The Difference Between Baritone BC & Baritone TC

By Douglas Baer
A baritone is a low brass instrument usually associated with a band.

In music conversations, talk about a baritone could cause some confusion about meaning. A baritone could be a male singer or it could be a brass instrument. This topic is about the brass instrument. Included is the main reason why a baritone player chooses BC or TC parts. Since euphoniums play the same parts as baritones, these two instruments will be compared. In addition, a brief description of music ensembles in which one finds baritones and euphoniums will be made.

No Physical Difference Between a BC and a TC Baritone

Baritones are brass instruments with the same range as the tenor trombone, all fingered the same, all played the same way and all sound the same, depending whether a beginner or a professional is playing. It is the musical notation that determines the choice between a BC or a TC part -- those players who read in bass clef play BC parts and those who read in treble clef play TC parts. The parts sound identical; it's just the way they are written.

A Slight Difference Between a Baritone and a Euphonium

The baritone is so nearly the same as a euphonium that even musicians are not sure of the difference. It is important to bring this up since in the United States players of these instruments sit side by side and play the same parts. However, a euphonium has a slightly larger bore size than that of the baritone and, therefore, has the capability to produce a mellower and richer tone than that of the baritone. This is the instrument of choice among advanced players and virtuosos. The baritone has a lighter and brighter sound, but not so brilliant as the trombone. On most models, a baritone has only three valves, but a euphonium can have anywhere from three to five valves. So beginning students are generally given baritones on which to learn and then are switched over to euphoniums when they are older.

Reason for a Treble Clef Part Available for a Baritone Player

Ideally, all parts for baritone should be written in the bass clef since notation for the instrument is best suited in that clef. But, in the real world, band directors frequently have a scarcity of beginning baritone students, so the traditional solution is to convert willing and able trumpet players to the instrument. To make the switch-over easy, the clef and the fingerings remains the same as on the trumpet. The biggest challenge is for a student to become accustomed to the larger instrument. Some advanced bass clef readers learn to play treble clef parts by transposing the notes to tenor clef and adding two flats to the key signature.

Baritones are Heard in Bands

Baritones and euphoniums are at home in the band. They are part of the standard instrumentation in Western military, marching and concert bands. Occasionally, they appear as solo instruments in orchestral works. When Salvation Army bands play on street corners, one usually sees a baritone in the group. In British band tradition, baritones and euphoniums are treated as separate instruments and so they are given different parts to play.

About the Author

Douglas Baer began writing in 1987, when he collaborated with colleagues to publish the music appreciation text "You and Music." He holds a Ph.D. in music education from Florida State University and taught music courses at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.