Friday, April 6, 2012

French horn

Indianapolis Horn Section
The French horn is dear to my heart, because my son holds the Assistant Principal Horn position in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. When he was in high school he would play along with recordings of Mahler and Tchaikovsky symphonies; that is what greeted me as I arrived home from work. 
The French horn is a member of the brass family, but sometimes also finds a home in the woodwind family when it is included in a woodwind quintet. The tubing of a French horn is an incredible 12 feet long if it were uncoiled, but and all coiled up so that the player can handle it more easily. (Actually, that isn’t a record; a tuba has 16 feet of tubing.)

The modern French horn is a descendent of the hunting horn, which was used to communicate with other hunters from the back of a horse. In the 19th century valves were added to the hunting horn, which made it easier for players to play in all keys. Horns are either single horns (3 valves) or double horns (4 valves). Orchestral horns are all of the double horn variety, pitched in F or in B flat.

Folks outside the music world may not be aware that there are various horn playing styles. In regards to sound, some horn sections are considered to have a dark sound, i.e. the New York Philharmonic. And others are said to have a bright souns, as in the Chicago Symphony horn section. It is customary for some players to use a bit of vibrato, while others find vibrato quite distasteful.

Wherever you find them, horn players like to congregate into large horn ensembles. There are many examples of this on You Tube. The London Horn Sound is a great example of this phenomenon and the result is amazing. You don’t want to miss this rendition of the Roman Carnival Overture. Likewise, you might also enjoy Tico Tico:

If you would like to meet my son, go to this URL, where he introduces Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #5. Then click on this to hear the horn solo that Rick has just told you about. (The conductor is Leonard Bernstein and the orchestra is the Boston Symphony Orchestra.


  1. Listening to an orchestra with a French Horn is so soothing to the ears. It makes me wonder why I like to.
    Do check out my F at GAC a-z.

  2. I like the French Horn. I'm a professional musician, but I play the violin, viola, and piano. I'll have to listen to the Youtube video.

  3. I just listened to his solo. Beautiful!