Could French Horns play a part in the brass band?

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Owen said:
and they struggled with the speedier stuff and seemed not to be able to trill - that might be a function of rotary valves?

No - a function of the fact that the French Horn is a Tuba-length tube, and so is playing in the super register when high (the narrow bore and mouthpiece allow the players to reach these harmonics). In other words, many trills are likely to have to be lip trills, and inferior players probably won't be able to perform them. Re running about, French Horn parts rarely get speedy anywhere in the same way as band parts often do, and so mostly they don't have the experience.

midwalesman said:
Isn't the Wagnarian Tuba, utilised surprisingly by Wagner in The Ring and many other pieces, a baritone or Euphonium of some kind ?

No - the bore is somewhat more tapered than a French Horn, but the mouthpiece is identical to the idiosyncratic French Horn one, and they are conical throughout. To play, they are far more French Horny than Saxhorny or Tubaey.

James McFadyen said:
Accidental said:
As an ex-french horn player, I can only say NOOOOO!!!

One of the most defining characteristics of the brass band sound is that it is homogenous, and we get that through using cornets not trumpets and saxhorn-type lower brass. Trumpets and french horns sound "wrong" for BB, cornets and t.horns sound wrong for an orchestra - but that isn't a bad thing imho. I don't like the french horn sound, or clarinets and flutes etc, thats why I chose to play in a brass band not a wind band or orchestra.

I understand what your saying, but I don't think homogenous, is the right word. Homogeneoty can be obtained with any combination of instruments.

Beg to differ, but I think homogeneous is exactly the right word. I think my suggestion for the word you are looking for would be 'equilibrium'.

And herein lies the key to my opinion on the issue - the tonal strength of a brass band lies in its ability to make a homogeneous sound, also noting however that this is intrinsically tempered by the 'edge' that the Trombones in particular can add. Essentially put, given the musical conception of a brass band sound as it exists in our minds (and those of other musicians), regularly adding an extra tonal counterpoint would entail losing a great deal more than we would gain - we have a well-established and balanced concept and we introduce tonal instabilities into that at our own peril!

Yes, for specialist features of course it's a good idea, but a serious brass band that took on four French Horns full-time would not really be a brass band any more - by all means we should run ensembles of whatever combinations we desire, but why do some people have the compulsion to confuse the sonic concept of a brass band? This debate suggests a certain confusion between the label "brass band" and the entities described by it.

And of course, Wonky Baton's point is valid from a pragmatic point of view - you have to be a good player not to spoil everything for everybody else by playing it inaccurately and cuttingly; it is a very hard instrument to begin to master!

Dave
 

Keppler

Moderator
Staff member
Marimba and timpani?! God no! Sure aren't bass drum, snare drum and cymbals enough for anyone?
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Are Marimbas (Marimbae?) and Timpani used throughout most pieces? OR are you envisaging that you would have extra F Horn players there only to play with the frequency that these instruments are used with?!

Dave
 

BurgerBoy

Member
French Horns and Trills

It is very difficult to trill on the Horn, its true. When you waggle the old valve on a cornet to trill you have a good idea what note you'll hit, and you know you won't stay on the same note. You don't have that luxury on the Horn, therefore lip trills are the order of the day.

However, to suggest that 'inferior' players can not lip trill is insulting to the majority of players. Many proffesionals go through their carrear unable to lip trill, while some old codger with the tone of a hoover can lip trill faster than the speed of sound. Its one of those things - you either can or can't.
 

James McFadyen

New Member
Re: French Horns and Trills

BurgerBoy said:
It is very difficult to trill on the Horn, its true. When you waggle the old valve on a cornet to trill you have a good idea what note you'll hit, and you know you won't stay on the same note. You don't have that luxury on the Horn, therefore lip trills are the order of the day.

However, to suggest that 'inferior' players can not lip trill is insulting to the majority of players. Many proffesionals go through their carrear unable to lip trill, while some old codger with the tone of a hoover can lip trill faster than the speed of sound. Its one of those things - you either can or can't.

