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Podcasts at a Glance
Episode 126 - Live at IHS 2011
Episode 125 - Summer Camps
Episode 124 - First Horns
Episode 123 - Cool Cases
Episode 122 - Gordon Higginbottom
Episode 121 - Dream Horns
Episode 120 - How Much Practice?
Episode 119 - Top 5 for 2010
Episode 118 - Oil!
Episode 117 - Back to School
Episode 116 - French Horns on YouTube
Episode 115 - 2010 IHS Symposium
Episode 114 - Patterson Shoot-Out
Episode 113 - French Horn Nation Live
Episode 112 - Alto Horn Advocate
Episode 111 - Double Descants
Episode 110 - Ascending Horn
Episode 109 - High Notes
Episode 108 - Mouthpiece Recommendations
Episode 107 - Beyond Farkas
Episode 106 - Embouchure Tools
Episode 105 - Vienna Horns
Episode 104 - James Peterson
Episode 103 - N.A.M.M. 2010
Episode 102 - Mike McCool
Episode 101 - Top 5 for 2009
Episode 100 - Secrets
Episode 99 - Coping with the Tenor Horn
Episode 98 - Horn Hacks
Episode 97 - Listener Questions 5
Episode 96 - Patterson Leadpipe
Episode 95 - Humboldt Workshop
Episode 94 - Mouthpiece Wheel of Doom
Episode 93 - Single Horns
Episode 92 - Horn Matters
Episode 91 - Marching w/ French Horns
Episode 90 - DCI 2009
Episode 89 - French Horn Nation 2009
Episode 88 - 2009 IHS Symposium
Episode 87 - Tenor Horns on YouTube
Episode 86 - Listener Questions 4
Episode 85 - Gino Cipriani
Episode 84 - Complete Guide to Brass
Episode 83 - Mellos on YouTube 3
Episode 82 - ID'ing Old Horns
Episode 81 - History Revisited
Episode 80 - Quick Horn Changes
Episode 79 - Limited Practice Time
Episode 78 - John Meehan
Episode 77 - History of the Mellophone
Episode 76 - Getting It Back
Episode 75 - N.A.M.M. 2009
Episode 74 - Must-Have CD's
Episode 73 - Nirschl and Monette
Episode 72 - Pimp My Horn
Episode 71 - Top 5 for 2008
Episode 70 - Fingerings
Episode 69 - 4 Christmas Clips
Episode 68 - Gifts '08
Episode 67 - What We're Playing Now
Episode 66 - St. Paul's Brass Quintet
Episode 65 - CN's Tenor Horn Adventure
Episode 64 - Bonnie Ott Thompson
Episode 63 - Improv for Dummies
Episode 62 - All-American College Band
Episode 61 - Mellos on Facebook
Episode 60 - See the Girls Dance
Episode 59 - Marching French Horns
Episode 58 - Piston/Rotor Horns
Episode 57 - Bb Marching Horns
Episode 56 - Getting Back In Shape
Episode 55 - Vibrato
Episode 54 - Listener Questions 3
Episode 53 - Blazing Technique
Episode 52 - Range
Episode 51 -
Tonguing & Articulation
Episode 50 - Flexibility
Episode 49 - Drum Corps Minis
Episode 48 - Holly Marino
Episode 47 - Chris Nalls
Episode 46 - The Brass Gym
Episode 45 - Carmel Kenton Project
Episode 44 - First Year Anniversary
Episode 43 - 3 Listening Assignments
Episode 42 - Music Librarian Karen Smith
Episode 41 - Kevin Gamin
Episode 40 - Intonation
Episode 39 - Jupiter Quantum 5050
Episode 38 - Churches and Pits
Episode 37 - Karl Hammond
Episode 36 - Griffin Gunter
Episode 35 - A Mello Catechism
Episode 34 - Mellos on YouTube 2
Episode 33 - Listener Questions 2
Episode 32 - Top 5 for 2007
Episode 31 - Corps Auditions
Episode 30 - Gifts
Episode 29 - Kelly Smith
Episode 28 - From the 50 Yard Line
Episode 27 - Coping as a Trumpet Player
Episode 26 - Summer With Teal
Episode 25 - What's In Your Case?
Episode 24 - G Mellos
Episode 23 - Mello for Woodwinds
Episode 22 - Listener Questions 1
Episode 21 - Mini Corps 2007
Episode 20 - Mutes
Episode 19 - The IYM Mouthpiece
Episode 18 - J.D. Shaw
Episode 17 - DCI Finals 2007 Recap
Episode 16 - Descants & Triple Horns
Episode 15 - Coping as a French Hornist
Episode 14 - Music in Motion
Episode 13 - Buying Mellos on eBay
Episode 12 - Mellos on the Web
Episode 11 - Warm-Ups
Episode 10 - The Great Mouthpiece Debate
Episode 9 - Yamaha Mellophones
Episode 8 - New Horns at WW&BW
Episode 7 - Mark Taylor
Episode 6 - The Mellophonium
Episode 5 - Mellos on YouTube
Episode 4 - Paula Hyman
Episode 3 -
French Horns & Tenor Horns
Episode 2 - Our Horns
Episode 1 -
A Mello Catechism: A Guide to the World of Mellophones and Marching Horns.
A slightly irreverent but highly practical tome on all things
Mellophone. Includes information on Mellophone history, mouthpiece choices, tone quality, intonation, coping with marching, and much more. 30 pages.
$15. Purchase and pay for this publication securely through PayPal.
Episode 20: Mutes
- First we want to congratulate Scooter and
Star United, who are this year's Mini
- Also, check out the updated logo. Do you like it?
