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The french horn

The horn

Double horn F / Bb, flag screw, painted gold

The valve horn or French horn is a wind instrument of the brass family sweet.

Even if he has a family resemblance with the hunting horn, the sound of this instrument is very different. It is sometimes majestic and triumphant, sometimes soft and slightly melancholy. The valve horn is present in the symphony orchestra, numerous chamber ensembles and orchestras in harmony and is also often solicited in the film music of all kinds, for cartoons and sound effects...

The mouth of the horn is small and conical inner shape, different from those of the trumpet and trombone are hemispheric and wider. This conical shape is found all along the tube up to the flag. We then say that this instrument is conical bore, as are all soft brass (the cornet, the saxhorns ...). This gives the sweetness pierces the sound of these instruments, unlike the cylindrical bore of brass light (like a trumpet) that produces a brighter sound.

The horn produces the notes in the range of vibrating lips on the mouth. His left hand active three (four or five) pallets (or more rarely piston) for changing the pitch. His right hand is placed in the bell to support the instrument. It also helps to correct intonation, or make sounds plugged. The performer can also be asked to use a damper to reduce the sound.

Two ways to play the horn clashed during the XXth century:

  • that very easily recognizable vibrato permanent (persistent trembling of his because of the performer). Represented in France by John Devemy example.
  • the more Anglo-Saxon with sustained notes (not shaking).

Today, as "Anglo-Saxon" is used by most professional horn players. However, horn players like Peter Damm, Hermann Baumann , Francis Orval and James Sommerville still use vibrato.


Early horns were made from natural conical pipes, such as animal horns or shells.

Those ivory called "olifants" or fallopian knight.

The animal's horn is quickly replaced by tubes designed by man. For example, the Indians were making straight trunks of wood.

The horn is an instrument found in many mountainous regions of Europe, in Finland, but also in Tibet.

First we will be gradually abandoned and replaced by metal. It will be possible to give its curved shape. In 1636, Father Mersenne describes a horn wound in seven spirals can play as many notes as the trumpet, or sixteen notes.

The horn was originally designed to transmit warning signals encoded, communicate messages, for ritual and magic. The warrior Roland (see The Song of Roland) calls for help using a horn.

It was then used in the Middle Ages to announce mealtimes and military marches.

The horn has undergone many changes since it was considered too small in the XVIth century, and too big under Louis XIV. It is finally the reign of Louis XV it acquires its final form.

From the war of 1741, the French infantry began using the borrowed horn Hanoverians.

In the middle of the XVIIIth century, French makers add in the sound circuit segments of additional tubes (called body parts) to change at will the fundamental and obtain new series of harmonics .

The three piston valve horn was not invented until the XIXth century. The latest development is the horn in F (for single horn), in F / Bb (for double horns) in B or F / Bb (for triple horns, rare).

Different types of horns

Viennese Horn
  • The hunting horn in Eb transposing instrument is used for hunting with hounds, the bands of the regiments of Alpine, in batteries, bands, just as the trumpet prescription.
  • The hunting horn, transposing instrument in D, is intended to ringtones to revere. Instrument legendary hunting and princely homes. The hunting horn differs from the horn by his tone .
  • The natural horn, horn of harmony not using the system palettes, or pistons, to get the whole range. It includes a set of "colors" pipes of suitable length for each tone. For each tone, horn player gets all the notes of the scale by stopping more or less the flag with his hand.
  • The Alphorn is softwood. It is carved into the trunk of a tree grown in the mountainside, to get a bent shape.
  • The Wagner tuba or saxotrombas, form close to the tuba, but played by horn players.
  • The Viennese horn, used traditionally in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • The mellophone is a horn that is shaped like a trumpet (used then the flag in front) and used in the orchestras of jazz and marching bands (including the U.S.).


The 2007 Guinness Book of Records ranked the horn of the two musical instruments more difficult to play (the other being the oboe).

(Source: - copyright authors - article under GFDL)

Creation date : 11/02/2009 13:07
Last update : 04/04/2009 16:32
Category : - Instruments-Brass
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The fundamental

In harmony, the fundamental is the real note on which is founded « superimposing of third » of an agreement, and that gives its name to this one.
For example, in the chord of " C major "(do-mi-sol), the note C is the fundamental.
When agreement is in the fundamental state, the fundamental belongs to the low. Contrariwise, when agreement is in the state of inversion, the fundamental does not belong to the low.

