According to the 5th grade band director, the instrument she issued to my son this evening is a baritone horn. According to the high school band director who gave the low brass students their first lesson, it is a euphonium. My son, not wanting to get the name wrong, now is calling it a baritone euphonium.
The representative from the music rental company (which we did not use, since we were eligible to rent a school instrument) said the euphonium was larger than the baritone, and that my son is big enough for the larger instrument. I turned to my usual source for looking up information, the internet, and soon realized that there is no clear answer.
This website, by a professional euphonium player, attempts to explain the instruments and their names. Since the instrument companies choose to call a better quality instrument a euphonium and a cheaper model a baritone, and the music publishers most often identify music written for a euphonium as written for a baritone, it is no surprise that the general public can’t figure out the difference.
Whatever the instrument he is playing is called, Al is having a good time playing it. True to its name (at least if you call it a euphonium), it makes a pleasing sound – even if you’re playing it for the first time. It may not sound great, but there are no high squeaky or screechy notes (unlike the violin, which I played as a girl, or the fife which my sister played for a while). At worst it just sounds weak or breathy.
After several minutes of making a variety of sounds come out of its bell, however, Al told me that it makes his lips tingle. I gave it a try myself (after carefully cleaning the mouthpiece with alcohol as the band director told me to do if I wanted to share it with him), and I sound learned what he meant. And I also found it enjoyable to make those deep bass (baritone?) notes come out, without a whole lot of effort on my part.
I’m sure there will be plenty of work ahead for both of us, for Al as he learns to play correctly and for me as I encourage him (and when necessary push him). But it’s a good start to what I hope will be a lifetime of making euphony (“pleasant sounds”).