The mellophone is a brass instrument that is typically used in place of the horn (sometimes called a French horn) in marching bands or drum and bugle corps.
The mellophone has three valves, operated with the right hand. Mellophone fingering is identical to that of a trumpet, not the horn as is commonly assumed. Mellophones are typically pitched in the key of F. The overtone series is an octave above that of the horn. Many drum and bugle corps, however, use mellophones pitched in G, although the number has dwindled somewhat since the two major United States drum and bugle corps circuits (first Drum Corps International and then Drum Corps Associates) passed rule changes allowing use of bell-front instruments in any key (although corps using mellophones pitched in G typically have the whole of their brass section also using G instruments, while those using mellophones pitched in F generally have the remainder of their brass section using B♭).
The mellophone is used in place of the horn for marching as it is a bell-front instrument, so that the sound goes in the direction that the player is facing. This is especially important in drum corps-style marching, since the audience is typically standing or sitting on only one side of the band. There are also marching Bb horns with a bell front configuration; mellophones also are usually constructed with a larger bore for louder volume than marching horns. Marching Bb Horns do use a horn mouthpiece and have a much more horn-like sound, but are much more difficult to play on the field.
Another factor in the greater use of mellophones is the notorious difficulty of playing a concert horn consistently well, even in a seated concert setting. The mellophone and other alto range instruments with a cup mouthpiece are better suited to the physical demands of playing while marching.
Mellophones are more directly related to bugle-horns such as the flugelhorn, euphonium and tuba. Their design is more radically conical than horns, producing a sound generally considered more suitable for martial music; a mellophone tends to be easier to articulate sharply as is required by martial music. In rare instances mellophones (usually old ones) have been made shaped like horns, but newer instruments are almost always built as bugle-shaped marching horns. A mellophone shaped as a concert horn is built with piston valves and with the bell facing the left, in reverse of the traditional horn.
The mellophone in its early years had one piston valve to change keys and one rotary valve, both operated by pressing of the thumbs, to change the pitch up or down a half step. However, this proved difficult to operate in the activity of drum and bugle corps, and impossible to play a full chromatic scale on the instrument. The mellophone was soon redesigned into a three-valve configuration, more resembling the trumpet and the euphonium or baritone, that could play a full range of notes.
One maker/instrument of this type has proven to be of particular interest: the Conn Corporation (U.S.) and its 16E Mellophonium. They were developed by Conn and the jazz band leader Stan Kenton, and appeared in Conn's advertising in 1957, with the earliest examples having production codes dating even to 1956.
The direction of the bell, as well as the much-reduced amount of tubing (as compared to a concert horn) makes the mellophone look like a large trumpet. In fact, many mellophones use trumpet-style parabolic ("cup") mouthpieces rather than the smaller, lighter, conical ("funnel") mouthpieces used on concert horns. When using a horn mouthpiece, an adapter is commonly used so that it fits in the lead pipe of the mellophone; other mellophones have lead pipes that do not require the use of an adapter. However, use of a "cup" mouthpiece results in a more trumpet-like sound, as opposed to the horn-like sound produced from a "funnel" mouthpiece.
mellophone in German: Mellophon
mellophone in French: Mellophone
mellophone in Indonesian: Mellophone
mellophone in Dutch: Mellofoon
mellophone in Japanese: メロフォン
mellophone in Polish: Melofon