Horn Chapter Sample

From Chapter 7A. Horn Overview:

The horn, sometimes referred to as the “French horn,” is the middle voice of the brass family. It has a wide dynamic range and blends equally well with the brass and woodwind families. These attributes, combined with a large four octave range, make the horn particularly versatile. Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) used large horn sections and featured them prominently in his orchestral music, notably as the solo/obbligato instrument in the third movement of his Fifth Symphony. The horn also played an occasional role in the development of jazz, although not as commonly as the other brass instruments.

The horn emerged as an important solo instrument in the 18th century due to the prolific work of W.A. Mozart (1756-1791), who wrote at least five prominent horn concerti and extensive chamber music including the horn. Modern horn soloists including Dennis Brain, John Cerminaro, Froydis Ree Wekre and Dale Clevenger have promoted the horn’s virtues through extensive recordings and solo performances.

Music programs in the public schools typically use the horn in concert bands, marching bands, chamber ensembles such as brass and woodwind quintets, string chamber ensembles that include the horn, and in some jazz settings. When students learn about the incredible diversity of experiences, ensembles and repertoire available to a hornist, they may be compelled to pursue the instrument, so band directors should highlight these features when recruiting students to play the horn.

The most important traits to consider when recruiting horn players are the genuine desire to play the instrument and a good ear. Of all the brass instruments, the horn may pose the biggest challenge during the early stages of student development because it can be difficult to find the correct partials. Students who cannot match pitches with the voice may not be good candidates for playing the horn; alternatives for these students are to start on trumpet or piano, later switching to horn when a better sense of pitch has been established.

As with all instruments, a well developed tone concept is important to the development of horn players. This issue is even more critical for horn because of the variety of musical genres and the accompanying subtle differences in tone required of the hornist. In order to help your horn players develop a mature tone concept, play recordings of great horn players and encourage students to explore its rich history.

Student model horns come in various sizes, colors and wrap configurations (the way the tubing is coiled). Three horns that have consistently found acceptance among horn players are the single F horn, the single B-flat horn and the double F/B-flat horn, although most hornists prefer the double horn, which combines the best features of both single horns.

Important: The horn is a transposing instrument and is pitched in F. This means that it is notated a perfect fifth above concert (or sounding) pitch, as in the following example:

Written horn part in F:

horn f scale

Sounding Pitches:

horn sounding pitch