French Horn Brass Family Click here to view image in larger size


The French Horn is a valved brass wind instrument with a circular shape, tapering from a narrow mouthpiece to a flaring bell at the other end and producing a mellow tone. Often played with the right hand inside the bell, it is said to be the most difficult instrument to play.

The modern horn took a recognizable form in the 18th century. It was made with a flaring bell and one or two loops. It was made in the key of F with a length of about 12 ft and in a key of C with about 8ft of length. It became known in England about this time, and they called it the French horn. Starting in the 1710s, adding interchangeable extra crooks allowed a performer to change the length of the horn to alter its pitch.

Of all brass instruments in the orchestra this is the one that is most likely to ‘crack’ notes as the perfect note depends on so many things coming together at once. Like all brass instruments the lips of the player (embouchure) are important, as is the ability to find exactly the place in the long tubes, that make up the instrument, where the note can be found. Despite ‘modern’ developments, such as the valves, the horn remains a tricky instrument and needs great expertise to play.