The mellophone is sometimes referred to as a French horn, but is not considered a French horn because it looks like a trumpet. Confused? No need to be.
It is built like the trumpet and has its identical fingering and that’s the reason for the comparison, but many players insist that it really is a marching French horn.
It is commonly used in marching bands or drum corps, and has pride of place in the ensemble’s sound. Mellophones are bell-front brass instruments with 3 right hand operated valves.
The fact that the bell faces forward, means the sound is projected in the direction the player is facing. This is one of its distinguishing features, as the bell of the regular French horn faces backward.
Mellophones are normally pitched in the key of F or G, but can also be found in the keys of E flat, D and C, however, the instruments in the key of F are most popular.
To get the most out of the mellophone, you must not only be able to play well, but you must also have a good quality instrument. When purchasing an instrument, pay particular attention to the mouthpiece.
Because the mouthpiece that ships with the instrument is usually of low quality, you are going to have to purchase one separately.
The type of mouthpiece used with the mellophone can greatly influence the sound. As was mentioned earlier, they can be used with the trumpet mouthpiece. However, some players indicate that when used with this mouthpiece, the instrument has an unattractive piercing sound.
The mouthpiece selected should depend on the bore (wind passage), and the flare of the bell. A tenor horn mouthpiece is recommended if you are playing the bell-front mellophone.
In terms of models the Curry 1HTF, Curry 3TF and Yamaha 30C4 are also suggested, but the Yamaha works with an adapter.
Mellophones are also related to other bugle style horns, such as the flugelhorn and the euphonium. However, the shape is more conical when compared to these, and the sound it makes is considered well suited to military style music.
The tubing of the mellophone is much shorter than that of the French horn, probably about half the length, so this accounts for the lighter weight. It has a very colorful tone, and is moderately priced.
The King K-50 Mellophone Bugle (in G) is considered one of the best mellophones ever made. Nowadays, it is not very easy to find, but it was very popular in the 1980s. It is however, considered a quality instrument for a number of reasons.
It is a much lighter instrument than some of the other models, and is configured with two pistons. The fact that the valves are smooth makes it that much easier to play. If you are looking to purchase a mellophone, then these are some of the features you should bear in mind.
Contemporary models include Yamaha, Blessings, Jupiter, and King. The average selling price is about $1,500, but there are cheap mellophones for sale that you can get for a lot less.
Mellophones provide a full rich tone, and are a central part of any marching band. If you’re thinking of taking it up, then make sure to purchase a quality instrument.