21 Mind-Blowing Facts About The French Horn, The Musical Instrument

Akinwalere Olaleye
Oct 09, 2023 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Jan 04, 2022
Facts about the French horn will educate you about brass instruments used in Symphony Orchestra.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.6 Min

The French horn is believed to be the prettiest brass instrument in existence and can only be mastered by an experienced modern horn player as it is a difficult instrument to play.

Not only that, but when uncoiled, it is one of the most prominent instruments in the brass family, just like the hunting horns were in earlier times! The French horn has been included in the orchestra family for ages now, performing in various genres of music, and the audience has equally loved it.

Here we will discover some astonishing facts about the French horn, why it is called a 'French' horn, how it was invented and played, and how much an average French horn can cost you. Like a tuba, the horns are bell-shaped brass instruments with detachable bells.

A full-fledged concert band will have a horn section in it for sure. It makes a high-ranking sound. This is the reason that it is used by concert bands, marching bands, and comedy ballet events.

Unlike the English Horn, which is neither English nor a natural horn, the French Horn is unmistakably a horn that originated in France and is considered the very first horn too.

It is derived from a 16th-century French hunting horn, and it can generate a wide range of sounds, from very loud to very gentle, harsh to calm and pleasant.

The 18 ft (5.4 m) of tubing on the French Horn is coiled up into a circular form with a giant bell at the end. There are two to eight French horns in an orchestra that play melody, harmony, and rhythm.

The three valves are controlled by your left hand, and the type of sound you generate is determined by how your right hand is placed in the bell.

Beginner French horns typically cost between $1,200 and $3,500. Intermediate or step-up French horns usually cost $3,500-4,500, with entry-level pro-French horns (still used mainly by advanced students) costing $4,500 and higher.

Read on to learn more about chamber music and grove music, as well as crack notes created with the French horn.

After reading fun facts about this difficult instrument to play, you must also check out these French cheese facts and French cinema facts here at Kidadl.

French Horn Musical Family Classification

The horn is an instrument used both in the orchestra and in various genres of music. It is the capacity to play softly and calmly to fit a woodwind quintet's gentle playing forcefully to match the brass family. Therefore, modern horns are believed to be a part of the brass family.

A hornist had to keep several things in mind since the French horn is considered one of the most difficult instruments to master. These things could consist of gripping the instrument, placing the hands and lips together, and breathing techniques.

As mentioned before, the French horn is one of the prettiest instruments, but it's often when a hornist might miss out on a few notes or crack a few of them. And these cracked notes are often very visible to both the player and the audience. However, these missed out things could be worked upon with consistent practice.

The most popular variety of French horn used by bands is the double horn, which makes use of a fourth valve for playing various notes through a dedicated set of tubes.

French Horn Origin

The horn is known as one of the oldest musical instruments, dating back to ancient times and including the shofar and cow horns made of animal horns and Lurs manufactured of bronze and wood between 1500 and 500 BCE.

French-made horns were used by British horn players, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries. On the other hand, other European horn players favored German-made horns. British performers on French horns were delighted to mark their instruments as such, and they desired to distinguish themselves from other European horn players.

With the rise in popularity of jazz in the United States during the 20th century, any instrument that could be blown into was dubbed a horn, including the clarinet, trumpet, trombone, and saxophone. Classical horn players frequently used the term 'French horn' to distinguish their instruments from jazz musicians.

Early hunting horns were the inspiration for the modern orchestral brass French horn. In the 16th century, horns were initially utilized as musical instruments in operas.

The cor de chasse, or French Horn, as the English termed it, was born in the 17th century when the bell end of the horn was modified (bigger and flared bells).

The early horns were simple instruments with a single tone. In 1753, a German musician named Hampel created the method of changing the key of the horn by using movable slides (crooks) of varying lengths.

Rotary Valves were employed instead of crooks in the 19th century, giving birth to the modern French horn and the double French horn.

A musical instrument like the natural horn predates the contemporary horn and is distinguished by the absence of valves. A mouthpiece, some long coiled tubing, and a vast flared bell make up the device. A few approaches are used to modify the pitch. Hand halting and lip tightness are essential factors.