Harmonics of a sound

A sound wave is characterized physically by its frequency of vibration and it is measured in Hertz (number of vibrations per second). For example, the "A3" has a frequency of 440 Hz higher the frequency, the higher the sound is high. At heights (and thus frequencies) identical sounds emitted by two different instruments (eg violin and flute) do not resonate in the same way. Each is characterized by its so-called stamp that identifies it, that no translation of his nature is really simple: it follows from the combination of its primary or basic, which sets the frequency perceived by the ear and a large number of harmonics whose relative weights determine precisely its timbre.

The harmony

In its broadest sense, the word harmony means traditionally one of the four elements of music - the others being the rhythm, the melody and timbre.
Harmony is the deliberate use of frequencies simultaneously, with a view to provide relief and depth to the song or instrumental performance : she represents the aspect vertical music, while the melody is the aspect horizontal.

Hermann Baumann

Hermann Baumann, born in Hamburg on 1 August 1934, is a famous horn player in Germany. He has recorded numerous works for french horn.
His four horn concertos by Mozart are stored on natural horn.

The jazz

The jazz is a music type born in the United States at the beginning of the XXth century. Existent of the crossroads of the blues, the ragtime and European music, the jazz is considered to be the first specific musical form to have developed in the United States.

The Symphony Orchestra

A symphony orchestra is a musical ensemble consisting of four families of instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion.
It comes from the string orchestra of the baroque period which was gradually expanded the oboe, bassoon, sometimes horns, trumpets, and timpani.
The classical period with Gossec, Haydn and Mozart often seen winds s'architecturer by two (2 flutes, 2 oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets).
The desks of the Romantic period s'ordonnancent rather with the addition of three more or less systematic instruments like the piccolo, English horn, bass clarinet, saxophone, contrabassoon, trombones and tuba.
It is also the time who knows the great evolution of percussion.
In the early twentieth century, the symphony can be large, generally, more than eighty musicians, sometimes exceeding the number hundred instrumentalists.
Since the late seventeenth century, its main function is dedicated to the performance in the concert hall, symphonic works and concertos, secular or sacred.
This course is also used for accompaniment in the pit in the opera houses, performances of opera or dance.
The composers of film scores, incidental music heiresses, they too use all the resources and expressive music of the symphony orchestra.


In western music, the word means a tone scale music belonging to the tonal system.

  • Caught in a broad sense, the word "tone" can refer to the tonal system as a whole.
  • The word can also take the direction of height, its fundamental to some instruments.
  • The word tone can be used as a synonym for tone.

A tone is defined as the set of intervals, melodic and harmonic as well, between hierarchical levels of a given scale compared to its fundamental level, called tonic. A tone is characterized by both the tonic and its mode.
Each key is constructed from the diatonic scale.

The tone is also a means to locate a musical instrument in relation to C reference.
The flute, violin or piano are in C, that is to say that when the C is played, it really means to do. The B-flat trumpet sounded really flat so when playing a do. The horn (in F) is heard when playing an F do.

The tone is very important because it will allow transposition and transcription of partitions in C in tones of instruments with different pitches.

Some instruments and their tone:

  • Ut: Piano, strings, flutes and piccolo, oboe, bassoon, C trumpet, trombone, tuba, bass tuba.
  • D flat: the old piccolos.
  • Re: Trumpet in D.
  • Eb: alto saxophone and baritone, small bugle, horn in E flat, alto (small tuba), clarinet, bass tuba.
  • F: Cor.
  • Sol: Trumpet in G.
  • The: Oboe d'amore, the trumpet.
  • Bb: soprano saxophone, tenor tuba (euphonium and baritone), B-flat trumpet, flugelhorn, clarinet, bass tuba (bombardon).

Richard Wagner

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (May 22, 1813, Leipzig - 13 February 1883, Venice) was a German composer.

Engineering a rare outsized universality Wagner owes its importance in the history of Western music in his operas, particularly Der Ring des Nibelungen, a festival stage in a prologue and three days of which he himself wrote the poems and the design deliberately bumped habits of the time to go, in his own words, to a 'total art' show full continuous melody and use of leitmotif.