Could French Horns play a part in the brass band?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Dave Payn, Jan 12, 2004.

  1. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    The reason I ask this is purely tone colour related, though I dare say I'm by no means the first to raise this topic. Outside the top sections, most brass bands (and indeed brass band pieces) are geared towards only the cornets and trombones being muted for variety in those instruments' tone colour. With the addition of French Horns, given all that extra tubing and the accompanying range they have, along with techniques like hand stopping, wouldn't the brass band movement benefit from the extra tonal variety they can provide at different ranges? I'm not suggesting ditching tenor horns, believe me, no! But simply to provide an extra dimension in the alto/tenor and possibly even bass range to give the brass band more variety in sound? Or am I just messing with tradition too much?

    All thoughts (even those slagging me off!) welcome.

    Kind regards
  2. Vickitorious

    Vickitorious Active Member

    NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO :evil: They can't play in brass bands!! Well, until the day they let t. horns in orchestras, then i might think about it!!!! :lol:
  3. MRSH

    MRSH Supporting Member

    This is a very interesting topic. I’ve asked this question of many people many times.

    To include French horns in a brass band would be such a radical change I think you would get every (dare I say) ‘traditionalist’ shouting “NO” from every rooftop.

    I, myself, would love to see it. With so much music (especially film music) being arranged for band these days tenor horns just do not have the depth of sound and range that French horns have. Listen to the music of John Williams, Howard Shore and Hans Zimmer (to name just three of many) and there is no way you can recreate the depth of scoring effectively. Some have had a damn good go admittedly and made a decent enough job at it as far as it goes – but put French horns in to that make up and the sound will just blow you away.

    Although not film music a great example of this recently was the Enigma Variations at the RAH. Nimrod without French horns just does not cut it.

    Taking this a little further, I have always thought that increasing the brass band size to incorporate two sopranos (one being an Eb trumpet, or – I’ll duck now – even a piccolo trumpet!!!!), two flugels and maybe even four trombones (one being an alto, perhaps) would increase the variety of tone colour available to composers and arrangers immeasurably.

    Tradition is one thing but advancing, changing and breaking with tradition can be of benefit sometimes.

    Just my personal opinion.

    Maybe a poll could be started regarding this here on tMP.

    Regards to all

  4. David Pegram

    David Pegram Member

    The old Watneys Band tried to play with French Horns in their hay day.Sad but i even have a record with such a line up.I dont think it was very successful but with the developement of Brass Band music,it could now work.
  5. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    London Collegate (sp?) Brass used to use them - don't know if they still do (or indeed even still exist!)

  6. tewkeshorn

    tewkeshorn Account Suspended

    The only thing wrong with French Horns (pah!) is that theyre French! :p

    Seriously though, there are some things that you could only really get away with French Horns and theres some things that could only be done on Tenor Horn, although don't Marching Bands actually use French Horns instead anyway? (sure I've seen that on the TV somewhere, maybe the US?)

    The French Horn/Tenor Horn situation can't be very much different from the Cornet/Trumpet deal. We just accept that Cornets play in bands and trumpets in orchestras (with a few exceptions i know), but I think we're starting to see more crossover these days. ie Martin Winters new CD.

    I think we should start exploring more radical instrumentation in pieces, but as most 4th section bands won't easily be able to get hold of a harp, 3 french horns and a digeridoo for example for an areas test piece thats probably why we're reluctant to change!

    Still trying to prompt our training bands composer to finish her piece for 26 triangles :)
  7. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    I think tonally, French Horn, or a whole bunch of them could be very useful in the Brass Band!

    Sometimes theres nothing better than a roaring (or should I say searing) French Horn.

    Although, I am more of an Orchestral Composer (in style and sound) than a Brass Band composer, so I guess I'm kinda biast.

    However, I don't think any Composer would rubbish the idea of using another tone colour in the Brass Band to enhance his overall desired effect! The more colours you have in your palette, the better!
  8. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    26 Triangles!

    otherwise known as a Soprano Player! :) Why have 26 triangle-players when one sop player could make more racket!
  9. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    Better still, if you added flutes and clarinets you could get even closer to the film scores. And for the Enigma Variations perhaps some strings could be added to make it sound more like the original. And for some other arrangements it might help if we ditched the eupho and basses and ....
  10. MRSH

    MRSH Supporting Member

    Yes indeed they did - and trumpets. And what a fantastic sound they made. I used to play for them but I'm only a percussionist so what do I know??!?!? But I did enjoy listening to the stuff they played with the depth of tone from the French horns. Mmmmm - if only!!!!!

    As far as I'm aware they disappeared many years ago. Great shame.

  11. Once saw a french horn playing the flugel parts... Honestly, I couldn't hear so much differnce, but still, I'd rather prefer a real flugel, since a french horn has no relationship with brass banding.....
  12. MRSH

    MRSH Supporting Member

    I was particularly talking about the strength of the tenor horn against that of the French horn. Although you probably knew that anyway! :eek:

    I am not against the tenor horn in any way but I was answering the title of the thread - and I think the French horn could have a part to play in the brass band. Like I said, just my opinion - I accept some people aren't going to agree with it.