Mutes. Okay, there's seldom a call for the Mellophone to use a mute, but
it can be used in the following settings:
- If you're covering trombone parts (like in a pit band)
- Straight Mutes/Cup Mutes/etc.
Chances are your horn does not have a french horn-sided throat. Some traditional
Mellophones might, at which point you can easily use french horn mutes. This will take some trial and error.
Tenor trombone (or sometimes bass trombone) mutes seem to work extremely well, but not the flared ones. Since you won't use them much, I recommend the Humes and Berg Stone-Lined mutes.
- To quote Greg Monks: "The straight mute is perhaps the most important of the mutes where the
Mellophone is concerned. The moment you place a straight mute in the bell of a
Mellophone, especially the “classic”, it is then that you realize the Mellophone is in no way related to the French horn. The instrument automatically sounds like a tenor cornet or trumpet, and there is often the instinctive impulse to play it like one."
- As for cup mutes, Greg says: "Generally speaking, there are two types of cup mutes. One has a cup with a scalloped edge, and the other has a straight edge that lies closer to the bell. The former has that classic “cup” sound, whilst the latter has a sound often described as “velvety”. Again, these mutes are made for the French horn, but the tenor and bass trombone variety will do."
- Mark thinks a bubble (or Harmon) mute is also useful, but it's difficult to try on a Mellophone due to the flare of the mute itself. This requires further testing.
- Practice Mutes
- If you're a city dweller, you need to find a good practice mute.
- Practice mutes can effect the horn's natural resonance, which effects your breathing and how much you "push" when you play. On the upside, it's not unlike running with ankle weights. Take the mute out and you're suddenly very, very powerful. Another problem with them is that it effects the weight of your horn, as well as your intonation. But, again, if it's between using a practice mute and not practicing at all, I'd grab that puppy.
- Practice mutes, unlike others, totally seal the bell. The cork surrounds the mute evenly. The result is a total muting of the sound, with the desired effect being as inaudible as possible. I personally recommend trombone mutes in lieu of French Horn mutes as the seal occurs further up the bell.
- Good Practice Mutes
Granted, there are other mutes out there, but considering the infrequency you'll use them, having a good straight, cup and practice mute
(and possibly a bubble mute) in your arsenal should be enough (in our opinions).
Silent Brass works quite well. The alto trombone version should fit the average Mellophone. The down-side is that the Silent Brass mutes are quite heavy and won't stay in the bell. They're also extremely pricey as they include all sorts of electronics that make for a great practice session, but are quite cumbersome.
- The Denis Wick trombone practice mute also works quite well, but you really should test it on your horn first as it is flared.
- The Humes & Berg
Mannie Klein "Sh! Sh! -- Quiet" (you gotta love the name!) Stone-lined practice mute for Trombone is VERY good.
- Al's personal favorite and recommendation is the SshhhhMUTE, available online from
Bremner Music. According to the website:
- Helps improve tonal quality
- Develop & open the throat muscles to give better air supply
- Enable accurate tuning throughout the range
- Weigh 13% less than traditional metal practice mutes, making your practice sessions easier
- Is made from tough ABS plastic; it won't dent if you drop it
- Enhance pitching and accuracy
Al's tried both the Trombone and Tenor Horn mute and found for the Mellophone the Trombone mute is the way to go (the only difference is the positioning of the rubber, with the Tenor Horn mute's being a bit lower).
Al's been using it for a while and is quite happy with it!
- Mark has heard of
Best Brass mute, which is small, light and works well. We haven't
tried it, but Al is willing to invest in one and report back.
Running Time: 31:45
- Listening Assignment:
"Nessun Dorma" from Phantom Regiment's 1991 show.
- It's obvious they're still playing G bugles.
The soloist is none other than our friend J.D. Shaw!
Al and Mark discuss how Corps shows are more theatrical and thematic then
they once were. Mark sort of misses the old days, but Al likes how
The IYM Larry Kerchner Mellophone Mouthpiece
Dr. John Q. Ericson,
- With us this week is Tony Vaccaro, President of the
- Tony explains the
genesis of the IYM Corporation, their Mellophone mouthpiece and Larry Kerchner's
- IYM believes the sound begins with the mouthpiece. It's
also the source of intonation problems.
- All aspects were re-designed and
deliberately less trumpet-like, including the cup and rim. If anything,
it's more French Horn-like.
- The mass of the mouthpiece controls unnecessary
vibrations, and the weight of it acts as a counterbalance, which helps reduce
- First testers were French Horn players. The
Cavaliers also tested it extensively and re-scored their music accordingly.
Judges seemed to like the sound.
Other manufacturers have stopped development based on this mouthpiece.
John feels it's the "next generation" of Mellophone mouthpieces, being in
between a Mellophone mouthpiece and a French Horn mouthpiece. With the old
mouthpieces, the Mellophone becomes a lower trumpet, but with this mouthpiece it
functions more as a true middle section.
Mark likes it in that he can switch back and forth between French Horn and
Mellophone in mid-session with no stress. He also likes the sound that it
French Horn players can go from marching season to concert season with no
Reportedly, the tone doesn't cut the same. The IYM causes the horn
to play more in tune, which makes the tone behave differently. It also
requires the player be much more relaxed or it will not respond properly.
It can't be overblown.
Works best if everyone in the section is playing with the same mouthpiece.
Tony says more Corps are looking to the IYM mouthpiece.
There will not be other versions of the mouthpiece (cups, etc.). There are
currently two versions, one for the King horns and one for everything else.
