Oil Tankers: Fueling Countries for Centuries

The oil tanker is so much more than just a giant floating barrel of oil. The uses for tankers old and new are innovative and will absolutely amaze you!

The History Behind Oil Tankers

Eniday identifies that ships have been used since at least the 16th century to transport all manner of goods. Tales of pirates attacking ships and stealing either the ship, its cargo or both are very familiar to everyone.

Since then, we have built bigger, sturdier and better ships with different purposes and designs to more efficiently move cargo.

The first oil tanker as we know it was constructed in the United Kingdom in 1886. This ship allowed for oil to be pumped into the hull without the need for barrels. During the World War I era, the United States built 316 oil tankers to keep up with the demand for oil. World War II saw similar increases in demand.

The Exxon Valdez Spill

Perhaps the most famous incident in history involving an oil tanker was in 1989 when the tanker named the Exxon Valdez crashed into the Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound in Alaska. The Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into the water which resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands of animals in the area.

The disaster gained international attention and ultimately cost the Exxon corporation 3.8 billion dollars for both clean-up and restoration costs for the habitat. Captain Joseph Hazelwood avoided felony charges in the matter but received a community service work requirement and a $50,000 fine. 

Massive Modern Tankers

The bigger the tanker, the more oil it can carry. The more oil it can carry, the lower the cost of shipment. This is highly important to keep the cost of fuel down for consumers. This major demand has sparked some huge innovation in the design and construction of oil tankers. Eniday says that today’s ultra-large crude carriers (ULCCs) can be 1,300 feet long! Imagine laying the Empire State Building down on the ground, and that would be roughly the length of these tankers. According to Clearseas.org, 60% of all oil transported around the world travels by oil tankers. 

Repurposing 

Something as massive as an oil tanker has to have some cool features. Just as cool is what has been done with some of the old tankers that are no longer in use. In Antigua, this YouTube video shows how a decommissioned oil tanker has been turned into a floating water park.

Other ideas, like The Black Gold Project in the Persian Gulf countries, seek to use these decommissioned tankers for land use. They could be hotels, shopping centers, airports, apartments and more. The intrigue that comes from repurposing these ships for this purpose seems to be enough to “fuel” a whole new pseudo-real estate empire.  

Environmentally-Friendly Oil Tankers

You read that right—oil tankers are becoming far more environmentally responsible! While it would seem that a vehicle carrying fossil fuel would be one of the least eco-conscious vehicles on the planet, that is becoming very inaccurate. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) powered tankers are being commissioned for their ability to nearly eliminate the release of sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide, as well as reducing the release of carbon dioxide by approximately 40%.

But more than just the use of LNG vessels, tankers like Deliverance have been designed to use solar and wind power to handle half of the ships power needs. The other half would come from liquefied natural gas. All of this actually costs less to manufacture and saves oil companies a tremendous amount of money. Beyond the cost savings, the environmental impact will be substantial—in a great way! 

Bigger and Bolder: The Evolution of the Superyacht

Most people will never see a superyacht in their lifetime, let alone set foot on one of these streamlined, gleaming luxury vessels.

But for the crème of the top one percent wealth bracket, a superyacht has become a must-have status possession and the perfect way to party and travel in style.

Luxury yachts have sailed the seas since the first half of the 20th century. Since then, their designs have got bigger, better, extravagant, and adventurous. This article traces the history of these opulent vessels and the emerging trends and technologies in their build and design.

What is a Superyacht?

A superyacht is a large, professionally crewed luxury yacht (motor or sail powered) with a load line length of at least 24 meters. Superyachts are available for commercial charter or are used exclusively by their owners. They may be designed to emphasize speed, comfort, or expedition capability.

The number of superyachts has grown significantly since the 1990s such that, today, only those vessels exceeding 65 meters (213 feet) stand out as impressive.

Since a significant number of yachts are over 3000GT, all their deck and engineering officers require full merchant navy certification.

Brief History of the Superyacht

The yacht was first invented in the 14th century by the Dutch. At the time, they used small, fast boats (called jaghts) to chase pirates, criminals, and smugglers at sea. Eventually, rich ship merchants and owners started using these jaghts to sail out to sea to welcome or celebrate their returning ships.