    Now----------------------------------------as for ditching the euphoniums and basses.............................(I'm joking!!)

  13. John Brooks

    John Brooks Well-Known Member

    City of London Brass and the S.A.'s Red Shield Band also used french horns. I believe the music played has to be carefully chosen to be effective. I personally like the resulting sound but would not like to see a permanent change away from the Tenor Horn.

    London Collegiate Brass, City of London Brass and the Red Shield Band all used french horns primarily because that was the instrument the individual players performed on (drawn from orchestral or military resources). As I understand it, you can't switch from tenor or flugel horn to french horn as easily as you can switch between cornet, trumpet(s) and flugel. Most good players can handle that with comparative ease, but french horn is not so easy to switch to or from. I believe it is largely due to the french horn mouthpiece but there are some other considerations too.

    I used to take lessons from Peter Clack when he was principal horn in the Welsh Guards (and the Red Shield Band); he experienced a lot of grief trying to switch to flugel in the corps band at Penge; it was a long time ago and things may have changed some but I believe most of the challenges would still be valid today.
  14. twm_trombone

    twm_trombone Member

    There is more of a chance that the pope will convert to Islam than there is of French horns joining a brass band. All that rotwiler rasping and titanic volume, no thank you. The horns in brass bands should be subtle and not abrasive, and they should carry on doing what they do at the moment, that is, adding to the tonal quality of a brass band.
  15. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    I think 'rottweiler and rasping volume' is a somewhat surprising decription of a French Horn's tone. (Peter Bale recently recommended a French Horn CD: 'Born for Horn' Listen to that and you will hear how French Horns are capable of so much more.)

    It's been an interesting discussion but the one thing I've noticed is that one or two have alluded to French Horns as a a possible replacement for the tenor horn. I was quite keen to point out that I wouldn't advocate that and I don't. The tenor horn has a limited range by comparison and a unique tone and role to play in a brass band which shouldn't be ditched. My suggestion was that French Horns could be included with tenor horns and given the substantially greater range it has, could provide alternative tone colour at a number of ranges (even bass).

    However, much as I would like to see it happen, twm's comparison between French horns/brass bands to the Pope and Islam will probably end up being quite true!

    As for London Collegiate Brass, they did use French horns but instead of tenor horns, if I remember rightly.
  16. Cantonian

    Cantonian Active Member

    I played French Horn (orchestrally) in my youth but have always preferred playing tenor horn. I can see that French horns may add different colours to the brass band but where would they sit? In the orchestra they sit at the back with nobody in the way of the sound from the bell but a french horn at fff may be quite painful to the bass section if the horns sat in the middle of the band.
  17. Rambo Chick

    Rambo Chick Member

    i think that we should keep to the tenor horns, for the lovely mellow sound they produce. i think french horns are far too strong and wouldn't blend as well with a brass band.

    once we start having orchestral instruments in our brass bands, where might it end? experimentation is a good thing perhaps but i think that using orchestral instruments is not the way to do it.

    and also reading Tenor-Steffen-DK's quote, can i say having a french horn play flugel parts is blasphemy!!!! :eek:
    flugels rule!!!! :D

    flugel, united co-op yorkshire
  18. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    horns of the devil!!

    As a composer (amongst other things) anything that adds colour and texture to a musical ensemble deserves to be tried. Perhaps in concerts it would be handy, the range is awesome on a French Horn I believe.

    I have quotes from emminent composers such as Edward Gregson suggesting that perhaps french horns would be good, as well as a piccolo instrument to add more height to the range of the band. I think I've said this before, we never change because of the effect of contesting on the brass band line up. Sad really, lots of stuff with electronic effects would be good, like Phillip Wilby's Dance Before the Lord which I played in National Youth band, an awesome experience. I have also played a work in the Royal College of Music by Tim Schouster with these delay devices and it was really interesting and different.

    Perhaps with all the crossing over and breaking down of musical borders everywhere else in music perhaps it is time that we start looking to broaden our, to be honest, narrow out look on music.
  19. ted

    ted Member

    Absolutely not!

    You can't redefine what a brass band is! If trumpets and french horns play with other brass then it should be an brass emsemble or something, not a "Brass Band".

    Just like how a "Brass Band" isn't complete without a soprano cornet and a bass trombone, a brass band isn't proper if French horns and trumpets are playing in it.

    Having said that, if composers decided to score french horns and trumpets in brass band pieces then we have to oblige (or choose not to buy the piece).

    I just thought of an idea. Does anyone think that instrument makers exert influence on what instruments are scored in music? (Like all of a sudden, every second brass band piece needs a vibraphone)

  20. eckyboy

    eckyboy Member

    NO NO NO
    Cornets dont get invited to wind bands and orchestras do we--angry man whos stopped smoking :evil:

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