The French horn is the second highest sounding member of the brass family and produces a full and mellow tone. It is the best known member of the horn family and the one you see most often in the orchestra.
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The french horn developed over the years in several stages as follows.
1.From the Hunting Horn or signalling instrument, which consisted of a tube bent round in a simple curve over the players shoulder. The french horn was used regularly in 18 century orchestras in music that need an outdoor, hunting sound.
2. By use of Crooks:
These were extra pieces of metal tubing add to the horn to create extra length. They were detachable and there were seven different sized ones.
The reason for addition of crooks was that composers wanted to write less limiting pieces for the french horn and the extra tube lengths created more notes and allowed the players to have music written in more keys.
3.By use of Three Valves:
These were introduced in 1830 with use of extra tubing built into the main body.They replaced the crooks as they served the same function. When the player press the valves either separately or in any combination extra sections of tubing are added and hence different notes. This invention provided the instrument as we know it today which is a flexible instrument that has a range of notes spanning over three and half octaves and the ability to play in any key. The french horn is usually pitched in the key of F
French horn players produce a sound the same way as any other brass instrument. The sound starts from a persons' lips buzzing into a mouthpiece. The air then vibrates through the tubing of the instrument. The less tubing the higher the pitch. The more tubing the lower the pitch. The pitch can also be changed by the tightening or loosening of a person's embouchure or mouth position. Hence when a player moves a valve or two or three in various combinations then this alters the tubing length and the note pitch. Placing the hand or a mute in the bell will also change the pitch.
French horn players read music written on the treble clef most of the time but the bass clef is used if the music is low and stays low.
The french horn is commonly found in orchestras and brass bands. There are no french horns in a marching band but french horn players play the mellophone which is also a brass instrument with three valves, operated with the right hand and fingering identical to that of a trumpet. A marching band needs projection of the sound in the direction that the player is facing and a mellophone has its bell in the front.
Dennis Brain, born on 17 May 1921 and died 1 September 1957 was a British virtuoso horn player. Much credit was given to him for popularizing the horn as a solo classical instrument. He recorded Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Horn Concertos with Herbert von Karajanthe, a conductor, and the London Philharmonia Orchestra.