Helicon (instrument)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the musical instrument. For other uses of "helicon", see Helicon (disambiguation).
Brass instrument
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 423.232
(Valved aerophone sounded by lip movement)
Related instruments

The helicon is a brass musical instrument in the tuba family. Most are B basses, but they also commonly exist in E, F, and tenor sizes, as well as other types to a lesser extent.

The sousaphone is a specialized version of the helicon. The original sousaphone, produced by J. W. Pepper & Son, Inc., had an upright bell, hence the nickname "raincatcher". Later versions differ primarily in two ways: a bell shaped to face forwards with a larger flare, and a bell diameter of 22 to 28 inches, and a "goose-neck" leadpipe which offers greater adjustability of mouthpiece position at the expense of tone quality, while both instruments have circular shapes and are designed to be worn on the shoulder.

The instrument is very popular in Central and Eastern Europe[citation needed] and is a common choice for military fanfares[citation needed]. It is used by Ed Neuhauser of the traditional folk band Bellowhead.

Its range is two octaves below that of a cornet.[1]


Philip Timms with his E flat bass Helicon in 1909

The helicon is derived from the saxhorn,[1] or the saxtuba.[2] Helicons were first used in the 1860s for use in Cavalry Bands, then later used in Military marching bands.

Helicon family[edit]

Two musicians playing helicons.

The German manufacturer Melton developed these instruments using the acoustical proportions of the supremely mighty Červený Imperial BB Contrabass Helicon:

  • Soprano in E
  • Alto in B
  • Tenor in E
  • Baritone in B
  • Bass in F (or EE)
  • Contrabass in BB (or CC)


  1. ^ a b "Brass instruments". The Harvard Brief Dictionary of Music. Washington Square Press. 1960. p. 37. 
  2. ^ Haine, Malou (1980). Adolphe Sax (1814-1894): sa vie, son œuvre et ses instruments de musique. Brussels: Éditions de l'Université de Bruxelles. p. 74. ISBN 978-2-8004-0711-1.