When buying a used euphonium, it is important to look for any external signs of wear and tear on the instrument, and to see if the instrument has three or four valves. Euphoniums can also be compensating or non-compensating, with the compensating variety being generally thought of as better. Another aspect that should be taken into account when buying is the finish on the euphonium, because this can affect the instrument’s tone.
The euphonium is a brass instrument in the tuba family. The instrument is generally thought to be very similar to the baritone, with the key difference being the euphonium’s conical shape. On a baritone, the tubing system is entirely cylindrical, whereas euphonium tubes get wider, like a cone. The deeper, euphonium sound is the equivalent to the cello in a traditional symphony orchestra. Sound is produced on the instrument by the player vibrating his or her lips.
Any used euphonium should be inspected for signs of external damage. Used instruments have been previously owned by somebody else, and may therefore be in poor condition. If there are no obvious signs of damage, the buyer is advised to test out the valves on the instrument. Stiff valves mean the instrument has either not been oiled enough or has been consistently pressed down incorrectly.
Valves alter the pitch of the note produced when the player blows into the instrument. When looking for a used euphonium, the buyer should check the amount of valves the instruments have. Three- and four-valve euphoniums are available, with four valves being preferable. The fourth valve helps to correct the intonation, or the fine-tuning, of the instrument. The four valves can either be placed altogether or separated so that one can be operated by the player’s left hand.
Lower notes on the euphonium often have a tendency to be sharp, which means a little too high pitched. The fourth valve helps to correct this, but when buying a used euphonium, looking for a compensating one is a good idea. Both compensating and non-compensating euphoniums can have four valves, but the compensating ones have an extra length of tubing that is used to correct the pitch. Buyers should inquire as to whether the instrument is compensating or non-compensating.
Two possible finishes can be found on a used euphonium. The most common finish is a silver-plated finish, which provides a bright, treble-heavy sound and good response. The other possible finish is a lacquer finish, which is slightly duller in tone and has a slightly delayed response. Buyers who are concerned about liking the tone should test out the instrument if possible.