The only difference is the size of the stem (the King has a larger receiver).
Running Time: 50:37
- Listening Assignment:
"The Great Fire of 1871" from the Cavaliers' 2005 show "My Kind
arranged by Richard Saucedo, Bret Kuhn & Erik Johnson.
- Mellos are featured on ladders!
This is the first time the IYM has been used by a Corps.
Episode 18: Interview with
- With us this week is J.D. Shaw, a literal legend in the world of Drum Corps
- Started with the Sky Riders from Hutchison, KS from
86-89, and then Phantom Regiment in 90 and 91. Played flugelhorn his first
year, then Mellophone and French Horn. Now he's the arranger for Phantom
- After aging out, he taught the horn line for two years. A few
years later (1998) he got a call from the Boston Crusaders to help them out.
In 1999 he wrote the show and taught them. Invited back to Phantom in
- Maintains Phantom's "sound" with arranging and pedagogy. Keeps
low brass a constant presence with color and brightness. Brings up tenor
frequencies. Scooter calls it "organ-like." Not necessarily a dark
Writes Mellophone parts that he always wanted to play. When he was young
he used to practice everybody's Mellophone licks. When he went to Phantom,
there were 10 French Horns and 5 Mellophones, which had different functions.
Deciding what to score is a group effort (but "1000 Airplanes on the Roof" was
Once the show is scored, he tries to spend 5 or 6 weeks with the corps. He
spends the first 3 weeks with him and functions as the caption head. Then
he shows up at the end of the season to help towards Finals.
Al LOVES Boston Brass, which keeps him
busy throughout the year.
Admittedly, J.D. doesn't play Mellophone any more, though he did assist in
designing horns for King. He also recently got to play his solo from
Nessun Dorma that he played in 1991. Swore off marching French Horns.
As for mouthpieces, Phantom uses the
Karl Hammond mouthpieces. He likes the Mellophones to be a little
brighter, preferring more of a cup than a "V" shape. Most good French Horn
players should be able to switch between a French Horn and Mellophone
mouthpiece. Doesn't care for the sound (or intonation) of a Mellophone
played with a French Horn mouthpiece.
Mark asks about how the sounds of the ensembles have changed through the years.
The main change was going away from the G instruments. Now the sound is
warmer, which isn't always a good thing. But now for adjudication
purposes, many corps are abandoning the particular tone qualities that made them
unique to a more homogenized sound.
Feels true passion happens right when it feels like everything is going to fall
apart. This is why live performances are so different than recordings are
Running Time: 53:22
- Listening Assignment:
"Firebird - Finale" from the Phantom Regiment 2007 show "On Air,"
arranged by, of course, J.D. Shaw.
- Mellos are jazz running at 3 to 5 during the ending. It's crazy!
You can see videos of
rehearsals on YouTube.
Episode 17: DCI Finals 2007
Al Perkins, Ken Flask
- On board today is Ken "Taters" Flask, Blue Devils B and A Corps alum through
the 80's. He also plays in the SCV/BD Alumni Corps. He attended both
the Semi-Finals and the Finals in Pasadena.
- The vibe is great - everybody
there loves it. Lots of booths, vendors and excitement. The weather
was also excellent.
- The stadium was packed - at least 32,000 people, and all
were enthusiastic. There was also a "party" atmosphere with lots of
gatherings before the show. It was a good year for Drum Corps, and the
crowds always go crazy for greatness.
- The level of quality this year was
fantastically high and very competitive. From a Mellophone standpoint, the
quality keeps increasing.
Good crowd pleasers, particularly Carolina Crown and the Bluecoats. (Al
agrees about Crown, of course.) Crown's performance was very, very clean.
Al and Ken hope that Corps like Crown, Bluecoats, Glassmen and Blue Knights will
Phantom had the most powerful Mellophone line of the evening. Al is
nuts for J.D. Shaw's arranging, especially the Firebird finale.
Cadets got robbed a little. Ken feels the narration hurt them a little,
especially with crowd appeal. But their Mellophones were outstanding!
Cavaliers had a great show, but never reached their impact level than they have
in the past. Bluecoats had lots of impact.
Ken's top 3 were Blue Devils, Cadets and Phantom.
Al still doesn't quite "get" the Blue Devil's show. He gets the beginning
and the end, but gets a little lost in the middle. Ken has heard this a
lot from others, but he does "get it."
Favorite Mellophone sections: Cadets and Phantom. Phantom
was the most powerful.
Running Time: 19:48
Episode 16: Descant Horns,
Triple Horns and the Mellophone
Dr. John Q. Ericson
- What is a Descant horn?
- History/Design features: High F tube.
Descants usually double in B-flat/high F fingerings the same as the Mellophone
on the high F side. Built to take a horn mouthpiece. Very high
quality instruments available, but intonation is a bit iffy on the high F side.
Best to use a smaller mouthpiece. Originally they were single horns
(Alexander made one), but now they're mostly doubles.
- Uses Trumpet/Mellophone
- One can always use the "poor man's descant," or yanking out all
the F slides to make the horn lighter. Farkas suggests this.
Often used in classical situations for high register playing and for jazz.
Most jazz horn players use the B-flat/high F horn (based on Paxman's design).
The double descant has few limitations than a normal double horn. The
worst is the lower treble clef area.
Triple horns can be a little heavy. Paxman's latest compensating
triple handles well. It weighs about the same as a Lawson double.
Single Descants can sound and feel like a Mellophone. Mellophoniums are
also very similar to Descants.
John feels the Descant has a better higher register than the Mellophone.
Sadly, he's right. The YMP 203 had a decent high range, but others are a
strain. Mellophoniums are even worse.