It's very difficult to do a 'horn rip' on a cornet, so what's your point, every instrument has its strengths and weeknesses and unique characteristics. Trills arn't very characteristic of horn, not for the main part anyway, sop players aren't very characteristic of playing quietly, but we don't judge them too much :wink:

I don't think it matters what extra instrument you use it, so long as you use it properly and not to the detriment to the other sounds of the BB.

I think, that the die-hard Brass Band enthusiasts will take the view of the BB sound is great as it is, why should we add more instruments to our sound. A valid point, but the BB movement will never change, nor develop if we were to think like that all the time, I think the concert platform will be the only place to try out these extra instruments for the time being, anyway!
 
Dave
You could always try it out at the WMA summer school this year.
(I presume you are going to be this years tutor as it wasn't you last year)
There are french horns there for the wind band and orchestra so they probably could be drafted in for a couple of pieces.
There were only 2 tenor horns there last year anyway.

Hope to see you there (If I get in this year)
 

Okiedokie of Oz

Active Member
ted said:
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".

Well orchestras do it, and everything has to change eventually. Not to say I am supporting the idea. I just feel sometimes we have to give it a shot before we rule it out.
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Okiedokie of Oz said:
ted said:
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".

Well orchestras do it, and everything has to change eventually. Not to say I am supporting the idea. I just feel sometimes we have to give it a shot before we rule it out.

But the word 'orchestra' covers so many different kinds of ensemble - the contrast between say Beethoven's and Wagner's ensembles is a large one - and there were only 60 years between them. Generalising to such concepts as the 'Baroque orchestra' and all of the ensembles used orchestrally in the 20th century produces a huge range of possible meanings for the word.

For better or worse the term 'brass band' has acquired a stricter definition - and what benefit can we gain from misdescribing things? By all means have F Horns in one's band - I've seen it done plenty of times in short-staffed non-contesting bands - but, if you're taking it seriously, don't describe it as a brass band! You've got to work from where you're at, and the idea (even if it were possible) that all bands around the country should suddenly acquire a set of French Horn players is an obvious case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Burgerboy - I didn't mean to imply any insult by saying that 'inferior players probably won't be able to perform them' with reference to lip trills on F Horn - I simply meant that if a player is less good, they'll be less likely to be able to perform them. Surely this must be true? It's a skill that you can learn, like any other.

Dave
 

Keppler

Moderator
Staff member
MoominDave said:
Are Marimbas (Marimbae?) and Timpani used throughout most pieces? OR are you envisaging that you would have extra F Horn players there only to play with the frequency that these instruments are used with?!

Dave

I'm merely pointing out the fact that not too many years ago, there was possibly a lack of progressive attitude with regard to percussion scoring. Now we don't blink when we see glock/timps/etc. And yes, there is an increasing need for a full percussion section with newer music.

Attitudes change over time (slowly sometimes) To be honest, I can't see a permanant F horn section working every time - would tend to dominate the mix I think, unless the scoring was very sympathetic.
However, I'd be all for experimentation and bringing these instruments (conceivably along with players) in for certain parts.

It's not a new concept people, and has even been done in BB circles before. I believe there's a trumpet solo in "Call of the Cossacks" which was definately played on a trumpet at the premiere. As the man says, why not use different sounds and colours to help produce the effect you want? A 4th trombone part would certainly have interesting possibilities. Piccolo trumpet could add extra sparkle to certain music without the "laser soprano" treatment. And what about 2 flugel parts?

For the majority of music though, I would tend to stick to the more traditional instrumentation, from the point of view of the banding plebs! Not all of us have access to all these wonderful gizmos. A lot of us don't even have bands with a full compliment of players. A great advantage of band music is its set instrumentation, which means that you know what you're going to need (with the unfortunate exception of percussion) If every second piece of music is written with "something extra" then bands will be more limited in what they can choose, due to lack of digeridoo or alphorn or whatever.

