What is a Mellophone?
Mysteries of my life explained

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I find myself in situations a lot when I start telling people about drum and bugle corps. This is definitely challenging. In fact, some would say, "For those who march in drum corps, no explaination is necessary. For those who don't, none is possible." For myself and my fellow section members all over the world, we have an additional problem. We play an instrument that no one has ever heard of.

The mellophone.

First, I will try to explain in my own words. The mellophone is a brass instrument. Most people know what a trumpet is, so I usually tell people that it is like a trumpet, only the bell (you know, the big round part at the end that doesn't go on your mouth) is quite a bit larger. Many people also know what a baritone is, so I tell them that the mellophone is "in the middle" in size, which consequently, enables it to provide the "midrange" of the sound in a brass ensemble / drum and bugle corps. Often, these parts include complex runs to mimic the saxophones you would hear if you were listening to a band. (Drum corps is not a band!! Perhaps I will explain later!)

If someone is still paying attention after that, I say that in "old school" drum and bugle corps, we use "soprano bugles" instead of trumpets. The big difference is that bugles are in the key of G. They are designed to project sound outdoors. Also in a traditional drum corps, all of the horns are in the key of G, including the mellophone. There's nothing mysterious about the key an instrument is in. Just imagine if you were watching someone play a song on the piano. If the pianist was playing a song in G, she'd be striking keys in a different place on the piano than if the song was in the key of B flat. That's really all you need to know. To switch from the B flat trumpet to the G soprano, you simply need to practice enough to train your ear to be able to match the pitch you hear coming from the horn to the notes you see on the sheet music.

What? Are you really still reading this? You either need to get a life or maybe you are interested in joining a drum corps! Anyway, one of the most interesting things about mellophone is that when you march with one, you feel like you are holding a dinner plate in front of your face while trying to somehow look over the bell to see the drum major, whose job it is to show you what the song's tempo is by waving his hands. Another thing that's good to know is that even though mello-specific mouth pieces are made, you can actually use a trumpet / soprano mouthpiece in a mellophone. I personally prefer the UMI mello 6 mouthpiece, which I discovered while I was a rookie in the Skyliners field corps in 2001. I was told that it was the mouthpiece the Bushwackers were using that year.

Anyway, if you're really interested, here is Wikipedia's explanation. Thanks for listening. You're either a good friend or I should be trying to recruit you.



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"True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us." - Socrates

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