- Listening Assignment:
"The Grove by the River" from the album "Horn of Plenty" by
Meir Rimon with the Israel Philharmonic.
- Mark has a good story about
Running Time: 29:40
Episode 15: Coping with the
Mellophone as a French Horn Player
Dr. John Q. Ericson
- We're still trying out new theme music.
- Our guest today is Dr. John Q.
Ericson, Associate Professor of Horn at Arizona State University.
John has been spending his summer working with the Mellophone and how it will
impact his students.
John keeps an online Blog about
many things, including the Mellophone. He also authors
The Mello Zone
John says it's best as a Horn player to use a Horn mouthpiece, but it's best to
use a smaller one. He likes the Yamaha 30C4. It's also better for
the mouthpiece to have a smaller throat. Also uses the
descant horn mouthpiece.
They're better for articulation. A Mello 6 gives the instrument a
completely different sound. (Even Scooter admits that the Mello 6 is too
small for today's Mellos.)
Most Horn teachers have three suggestions for their students in regards to
marching: Percussion, Guard or Drum Major.
The center of the French Horn is also quite lower than the Mellophone. On
the Mello, warm up low and plays lots of pedal tones.
Al says to give the French Horn plenty of time early in the day if your marching
rehearsal is later. If you're in a Corps, it's harder. Buzz on the
French Horn mouthpiece when you can to maintain your embouchure. But good
students tend to get their French Horn chops back fairly quickly after marching
season. All suggests the IYM.
Embouchure-wise, try to avoid the trumpet-like embouchure. Try to use more
John likes using a
mouthpiece. Just don't bend the lead pipe!
One of the most important things you can do on Mellophone is warm down.
Play as low as possible, lot of pedal tones.
In regards to the Tenor Horn mouthpiece, it is hard to play a
mouthpiece that size if you are a French Horn player, and once you're used to
it, going back is extremely hard. They are, though, easier to get used to
than the Mello 6 mouthpiece.
Use a dime to gauge your cup and rim size.
- Listening Assignment:
"With the Wind and the Rain in Your Hair" from the album "Mellophone" by
(which is STILL unavailable on CD).
- As always, Scooter is a fountain of knowledge!
Clip is from 1953 and a good example of an E-flat Mellophone with a large
Running Time: 34:50
Episode 14: Music in Motion
- We're trying out new theme music!
- Al reports on his trip to Hershey, PA, and Music in Motion on July 9th,
sponsored by Youth Education in the Arts.
The audience for these are great! Everyone is very supportive of all corps
The Troopers received a hearty
Al interviews 4 people who have never seen Drum Corps live before. They
all really liked Carolina Crown's show!
Al was very impressed with the Blue Knights.
Crown was clearly the crowd's
Blue Devils were good, but the audience
didn't completely "get" the show.
People weren't so much against the
Cadets' use of
narration, but most felt it was a bit much.
- Listening Assignment:
"Wild Horses" from the 2007 Carolina
Crown show "Triple Crown"
- Arrangement by
- A gutsy ballad. Great releases. Also,
those are embellishments, not cracked notes.
Running Time: 34:48
Episode 13: Buying Mellos on
- Follow-up from last week: As soon as we posted, we got an additional link called "The Mello Zone" from John Q. Ericson, Associate Professor of Horn at Arizona State University. We love John and plan on having him on the show very soon.
- Reminder that Al will be at Music in Motion in Hershey, PA on July 9th. He'll be
recognizable because he'll be wearing
MelloCast gear (available now from CafePress!) and
he'll try to see how far he can take his digital recorder along. So, if you see
him say "hi" and he'll give you a shout-out on the next podcast
(and a little swag)!
- Tips for buying Mellophones on eBay:
- Searching. Searching under the word "mellophone" isn't enough.
Also try "mellophonium" and "mellowphone." Then, search all French Horn and Other Brass listings. You may even want to check Antique Musical Instruments. Many sellers don't know what they've got, so they may list it as an "Antique French Horn" instead of a Mellophone.
Check for misclassified ads. Marching horn, baritone, french horn, etc. Don't expect the seller knows what he's doing, hence misclassification. Not sure if it's a French Horn or a Mellophone? Usually it's pretty obvious, but if it's in question, look at the valve slides.
Research the instrument. Check out completed auctions of the same instrument and get a fix on the likely market value of the instrument. As
Al's dad used to say; "An item is worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it." Additionally, check in with Kenton at
Horn-u-copia in case he's got some information on the make/model that's being sold.
Evaluating the horn. Here are some quick tips:
- Check for excessive dents and bent lead pipes.
- Does it have a case? This can be an attractive feature and therefore, the more it will cost.
- Does it come in F, E-flat or both? The more keys the horn plays in, the more attractive and, therefore, the more it will cost.
- There is no perfect traditional
Mellophone manufacturer. It's all trial and error. Don't expect the seller to know if the fifth partial is in tune or not.
- Research the seller. Low numbers or negative feedback should cause concern. It's also not uncommon for someone to find some old horn in
granddad's attic and is selling for the first time. There's a certain gamble when dealing with eBay.
Does the seller accept PayPal? That's an indicator that they're a little more
reputable than others. If the seller ONLY takes money orders, check their feedback carefully.
Ask questions of the seller. Don't hesitate to ask for more photos. If you see a horn and want a second opinion, go to Horn-u-copia, or send us an E-mail. We'll give you our opinion.
Beware of snipers (auction participants who start placing their bids at the final moments). It is very common for the price to jump up suddenly within the last few minutes.