The world’s first yachtsman was Charles II of England who picked up the sailing hobby while in exile in Holland. After a ten year exile, Charles II triumphantly returned to the English throne aboard a luxurious 60 ft. yacht presented to him by the city of Amsterdam. He soon took up sailing on the Thames and built about 20 yachts in his lifetime.

Years later in 1720, the Cork Water Club was opened becoming the world’s first yacht club.

Fast forward to the beginning of the 20th century; wealthy individuals started constructing large, private yachts, which became the precursors of today’s superyachts. The first large motor yachts also appeared during this period, including superyachts like Jemima F. III (1908), Savarona (1931), and Christina O (1947).

Superyacht Design and Layout

A modest superyacht between 40 and 60 meters may have cabins for up to 15 guests and a crew of similar size. It may be configured as follows:

  • A lower deck with an exterior swimming pool at the stern, four to six guest cabins, crew quarters forward, and an engine room amidships.
  • A main deck with a saloon, dining room, galley, entrance amidships, and the owner’s suite and study forward.
  • An upper deck with an exterior deck aft used for outdoor dining, a sky lounge, the captain’s cabin, and the bridge.
  • A sun deck with a Jacuzzi and a gym (if it’s not below-decks).

Emerging trends and Technology

The most obvious direction for next-generation superyachts is an increase in size.

The size and designs of the superyacht are directly linked to the increase of billionaires.

Owner-preference and competition continue to drive new design and features such as icy spa chambers, personal gyms, helicopter pads (the new normal), stabilized pool tables, aquariums, wine cellars, movie theaters equipped with high-spec IMAX projection.

Other design trends are:

  • Noise reduction.
  • Exterior and interior designs that allow guests to get closer to the water with features such as beach clubs and sea-level pools.
  • Low-emission and eco-friendly sailing.

The superyacht has a variety of uses depending on the owner’s preference ranging from business matters to parties and sporting activities. However, the main use of the superyacht is going on private vacations to relax.

Narrowboats: The History of These Floating Homes

If you live in or have visited England, it’s very possible that you’ve heard people talk about the many beautiful canals that flow across the country.

One of the most common boats on these English waterways is the narrowboat, which today is frequently used as a floating home—but it hasn’t always been this way.

History of the Narrowboat

Historically, narrowboats were referred to as narrow boats, with a space. This terminological difference marks the split between the modern leisure narrowboat and the traditional working narrow boat.

Narrow boats were first designed in the 1700s as a way to transport goods across Britain’s extensive canal system, making use of the rivers just as we make use of highways today. Their name comes from their distinctive size and shape—never any wider than 7 feet, and generally about 70 feet long. They were most likely designed by an engineer named James Brindley specifically so that they could more easily navigate the narrow canals.

Boats With No Engine

Before they had even invented an engine for them, narrowboats were being used by hundreds of companies across the country. In these early days, the boats would have been pulled by a horse walking along the edge of the canal.

Steam Engines

In the late 1800s, narrowboats began to make use of steam engines. This enabled them to make longer cross-country journeys. During this time, narrow boats began to struggle to keep up with the convenience of the railroads.

Modern Engines

Starting in the early 1900s, narrowboats used more modern gas and diesel engines. This meant less room on the boat was taken up by the large steam engines, and fewer crew members were needed to keep the boat running.

The Fall of Working Boats

By the 1960s, the use of narrowboats to transport goods was in sharp decline. The waterways had fallen into disrepair after World War II, and modern methods of transport meant that narrow boats were simply not needed the way they had been for almost 200 years.

The Modern Narrowboat: A Floating Home

Today, narrowboats are rising once again in popularity, but for a different reason: people like to use these boats for leisure, sailing along the peaceful canals and often living on board.

Even back in their working days, there was a precedent set for living aboard these vessels. The families of boatmen frequently lived on board and traveled alongside the boatmen, as this was cheaper than keeping a separate house on land.

Today, living on board a narrowboat offers a number of pros and cons. It can be quiet, since you will be moored in dedicated marinas and will be away from the noise of the city. It can also be much cheaper than more traditional living arrangements such as houses and apartments, and allows you to easily travel without ever leaving home. If you’re curious as to what this living situation might look like, take a look at this couple’s video tour of their own narrowboat.

However, life on a narrowboat can be difficult. You need to deal with severe cold, constantly ensuring that your stove is lit so that your boat remains heated. Plumbing can be an issue, and the boat frequently has to be moved unless you’re paying a residential marina. You also have to be a handy person, able to identify and fix problems and maintain the boat in case of any damage.

