A Mello Solution to the Buccine Problem


A buccina is an ancient brass instrument that was used in the Roman army. In the spirit of that instrument Respighi called for this instrument in two of his works. From the Wikipedia we learn

In the final section of his orchestral work Pines of Rome (The Roman Pines), Respighi calls for six instruments of different ranges notated as “Buccine” (Italian plural), although he expected them to be played on modern saxhorns or flugelhorns. Similarly, he also used these instruments in the opening movement of his Feste Romane (The Roman Festivals).

As indicated in the article, modern instruments are substituted, usually some combination of trumpets, horns, and trombones. However, we learn from reader Doug Divelbiss that

The Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra horn section used six Yamaha 204 mellophones with the Patterson leadpipe conversion to cover the six “buccine” parts in the last movement of the Pines of Rome. It was a big hit on January 21 [2012] and we got a lot of enthusiastic feedback from the audience and orchestra members about this use of the mellophone in this piece. I videotaped the performance and a link to an posting of the video on YouTube follows:

The direct link to the video is here. In the text with the video he notes as well that “The mellophones were borrowed from the Bartlesville High School marching band, which was one of the first bands in the country to have their mellophones converted to this innovative leadpipe that makes the mellophone more enjoyable and satisfying for horn players.”

For more on the Patterson conversion we have a bit more on Horn Matters here, and they have more in their website, with photos. Of this conversion they note that it is

  • The perfect alternative to buying new mellophones
  • Uses French horn mouthpiece – no mouthpiece adapter!
  • Improves sound, range and projection
  • Fixes intonation issues
  • Features an angled leadpipe for the French horn embouchure
  • Eases the transition from mellophone to French horn

I have tried these horns several times now and the one thing to add is really they are not mellophones any more, with the conversion done. I would tend to call this instrument F marching horn, and they are a step up from the stock version. While they may not catch on for performances of The Pines of Rome, this type of instrument is a concept that I believe band directors should look into more.

University of Horn Matters