French Horn reviews, articles, and tips for beginners and beyond
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The modern French Horn can find its roots in the hunting horns of ancient times. They were first used as musical instruments in operas during the 16th century.
Initially, Horns could only produce one note and were regarded as monotone instruments. However, the addition of movable slides (called crooks) by the German musician Anton Hampel in the mid 18th century allowed the player to change the key of the instrument.
During the 19th century, the movable slides were replaced with valves, and this is the system that’s still in use today.
French Horn Specs
There are three main categories of French Horn:
- Single Horn
- Double Horn
- Compensating Horn
Single Horns are lighter in weight than the other two, which makes them popular with student players. They are usually pitched in F, but sometimes in Bb, and have three valves.
Double Horns are easily identifiable by the presence of a fourth valve, which essentially switches the direction of air to a separate side of the instrument, which has double the amount of tubing of a Single Horn. They are pitched in F and Bb, and are considerably heavier than Single Horns.
The aim of the Compensating Horn is the combine the best elements of both instruments, providing the extended range of a Double Horn, with the lighter weight of a Single Horn. They have four valves and are considerably less expensive than a standard Double Horn.
A small mouthpiece is inserted into the lead pipe of the instrument, with a flared bell at the opposite end, where the sound escapes.
How To Play
To produce a sound from a French Horn you need to make a buzzing sound with your lips into the mouthpiece.
The French Horn is one of the few Brass musical instruments where the fingers on the left hand operate the valves to change the notes. Meanwhile, the right hand is usually inserted slightly into the flared bell.
The French Horn’s flared bell can be unscrewed and removed on some instruments, which allows the instrument to be “flat packed” for transport!
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