french horns

murr

Member
So many misconceptions about the french horn and the ability of amateur players, I played the french horn for over 20 years before I got involved with brass bands. They have fantastic parts to play within the orchestra in most of the music from the romantic composers onwards and incredibly difficult parts in the music of the early composers. They have to be able to transpose into many different keys, even within one symphony. They have fantastic parts in most film music and these parts would not sound the same played on tenor horns. Their harmonics are extremely close together, making it more difficuly to pitch the right notes. Most french horn players I know, and there are quite a few would not be seen playing a tenor horn, All these said, if a youngster who plays french horn wants to play in a brass band, give him a tenor horn with a mouthpiece adaptor and they will be able to enjoy the difference that a brass band provides. Why, in this climate when brass bands are disappearing fast, do we want to discourage any brass players from the enjoyment, friendship and music of the brass band movement. v
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
My post was the only one that mentioned the level of amateur players... For exactly the reason you point out (tubing twice as long as one might expect) it's a more difficult instrument to avoid sounding rubbish on. I know some very gifted amateur players, and these are the ones I book when I need to. Equally, I have played in a number of well-thought-of local amateur orchestras that contained some truly bobbins horn players, splitting and splatting their way through much more interesting parts than better players were working through on the other side of the brass section... Not a rare occurence!
It is my observation that, although those who take up the French horn and perform it at an amateur level are no less talented and dedicated individuals than those who take up other brass instruments, the point at which something close enough to mastery of the instrument is attained is simply further off - the same individual, at the same stage of development, having put in the same effort to learning either Eb tenor or French horn, is overwhelmingly more likely to sound less proficient if they have chosen the French horn route.

Thought I'd best clear that up. I don't like people thinking that I have misconceptions about things that I don't. :)
 

Rapier

Supporting Member
how about allowing french horns in brass bands? lots of youngsters play theese in school wind bands, much more powerfull and versitile than tenors and to transpose the music you just take it down a tone.

Don't be ridiculous! Brass Bands should not allow anything with the word French in it. Even french bread should be barred. :cool:
 

P_S_Price

Member
When I played in Sparkhill SA Band some years ago we had a french horn in the horn section. whne listening to play back of recordings it sounded like a french horn with band accompaniment. to strong a sound to blend.


In the 1970's Nunhead Citadel had a French Horn played in the Horn section.

It was actually played by the Husband of one of the current ISS members (Now an officer I believe)
 

murr

Member
Having done all of my french horn playing in good amateur orchestras in and around London, I found very few bad amateur players, but I do expect that the standard is variable. I would also like to point out that at no time have I suggested that they should be used in brass bands. This would not however stop the french horn players playing in a brass band on a diffeent instrument!
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Having done all of my french horn playing in good amateur orchestras in and around London, I found very few bad amateur players

You can mostly avoid them if you only turn out for KSO, Salomon, Corinthians, etc. There are plenty about if you drop down a tier - and London is most definitely the high water mark of amateur orchestral playing in the UK; in any other area, so far as I have seen, you can't get away from them.
 

Thirteen Ball

Active Member
how about allowing french horns in brass bands?

No thanks.

Next question.....

;)

All joking apart, there's not really a place for them in a brass band. What gives a band it's sound is the saxhorn section in the middle. The horns and baritones are the core of a band, and they are the link that takes all that warmth that spreads up from the basses and carries it up to the back row.

A section of froghorns would not sit happily alongside them - nor would they really be an adequate replacement as they'd spoil the blend in the middle sound.

I've nothing against french horns per se - any more than I've anything against any orchestral instrument. Within an orchestra, the brass, woodwind, strings etc all work together and different types of instrument are included for tone colour. Mostly it's the desire for a separation of sounds that leads to the inclusion of different types of instrument. A brass band is an entirely different context, it only really has one tone colour, so it's more often the blend which is most important. And there isn't really anywhere for a french horn to sit within that blend.

Like Moomin says, feel free to experiment with your instrumentation, but don't call it a brass band when you do. A full 25-piece band doesn't have a place where french horns make sense any more than it has a place for strings or woodwind.
 
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Bayerd

Active Member
I'll stand on me own then.

I think that french horns could easily sit in a brass band and blend when necessary and not when necessary. Saxhorn blend is just balderdash, as trombones don't fit into that sound, but blend where needed. French horns could easily do the same, they're made out of brass aren't they?

Take the blinkers off for ****s sake...
 

brassneck

Active Member
I'll stand on me own then.

