French Horn "the Horn"
The French Horn, usually called simply “the horn” can produce incredibly beautiful, soaring tones. Humans originally used to blow on the actual horns of animals before starting to emulate them in metal. This original usage survives in the shofar, a ram's horn, which plays an important role in Jewish religious rituals.
Early metal horns were made of brass tubes with a slightly flared opening (the bell) wound around a few times. These early "hunting" horns were originally played on a hunt, often while mounted. Change of pitch was effected entirely by the lips (the horn not being equipped with valves until the 19th century). Without valves, only the notes within the harmonic series are available. Crooks were added to play in different keys.
In the mid 1700s, horn players began to insert the right hand into the bell to change pitch of notes to bring them more in tune. In 1818 the first valved horns were introduced.
The horn is unique among brass instruments, for several reasons. The horn is:
- An alto instrument with tubing as long as that of a bass instrument.
- Played with a mouthpiece that looks intended for a soprano instrument.
- The only brass instrument played with the bell facing backwards.
- The brass instrument with the greatest range.
- Played with the hand stuck partway up the bell.
- Played by more women than other brasses are.
Because the horn is more challenging to play than most brass instruments, it is often taken up by those who already play trumpet or trombone, for instance. However, for those who love the ethereal and triumphant tone, some wonderful players prove that the exertion is well worth the effort.
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