Helicon (instrument)

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 first sousaphone, a non-production prototype made by J. W. Pepper & Son, Inc., had an upright bell, hence the nickname "rain catcher" because of its shape. Later production versions differ primarily in two ways: a bell shaped to face forward 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. Both the sousaphone and helicon have circular shapes and are designed to be worn on the shoulder.

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

The range of the B Helicon is two octaves below that of a B cornet.[1]


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

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


  1. 1 2 "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.
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