Music Instrument Lesson: Brass #2 - The French horn

By Tim

Monday, October 23, 2006

The French Horn is a brass musical instrument. A brass instrument is a musical instrument that uses a cupped mouthpiece shaped in a way that allows the player's lips to vibrate to generate the instrument's sound.

The horn is a brass instrument that consists of tubing wrapped into a coiled form. The instrument was first developed in France from the cor de chasse, or hunting horn in about 1650. Since 1750, when the instrument was refined and improved in England, it has been known as the French horn, mainly in the United States (musicians, particularly players of the instrument, generally refer to it simply as the horn). In the 1960s the International Horn Society declared the official name of this instrument to be the "Horn."

The horn is a conically shaped instrument much like the cornet and Saxhorns. It has a tapered bore which steadily increases in diameter along its length, unlike the trumpet and trombone which are considered cylindrical. Unlike most other valved brass instruments, which use piston valves, the horn uses rotary valves. Piston valves are of French origin. The earlier horns used pistons, but then changed to rotary valves, of German origin. Each valve toggles a length of tubing, changing the length of the insturment and therefore the pitch. Each length of tubing is a separate part, and is moved to adjust the tuning of the insturment, making them tuning slides.

Compared to the other brass instruments commonly found in the orchestra, the typical range of the horn is set an octave higher in its harmonic series, facilitated by its small mouthpiece. A modern double horn contains 21 ft (6.4 meters) of tubing. Its conical bore is largely responsible for its characteristic tone, often described as "mellow". The typical playing range of a horn differs from its written range by a fifth down, and extends from the Bb below the bass clef to the F above the treble clef. Although this is the standard range found in classical repertoire, some players can play many notes beyond this range, both lower and higher.

The horn typically plays higher in its harmonic series than other common orchestral brass instruments, where the partials are closer together (and harder to distinguish), making the horn one of the more difficult instruments to learn.

Forte Music carries new and used French Horns as well as other Brass Instruments for purchase or rent. Give Forte a call if you are in need of music lessons from a professional instructor.