|Place of origin Europe|
|Other names Horn
de: Horn, Waldhorn, Ventilhorn
es: trompa or corno
fr: cor (d'harmonie)
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 423.232 (Valved aerophone sounded by lip movement)
Instrument family Brass instrument, Wind instrument, Aerophone
Classifications Aerophone, Wind instrument, Brass instrument
Musical instruments trumpet french horn trombone luli tv
The French horn (since the 1930s known simply as the "horn" in some professional music circles) is a brass instrument made of tubing wrapped into a coil with a flared bell. The double horn in F/B♭ (technically a variety of German horn) is the horn most often used by players in professional orchestras and bands. A musician who plays any kind of horn is generally referred to as a horn player (or less frequently, a hornist).
- Musical instruments trumpet french horn trombone luli tv
- General characteristics
- Types of horns
- Single horn
- Double horn
- Compensating double horn
- Triple horn
- Detachable bell
- Related horns
- Natural horn
- Vienna horn
- Marching horn
- Wagner tuba
- Orchestra and concert band
- Chamber music
- Orchestral and concert band horns
- In jazz
- Notable horn players
Pitch is controlled through the combination of the following factors: speed of propulsion of air through the instrument (controlled by the player's lungs and thoracic diaphragm); diameter and tension of lip aperture (controlled by the player's lip muscles—the embouchure) in the mouthpiece; plus, in a modern French horn, the operation of valves by the left hand, which route the air into extra sections of tubing. Most horns have lever-operated rotary valves, but some, especially older horns, use piston valves (similar to a trumpet's) and the Vienna horn uses double-piston valves, or pumpenvalves. The backward-facing orientation of the bell relates to the perceived desirability to create a subdued sound, in concert situations, in contrast to the more piercing quality of the trumpet. A horn without valves is known as a natural horn, changing pitch along the natural harmonics of the instrument (similar to a bugle). Pitch may also be controlled by the position of the hand in the bell, in effect reducing the bell's diameter. The pitch of any note can easily be raised or lowered by adjusting the hand position in the bell.
Three valves control the flow of air in the single horn, which is tuned to F or less commonly B♭. The more common double horn has a fourth valve, usually operated by the thumb, which routes the air to one set of tubing tuned to F or another tuned to B♭. Triple horns with five valves are also made, tuned in F, B♭, and a descant E♭ or F. Also common are descant doubles, which typically provide B♭ and alto F branches. This configuration provides a high-range horn while avoiding the additional complexity and weight of a triple.
A crucial element in playing the horn deals with the mouthpiece. Most of the time, the mouthpiece is placed in the exact center of the lips, but, because of differences in the formation of the lips and teeth of different players, some tend to play with the mouthpiece slightly off center. Although the exact side-to-side placement of the mouthpiece varies for most horn players, the up-and-down placement of the mouthpiece is generally two-thirds on the upper lip and one-third on the lower lip. When playing higher notes, the majority of players exert a small degree of additional pressure on the lips using the mouthpiece. However, this is undesirable from the perspective of both endurance and tone: excessive mouthpiece pressure makes the horn sound forced and harsh, and decreases player's stamina due to the resulting constricted flow of blood to the lips and lip muscles. It is the goal of all serious brass musicians to develop their technique such that additional mouthpiece pressure is avoided altogether, or at the very least, minimized.
The name "French horn" is found only in English, first coming into use in the late 17th century. At that time, French makers were preeminent in the manufacture of hunting horns, and were credited with creating the now-familiar, circular "hoop" shape of the instrument. As a result, these instruments were often called, even in English, by their French names: trompe de chasse or cor de chasse (the clear modern distinction between trompes, trumpets, and cors, horns, did not exist at that time). German makers first devised crooks to make such horns playable in different keys—so musicians came to use "French" and "German" to distinguish the simple hunting horn from the newer horn with crooks, which in England was also called by the Italian name corno cromatico (chromatic horn). More recently, "French horn" is often used colloquially, though the adjective has normally been avoided when referring to the European orchestral horn, ever since the German horn began replacing the French-style instrument in British orchestras around 1930. The International Horn Society has recommended since 1971 that the instrument be simply called the horn.
