Instrumentation notes – French Horn in F

  • Alto-tenor of the brass choir
  • Transposing instrument pitched in F with 3 or more valves
  • Family:
    Horn in F – sounds a 5th lower than written
    Alto horn in E-flat / F – sounds either a major 6th or 5th lower than written
    Mellophone in E-flat / F (rare) – sounds either a major 6th or 5th lower than written
    Mellophonium in E-flat / F – sounds either a major 6th or 5th lower than written
    Wagner tuba in F or B-flat – sounds a 5th lower / 1 step lower than written
  • Written range of family:
    French Horn in F range
  • Sound:
    Lower: Provides a secure bass but can’t project well in lower range. At a softer dynamic, lower range is haunting and dark
    Mid: More characteristic range (G below middle C to F octave above middle C); heroic and brilliant
    * horn players don’t read high notes notated in bass clef; any notes above G (below middle C) need to be written in treble clef
    High: often plays in higher partials; see technique for details
  • Character: Not very agile and leaps under an octave are possible.
  • Technique: Double/triple/flutter tonguing all possible. Two trills – lip and valve. Lip more characteristic, smoother than valve trills. Whole-step lip trills good above B-flat (1 octave above middle C). Stopped tones and not possible below B-flat below middle C; below this a mute is used, often a transposing mute. Shown with a (+) above note. Plays regularly in higher partials but this proves hard for accuracy, especially soft sections or with the entrance of high notes.  Doubling in unison helps a tricky line, as does approaching from a known interval (octave, perfect 4th or 5th), avoiding extreme dynamics, or doubling an octave lower in horns section. Usually scored high or low with players 1 and 3 scored on the high parts and players 2 and 4 assigned the lower parts.
    High range is low G (just below middle C up to 2 octaves C above middle C).
    Low range is low F (2 octaves below middle C up to G 2 octaves above middle C)

Blatter, A (1997). Instrumentation & Orchestration. 2nd ed. USA: Schirmer. Pgs 148-152


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