An Ophicleide for you

What is it?

The Ophicleide is a French instrument designed in 1817 by Jean Hilaire Asté as an extension to the keyed bugle and a replacement for the serpent.

Here’s how it looks and sounds

Not to be confused with

You may hear about it with other names like halary or haleri. Pronounced / ˈɒf ɪˌklaɪd /, from the Greek meaning serpent with keys and called  Figle in Spanish, Ophicléide in French and Portuguese. A person that plays it’s just called an ophicleide player.

Category

The Brass family meaning it’s sound comes from a vibration on the metal when you blow air. 

Materials

Mostly made of brass (copper with zinc) and it might have a lacquer (a layer) of gold, silver, or steel with some additional painted color on top of it. Material has no effect on sound but it does in price and durability.

Variants

The types are determined by pitch, you can find them in Ab (Soprano), Bb (Bass), C (Bass), Eb (Alto), F (Contrabass). The most common versions being Bb and C. The Bb ophicleide range is from A2-Ab5 and the C ophicleide range is B2-Bb5. 

Before you buy

Prices

For reference an Ophicleide can go from $ 2,300 – $ 3,500 USD, the cheapest we found was a Wessex Eb Alto Ophicleide (Quinticlave) – OE12, and the most expensive was also a Wessex ophicleide, but in Bb.

In the middle we have something like the Oleg C brass ophicleide for $ 2,900 USD.

Weights and sizes

The size of a Bb ophicleide is 35″ (89 cm) – 45″ (114 cm) –  and has a weight from 6 Lbs (2.8 Kgs) to 8.5 Lbs (3.9 Kgs), which’s slightly bigger than a guitar, weights the same and is less wide.

VariantsSizes*Weights*
Eb Alto36″ (91cm)6.2 Lbs (2.8 Kg)
C Ophicleide40″ (102cm)7.9 Lbs (3.6 Kg)
Bb Ophicleide44″ (113cm)8.5 Lbs (3.9 Kg)
*Average of our own instruments and references searched online. 

Best brands and models

We checked a lot of brands and rated them based on customer experience. Models and series are confusing? check this guide. Not picky? you have more options.

The best ophicleide for a beginner is Bb since it is the most common variant and C for being used just as much. If we look at famous players, Sam Hughes had C ophicleide in his Cyfarthfa Brass Band. so if you’re going professional, you don’t have any excuse with one of these.

 Accessories

Here’s a list of a lot of them, but for this one you will only find the basics like a mouthpiece to just play, a case for protection, and a stand to leave it somewhere safe, all of this can be found for other instruments and adapted to the ophicleide like the tuba.

Start playing   

To learn to play each note you need a finger chart (or position chart).

We recommend learning to read sheet music to get the basics. We review resources to help you choose how you want to learn. Now that you know how to read them, you need to get some. 
Sheets come in different notations so we recommend checking various versions of the same sheets, searching for “scores” to get all instruments, and even the “song name for ophicleide to save on translations.

Don’t forget all the details that combined make a big difference like the way you hold it, efficient warmups, positions, and techniques.

Remember, the ophicleide is difficult to learn not because of the complexity but because of its rarity and it will take time to learn especially by yourself, it’s also similar to the French Horn and saxophone, so you can combine those resources to help you learn.

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