In the genre of brass instruments, there are a few that are closely related.
Two of those include the trumpet and mellophone, and while they are both very similar, there are several key things that differentiate the two.
Here are some interesting things to know about the mellophone, and some of the ways that they are similar to the trumpet, as well as how they are different!
Is the Trumpet or Mellophone Easier to Play?
If you ask anyone who plays both the mellophone and trumpet, they would nine times out of ten say that the mellophone is a much easier instrument.
The two instruments are incredibly similar, but the tone quality of a mellophone is much easier to uphold than on a trumpet.
What is a Mellophone?
The mellophone is a three-valve brass instrument most commonly used in place of the french horn in marching bands or drum and bugle corps, but also can sometimes be used in place of the french horn in concert band settings.
Since the french horn is not normally used in marching bands outside of military bands, most people consider the mellophone the marching version of the french horn.
In many places, it is common for both trumpet players and french horn players to play the mellophone while marching instead of their typical concert band instrument due to the scarcity of people that play the french horn, and sometimes just the interest of trumpet players to learn a new instrument.
Fingerings for the mellophone are the same as fingerings for the trumpet, with only a few notes being the same fingerings as the french horn.
Most mellophones are in the key of F, but there are also E♭ mellophones.
Even though the two do seem very similar, one of the key features that set them apart is the bell size of the two instruments.
The trumpet’s bell is 4.5 inches in diameter on average, whereas a mellophone’s bell is typically 10 1/2 inches in diameter.
What About Bore?
There are three important terms to know when speaking about the bore of an instrument:
The interior chamber of an instrument that the air vibrates through to create sound.
When the instrument’s pipes start out as one size and then get larger the farther through the instrument the air gets. (ex. the french horn and mellophone)
When the piping of an instrument remains the same size throughout the entire thing. (ex the trumpet and trombone)
So the mellophone and trumpet have two different bore types!
This has an effect on not only the visuals of the instruments but also is part of how they each get their sounds!
Which of the Two Instruments is More Popular?
Both the trumpet and mellophone are very well known by musicians.
But when it comes to an average person’s knowledge the trumpet is much more widely recognized because it is used in many different types of music across many cultures around the world.
The trumpet is used in concert bands, jazz, in the background music of many pop songs, and is also a very popular instrument to play while busking.
The mellophone can be used in a concert band or orchestra setting, but it is mostly played in marching bands.
Meaning if you have not seen a marching band perform, there is a chance you have never seen a mellophone before, and even if you have the average onlooker may not have been able to tell the difference.
Due to that reason, the trumpet is much more popular.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Each Instrument?
There is a typical rule of thumb that it takes around two to four years of playing an instrument before you really start to get good at it.
The same thing applies to both mellophone and trumpet if starting from scratch.
Because most people who play mellophone start out playing another instrument first, the mellophone can be transitioned to in a few days to weeks if you have previous knowledge in trumpet or french horn!
4 Factors to Help you Choose Between Trumpet and Mellophone:
A trumpet on average will weigh around 2.2 pounds, whereas a mellophone typically weighs around 4 pounds.
The distribution of weight is different as well, the trumpet’s weight is normally more centered in the middle of the instrument, whereas the mellophone’s weight is typically centered towards the bell due to its larger diameter.
This means that the mellophone is not only 2 pounds heavier than the trumpet, but it also carries weight in a way that makes it feel quite bulky in comparison.
Due to how common the trumpet is, resources are everywhere for tips on how to play them.
With the mellophone, there are still numerous ways to find information, but high-quality resources are harder to find due to the niche audience of the musicians.
So it is not as easily accessible to find learning information specifically for the mellophone.
Trumpets obviously have their own specific type of mouthpieces they use, but mellophones have two different types that are common to be seen.
One kind that is often used is the french horn mouthpiece. It is common for musicians who play the french horn normally to use their regular mouthpiece with an adapter so that they do not have to change their embouchures when going back and forward between the two.
Even if it does make the shift back to playing the french horn easier, this can definitely cause some difficulties playing in the upper register for the mellophone.
Another option of mouthpiece for mellophones is the specific mellophone mouthpiece.
With a thicker rim and a deeper cup, it is very different from the small french horn mouthpiece and is more similar to the trumpet and euphonium mouthpiece style-wise.
Using the specific mouthpiece really helps to give the instrument its classic dark, round sound that is known as the mellophone sound, and while the shift to the preferred style of the mouthpiece isn’t hard for many trumpet players, it can be a big change for horn players to adjust to.
As the highest-pitched instrument in the brass family, the trumpet has one of the most widely recognized sounds in the world, most people can identify when one is being played in the background of a song due to its popularity.
The mellophones sound is also unique, as a mid brass instrument, its pitch is lower than trumpet but higher than the low brass instruments.
When played correctly, both the trumpet and mellophone have a truly beautiful sound that is an amazing addition to the thousands of songs they are heard in.
What About the Price Differences?
Since the trumpet is more commonly used, it has a much larger price range to choose from.
You can get an amazing trumpet for $700 to $800 such as the Yamaha YTR-2330.
But with the mellophone, they are not as well known by people or used as much outside of marching bands, so the options out there start out at a much higher price.
The Yamaha YMP-204M mellophone is a solid option to choose when looking into mellophones, but the selling price starts at $1,600 which is quite a steep price for beginners.