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    French horns appear visually different from the rest of the brass family, featuring curved tubing and key-like valves. This design allows the French horn to access a broader range of pitches compared to other brass instruments and, at the same time, results in a warmer, mellower tone that's ideal for both melodic lines and filling in the chord. As well, players further change its timbre by inserting their hand into the bell.

    About the French Horn

    The French horn's predecessor was likely a tubed instrument made of animal horn used for hunting. These early iterations had a wound, curved body with a bell faced away from the player. Records of this construction date back to France in the 17th century, and eventually, orchestral music started adding this instrument. Just as with other members of the brass family, valves revolutionized its operation in the 19th century. From there on, two types of horns were played, French and German.

    The initial French horn utilized about seven feet of tubing with a separate detachable piece added to the instrument's narrower end to lower the note range to the key of F - similar in pitch to today's models. The player used a cupped mouthpiece and placed their right hand inside the bell. The left hand, meanwhile, played three rotary or piston-style valves to lower the pitch.

    The German version - from which the modern-day French horn is derived - distinguishes itself with a larger bore and offers F and B-flat tonalities, allowing players to access more pitches and create a clearer tone.

    Then and today, players vibrate their lips into the mouthpiece. This technique and the valves allow players to access a full chromatic range of notes. Inserting the right hand or a cone-shaped device into the bell then mutes the instrument in varying degrees.

    While the German version eventually became the dominant horn, British players continued to use French-made instruments into the 20th century. As jazz assumed a larger presence over this era, calling the instrument a "French horn" helped differentiate it from other members of the brass family and the oboe-like English horn.

    In the present, you will typically see four French horns in the brass sections. Players must switch between reading treble and bass clefs.

    Find French Horns at Alamo Music Center

    Are you a French horn player looking to upgrade? Has your child started playing in orchestra or concert band at school? Turn to Alamo Music Center for quality new and used French horns. Browse our selection today, consider signing up for trial lessons to get to know your instrument, and explore multiple financing and layaway options, including 12- to 48-month no-interest financing at times.