But if you’re the sort of person who loves to travel, doesn’t want to stay anchored in one place, and is willing to take on an adventure, life on a narrowboat might be the perfect choice for you.

Flyboards: The Safest Jetpack Alternatives Around

A flyboard is the closest and safest way to feel like you are jet-powered.

Many facts about the flyboard are also almost, but not quite,  as fun as watching someone pilot it.

What Exactly is a Flyboard?

A flyboard is a brand new invention having been created only in 2011/2012. Basically, it uses water jets to lift up a board platform so you can fly around above the water. The board itself is connected by tube to something that looks like a little boat that floats on the water. The water is sucked up by the boat on the water and pulled up the tube into the air so it can be shot down from the board. So, just like that, you have an instant board that’s water-jet powered.

The nice thing about it is that you’re only ever above water, so it’s a little safer than jetting around on land where your fall is going to be a lot less pleasant. You’re also never going to run out of fuel since the entire lake you’re on is your fuel supply. You’re not very likely to run out of that!

The Flyboard’s Inventor: Franky Zapata

Franky invented the board after being a huge watercraft enthusiast.  It ‘s mesmerizing to watch someone do tricks on the board including backflips, figure 8s, and more. Mr. Zapata first rolled out the board at a Jet Ski world championship in China.

Anyone Can Learn

While owning your own may be out of the question for cost reasons, there are plenty of places to rent them, and the claim is that anyone can learn to ride a flyboard. You just have to have a basic level of fitness to use the vehicle, but people over the age of 50 regularly do it. One site even said that they’ve seen an 89-year-old woman master it in just 5 minutes. So, there’s no age limit, though it may be more difficult to do tricks. However, you still have a shot to fly around on what is essentially like a jetpack.

You can either fly it by yourself with a special module, or you can have another person help control the flow of water up into the jets as well as the unit on the water.

There’s also An Air Version

Zapata invented an air version of the Flyboard that he just calls the “Flyboard Air.” This one requires Franky to wear a backpack full of kerosene that connects to five turbines. Recently, he achieved feats like flying over the English Channel. This version is more difficult to fly and requires a lot more care because it’s dangerous as it can reach up to hundreds of feet in the air. The military is actually interested in possible applications from the device as a way to scout. Zapata got millions of dollars from the French military in the form of a grant to develop the flying machine.

Frank actually had to land on a boat in the middle of the English Channel to refuel before going out the rest of the way. As a result, people call him the “French Green Goblin” from the similarity to the vehicle the supervillain rides.

It looks a lot like the water-based flyboard, except without the secondary tube part. It’s just a platform with an area to strap on shoes and the tubes where the jet air comes out to provide lift and propulsion. Frank has said that it’s tricky to learn to fly since you have to do a lot of flying with leg movements.

Overall, it’s a unique water vehicle that will give you a taste of living in the future.

Set Sail on a Sloop

If you’ve always had a sense of adventure, you may have dreamed of hopping into a sailboat and floating off into the unknown.

Sloops, one of the smallest and most popular types of boats throughout history, are a common form of summer recreation for many people who live near lakes, rivers, and oceans. 

HISTORY OF SLOOPS

Early sloops have been around since at least the early 17th century. However, they did not reach the peak of their popularity until approximately a century ago. Sloops were named after the Dutch term sloep, which means “to glide.” While they are typically used for passengers today, they were once a popular means of transporting goods shorter distances than the routes commonly used by larger cargo ships.   

CHARACTERISTICS OF SLOOPS

Sloops are similar to many other types of small sailboats, but they are set apart from other boats by the distinct setup of their sails. Sloops have only one mast, while larger boats can have several more. This mast holds one mainsail and one headsail for the simplest and most common sloops, though more may be used. Some sloops may also use topsails. 

Many sloops are characterized by their size, and they are often no larger than small yachts. Because they have only one mast and a limited number of sails, most sloops are no larger than 45 feet long in order to keep them from becoming difficult to control. 

