Ophicleide English
Ophicléide French
Officleide Italian
Ophicleïd German

In 1835 William Hill built an organ for the Town Hall in Birmingham, England. In its Great division he placed a powerful 8' chorus reed which he named “Ophicleide”. This was the first use of that name for an organ stop; the stop was presumably intended to imitate to some degree the instrument of the same name, a large keyed bugle invented around 1790. Henry Willis began using the name shortly thereafter, and developed the stop to a high degree of perfection, epitomized perhaps in his organ for St. George's Hall, Liverpool, England, which boasted three Ophicleides.

The Ophicleide is a high-pressure chorus reed, speaking on a wind pressure of anywhere from 10" to 50". It is one of the most powerful stops of all; Hopkins & Rimbault considered it the most powerful, synonymous with the Tuba Mirabilis. Irwin claims it to be louder than the Tuba Mirabilis. It is usually found at 16' pitch, but occasionally at 32', 8', or 4'. While most sources describe the Ophicleide as a striking reed, Wedgwood claims that it is sometimes a free reed “on the continent” (Europe). Locher likens its tone to the Clarionet (Clarinet), though this seems unlikely.

The Ophicleide at the Atlantic City Convention Hall has the distinction of having the highest pressure of any stop in the world: 100". It is also the loudest, having been measured at between 110db and 130db, depending on the distance from the pipes.

On the theatre organ, the name Ophicleide is sometimes used as a synonym for Tuba, Tuba Horn, Harmonic Tuba, and Tuba Profunda.


Double Ophicleide


Osiris contains 65 examples of Ophicleide: two at 32' pitch, three at 4' pitch, eleven at 8' pitch and the rest at 16' pitch. No examples are known of Officleide or Ophicleïd.

Ophicleide 8', Great; Town Hall, Birmingham, England; Hill 1835. This is the first example of a stop by this name. It has since been removed.

Ophicleide 32', 16', Pedal; Town Hall, Birmingham, England; 1984. Not part of the original Hill instrument of 1835.

Ophicleide 16', Pedale; St. Anne, Turckheim, Alsace, France; Callinet 1839.

Ophicleide 8', Orchestral Solo; Town Hall, Leeds, England; Gray & Davison 1859.

Sound Clips

See the Sound Files appendix for general information.

Ophicleide 16', Great Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek, Michigan, USA Aeolian-Skinner, 1933 St. Anne


Audsley[1]: Ophicleide. Audsley[2]: I.XIII Ophicleide; II.XXXVIII Ophicleide. Bonavia-Hunt[1]: Ophicleide. Grove[1]: Ophicleide. Hopkins & Rimbault[1]: § 646-647. Irwin[1]: Ophicleide. Locher[1]: Ophicleide. Maclean[1]: Tuba. Skinner[1]: XII Ophicleide. Strony[1]: Tuba Horn; Ophicleide. Sumner[1]: Ophicleide. Wedgwood[1]: Ophicleide.
Copyright © 2003 Edward L. Stauff, all rights reserved.
Ophicleide.html - Last updated 17 May 2008.
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