There is also a more specific use of "French horn" to describe a particular horn type, differentiated from the German horn and Vienna horn. In this sense, "French horn" refers to a narrow-bore instrument (10.8–11.0 mm [0.43–0.43 in]) with three Périnet (piston) valves. It retains the narrow bell-throat and mouthpipe crooks of the orchestral hand horn of the late 18th century, and most often has an "ascending" third valve. This is a whole-tone valve arranged so that with the valve in the "up" position the valve loop is engaged, but when the valve is pressed the loop is cut out, raising the pitch by a whole tone.
The horn is the third-highest-sounding instrument in the brass family, below the trumpet and the cornet. Horns are mostly tuned in B♭ or F, or a combination of both. In some traditions, novice players use a single horn in F, while others prefer the B♭ horn. The F horn is used more commonly than the B♭ horn, especially in school bands. Compared to the other brass instruments in orchestras and concert bands, it has a very different mouthpiece, but has the widest usable range—approximately four octaves, depending on the ability of the player. To produce different notes on the horn, one must do many things—the seven most important are pressing the valves, holding the appropriate amount of lip tension, raising the soft palate, positioning the tongue, lowering the larynx, blowing air into the instrument, and placing the hand in the bell. More lip tension and faster air produces higher notes. Less lip tension and slower air produces lower notes. The right hand, usually cupped at a "three o-clock" position in the bell, can lower the pitch, depending on how far into the bell the player puts it, by as much as a semitone in the instrument's midrange. The horn plays in a higher portion of its overtone series compared to most brass instruments. Its conical bore (as opposed to the cylindrical bore of the trumpet or trombone) is largely responsible for its characteristic tone.
Today, music for the horn is typically written in F and sounds a perfect fifth lower than written. The limitations on the range of the instrument are primarily governed by the available valve combinations for the first four octaves of the overtone series and after that by the ability of the player to control the pitch through their air supply and embouchure. The typical written ranges for the horn start at either the F♯ immediately below the bass clef or the C an octave below middle A.
The standard range starting from a low F♯ is based on the characteristics of the single horn in F. But there is a great deal of music written beyond this range, on the assumption that players are using a double horn in F/B♭. Its valve combinations allow for the production of every chromatic tone from two octaves on either side of the horn's written middle C (sounding F immediately below the bass clef to F at the top of the treble clef). Although the upper range of the horn repertoire rarely exceeds high C (two octaves above the horn's middle C, sounding F at the top of the treble clef), skilled players can achieve yet higher pitches.
Also important to note is that many pieces from the Baroque to Romantic periods are written in keys other than F. This practice began in the early days of the horn before valves, when the composer would indicate the key the horn should be in (horn in D, horn in C, etc.) and the part would be notated as if it were in C. For a player with a valveless (i.e. natural) horn that is a help, showing where in the harmonic series a particular note is. A player with a modern instrument must provide the final transposition to the correct pitch. For example, a written C for horn in D must be transposed down a minor third and played as an A on an F horn.
As the name indicates, humans originally used to blow on the actual horns of animals before starting to emulate them in metal. This original usage survives in the shofar, a ram's horn, which plays an important role in Jewish religious rituals.
Early metal horns were less complex than modern horns, consisting of brass tubes with a slightly flared opening (the bell) wound around a few times. These early "hunting" horns were originally played on a hunt, often while mounted, and the sound they produced was called a recheat. Change of pitch was effected entirely by the lips (the horn not being equipped with valves until the 19th century). Without valves, only the notes within the harmonic series are available.
Early horns were commonly pitched in B♭ alto, A, A♭, G, F, E, E♭, D, C, and B♭ basso. Since the only notes available were those on the harmonic series of one of those pitches, they had no ability to play in different keys. The remedy for this limitation was the use of crooks, i.e., sections of tubing of differing length that, when inserted, altered the length of the instrument, and thus its pitch.
In the mid-18th century, horn players began to insert the right hand into the bell to change the length of the instrument, adjusting the tuning up to the distance between two adjacent harmonics depending on how much of the opening was covered.