SLOOPS AS RIVER TRANSPORTATION

While today’s sloops are mainly used for recreational purposes, often in lakes, they were also instrumental in transporting people and goods along rivers throughout history. Prior to the invention of the steamboat, a type of self-powered boat that does not rely on sails, sloops were one of the most common types of boats used in rivers. Some major rivers, such as the Hudson River and the Mississippi River, were once major travel and trade routes within the country, and sloops and other riverboats played vital roles in expanding the early United States.  

ADVANTAGES OF SAILING SLOOPS OVER OTHER BOATS

Sloops are just one of a variety of possible small sailboats for sailors to choose from. One distinct advantage to sailing sloops is the ease with which they are controlled under ideal sailing conditions, which makes them a fine choice for both experienced and novice sailors. Recreational sailboats are much smaller than other types of ships, such as the massive cargo ships that are used for transporting goods across oceans, which means that they have far fewer crew members to handle them. 

Sailing sloops also offers a distinct economic advantage over larger boats. Using one mast and a smaller number of sails and wires means that it is often cheaper to build and purchase sloops than larger boats. Because many sloops are used for recreational purposes, sailors often prefer to purchase less expensive, smaller sailboats over larger boats with more complex masts and sails. 

SLOOPS IN POP CULTURE

Like many forms of transportation, sloops have their place in pop culture. One of the best-known references to this type of sailboat is The Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B.” The Beach Boys’ version of the song, which is based on a much older folk song from Nassau, was featured in the movie Forrest Gump, and it is considered to be one of the top 500 songs of all time

Sailors of all ages and levels of experience often choose the sloop over other small boats because it is often considered to be one of the easiest boats to manage. Its popularity over the last century has given it an irreplaceable place in nautical history, pop culture, and the hearts of sailors around the world.  

The Scow: A Jack-of-all-Water-Trades

Though the term “scow” has come to refer to large, clumsy boats that lack maneuverability — and its reputation likely hasn’t been helped by the word’s resemblance to the bovine animal — the colloquialism doesn’t do justice to this versatile watercraft or its rich and varied history.

THE BASICS

Seen primarily in the Great Lakes region of the United States, southern England, and New Zealand, the scow has taken many forms in its couple centuries of history.

What all the variations of the boat have in common is their unique shape, consisting of a flat bottom and rectangular, sloping hull. Aside from that architectural aspect, however, scows can vary tremendously in size and whether they have sails or are designed to be rowed, punted, or pulled.

CARGO: TRASH AND TREASURE

In the industrial belt of the eastern U.S., the term scow is used to designate a barge that, historically, carried bulk material such as ore to manufacturing facilities along the region’s rivers. Unlike deep-keeled vessels that require deep water and a proper harbor or docking facilities, the flat-bottomed scow has no trouble navigating in the shallow waters of rivers and bays, and can even be beached without issue for loading and unloading. The squared bow also allows for more efficient use of space for packing cargo.

One particular sort of cargo scow has even gone intergalactic: Trekkies might recognize the term “garbage scow” as a starship freighter full of toxic cargo. This ship has its roots firmly on earth, though, as scows have long been used for transporting refuse and waste in coastal areas, even giving rise to controversy over cities using the boats to illegally dump garbage into the sea.

THE SCOW DOWN UNDER

Even before the age of the internet, good inventions traveled quickly around the world. In 1873, a mariner who had spent time in the American Great Lakes had the first scow built in New Zealand, based on the design he’d seen in the States. In honor of its birthplace, this first ship was named Lake Erie.

The scow’s flat design was integral in being able to navigate along the country’s narrow and shallow creeks. Whether carting stone, metal, or even livestock, it was common for the sailors to depend on the tides to help take the boats on and off the beach, taking advantage of low tide for loading and unloading.  

THE INLAND LAKE RACERS

The trustworthy scow got a makeover at the end of the 19th century when a Norwegian boat builder, living in Minnesota, entered a new ship design in one of the local yacht club’s races. John O. Johnson’s 38 foot-long, dish-shaped sailboat looked nothing like the competition but won handily. After this success, he continued to improve upon his design, with his second boat — known as the Minnezitka — becoming the predecessor of the current Class A Scow, and Johnson Boat Works became known as the birthplace of the racing scow.

Racing scows today come in a host of classes depending on their size and design, with different regions and associations recognizing different ones. These classes range from the A Scow, which is the largest and takes a crew of six or seven members, to the butterfly scow, or butterfly dinghy, which is only 12 feet long and is generally sailed by a single person.