There are services that will do this (like
- Don't be afraid to "walk away." Predetermine the most you'll pay for an instrument and stick with it. Due to snipers, you will probably have to put in the actual amount you'll pay. If you try to lowball, you may get burned.
Have the horn insured. Things get lost in the mail. Don't
let it be your horn!
- Packing. Request good packing.
Also, if you're selling, be sure to pack it well. Newspaper isn't
- Listening Assignment:
"Me Voy" by Johnny Richards, from the
Mosaic Select CD
- This 3-CD set is a compilation of 6 Johnny Richards albums.
- 2 of the albums feature Ray Starling, including "Spanish Spoken Here,"
where this clip comes from.
- Though this clip is relatively tame, the album as a whole has some of
the best Mellophone playing EVER!
- Scooter recently featured Ray Starling on his own podcast! Give it
Running Time: 39:03
Episode 12: Mellos on the Web
- There aren't a lot of sites on the Web. Scooter breaks them down as:
- Institutional (college sections, etc.) which are typically current,
- Manifesto pages
- "What's a Mellophone" page
- "Check out my Mellophone"
The Middle Horn Leader and
Al's Mellophone Page
are the de facto champs.
- The two most prominent sites are
The Mellophone World Order (which
has a player index) and
Madness (which has a large collection of links) -- both are terribly out of
date and most links are dead.
- Al and Scooter like
Uniqhorn's French Horn Mellophone Discussion.
Also good is Eric Trotman's Past & Present Brass wind Instrument collection: Mellophones,
Altophones and Frumpets. It's mostly pictures and he does sell them
from time to time, so check back often. Sadly, he does know what they're
worth, so they ain't cheap.
Also deserving mention is Horn-u-copia,
which has lots of good indexes. They're best at identifying old horns.
Then there's the What is a
Mellophone page from hornplayer.net. We have a lot of respect for the
despite the cheesy music, who claims to have a VERY old horn. She also has
some interesting pictures of Stan Kenton's Mellophonium section -- in color!
Props also go to the College sites with good Mellophone pages. We've found
good ones at
Two good sites with good forums are
Drum Corps Planet and Marching
Band Planet. (Scoter's views are solely his own and do not reflect the
views of The MelloCast or the people on the show .. except Scooter, of course!)
Both Middle Horn Leader and Al's Mellophone Page have links pages, which should
be checked out.
One can also find Mellophone players and fans on Facebook and MySpace.
Scooter found a Facebook page of someone wanting to sacrifice a Mellophone.
- Listening Assignment:
"Split Complimentaries" from the
- Composed by Josh Talbert, who wrote it as an I&E piece for Mellophones
- Blast picked it up and did some re-arranging, including adding
- The visuals are awesome! If you haven't seen it live, watch the
Running Time: 28:40
Episode 11: Warm-Ups
- Al gives the caveat -- warming up on Mellophone is no different than any
brass instrument. Also, we can't recommend how you SHOULD warm up, but at
least we could share our warm-ups with you with the hopes of sharing techniques.
Al goes through his daily warm-up, which includes:
Slow, long tones from G, going down chromatically, returning to
the G after each descending tone. Repeat starting on low C, then 3rd space
Whole notes starting on 3rd space C, playing C-B-B-C, B-Bb-Bb-B,
etc. going down chromatically, focusing on the air stream between each note.
Lip slurs for some flexibility.
Arpeggios from the
French Horn Playing book for pitch centering and range expansion.
12 major scales and arpeggios, plus chromatic exercises from the
Flexibility exercises from
More Arban exercises to reinforce anything I'm working on
- Mark talks about his warm-ups.
- Studied with John McNeil to fix some embouchure problems and the
Carmine Caruso method.
- Has 2
warm-ups - one was a practice routine
- Uses warm-up from John Clark's
Exercises for the Jazz French
- Caruso Six Note studies.
- Also does the Flexus studies
(more than Al does).
- Tonguing exercises with scales.
improvising and exploring the instrument.
Mark recommends trumpetherald.com
for forums on practice techniques
- Scooter says you should differentiate
between a warm-up and practice.
- Drum Corps warm-ups take hours, but that's to
get everyone playing together. They're usually very simple with lots of
slurs but very precise.
- Mouthpiece buzzing? Mark does it as part of his
warm-up, but Al doesn't prefer it.
- Scooter says Keep It Musical. Just
going through the motions isn't enough.
Take a minute to sightread. Use the Arban book as there's so much in it.
But the only way to improve sightreading is to practice sightreading. Use
a metronome and a tuner (but don't
stare at it), record yourself if possible. And play music. Don't
forget to rest as much as you play.
- Scooter likes the
Allen Vizzutti books The Allen
Vizzutti Trumpet Methods
Harmonic Studies and
- Watch your posture. The better posture you
use, the better you'll resonate. Check out the
- Listening Assignment:
"Time for a Change" by High
Brass, from the album
Time for a
- Bob Curnow (formerly from Kenton's band) does their arrangements.
Running Time: 56:13
Episode 10: The Great
Dr. Rudy Volkmann
- The question isn't so much player preference, but what the
horn itself requires. Is bigger better?
Historically, after World War II public school music took off,
and the Mellophone was designed for school use. The manufacturers would
include a smaller mouthpiece as the Mellophone was frequently played by the
weaker trumpet players.
- Rudy was able to get a hold of a Jägertrompete mouthpiece, which is an
alto-range cup mouthpiece, and have subsequently had copies made.
Tenor Horn mouthpiece goes to around 19mm, and the Bach Mellophone
mouthpiece goes to around 19.75mm. The Jägertrompete clocks in at 22.25mm.
