French horn pitching...

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by yonhee, Jan 2, 2007.

  1. yonhee

    yonhee Active Member

    Not sure if this should be in here...
    But I was wondering if anyone else who plays french horn finds that when you play top Ds they sound flat unless you use the Bb side? I can't play the Ds in tune they always sound flat but I can play the E above it :confused:
    Please help!!! :(
  2. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    That's due to the harmonic series. Some notes sound naturally flat, and others are sharp. For example, the 7th harmonic always sounds flat. When you go from one side to the other you are changing into a different harmonic series, which may be naturally tuned differently.

    Well, that's the theory anyway - I'm sure if you ask MikeLyons he can explain it so much better than I just have!

    Personally (and totally irrelevantly), I used to play virtually everything on the Bb side because I found it easier to pitch. But then, I'm not really a French horn player - I just took it up in 6th form because my teacher thought it would be a good idea, and I only just about managed to scrape grade 7 by the time I left. I've hardly touched the thing since then.....
  3. Ffion Flugel

    Ffion Flugel Member

    :tongue: Thank goodness for that, I thought it was me.
  4. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    Must be a valuable horn then, Dave, being that old? :biggrin:
  5. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    Worth a fortune I expect! I might take it to the Antiques Roadshow one day and retire on the proceeds!! :tongue:
  6. Brass Nut

    Brass Nut New Member

    Well, it should be played on the Bb horn side. From 3rd line D and up should be on the Bb horn. 2nd line G# to C# can be played on either horn. Below G#, play on the F horn. I almost always switch to Bb right at D. C# on F horn, D on Bb.

    A common mistake for brass players whose main instrument is not Fr Horn, is to play these D notes 1st valve on the F horn. If you insist on playing it on the F horn, it should be played open. Remember, on Horn, you are one octave higher in the harmonic series than on other brass instruments.
  7. yonhee

    yonhee Active Member

    Well I am currently switching from the F side to the Bb side for higher notes as it's easier and my Ds don't sound flat but it just doesn't sound as nice on the Bb side as the F side. But I'll try playing it open, the fingering charts I have for french horn both say first so that's what I played. Thanks very much.
    And Dave I did understand what you were saying! Almost anyway... What's the harmonic series? Is that a really stupid question?
  8. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - Dave would be quite partial to answering that question. ;)
  9. yonhee

    yonhee Active Member

    Make him come online then! WHy would he be partial?
  10. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    yonhee, Wikipedia has a good description of the harmonic series and everything related to it, including the tuning of notes ... and partials! :cool:
  11. Brass Nut

    Brass Nut New Member

    The ease of attack for the D on the Bb horn will be much easier. The tonality may be a bit richer on the F horn, but I never found it enough to warrent playing it on the F side. BTW, what model horn are you playing?

    The problem with these fingering charts is that they are not written by actual horn players (probably trumpet players :p ). But, they may be specifing 1st valve to make it a bit easier for the beginner playing a single F horn. The C, D, E in a row all open could prove difficult for the beginner.
  12. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    Oh 'eck!! Where's Mike when you need him? :tongue:

    The harmonic series is the range of notes you can play on a fixed length of tube. For example, on your horn with open fingering you can play bottom C (on 4 lines and a space below the treble clef stave), C the octave above it (one one leger line), G, C, E, G, Bb (on one ledger line and a space above the stave) and C. You can also carry on upwards, but we'll ignore that for now.

    When you press your first valve, you add a bit more tube so that the pitch is lowered by a tone. This means you can play Bb (on 5 ledger lines), Bb, F, Bb, D, F, Ab and Bb. This is the basic principal of brass playing; if you keep adding more bits of tube, you get a different range of notes and eventually you have enough tube to be able to play all the notes.

    However, as I said above, not all notes are tuned the same. So if you try to play a top Bb (one line and a space above the stave) on open it will sound flat because it is a 7th harmonic. However, if you play it on first it is an 8th harmonic and it is closer to being in tune so we never use open fingering to play that note. The accepted fingerings that we all know and love are chosen purely because they are closest to what we consider as being in tune, and as you know there are often several different "false" fingerings. These are in fact just different harmonics from different harmonic series.

    That's physics that is! :tongue:
  13. Dewi Corn

    Dewi Corn New Member

    D on 1+2 on Bb side can often be sharp. Open on the F side is often much better in tune, and can be more secure. E open on F side, and D on 1st on F side are usually rather flat.

    It can depend on the instrument etc., and it can be difficult to play a note in tune if other members of the section are out of tune, so get used to different fingerings.

    Good luck
  14. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    First of all:

    Yonhee, who's let you loose on a French Horn? Do you know which end to blow into? ;)

    Well, if Yonhee had asked in the appropriate thread, I might have spotted it sooner. :eek:

    I assume that she has found the information she needs....

    (No screams:eek: )
  15. yonhee

    yonhee Active Member

    Thanks Dave! That could be why my form tutor from last year told me I should take physics if I liked music. That confused me a lot at the time.

    It is harder to pitch open on the F side cause it's c,d,e all open but it sounds nicer when I concentrate enough to get it. It depends on what notes I have around it as to which side a play on. I'm on a boosey and hawkes, don't know if it's any good but it's the only one at school.

    My music teacher! Yes I do! It's the little end. They're silly though they don't have spit valves. Can you imagine if you're right in the middle of a solo and you have to empty the spit :confused: It takes ages you have to spin it around.
  16. Brass Nut

    Brass Nut New Member

    Just keep at it. It’s a tough instrument.

    As for the spit thing, you shouldn’t have to spin it too much to drain it. If you do, it’s a bad design. On my Holton, there are two places that gets 99.9% of it drained.

    One, is the main F tuning slide (holding the horn upside down).

    The other is the 3rd valve slide on the Bb horn. I angle the horn so the 3rd valve is at the lowest point of the center of gravity, hold down the 3rd & thumb valves for a few seconds to let the spit flow into the slide. Then pull the slide out and empty.

    Of course, it all depends on the wrap of the horn. But, it gives you some ideas to try.
  17. yonhee

    yonhee Active Member

    Ta, I think mainly I get the spit from the valve that you change from Bb to F on but it just seems to get trapped and then I can't play.
    But I'm sure you will all be pleased to know that I can now play Ds!

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