Monday, June 6, 2011

Ophicleide - a common ancestor to the modern Tuba

above: a recently finished Ophicleide next to a nearly finished Conn 20K bell

The Ophicleide is the predecessor to the modern Tuba. It looks a bit like a metal Bassoon. The difference between an Ophicleide and woodwind instruments is that it uses a cup mouthpiece and the pad cups are all CLOSED (except the top bell key) instead of open like most woodwind instruments. The Ophicleide is a conical instrument, like Tuba or Euphonium, but it sounds more like Trombone or Baritone. In my opinion, Ophicleide lacks a smooth, sweet quality that Euphonium has. I think that has to do with the shape of the instrument overall.

According to wikipedia, "The ophicleide was invented in 1817 and patented in 1821 by French instrument maker Jean Hilaire Asté (also known as Halary or Haleri) as an extension to the keyed bugle or Royal Kent bugle family. " Bass Ophicleides are pitched in either BBb or CC and Alto Ophicleides are pitched in either Eb or F. The Ophicleide pictured above is in BBb. 

The Ophicleide was used in Romantic period orchestral music. The most famous piece to use Ophicleide was Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz which was originally scored for Ophicleide and Serpent.  The Ophicleide was patented in 1821 and the Tuba was patented in 1835. The Tuba eventually just phased out Ophicleide as the dominant bass voice in orchestras. 

 I was originally going to post a video of myself trying out an Ophicleide, but it was HORRIBLE. I had never seen one before this, or played one for that matter. So I found a few videos of Ophicleide in capable hands. Check it out.
Our Ophicleide is for sale. It was a bit of a team effort. I disassembled it and burnished some dents out of the main bugle. Then someone else did more dent work and Michael Riepe finished the restoration. Here is a picture of him with the finished instrument:

Here is a link to our Ophicleide on eBay:

LINKS: (if you would like to learn more about Ophicleide...)

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