In 1818 the German makers Heinrich Stölzel and Friedrich Blümel patented the first valved horn, using rotary valves. Piston valves were introduced in France about 1839 by François Périnet. Valves were initially intended to overcome problems associated with changing crooks during a performance. Valves' unreliability, musical taste, and players' distrust, among other reasons, slowed their adoption into mainstream. Many traditional conservatories and players refused to use them at first, claiming that the valveless horn, or natural horn, was a better instrument. Some musicians, specializing in period instruments, still use a natural horn when playing in original performance styles, seeking to recapture the sound and tenor in which an older piece was written.
The use of valves, however, opened up a great deal more flexibility in playing in different keys; in effect, the horn became an entirely different instrument, fully chromatic for the first time. Valves were originally used primarily as a means to play in different keys without crooks, not for harmonic playing. That is reflected in compositions for horns, which only began to include chromatic passages in the late 19th century. When valves were invented, generally, the French made smaller horns with piston valves and the Germans made larger horns with rotary valves.
In English, the term "French horn" is often used because the word "horn" by itself, even in the context of musical instruments, may refer to nearly any wind instrument with a flared exit for the sound. Nevertheless, the International Horn Society has recommended since 1971 that the instrument be simply called the horn, despite the ambiguity of the term.
Types of horns
Horns may be classified in single horn, double horn, compensating double horn, and triple horn as well as the versatility of detachable bells.
Single horns use a single set of tubes connected to the valves. This allows for simplicity of use and a much lighter weight. They are usually in the keys of F or B♭, although many F horns have longer slides to tune them to E♭, and almost all B♭ horns have a valve to put them in the key of A. The problem with single horns is the inevitable choice between accuracy or tone – while the F horn has the "typical" horn sound, above third-space C accuracy is concern for the majority of players because, by its nature, one plays high in the horn's harmonic series where the overtones are closer together. This led to the development of the B♭ horn, which, although easier to play accurately, has a less desirable sound in the mid and especially the low register where it is not able to play all of the notes. The solution has been the development of the double horn, which combines the two into one horn with a single lead pipe and bell. Both main types of single horns are still used today as student models because they are cheaper and lighter than double horns. In addition, the single B♭ horns are sometimes used in solo and chamber performances and the single F survives orchestrally as the Vienna horn. Additionally, single F alto and B♭ alto descants are used in the performance of some baroque horn concertos and F, B♭ and F alto singles are occasionally used by jazz performers.
Dennis Brain's benchmark recordings of the Mozart Horn Concerti were made on a single B♭ instrument by Gebr. Alexander, now on display at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Despite the introduction of valves, the single F horn proved difficult for use in the highest range, where the partials grew closer and closer, making accuracy a great challenge. An early solution was simply to use a horn of higher pitch—usually B♭. The use of the F versus the B♭ horn was a hotbed of debate between horn players of the late 19th century, until the German horn maker Ed. Kruspe (namesake of his family's brass instrument firm) produced a prototype of the "double horn" in 1897.
The double horn also combines two instruments into a single frame: the original horn in F, and a second, higher horn keyed in B♭. By using a fourth valve (usually operated by the thumb), the horn player can quickly switch from the deep, warm tones of the F horn to the higher, brighter tones of the B♭ horn. The two sets of tones are commonly called "sides" of the horn. Using the fourth valve not only changes the basic length (and thus the harmonic series and pitch) of the instrument, it also causes the three main valves to use proportionate slide lengths.
In the USA, the two most common styles ("wraps") of double horns are named Kruspe and Geyer/Knopf, after the first instrument makers who developed and standardized them. The Kruspe wrap locates the B♭ change valve above the first valve, near the thumb. The Geyer wrap has the change valve behind the third valve, near the little finger (although the valve's trigger is still played with the thumb). In effect, the air flows in a completely different direction on the other model. Kruspe wrap horns tend to be larger in the bell throat than the Geyer wrap horns. Typically, Kruspe models are constructed from nickel silver (also called German silver, an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc, containing no actual silver) while Geyer horns tend to be of yellow brass. Both models have their own strengths and weaknesses, and while the choice of instrument is very personal, an orchestral horn section is usually found to have either one or the other, owing to the differences in tone color, response, and projection of the two different styles.