Al plays some clips using the mouthpiece that comes with the horn, a Tenor Horn
Wick 2, the Jägertrompete and a Giardinelli C4 French Horn Mouthpiece.
Rudy used the Jägertrompete, all notes were in tune.
- Rudy explains the
parabola and his experiment with measuring the
parabola of different brass instruments' mouthpieces, and from there was
able to extrapolate what the size of a Mellophone mouthpiece should be
(assuming the trumpet, trombone and tuba are correct).
- This doesn't apply to
the French Horn.
- Relating to Corps, Scooter says a mouthpiece larger than
17.5mm would never fly as it won't produce the tone necessary to function on the
field, nor support the range that the instrument plays in.
Mouthpiece Express sells a Bach
Mellophone mouthpiece that is 19.75mm. This tell us that prior to World
War II, the Mellophone traditionally used a larger mouthpiece.
IYM is a good alternative for French Horn players who have to play
Mellophone and are concerned for the embouchures. The mid-range isn't too
- Don Elliott clearly used a large mouthpiece. Speaking
of which ...
- Listening Assignment:
"Jazzabelle" by the Paul Desmond Quartet, featuring Don Elliott, from the
The Paul Desmond Quintet/Quartet
- Scooter knows a LOT about this recording.
Running Time: 50:15
Episode 9: Yamaha Mellophones
- Scooter is suspiciously absent this week! (It's all
Al's fault!) But we're happy to have Paula Hyman back before she leaves
for the summer to work with Teal Sound.
So, Yamaha. They've become the horn-of-choice for many.
- As per Kenton Scott, the original YMP-201 dates from 1986-1997.
- The YMP-201 is an actual traditional Mellophone.
- Al used to own one. They're heavy, the bell is too big and very
uncomfortable to hold.
- The YMP-202
- Had a large throat and an
As per Paula, they were very bell-heavy. Also the high F didn't slot
- Smaller throat, more bell flare.
- Still bell-heavy and high F (and low C) still didn't slot well.
- Fixed the high F and low C slots.
- Upper register is a little more of a strain than on the 203. (Al feels
vindicated.) Still, you can easily get used to it.
- Listening Assignment:
The Closer from the 2006 Cadets show.
- 2005 closer was good, but they all liked this closer better.
- Mark likes that you can hear the middle of the Corps, not just the
sopranos and the pit.
- Al likes to follow The Cades online with
Access, as well as The Blue Devils'
Running Time: 17:51
Episode 8: New Horns at The
Woodwind & Brasswind
Detailed reviews of each horn can be found on
The Middle Horn
- Overall, not a bad horn. Not great, but not bad.
1105TH (the picture is incorrect)
- The best of the horns tried, but still not quite as good as the Yamaha.
- Almost identical to the King 1120.
- A disappointment. Uncomfortable to hold.
- Listening Assignment:
"La Suerte De Los Tontos," performed by the 1979
- Stan Kenton chart, arranged by Johnny Richards. This is a Robert
Downey corps arrangement.
- Al has an amusing story about his experience with this piece.
- This is a good representation of the Blue Devils' mid-voice, using
marching French Horns (including a marching French Horn solo by Scott
- Flugel players switched to Mellophones for this number.
Running Time: 35:44
Episode 7: An Interview with
Jazz Horn and Mellophone Legend, Mark Taylor
What are the significant differences to you in playing Mellophone vs. French
- First we revisit last week's episode about the Mellophonium
message from Kenton Scott.
- Now to Mark. Why did you start investigating the Mellophone for
- As a horn player you deal with lots of environmental issues or wrestling
with the horn.
- The French Horn is not inherently nimble. Didn't want a different
version of the French Horn.
- Mellophone already has a history in Jazz.
- Mellophone is close to the sound "in my head."
- What have your experiences been so far as a Mellophone player?
- Brass players are unforgiving, but other instrumentalists love it
(particularly bass players).
- Started subbing with the Wade Barnes Big
Band, and subsequently added a Mellophone chair.
- Sean Sonderegger (a
Tenor Sax player) heard him at The Spoken Words Cafe, then started sitting
in, then asked Mark to join his band, Warrior Circle.
- Recorded a demo at
a recording academy.
Any recordings coming out?
- Mellophone makes a different statement. Jazz elements are easier
to execute. French Horn doesn't speak the same way.
- French Horn can do what it does, and he can use the Mellophone to do
what it does best.
Mark also scores films, including a documentary about the deaf.
Still looking for a "professional" horn, but the Yamaha may be as
professional as you can get. Might get a custom made horn (Inderbinen
makes some interesting instruments).
- A project has been in the works for about a year that has 3 or 4 cuts
with Mellophone, but he used the Holton, which didn't sound as good as he'd
like it to. Wants to re-record using the Yamaha.
- In the two clips from Warrior Circle, one he plays the Yamaha YMP-203
and the other the King 1120. The King had an airy tone, while the
Yamaha was a little fuller.
- Listening Assignment:
"Breath Eyes," composed by Mark Taylor, performed by Sean Sonderegger's Warrior Circle
- Piece was written for his previous album, which features vibes.
- Mark is playing the Yamaha on this recording.
- Second clip -- Mark's solo on "Long Lug of Limbs," written by Sean
Running Time: 42:00
Episode 6: The Mellophonium
Did the Mellophonium evolve into the Marching Mellophone we know today?
Kenton employed a
section from 1960 to 1963.
- A Mellophonium is a traditional Mellophone with the bell
pointing straight out.
