1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Helicon (musical instrument)

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HELICON (Fr. hélicon, bombardon circulaire; Ger. Helikon), the circular form of the B♭ contrabass tuba used in military bands, worn round the body, with the enormous bell resting on the left shoulder and towering above the head of the performer. The pitch of the helicon is an octave below that of the euphonium. The idea of winding the long tube of the contrabass tuba and of wearing it round the shoulders was suggested by the ancient Roman buccina and cornu, represented in mosaics and on the sculptured reliefs surrounding Trajan's Column. The buccina and cornu[1] differed in the diameter of their respective bores, the former having the narrow, almost cylindrical bore and harmonic series of the trumpet and trombone, whereas the cornu, having a bore in the form of a wide cone, was the prototype of the bugle and tubas.


  1. For illustrations of the cornu see the altar of Julius Victor ex Collegio, reproduced in Bartoli, Pict. Ant. p. 76; Bellori, Pict. antiq. crypt. rom. p. 76, pl. viii.; in Daremberg and Saglio, Dict. des antiq. grecques et romaines, under “Cornu,” the buccina and cornu have not been distinguished.