In Europe the most popular horns are arguably those made by Gebr. Alexander, of Mainz (particularly the Alexander 103), and those made by Paxman in London. In Germany and the Benelux countries, the Alex 103 is extremely popular. These horns do not fit strictly into the Kruspe or Knopf camps, but have features of both. Alexander prefers the traditional medium bell size, which they have produced for many years, whereas Paxman do offer their models in a range of bell throat sizes. In the United States, the Conn 8D, a mass-produced instrument based on the Kruspe design, has been extremely popular in many areas (New York, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Philadelphia). Since roughly the early 1990s, however, for reasons ranging from changing tastes to a general dislike of Conn's newer 8Ds, orchestras have been moving away from the popular Conn 8D. Geyer model horns (by Carl Geyer, Karl Hill, Keith Berg, Steve Lewis, Jerry Lechniuk, Dan Rauch, and Ricco-Kuhn) are used in other areas (San Francisco, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Houston). The CF Schmidt double, with its unique piston change valve, is occasionally found in sections playing Geyer/Knopf model equipment.
Compensating double horn
The first design of the double horn did not have a separate set of slides pitched in F. Rather, the main key of the horn was B♭ (the preference of German horn players) and it could be played in F by directing air through the B♭ slides, an F extension, and another set of smaller slides. This "compensated" for the longer length of the F slides, producing a horn now called the compensating double. It was, and still is, widely used by European horn players because of its light weight and ease of playing, especially in the high register.
This relatively new design was created to afford the player even more security in the high register. It employs not only the F and B♭ horns, but also a third, descant horn. This descant horn is usually pitched an octave above the F horn, though it can be alternatively pitched in E♭. It is activated through the use of a second thumb valve. The triple horn was met with considerable resistance when it first appeared. Horn players were reluctant to spend far more money for a triple horn than they would for a double horn, and a feeling that using a triple horn to help with the high register was "cheating" was rampant among prominent horn players. Also, the horns were much heavier than the average double horn. Players noted that their arms became fatigued much faster. Moreover, the combination of three different horns creates issues with sonority, because the piping shared among all three sides (that is, the lead pipe and bell) are mathematically disproportional to two or all three horn lengths. Horn makers have had to make concessions to "even out" the sound between all three, often to the loss of sound quality of each side or entire ranges of the instrument. Advances in horn production are gradually eliminating these drawbacks, and the triple horn is gaining popularity. They are rarely available in anything lower than professional quality. Like double horns, triple horns can come in both full and compensating wraps. Today they are found being played in many professional orchestras, although the substantial cost difference between double and triple horns limits their usage elsewhere.
The horn, although not large, is awkward in its shape and does not lend itself well to transport, especially on commercial airlines. To compensate, horn makers can make the bell detachable; this allows for smaller and more manageable horn cases. A detachable bell also allows the use of different bells on the same horn, somewhat alleviating the need for multiple horns for different styles.
The variety in horn history necessitates consideration of the natural horn, Vienna horn, mellophone, marching horn, and Wagner tuba.
The natural horn is the ancestor of the modern horn. It is essentially descended from hunting horns, with its pitch controlled by air speed, aperture (opening of the lips through which air passes) and the use of the right hand moving in and out of the bell. Today it is played as a period instrument. The natural horn can only play from a single harmonic series at a time because there is only one length of tubing available to the horn player. A proficient player can indeed alter the pitch by partially muting the bell with the right hand, thus enabling the player to reach some notes that are not part of the instrument's natural harmonic series – of course this technique also affects the quality of the tone. The player has a choice of key by using crooks to change the length of tubing.
The Vienna horn is a special horn used primarily in Vienna, Austria. Instead of using rotary valves or piston valves, it uses the pumpenvalve (or Vienna valve), which is a double-piston operating inside the valve slides, and usually situated on the opposite side of the corpus from the player's left hand, and operated by a long pushrod. Unlike the modern horn, which has grown considerably larger internally (for a bigger, broader, and louder tone), and considerably heavier (with the addition of valves and tubing in the case of the double horn) the Vienna horn very closely mimics the size and weight of the natural horn, (although the valves do add some weight, they are lighter than rotary valves) even using crooks in the front of the horn, between the mouthpiece and the instrument. Although instead of the full range of keys, Vienna horn players usually use an F crook and it is looked down upon to use others, though switching to an A or B♭ crook for higher pitched music does happen on occasion. Vienna horns are often used with funnel shaped mouthpieces similar to those used on the natural horn, with very little (if any) backbore and a very thin rim. The Viennese horn requires very specialized technique and can be quite challenging to play, even for accomplished players of modern horns. The Vienna horn has a warmer, softer sound than the modern horn. Its pumpenvalves facilitate a continuous transition between notes (glissando); conversely, a more precise operating of the valves is required to avoid notes that sound out of tune.