- It was NOT invented by Stan Kenton, and the Conn 16E was not the original Mellophonium
- Other companies made Mellophoniums as well (Reynolds, Olds, Holton, etc.)
- Pros of the Mellophonium: they have a unique sound. That's about it.
Intonation is notoriously bad
Unwieldy and front heavy
- Scooter has a
review of the
Conn 16E at the Middle Horn Leader.
- They came with a large bore mouthpiece and an E-flat slide, which,
oddly, helped the horn play more in tune than on the F side.
- You can frequently find them on eBay, though the condition is always
questionable as the metal is thin and they are frequently mistreated.
- Why did moving the bell forward make the horn so bad? It was bad
to begin with. Moving the bell forward just amplified it.
"Misty" by from the album
More Mellophonium Moods by the Stan Kenton Orchestra, featuring Mellophonium
soloist Ray Starling
- He called on Johnny Richards and Gene Roland to create a unique sound.
- Scooter has an interview with
Scodwell about his experiences as part of Kenton's Mellophonium section.
- Recorded live at the Patio Gardens Ballroom, Salt Lake City, Utah, on
August 25, 1962
- Same solo appeared on the
Mellophonium Moods album.
- These albums are basically bootlegs of live performances.
- Scooter has an interview with
Starling, Ray Starling's wife.
- He didn't have an affinity toward the instrument -- he was a jazzer and
would play anything put in front of him.
Running Time: 38:03
Episode 5: Mellos on YouTube
at the IAJE in New York
- Clip 1:
Arguably the worst mellophonist ever.
- We still give the guy props for trying. Why he posted it on
YouTube is another story.
- Clip 2: University
of Wisconsin's Mellophones performing "Tico Tico"
- Nice arrangement but the tone is questionable.
- Clip 3: A
heartwarming homage to Split Complimentaries (a.k.a. the "Salami" clip)
Scooter likes this clip (and knows more about the piece than he lets on)
- Clip 4:
soloing with Future Corps
- Paul, playing a G bugle, is primarily a trumpet player
Clip 5: Dream a Little
Lino Patruno, featuring
Michael Supnick on Mellophone
- You can see the full clip
- Clip 6:
Clip 7: Lee Konitz
with Don Elliott
- Al LOVES this group and has an interview with their leader,
"Geneva's Move" by Lee Konitz featuring Don Elliott.
- Public television broadcast from 1958 by Billy Taylor
- A total treasure for mellophonists everywhere
- Originally a Miles Davis track called "Move"
- One of the few opportunities to actually SEE Don Elliott play his
special made horn
Running Time: 36:04
Episode 4: Paula Hyman from
the 2002-2006 Cadets
Mark Taylor, Paula Hyman
- Was attracted to Drum corps because it was loud
- Introduced to Corps in the 9th grade
- Has only marched with the Cadets
- Last two years with the Cadets she was
the Horn Sergeant.
- In her third year she was Mellophone Section Leader
- Duties included overseeing the horn line and being their "mom"
- Lately the Cadets warm-up has been a point of drama and showmanship
- Since 2000 they have been performing
Played it every year except 2003 (as it was part of the show)
teaching for Teal Sound in Jacksonville,
Florida -- a division 2 corps
- Listening Assignment:
"Liquid" by Jay Bocook from the Cadets' 2005 show "The Zone."
- Lots of water motifs (you can see references if you watch the drill)
- References to Equiis, but most is pure Bocook
- The piece remained mostly unchanged throughout the season
- Trickiest part is the opening lick, which is a very delicate section
(though marching at 198)
- Scooter and Paula share tales of Mark Sylvester
- Despite criticism surrounding the 2006 show, the corps remained loyal to the
- Brief recap of the Cadets' shows from 2002 through 2006
- Paula spent some time playing for the Aimachi Marching Band in Japan (on
trumpet, but we forgive her)
Running Time: 24:04
Episode 3: French Horns and Tenor
Histories directly point the Mellophone to the Tenor Horn, or at least more
so than the French Horn.
Scooter recommends going to the Great
American Brass Band Festival in Danville, KY.
- E-mail from Bob Bohanek from Mendota Heights, MN, asking
about I&E suggestions.
- Scooter tells us about the
- Al goes on a tirade about how French Horn music really doesn't work well on
- Aside for the fact that they play in the same key and are
brass instruments, the similarities end there.
- Mellophone is a much closer
cousin to the Tenor Horn.
- Al thinks all Mellophone players need to be
familiar with the Tenor Horn.
- Background on the Tenor Horn. Visit
Al's Tenor Horn Page.
- For CD's, go to the
Midland CD Club.
printed music go to Just Music.
to the Recordings page at Al's Tenor Horn Page to see good recordings.
- Greg asks about cornets and Saxhorns. Al suggests paying a visit
to Greg's Brass
History Page (which is a sub-page on Al's Middle Brass Pages), written
by Greg Monks.
Listening Assignment: "Capriccio Brillante"
by Herman Bellstead (arranged by Sandy Smith) from the album
The Voice of the Tenor
Horn by the Yorkshire Building Society; Sheona White, Tenor Horn soloist.
Yes, you can play pieces like this on the French Horn, but it fits the
sonority of the Mellophone better.
Tenor Horns have the same virtuosic technique Cornets traditionally
The center of the horn on a French Horn is much lower than that on a
Mellophone or Tenor Horn
So, to answer Bob's question -- find Tenor Horn music. Al
Gordon Higginbottom Collection.
Scooter says to be different and enjoy what you play. Just don't
do Carnival of Venice!
A big discussion on vibrato ensues!