The performer buzzes their lips while blowing air through a cup or funnel-shaped mouthpiece to create the distinctive sound of brass family instruments. The player changes the gap between their lips to produce higher or lower notes.

Herald French horns, hunting horns, and military bulges are descendants of the brass family. The trumpet, trombone, French horn, and tuba are the most common brass instruments.

The Horn, also called the French Horn, is 12 ft (3.7 m) of narrow tubing twisted into a circle. By pressing valves with the left hand and moving the right hand within the bell, the musician can get different notes on the horn with a clean, mellow sound.

Variants of French horns include single horns, double horns,\u00a0two horns, and four horns

Other names of French Horn

In 1971, the International Horn Society determined that the French Horn should be referred to as 'horn' in English to avoid confusion over the instrument's name, which is referred to as 'horn' by numerous nations.

To distinguish themselves from other jazz and blues world instruments, some horn players use the term 'French horn'. Horn is also known as 'Horn in F' and 'F Horn'.

Some think the British named it the French Horn to distinguish it from the heavenly Horn (later known as the English Horn). Others claim there's a possibility that the Horn crossed the English Channel from France and was mistakenly identified as French.

Horns are the proper name for French horns, and the person who plays one is known as a hornist or horn player. This ancient instrument has undergone several iterations over the years, such as rotary valves, detachable bells, piston valves, and several others.

French Horn Key And Instrument Range

It was played by vibrating the lips against each other in the mouthpiece, much like it is now (the mouth posture is termed 'embouchure'). The air-powered buzzing passes through the instrument's tubes and eventually emerges as a glittering clangor from the horn's bell.

The valve keys (the instrument's flat buttons), similar to the trumpet or tuba, allow musicians to modify the distance that moving air travels without affecting their embouchure or airflow with the help of the lower the note or, the longer the tube or both.

However, a consistent supply of air and the appropriate keys aren't always enough to achieve the desired tone on the French Horn.

Specific notes, particularly at the higher end of its range, can be played with the same valve key combinations, requiring the player to maintain precise muscle memory and airflow to land a pitch correctly.

The French horn's growing importance in the orchestra led to several technological advancements.

Before valves were introduced in the early 19th century, players used to carry numerous lengthy sets of brass tubes called 'crooks' to extend the length of the instrument and allow them to alter keys during a performance.

In 1897, a German instrument builder realized that two (and later three) horns of varying lengths could be combined into a single instrument if they were attached to the same mouthpiece and bell.

Double and triple horns now use a sort of valve called a trigger to allow players to switch between horns in different keys, all layered inside the instrument, with a single thumb push.

Naturally, this evolution resulted in adding even more tubing, increasing a lesser-known problem: spitting accumulation. Any brass instrument requires moisture to play, yet dribble is commonly lost in the horn's seemingly infinite twisting piping. Notes can sound blubbery and harsh if they aren't identified and emptied, almost like scratches on a vinyl record.

The horn's mechanics make it difficult to play and a little unpleasant in the case of stray saliva. On the other hand, understanding the logistics makes hearing its excellent sound even more astounding.

The horn's mouthpiece is the smallest in the brass section, and its funnel shape gives the instrument its distinctive mellow sound. The mouthpiece of the trumpet is the second smallest.

Despite being a brass instrument, the French horn is not a conventional instrument in a British-style brass band. The German Horn is also part of the brass band.

A professional musician can play this instrument in a range of around four octaves, with most of the tunes written in three octaves.

When the hand horn period was going on, well-defined roles for the first horn and second horn came up. The first horn is played mainly in the upper part of the register, whereas the second horn is played in the low register.

In 1803, Beethoven added the third horn to his Symphony. He deliberately wrote the part higher than the second horn.

Although it was still lower than the first horn. This marked the start of a tradition that is widely used today, wherein the first and third horns are regarded as high horns, while the second and fourth horns are regarded as low horns.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 21 mind-blowing facts about the French horn, the musical instrument, then why not take a look at 33 mind-blowing '50s fashion facts: vintage clothing revealed, or 51 curious 20th century facts and significant events for kids.

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Akinwalere Olaleye picture

Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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