Anyway, rant over..
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Keppler said:
I'm merely pointing out the fact that not too many years ago, there was possibly a lack of progressive attitude with regard to percussion scoring. Now we don't blink when we see glock/timps/etc. And yes, there is an increasing need for a full percussion section with newer music.

Attitudes change over time (slowly sometimes) To be honest, I can't see a permanant F horn section working every time - would tend to dominate the mix I think, unless the scoring was very sympathetic.
However, I'd be all for experimentation and bringing these instruments (conceivably along with players) in for certain parts.

Hmm, I hope I haven't been misinterpreted - always a danger when you're playing Devil's Advocate to some extent. I'm all for experimentation, and agree with your post wholeheartedly, but few others seem to be willing to point out the obvious fallacies in what's been written further back.

Cheers,
Dave
 

James McFadyen

New Member
Keppler said:
To be honest, I can't see a permanant F horn section working every time - would tend to dominate the mix I think, unless the scoring was very sympathetic.
However, I'd be all for experimentation and bringing these instruments (conceivably along with players) in for certain parts.

ur right! off hand, I would say there would definetly need to be some kind of sympathetic scoring, especially with the Euphs and the French Horns, the Euph kinda takes the role of the 'filler-upper' in the BB and penetrate the mix nicely! In afterthought, 2 French Horns may be better than 4, most likely, for reasons of balance and sound.

Keppler said:
It's not a new concept people, and has even been done in BB circles before. I believe there's a trumpet solo in "Call of the Cossacks" which was definately played on a trumpet at the premiere. As the man says, why not use different sounds and colours to help produce the effect you want? A 4th trombone part would certainly have interesting possibilities. Piccolo trumpet could add extra sparkle to certain music without the "laser soprano" treatment. And what about 2 flugel parts?

An extra Trombone would be nice, as would an extra flugel, however may disrupt the balance. Each section in the Band has been balanced right to achieve the most balanced and cohesive sound so that an effective blend can be made. The troms as they stand can hold their own very easily in the BB, they are a very effctive sound, but to add another trombone may sway the balance just a bit too lop sided. The Trombone has 4dB more dynamic range than that of a Trumpet, not sure about the Cornet, but I would say increase this ratio to 6dB for Cornet.

The Mass-Band thing has been done to great effect, achiveing what is acoustically double the volume for greater homonegity! (or what ever the spelling is!) John, u'll need to get spell-cheaker on here on a next upgrade, too much hassle to load every dodgy word into Microsoft Word! :wink:
 

PeterBale

Moderator
Staff member
James McFadyen said:
An extra Trombone would be nice, as would an extra flugel, however may disrupt the balance. Each section in the Band has been balanced right to achieve the most balanced and cohesive sound so that an effective blend can be made. The troms as they stand can hold their own very easily in the BB, they are a very effctive sound, but to add another trombone may sway the balance just a bit too lop sided. The Trombone has 4dB more dynamic range than that of a Trumpet, not sure about the Cornet, but I would say increase this ratio to 6dB for Cornet.
It is true that the trombones can (or should at least be able to) hold their own in the band, but I think the question of a fourth player is one of flexiblility in scoring. Three trombones makes sense if you are largely writing in triads, as the very effective earlier symphonic parts show very well, but once you start looking at close harmony chords with added 6ths, 9ths etc then it would be good to be able to voice them with a full section of trombones rather than having to compromise by using a baritone, say, on one of the inner parts. SA publications have often written for 4 or even 5 trombones and it needn't overbalance the texture if it is done sensitively.

Back to the horn question, I personally feel two could be more awkward to write for than four, but that's just me!
 

James McFadyen

New Member
PeterBale said:
It is true that the trombones can (or should at least be able to) hold their own in the band, but I think the question of a fourth player is one of flexiblility in scoring. Three trombones makes sense if you are largely writing in triads, as the very effective earlier symphonic parts show very well, but once you start looking at close harmony chords with added 6ths, 9ths etc then it would be good to be able to voice them with a full section of trombones rather than having to compromise by using a baritone, say, on one of the inner parts. SA publications have often written for 4 or even 5 trombones and it needn't overbalance the texture if it is done sensitively.

