Showing posts with label French Horn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label French Horn. Show all posts

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Do You Want to Learn the FRENCH HORN?

French Horn - Photo Wikipedia
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.

It consists of a tube of conical bore coiled into a spiral shape. At the blowing end, its bore is around 1/4 inch wide ( 6.2 mm ) and it widens into a bell of about 11-14 inches wide ( 28 - 36 cm )
The French horn developed over the years in several stages as follows.

1.From the Hunting Horn or signaling instrument, which consisted of a tube bent round in a simple curve over the player's shoulder. The French horn was used regularly in 18-century orchestras in music that need an outdoor, haunting 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 the 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 presses 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 a 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 a 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 Karajan, a conductor, and the London Philharmonia Orchestra.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Birth and Development of the FRENCH HORN

French horn back
French horn back (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you ask someone to think of a musical instrument, most likely French horns are not the first instrument that comes to mind. Yet, it is quite an interesting, beautiful, and exceptional looking music instrument. It brings with it a mysterious quality that projects a mellow and subdued sound to any orchestra, marching band, concert band, or even a brass ensemble.

It is quite intriguing actually, to look at the historical underpinnings of French horns. Looking back at their birth and development brings to light how they acquired their sound and unique features. It also explains why even today they are not the most popular musical instrument in any type of music group.

The most primitive form of french horns were megaphones. They were made from a hollow branch or cane and the player sang, spoke, or made vocal noises into them to produce a harsh sound to frighten away evil spirits. Megaphones evolved into the early trumpets which could produce only one or two notes and made a terrifying sound. These trumpets were used at circumcisions, funerals, and sunset rites.

It was not until the Renaissance period, about 1550, that a music instrument was developed which bears the most resemblance to the present day French horns. This was the close-coiled helical horn, established in Central Europe. About one hundred years later, the parent of French horns was constructed in the form of a thin conical tube with two or more circular coils.

There is no evidence that French horns were used for purely musical purposes with other music instruments prior to the eighteenth century, only for hunting in France, Germany, and Italy. Their introduction in Germany by Graf Franz Anton von Sporck in 1681 and their inclusion in a German orchestra score in 1705 helped them to gain a position in the music world. In England, however, they were used mainly in the form of an entertaining duet in the gardens or along the river versus attaining the prestigious right to be in an orchestra. France continued to restrict their use to the chase for hunting until 1735.

To play French horns during the early 1700's, musicians would point the widely flared bell upwards like a bugle horn. The length of the tubing varied according to the pitch needed, so separate horns were needed for every key change. This problem was solved by the crook system, developed in 1715, which consisted of various lengths of tube rings fitting into the end of the mouthpiece socket. It allowed the player to use any key.

An important technique came to fruition when Anton Joseph Hampel of Germany was testing out various mutes in 1750. He discovered that he could progressively lower the pitch by pushing a cotton pad or his hand into the bell further and further, called "stopping". This hand-horn technique required that the horn is held horizontally and is still used today. Hampel then redesigned it with the crooks in the center of the hoop versus near the mouthpiece. However, just like the unpleasant sound of the original horns, there was still a disparity between tone and power of the open and stopped notes.

The best innovation for french horns came when two German musicians invented the valve in 1815. Voila! Crooks no longer needed to be changed as the descending spring valves lowered the pitch. The last notable invention for french horns was in 1899 when double F/Bb French horns were first sold.

Over one hundred years later, no significant alterations or additions have been necessary. Materials may have changed somewhat, but spring valves are still used as well as the hand-horn technique to attain a perfect mellow timbre and keep the natural roughness of tone in check. French horns have continued to maintain their musical status all over the world.