For more than a century, the scow has been an indispensable vessel on both sides of the world. Its success in racing has shown that its boxy lines are not to be underestimated, and yet it has remained humble, continuing to do its noble work of transportation up and down waterways where larger, sleeker watercraft cannot go. With assets like these, we can expect to see the scow on the seas — and lakes, rivers, and creeks — for years to come.

Launch: 10 Common Variables

Ready for a fun day at the lake? When you’re looking forward to having fun in the sun, get started on the right foot with a successful launch.

Many elements combine at once that can either make or break your day, not to mention your boat. Knowing what to expect can alleviate your stress.

Rules can be slightly different depending on the location of the dock, so it’s wise to do some research ahead of time. Taking the time to practice a few basic skills (e.g. reversing with a trailer attached to your vehicle) can pay off in time saved when launching your boat. 

SUCCESSFUL LAUNCHING VARIABLES

  • Wind
  • Boat Trailer
  • Shore
  • Dock
  • Water conditions
  • Experience of the towing vehicle’s driver.
  • Sobriety
  • Balance
  • Position of towing vehicle on the boat ramp.
  • Size of the watercraft.

Wind is an environmental condition that can adversely affect watercraft. Although wind travels at the same speed over land as it does over water, watercraft do not have the advantage of traction. On an extremely windy day, boats are advised not to launch. The smaller the boat, the less stable it will be in windy conditions. When you are setting a boat in motion, or rolling it into the water, it is wise to know the conditions you will face in advance.

Boat trailers are amazing inventions. If you live far away from a water source but love boating, a boat trailer is an excellent investment. Not only will it save you money spent on marina fees, but it will also give you the freedom to vacation with your boat anywhere you want. Keeping your boat in a marina restricts it to one locale. When launching a boat from a trailer, there are a few things to consider. 

  1. Driving in reverse with a trailer is a learned skill.
  2. Mark the trailer when proper launching depth is achieved.
  3. Do not let the bystanders watching you stress you out!

A good rule to remember with a trailer attached to your vehicle is that the back of the trailer will go in the same direction that you are turning the steering wheel. It is the opposite when reversing with the vehicle alone. It is good to practice reversing with a trailer before you are at the boat launching site. When you are comfortable in your neighborhood parking lot, you’re good to go. Also, when launching the boat, it is very helpful to bring someone along to help you. Failing to submerge the trailer to the proper depth while launching is one of the fastest ways to make your attempt unsuccessful. The boat will be difficult to launch if the trailer is too shallow, or too deep. Finding the proper launch depth takes a bit of practice. It doesn’t help that all boat ramps are unique. You may be used to successfully launching at your favorite vacationing spot only to travel to an unfamiliar location and experience a botched launch or retrieval because of a different ramp grade. A good rule of thumb when launching your boat is to back down the ramp far enough to float the stern with the bow still resting on the trailer. Mark the trailer with waterproof tape, or a simple piece of bright twine once the proper launch depth has been achieved. You can refer back to this marker when retrieving the boat, since the depth that facilitates boat removal is the same for retrieval. This simple step will save you a lot of time at the end of the day.

LAUNCHING NON-MOTORIZED WATERCRAFT

Non-motorized watercraft are generally cheaper to launch than motorized boats. Some states have replaced launch fees and now require boaters to purchase permits for their boats instead. Researching the requirements of your boating site before you arrive will ensure that your boating adventure doesn’t hit any snags. The ten common variables listed at the top of this article apply not only to motorized craft but to non-motorized boats as well. Non-motorized boats will be more susceptible to many of these launching variables because they have no motor to rely on. The sailor will be unassisted by an engine if he or she encounters adverse conditions. When launching, balance is key to a great start. Knowing your own strengths and being comfortable manning your chosen craft are important too. Boating is a lot of fun with smaller, non-motorized craft because they can often put into and launch out of destinations that are inaccessible to larger boats. Whether you’re out to explore, exercise, or have fun in the sun, being able to navigate these potential launch variables will ensure a great trip!

How the French Horn Went From a Hunting Tool to a Musical Instrument

We generally think of musical instruments as being intended for just that: music.

But there is one instrument—the horn—that actually has roots as a utilitarian tool rather than a musical device.