Unless you're in a Big Band, I can't see the need for 4 troms. Dovetailing is the most prefered technique for building chords, have the Triad played by the troms and put the 6th on a Horn and Baritone, this would provide a much more intresting and varied colour than just a four-note trombone chord, I think most composers would agree with me on this one! :wink:
 

Keppler

Moderator
Staff member
Forgive me, but I thought the fundamental of the discussion was to investigate doing things a little differently and away from the standard way of BB arranging. I see your point James, but I can see plenty of applications for > 3 trombones, particularly in music pre 1800.
What makes music interesting is contrast, and doing things the same way all the time trains the ear in that direction..

but of course you know all this...
 

Dave Payn

Active Member
Keppler said:
MoominDave said:
Are Marimbas (Marimbae?) and Timpani used throughout most pieces? OR are you envisaging that you would have extra F Horn players there only to play with the frequency that these instruments are used with?!

Dave

I'm merely pointing out the fact that not too many years ago, there was possibly a lack of progressive attitude with regard to percussion scoring. Now we don't blink when we see glock/timps/etc. And yes, there is an increasing need for a full percussion section with newer music.

Attitudes change over time (slowly sometimes) To be honest, I can't see a permanant F horn section working every time - would tend to dominate the mix I think, unless the scoring was very sympathetic.
However, I'd be all for experimentation and bringing these instruments (conceivably along with players) in for certain parts.

It's not a new concept people, and has even been done in BB circles before. I believe there's a trumpet solo in "Call of the Cossacks" which was definately played on a trumpet at the premiere. As the man says, why not use different sounds and colours to help produce the effect you want? A 4th trombone part would certainly have interesting possibilities. Piccolo trumpet could add extra sparkle to certain music without the "laser soprano" treatment. And what about 2 flugel parts?

For the majority of music though, I would tend to stick to the more traditional instrumentation, from the point of view of the banding plebs! Not all of us have access to all these wonderful gizmos. A lot of us don't even have bands with a full compliment of players. A great advantage of band music is its set instrumentation, which means that you know what you're going to need (with the unfortunate exception of percussion) If every second piece of music is written with "something extra" then bands will be more limited in what they can choose, due to lack of digeridoo or alphorn or whatever.


Anyway, rant over..

But I understand Bb digeridoos are easier to get hold of than the Eb ones. A bit like my favourite instrument in the string section, the tacet viola.... ;-)
 

horn1

Member
I personally think that the point has been missed so far. Brass bands developed into what they are today because of the invention of the saxhorn (horns and bari's). The saxhorn gives the unique sound which is created by the middle of the band. Without the saxhorn bands would not exsist in the form they do, these instruments are unique to the brass band ensemble.

Brass bands developed as an amature music making organisation, this was facilitated by the instrumentation. Instruments were cheaper than orchestral brass and easier to switch between because of the uniform fingering system. If french horns had been included from the outset I do not think that we would have as strong a movment as we have today. If french horns were added to the standard line up i think we would risk alienating a large part of the movement purely because of the difficulty of finding suitable FH players. French Horns are technically brass instruments but are often linked to the woodwind section in orchestras/windbands because of their unique sound. I don't neccessarily think that this sound would blend with the brass band sound. Please don't misunderstand me I love the french horn sound but I do not think it could work as a permanant fixture in the BB.As a movement we already have a shortage of trombone and bass players, would adding another 'endangered' instrument really help us to becaome stronger?

People are probably thinking that I am all against change and innovation, that is not the case at all. I honestly think that the addition of extra instruments to the brass band set up is a good thing in certain situations. Featuring instruments not included in our ensemble can only widen our audience. I believe that Black Dyke are currently playing a piece that includes a sitar player (I could be wrong). Collaboration is a fantastic thing, one thing that is frustrating as a tenor horn player is the lack of opportunity to play in other ensembles.