Two instruments are called a mellophone. The first is an instrument shaped somewhat like a horn, in that it is formed in a circle. It has piston valves and is played with the right hand on the valves. Manufacturing of this instrument sharply decreased in the middle of the 20th century, and this mellophone (or mellophonium) rarely appears today.
The second instrument is used in modern brass bands and marching bands, and is more accurately called a "marching mellophone" or mellophone. A derivative of the F alto horn, it is keyed in F. It is shaped like a flugelhorn, with piston valves played with the right hand and a forward-pointing bell. These horns are generally considered better marching instruments than regular horns because their position is more stable on the mouth, they project better, and they weigh less. It is primarily used as the middle voice of drum and bugle corps. Though they are usually played with a V-cup cornet-like mouthpiece, their range overlaps the common playing range of the horn. This mouthpiece switch makes the mellophone louder, less mellow, and more brassy and brilliant, making it more appropriate for marching bands. Often now with the use of converters, traditional conical horn mouthpieces are used to achieve the more mellow sound of a horn to make the marching band sound more like a concert band.
As they are pitched in F or G and their range overlaps that of the horn, mellophones can be used in place of the horn in brass and marching band settings. Mellophones are, however, sometimes unpopular with horn players because the mouthpiece change can be difficult and requires a different embouchure. Mouthpiece adapters are available so that a horn mouthpiece can fit into the mellophone lead pipe, but this does not compensate for the many differences that a horn player must adapt to. The "feel" of the mellophone can be foreign to a horn player. Another unfamiliar aspect of the mellophone is that it is designed to be played with the right hand instead of the left (although it can be played with the left). Intonation can also be an issue when playing the mellophone.
While horn players may be asked to play the mellophone, it is unlikely that the instrument was ever intended as a substitute for the horn, mainly because of the fundamental differences described. As an instrument it compromises between the ability to sound like a horn, while being used like a trumpet or flugelhorn, a tradeoff that sacrifices acoustic properties for ergonomics.
The marching horn is quite similar to the mellophone in shape and appearance, but is pitched in the key of B♭ (the same as the B♭ side of a regular double horn). It is also available in F alto (one octave above the F side of a regular double horn). The marching horn is also normally played with a horn mouthpiece (unlike the mellophone, which needs an adapter to fit the horn mouthpiece). These instruments are primarily used in marching bands so that the sound comes from a forward-facing bell, as dissipation of the sound from the backward-facing bell becomes a concern in open-air environments. Many college marching bands and drum corps, however, use mellophones instead, which, with many marching bands, better balance the tone of the other brass instruments; additionally, mellophones require less special training of trumpet players, who considerably outnumber horn players.
The Wagner tuba is a rare brass instrument that is essentially a horn modified to have a larger bell throat and a vertical bell. Despite its name, it is generally not considered part of the tuba family. Invented for Richard Wagner specifically for his work Der Ring des Nibelungen, it has since been written for by various other composers, including Bruckner, Stravinsky and Richard Strauss. It uses a horn mouthpiece and is available as a single tuba in B♭ or F, or, more recently, as a double tuba similar to the double horn. Its common range is similar to that of the euphonium, but its possible range is the same as that of the horn, extending from low F♯, below the bass clef staff to high C above the treble staff when read in F. These low pedals are substantially easier to play on the Wagner tuba than on the horn. Wagner viewed the regular horn as a woodwind rather than a brass instrument, evidenced by his placing of the horn parts in his orchestral scores in the woodwind group and not in their usual place above the trumpets in the brass section.
Discussion of the repertoire of horns must recognize the different needs of orchestras and concert bands in contrast to marching bands, as above, but also the use of horns in a wide variety of music, including chamber music and jazz.