Look at the link on
I&E Link on the
Middle Horn Leader for lots if
information, including YouTube videos.
- Traditional cornet variations.
Running Time: 30:42
Episode 2: Our Horns
(*Scooter sounds like he's under water in this episode. He promises
that'll be fixed by the next one!)
- What's in your closet horn-wise?
- Caveat for traditional horns: They are harder to come by because they are no longer made in the United States.
Your best bet is to find used horns, and
eBay is an excellent source. Just
be patient and experiment. Fortunately, they're not too expensive.
- Al's Horns
Amati AMP-202 -- pretty darned good, but the valves are
- Holton Collegiate Hatbox Mellophone -- plays surprisingly
- Distin Altophone -- Bought used in awful shape, but
Chuck at the Brass Lab in Manhattan worked his magic.
- Dotzauer Circular Alto -- This horn is huge! It's almost a French Horn! The extreme registers are difficult.
- Shout-out to Raison Brass horns. They're cheap but they play well. The valves are tough, and the case is awful!
- Yamaha YMP-204 -- excellent horn!
- King 1120 -- played through college. Also a fixer-upper
thanks to Chuck.
- Olds UltraTone Piston/Rotor
- Bach -- standard cornet configuration
- Mercedes -- student model
- F.E. Olds
- Yamaha 203 and 204, which he considers the best he's played
- King 1120 -- bought from eBay
- Holton 601 -- surprisingly good!
Conn 16E's -- brand new!
- All horns will have their limitations.
- Conn 16E ruled the 1970's. Bach ruled the 1980's. Now it's all about Yamaha, Dynasty and Kanstul.
- All horns have their Achilles' Heel.
- As for bugles, Dynasty and the King MelloBugle
- Dynasty horns were very big in the 80's.
- Most kids are stuck with whatever your band director has. The Mouthpiece is crucial. Take the time to try combinations to
find what works best for you.
Listening Assignment: "3x3x2x2x2=72" from the album
Adventures in Time by
The Stan Kenton Orchestra
- Mark's Horns
- Only traditional horn is a Buecher from 1924 that has slides to play in F,
E-flat, D and C. Played with flugel mouthpiece. A Wick 5 opens the
sound up considerably. Does NOT work well with the IYM mouthpiece.
- Blessing -- received from John McNeil. There's a trigger on the first
valve slide, which makes playing uncomfortable. It's also front heavy and
has bad intonation.
- 2 Holton 601's -- one customized by
Josh Landress at Sam Ash with a new lead pipe. Doesn't record well.
- Yamaha 203 -- gets lots of good comments on the sound. Plays with the
Kerchner IYM mouthpiece.
- Scooter says the Yamaha rewards hard work. Closest to being a "real
- Oct 59 though Dec 63, Kenton was experimental and wanted to try something
new. Experimented with different types of instruments before settling on
- It's a myth that Kenton helped design the Conn 16E. Conn had
developed these in 1957 and the horns Kenton used were stock horns.
- All charts had to be redone, which was a disruption for the band.
- Not legit instruments, so it was hard to find people to just pick them
up and play. It took an adjustment period, which lead to a lot of
- Influenced marching band and drum corps.
- This album is a Johnny Richards composition. He called it a
Concerto for Orchestra.
- Title refers to the time signatures that appear throughout the album.
Unprecedented at that time.
- This piece has mystical numeric references to it.
- Be patient, the Mellophones come in late in the piece.
Running Time: 44:13
Episode 1: Introductions
- The podcast in general -- what's the purpose?
- The podcast will be a meeting place for Mellophone players everywhere.
- Al wants to know how everyone pronounces the word "Mellophonist"?
- Scooter says it's pronounced "Unemployed."
- The podcast won't be all about corps (but Scooter will stay around anyway), though we all love corps!
- We need your questions! Start E-mailing us or post your questions on the forum.
- Mark is one of the few Jazz French Hornists in the world.
- Started on woodwind as well, playing Clarinet and Bass Clarinet before learning
- Mark gained an interest in Jazz in college and listened to a lot of studio music, where he wondered why the
French Horn never got o be the soloist. It was in college that he learned how to improvise.
- Finally made the career move to jazz and found that the Mellophone had the sound he was after.
- Everyone gives him horns!
- Al did not have a jazz or corps background, but wishes he did. Still he played
Mellophone for 8 years through high school and college.
- While playing Mellophone in the University of Alabama
Million Dollar Band, he wondered why the horn got such a bad reputation.
- He forgot to mention that he represented the State of Alabama in the
Olympics All-American Marching Band in Los Angeles in 1984.
- Started playing Tenor Horn and found many similarities between the Tenor Horn and the
Al's Tenor Horn Page, which spun off
Al's Mellophone Page.
- Continues to play Mellophone in pit bands. Still practices Mellophone every day and is studying improv from Mark!
- We can't forget Greg Monks, who is a fountain of knowledge about the
history of the
Mellophone and other brasses. Greg will be joining us at a later date.
- Listening Assignment: "Spring is Here" from the album
by Don Elliott
Don Elliott was a Trumpet player during the 50's, who also played Mellophone, Vibes, latin percussion and sang.
- This is his only album that features the Mellophone.
- Mark and Scooter discuss the inventory of Don Elliott's custom-made Conn horns.
- This track is a straight-ahead ballad reading.
- The sound quality is disappointing. You can't really tell the difference between the Mellophone and the Trombone. This is surprising since Don was an expert in sound recording.
- Scooter says this isn't his best work, despite all the great things he's done. This is merely mood music.
- Al says the album is Don Elliott's "B" material.
Running Time: 35:17