We do need to widen our musical horizons as a movement, but I think it would be very foolish to forget where we have come from and how we began. I also think that it would be wrong to under estimate the role the saxhorn has had in shaping the brass band as we know it.

Right! Rant over, but someone had to stick up for the tenor horn! :evil:
 

Dave Payn

Active Member
horn1 said:
I personally think that the point has been missed so far. Brass bands developed into what they are today because of the invention of the saxhorn (horns and bari's). The saxhorn gives the unique sound which is created by the middle of the band. Without the saxhorn bands would not exsist in the form they do, these instruments are unique to the brass band ensemble.

Brass bands developed as an amature music making organisation, this was facilitated by the instrumentation. Instruments were cheaper than orchestral brass and easier to switch between because of the uniform fingering system. If french horns had been included from the outset I do not think that we would have as strong a movment as we have today. If french horns were added to the standard line up i think we would risk alienating a large part of the movement purely because of the difficulty of finding suitable FH players. French Horns are technically brass instruments but are often linked to the woodwind section in orchestras/windbands because of their unique sound. I don't neccessarily think that this sound would blend with the brass band sound. Please don't misunderstand me I love the french horn sound but I do not think it could work as a permanant fixture in the BB.As a movement we already have a shortage of trombone and bass players, would adding another 'endangered' instrument really help us to becaome stronger?

People are probably thinking that I am all against change and innovation, that is not the case at all. I honestly think that the addition of extra instruments to the brass band set up is a good thing in certain situations. Featuring instruments not included in our ensemble can only widen our audience. I believe that Black Dyke are currently playing a piece that includes a sitar player (I could be wrong). Collaboration is a fantastic thing, one thing that is frustrating as a tenor horn player is the lack of opportunity to play in other ensembles.

We do need to widen our musical horizons as a movement, but I think it would be very foolish to forget where we have come from and how we began. I also think that it would be wrong to under estimate the role the saxhorn has had in shaping the brass band as we know it.

Right! Rant over, but someone had to stick up for the tenor horn! :evil:

Nicola, you make some excellent points, then blow it with your final comment! Despite me mentioning the fact twice that French horns (in my view) could be used without replacing tenor horns some people still seem to think this is a 'French horn v tenor horn' debate. It's no comparison, they are completely different instruments. My idea was based on tone colour, with the unique tone (as you mention) that the FH can bring over a wide range to occasionally compensate for the fact that most lower section bands and pieces written/arranged therefore, only contain muting for cornets and trombones, the limitations of which to my ears, can make the brass band sound somewhat monotonous. Also, comparing a band playing a (presumably) one off piece with a sitar is not really a comparison to a debate about including a brass instrument in a brass band.

Regards
 

Accidental

Supporting Member
horn1 said:
I personally think that the point has been missed so far. Brass bands developed into what they are today because of the invention of the saxhorn (horns and bari's). The saxhorn gives the unique sound which is created by the middle of the band. Without the saxhorn bands would not exsist in the form they do, these instruments are unique to the brass band ensemble.
Hello!!! 2 pages ago.......
Accidental said:
One of the most defining characteristics of the brass band sound is that it is homogenous, and we get that through using cornets not trumpets and saxhorn-type lower brass. Trumpets and french horns sound "wrong" for BB, cornets and t.horns sound wrong for an orchestra - but that isn't a bad thing imho. I don't like the french horn sound, or clarinets and flutes etc, thats why I chose to play in a brass band not a wind band or orchestra.
And just for James, its homogeneity, but I don't think its the right word. :wink:

I know I'm ranting, but does anyone actually bother to read previous posts before launching into great long essays? Some people are even starting to contradict their own posts now! :?
 

Dave Payn

Active Member
Accidental said:
horn1 said:
Some people are even starting to contradict their own posts now! :?

Diffilcult to read all the posts on a long thread. Some have more time than others. Can't say I've noticed anyone contradicting their posts either. Who are you referring to?
 

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