a baritone. Most users report that they find it easier to play in registers. Also, the instruments sound is quite excellent.

Some users also claim that they find that the feel and sound of a mellophone depend on the mouthpiece used. A small, trumpet-sized mouthpiece on a mellophone provides an incredible range and flexibility.

However, pitches will not center well, but one can have a thin tone. Other users reported that when they use an alto horn mouthpiece, the instrument character changes completely. They get a thick, rich sound.

Which One Is Easier To Play?

That depends on an individual’s perspective and skill set. Brass instruments require the most air is blown, which can be difficult for several people to blow into continuously. However, other individuals might find it easy.

One should try out the instruments by playing a simple tune and looking for information on how to play the instrument easily. Also, find out its strengths and weaknesses.

In addition, experts do not advise one to pick an instrument simply because it is easy to play. Its sound may not be what you are looking for. When it comes to deciding between a hard brass instrument that you like or an easy instrument that you dislike, it is best to pick the hard instrument you like.

Since you will play that instrument for a better part of your life, it will only take you a brief period to perfect your skills.

However, it is easy to march mellophone, but easier to play baritone. Depending on what you are aware of, you will struggle with making an informed decision. Go for what you are interested in the most since you will spend hours practicing on end.

Pick a brass instrument that you enjoy, and your transition will be easier. It is better to try out a mellophone and baritone to pick the one you like the best.

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