HOW HORNS WERE ORIGINALLY USED

When they first found their way into human hands, horns were simply hollowed out animal horns. These horns were not used as musical instruments at all; instead, they had a number of utilitarian uses. Hunters used these animal horns to communicate with each other, while nobility and religious leaders used the horns to make announcements or commence celebrations.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE FRENCH HORN

Although the original animal horn instruments were useful, they were what is known as monotoned instruments—that is, they did not allow for any sort of manipulation of sound. Instead, the player could only play a single note. This all changed in the 16th century, when a brass version of these hunting horns was invented to be used in operas

While these new horns were an improvement, they still didn’t allow for much flexibility in the sound they produced. In fact, musicians in the operas needed to switch between multiple horns of different lengths throughout a single performance just to create the different notes they needed. It wasn’t until the 17th century that modifications to the bell end of the horn were finally made, allowing for a wider range of sounds.

The modern French horn was created in the 1700s in Germany, which has led many critics to say that it should simply be called a horn, rather than a French horn. It was during this time in the 18th century that movable slides were first placed on the horn, allowing musicians to change the key they were playing in. By the late 18th century, musicians had accidentally discovered the technique of “stopping,” where a hand or object is placed over the bell of the horn. This technique lowers the tone of the music, thus allowing for an even wider range of sounds to be produced. 

It is difficult to attribute the creation of the French horn to a single person, as there are multiple people who contributed to different aspects of the horn. A few notable names are:

  • Heinrich Stoelzel invented the French horn’s valve in 1814.
  • Friedrich Blümel was a miner who may also have contributed to the invention of the horn’s valve.
  • Edmund Gumpert and Fritz Kruspe were both musicians who invented the double French horn in the 19th century.

HOW THE FRENCH HORN WORKS

The modern French horn is a brass instrument consisting of a long tube that is wound into a circular shape. Although the horn itself isn’t too large, the metal tubing would actually be up to 20 feet long if fully stretched out. The French horn has an open “bell” on one end where the sound comes out, and a mouthpiece on the other end; it is the only horn with a funnel-shaped mouthpiece.  

The modern French horn has a number of valves that the player can press to adjust the length of the tube, thus changing the pitch of the music. The player can also change the sound produced by opening or closing their lips when blowing into the mouthpiece.

THE FRENCH HORN IN POP CULTURE

While the French horn is largely used in orchestral and military settings, there are quite a few celebrities who play it. Some of the most notable of these celebrities are Jon Stewart, who played for years in his high school band, and Ewan McGregor, who studied the French horn religiously in his teen years. Here is a video of McGregor playing the French horn when he was just 16 years old. 

The French horn’s deep, versatile sound has made it phenomenally popular in everything from military bands to cinematic soundtracks—it has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings as a monotoned instrument used only for hunting and making announcements!

The Small but Mighty Piccolo

A MILITARY BACKGROUND

The word “piccolo” literally means “small” in Italian—and this instrument lives up to its name.

As one of the smallest instruments found in the orchestra, the piccolo is often the butt of the joke amongst musicians. But what exactly is the history of this tiny little flute?

Despite its small size, the piccolo actually has its roots in the military. In the Middle Ages, foot soldiers frequently used both a small flute and a drum as they were marching. By the 17th century, flute-making had undergone an enormous period of growth, with more and more flutes created to replicate the various registers of the human voice. It was during this time that the piccolo traverso was born, heavily inspired by the military marching flute of the Middle Ages.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE MODERN PICCOLO

The piccolo as we know it today was developed slightly after the concert flute. In the 1700s, all of the innovations that had been applied to the concert flute were applied to the piccolo, and the instrument began to rapidly improve. In its early life, the piccolo only had one to four keys; however, throughout the 18th century more keys were added, and the development of the piccolo began to match the development of the flute. 

HOW DOES THE PICCOLO WORK?

The term “piccolo traverso” (“small transverse flute” in Italian) was used to differentiate the transverse piccolo from the recorder. The difference between these two instruments lies in the way that they are held: transverse instruments such as the piccolo are held at a 90 degree angle to the face, while recorders are held straight out in front of the lips.

The piccolo is generally 13 inches long—about half the size of a flute. It is made up of a headjoint and a body, with the headjoint generally being cylindrical and the body generally being conical in shape. Piccolos can be made of either wood or a metal such as silver; occasionally they are also made of plastic.  

