The Shepherds Crook
American Brass Band Association
Extracted in 2005 from Volume 1: No 2: Summer 1996
Eb Tenor Horn
Eb tenor-horn is often referred to
as Alto horn in America. One recalls the bell front Mellophone in E-flat as well. The instrument used in Brass bands has the
upright bell. This instrument is essential to the brass band blend, primarily because it is derived from the saxhorn
group of brass instruments.
French horns are the instruments of choice for solo and ensemble
work in orchestras. The sound of French horns is too piercing and penetrating to blend well in the Brass band. There have
been some historical references to french horns supplementing the standard section of three tenor-horns. Perhaps some larger
brass bands will want to experiment with this. By and large, the use of french horns in brass bands is an exercise in futility,
because they fail to blend well in this milieu.
In the beginning bands, mellophones are preferable
to french horns for the same reason. As your band develops, you will want to replace them with upright-bell tenor horns in
Each brass band has three tenor-horns; Solo, First and Second. It would be preferable to utilize two on
a part, as tenor horn parts often become more florid than typical horn parts in standard Band literature. Tenor horns are
frequently called upon to perform complicated viola and 2nd violin parts in transcriptions from major orchestral works.
are available from Yamaha, Boosey and Hawkes, as well as other manufacturers of brass instruments. The Jupiter instruments
(made in Asia) are very inexpensive instruments, quite serviceable for beginners or auxiliary band. You can get a section
of Jupiter tenor-horns for what you would pay for one Yamaha. You can get three Yamahas for the price of one Besson (Boosey
and Hawkes). A grade brass bands generally try to match their section with all top grade Sovereigns or Professional Yamahas.
My experience as a tenor-horn player has been on Yamaha instruments. There were some valve problems that were
irritating. Intonation is not at its finest in tenor horns, and to date, I am not aware of any compensating valves. Lipping
and listening are important in tenor-horn intonation.
Where do Tenor-horn players
Most tenor-horn players come from other instruments. A few start out on tenor-horn.
Drummers, flute and clarinet players, alto sax players, oboists and pianists have all sat next to me in tenor-horn
Tenor-horn is allegedly the easiest of the brass band instruments on which to form an embouchure
that will provide a suitable working tone. I played at my first rehearsal: I was given a fingering chart, a Yamaha tenor-horn,
a 2nd horn part and told not to over-blow!
This point is important. Many musicians who play other instruments
will want to play in the brass band. There is no reason why flautists, clarinetists, saxophonists, bassoonists and oboe players
should be disallowed. These players already have strong embouchures and breathing technique and are usually musicians of high
caliber. Start them out on tenor-horn and once the embouchure realigns, they can be shifted to 2nd or 3rd cornet, or other
instruments as needed. Many pianists can be utilized on bass drum, cymbals, melodic percussion and even tympani.
drummers should not be rejected from the band in the face of a complete percussion section. They too (as I was) can be started
out on tenor-horn, and their drumming talents used to supplement the regular section when needs be. Many of them do not want
to return to the drums once they are on a tenor-horn bench. Many percussionists are interested in arranging as well, and generally
are musicians of quality. Many bands start all percussionists out on tenor-horn in an auxiliary unit. It will make them more
sensitive percussionists to know what brass playing is about, and many will become your most dedicated brass players.
regular complement of percussionists should be two or three; bass drummer, side drummer, and melodic percussionist. There
will be more about percussion in later writings. For now suffice it to say go easy on the percussion. Experience suggests
not utilizing a trap set in the brass band and very little or no tympani. (See the Article on Percussion in a later edition
of the Shepherds Crook.)
It is better to have two sensitive percussionists (cymbal mounted on scotch bass
drum) than several people running about the back row of the band disturbing the rehearsals and performances. In percussion,
more is not better.
What is a Bb Tenor-horn?
is the present day baritone horn. In Europe, what Americans call a baritone is a Bb tenor-horn. While it is in mind, I wish
to reiterate the statement that the only instrument in the brass band that reads Bass Clef is the Bass-Trombone. All other
instruments read treble clef. Yes, even the Eb and Bb tubas, Euphoniums, and Flugelhorn.
Bass-trombone has one other
distinction in the brass band; it is the only non-transposing instrument, so look for the Concert Key in the bass-trombone
The only real difficulty with Eb tenor-horns is there procurement. For beginners band,
keep in mind the Jupiter instruments. A section of three can be purchased for the price of one Yamaha tenor-horn. They are
quite serviceable, especially for the auxiliary and beginners brass bands. Talk to individual music dealers and instrument
wholesalers about lease/own options.
Our suggestion is the bell-upright Eb tenor-horn. Marching brass tenor-horns
in Eb are available and are easy for a beginner to blow. It is my impression that the marching brass instruments that have
evolved recently are not ideal brass band instruments. Marketing of the Marching brass instruments has unfortunately succeeded
in many High School Bands.
For a beginners band, you might also have luck contacting an older established
brass band. They usually have some used instruments around, and usually are trying to find a place for them. Some are only
in need of a little valve oil and a good cleaning. Some may need minimal repair. (Always check the valves and slides).
not as easy to find as cornets and trombones, there are Eb tenor-horns out there.
Good luck in your search, and enjoy
your section work on Eb tenor-horn.
The Shepherds Crook
American Brass Band Association
Extracted in 2005 from Vol. 1: No. 2: Summer 1996,