Orchestra and concert band
The horn is most often used as an orchestral and concert band instrument, with its singular tone being employed by composers to achieve specific effects. Leopold Mozart, for example, used horns to signify the hunt, as in his Jagdsinfonie (hunting symphony). Telemann wrote much for the horn, and it features prominently in the work of Handel and in Bach's Brandenburg Concerto no. 1. Once the technique of hand-stopping had been developed, allowing fully chromatic playing, composers began to write seriously for the horn. Gustav Mahler made great use of the horn's uniquely haunting and distant sound in his symphonies, notably the famous Nachtmusik (serenade) section of his Symphony No. 7.
Many composers have written works that have become favorites in the horn repertoire. These include Poulenc (Elegie) and Saint-Saëns (Morceau de Concert for horn and orchestra, op. 94 and Romance, op. 36). Others, particularly Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose friend Joseph Leutgeb was a noted horn player, wrote extensively for the instrument, including concerti and other solo works. Mozart's A Musical Joke satirizes the limitations of contemporary horn playing, including the risk of selecting the wrong crook by mistake.
The development of the valve horn was exploited by romantic composers such as Bruckner, Mahler, and Richard Strauss, whose father was a well-known professional horn player. Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks contains one of the best known horn solos from this period, relying on the chromatic facility of the valved horn. Schumann's Konzertstück for four horns and orchestra is a notable three-movement work. Brahms had a lifelong love-affair with the instrument, with many prominently featured parts throughout his four symphonies. However players today typically play Brahms on modern valved instruments.
There is an abundance of chamber music repertoire for horn. It is a standard member of the wind quintet and brass quintet, and often appears in other configurations, such as Brahms' Horn Trio for violin, horn and piano (for which, however, Brahms specified the natural horn). Also, the horn can be used by itself in a horn ensemble or "horn choir". The horn choir is especially practical because the extended range of the horn provides the composer or arranger with more possibilities, registerally, sonically, and contrapuntally.
Orchestral and concert band horns
A classical orchestra usually contained two horns. Typically, the 1st horn played a high part and the 2nd horn played a low part. Composers from Beethoven onwards commonly used four horns. Here, the 1st and 2nd horns played as a pair (1st horn being high, 2nd horn being low), and the 3rd and 4th horns played as another pair (3rd horn being high, 4th horn being low). Music written for the modern horn follows a similar pattern with 1st and 3rd horns being high and 2nd and 4th horns being low.
This configuration serves multiple purposes. It is easier to play high when the adjacent player is playing low and vice versa. Pairing makes it easier to write for horns, as the 3rd and 4th horns can take over from the 1st and 2nd horns, or play contrasting material. For example, if the piece is in C minor, the 1st and 2nd horns might be in C, the tonic major key, which could get most of the notes, and the 3rd and 4th horns might be in E♭, the relative major key, to fill in the gaps.
Many orchestral horn sections today also have an assistant who doubles the 1st horn part for selected passages, joining in loud parts, playing instead of the principal if there is a 1st horn solo approaching, or alternating with the principal if the part is tiring to play. Often the assistant is asked to play a passage after resting a long time. Also, he or she may be asked to enter in the middle of a passage, exactly matching the sound, articulation, and overall interpretation of the principal.
The horn has rarely been used in jazz music; colloquially in jazz, the word "horn" refers to any wind instrument. Notable exponents, however, include composer/arranger Gil Evans who included the horn as an ensemble instrument from the 1940s, first in Claude Thornhill's groups, and later with the pioneering cool jazz nonet led by trumpeter Miles Davis, and in many other projects that sometimes also featured Davis, as well as Don Ellis, a trumpet player from Stan Kenton's jazz band. Notable works of Ellis' jazz horn include "Strawberry Soup" and other songs on the album Tears of Joy. Notable improvising horn players in jazz include Julius Watkins, Willie Ruff, John Graas, David Amram, John Clark, Vincent Chancey, Mark Taylor, Giovanni Hoffer, Arkady Shilkloper, Adam Unsworth, and Tom Varner.
Notable horn players
People who are more notable for their other achievements, but also play the horn, include actors Ewan McGregor and David Ogden Stiers, comedian and television host Jon Stewart, journalist Chuck Todd, The Who bassist and singer John Entwistle, and rapper and record producer B.o.B.