Given the way its development mirrored that of the flute, it should not be surprising that the piccolo and the flute both produce sound in a very similar way. To create sound, the musician blows through the mouthpiece (otherwise known as the embouchure hole). The piccolo is designed so that this stream of air flows through the instrument in a cyclical pattern, causing vibrations within the piccolo as it travels. The musician controls the pitch of these vibrations by putting their fingers over the piccolo’s tone holes, thus shortening the amount of space the air can travel. 

While it may seem quite straightforward, the musician actually has a great deal of control over the type of sound that is produced by the piccolo. This is because the quality of the sound is determined not by the musician’s finger placement but by their lips; the shape, positioning, and angle of the lips all have an enormous effect on the way the music ultimately sounds.

If you’re looking for a way to tell how skilled a piccolo player is, listen to the volume of the music—being able to play the piccolo quietly is immensely difficult, and is therefore the mark of a highly skilled musician. 

WHERE YOU CAN HEAR THE PICCOLO

If all of this has you curious about how these tiny instruments have been used throughout the centuries, look to classical music. Some of the most famous classical pieces to include piccolos are Gioacchino Rossini’s “Semiramide,” Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 6,” and Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9, Movement IV.” 

While it may be a small instrument, the piccolo is definitely mighty—give it a chance, and you might be surprised by how powerful it can be.

Euphoniums: The Forgotten Instrument

If you didn’t spend a lot of time in the band room growing up, it’s very possible that you’ve never heard of the euphonium.

This instrument is powerful and popular enough to be used in military concert bands—but what exactly is it?

HISTORY OF THE EUPHONIUM

The euphonium is a brass wind instrument similar in appearance to the tuba. Its name is derived from the Greek word “euphonos,” which roughly translates to “sweet sounding.” It is likely that the euphonium has its origins in a fascinating instrument called a serpent, which got its name from its twisting, snake-like appearance. The serpent was used in classical music for approximately 300 years  and was used in pieces by many famous musicians, including Beethoven. However, it was a notoriously difficult instrument to play, and eventually evolved to become a solo instrument called an ophicleide.

It wasn’t until 1843 that the euphonium as we know it today was finally invented by Sommer of Weimar, although it was originally called a euphonion. As this instrument developed, it became increasingly popular as a military instrument throughout the United States and Europe. In 1870, Japan formed its own military band and employed two euphonium players. Now, over a century later, the United States Army band still hosts euphonium workshops. This instrument skyrocketed to popularity, even being called “indispensable” by the son of famous conductor Edwin Franko Goldman.  

However, the nomenclature of this instrument is frequently unclear, with different countries referring to similar instruments by different names—in Spain, for example, it is called a “bombadino,” while in France it is a “clarion-basse.” In the United States in particular, the euphonium is often referred to interchangeably with the baritone due to their similar appearance and sound. However, because the euphonium is slightly larger, it has a richer, more powerful sound than the baritone. The euphonium is also generally more conical in shape than the baritone. While they may look very similar, the euphonium is more difficult to play and is generally considered an advanced instrument, due partially to the fact that it is a four-valved, rather than three-valved, instrument.

HOW DOES THE EUPHONIUM WORK?

The euphonium consists of brass tubing that can be separated and stored in two pieces. The tubing is generally shaped so that the bell of the euphonium faces upwards, sitting parallel to the musician’s face when it is being played. The euphonium has a deep-cupped mouthpiece, which the musician buzzes their lips into in order to produce sound. 

To play the euphonium, the instrument is generally supported by the left arm while the right hand rests on the valves. By pressing on the valves, the musician alters the sound created by their breath. 

WHAT DOES THE EUPHONIUM SOUND LIKE?

The euphonium is generally pitched in B flat, and falls in the tenor-bass range. It has a deep, rich sound that lends itself to darker, more emotional musical pieces, although it can also be used very effectively in brighter pieces such as “The Carnival of Venice,” performed here by David Childs. While it is not frequently found in pop music, the euphonium is still used frequently in modern classical pieces and military bands. This performance by Anthony Caillet is an excellent demonstration of the powerful, emotional sound produced by a skilled euphonium player.

This instrument is all too often forgotten, overlooked, or misnamed. People refer to it as a baritone or a tuba, or, more frequently, have simply never heard of it at all. However, it is a truly powerful instrument, and its deep sound can lend a richness to music that is unparalleled.