I think that french horns could easily sit in a brass band and blend when necessary and not when necessary. Saxhorn blend is just balderdash, as trombones don't fit into that sound, but blend where needed. French horns could easily do the same, they're made out of brass aren't they?

Take the blinkers off for ****s sake...

Make that two ...
 

bobbyp

Member
I'll stand on me own then.

I think that french horns could easily sit in a brass band and blend when necessary and not when necessary. Saxhorn blend is just balderdash, as trombones don't fit into that sound, but blend where needed. French horns could easily do the same, they're made out of brass aren't they?

Take the blinkers off for ****s sake...


Et trois
 

cockaigne

Member
We had french horns on the three tenor horn parts in the college band when I was at Trinity; I believe the current incarnation of the same band (now run independently of the College) has a combination of the different instruments.

In the hands of a good player, the french horn can provide a broader tone than the tenor (quite possibly due to that twice-the-length-of-tubing-you'd-reasonably-expect phenomenon) or, as previously mentioned, cut through when required - something the tenor often struggles to do, even if one has a strong trio of players. Yes, it's not at all traditional, but to simply say it "doesn't work" is rather closed-minded at best, and might be missing the point, I feel.

As for valve trombones, fun (and a great space-saver, particularly for pit work) - but they tend to come without triggers on the valve slides, and so can't play nearly so well in-tune as the slide instrument; arguably the only truly chromatic brass instrument (but that's another thread, perhaps) ;)
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
No blinkers here, and I hope people realise that. Do it if you like, but call it a brass ensemble, not a brass band. For me, adding French horns changes the balance characteristics of the sound so much that it no longer functions recognisably as a "brass band". For better or for worse, the concept of a "British brass band" is solidly established and in the process of being successfully exported all over the world. That concept includes the homogeneous saxhorn blend in precisely defined pitch balance plus trombone and percussion colour, but not French horn colour. Or Sousaphone colour. Or trumpet colour or bugle colour or ophicleide colour or various other lip-vibrated aerophone colours that one could mention. One might very well ask: Why should French horns be special relative to all these other brass instruments that we don't use?

A point worth touching on that challenges the addition of French horns is the characteristic use of vibrato in banding. Part of the saxhorn blend is that wibbly-wobbly thing. However, wibbly-wobbliness of the band type is a bit tricky on the French horn - the relatively narrow harmonics can turn a big lip vib into a lip trill, for one thing. For another, the effect is not unlike that of doing the same on a trombone, despite the different bore profiles - distinctly unfashionable even in brass bands these days due to the obviousness of the effect.

Dave P., I was going to mention this thread in the email I sent you the other day! But then decided not to, as I had a vague memory of some possible friction caused by a previous thread on the subject...
 

trumpetmike

Well-Known Member
Go for it - bring on the horns.
Whilst you are there, how about trumpets?
Having the possibility of both cornets and trumpets would add some other timbral colours to the options available for both bands and composers, especially if the trumpeters were encouraged to bring their full assortment of toys with them (Bb, C, Eb, D, piccolo trumpets).
If we are on a roll, how about including some woodwind? Yet more tonal colours available to the "band" if you included those as well.
If you like those, you could always add in some strings for that element of extra tonal colour.

Or you could keep the "brass band" as what it is and have other options available for other styles of ensemble.
In the student brass ensemble I run we have french horns, but that is because there is not a huge tradition of tenor horn playing in this area and without the french horns we would have nobody playing those parts. It doesn't sound like a traditional brass band, but it does allow these students to become exposed to the brass band repertoire (and has encouraged a number of them to get involved with other bands later in their playing lives).

The only thing I would like to see as a possibility for brass bands is the option of two (or more) flugels or soprano cornets. When playing brass ensemble music having two (or more) trumpeters able to use these (or equivalent) instruments can make pieces timbrally very interesting. Imagine a section of cornets playing all flugels - it could be even more magical than the sound of a fantastic cornet section already can be.
 

bobbyp

Member
No blinkers here, and I hope people realise that. Do it if you like, but call it a brass ensemble, not a brass band. For me, adding French horns changes the balance characteristics of the sound so much that it no longer functions recognisably as a "brass band". For better or for worse, the concept of a "British brass band" is solidly established and in the process of being successfully exported all over the world. That concept includes the homogeneous saxhorn blend in precisely defined pitch balance plus trombone and percussion colour, but not French horn colour. Or Sousaphone colour. Or trumpet colour or bugle colour or ophicleide colour or various other lip-vibrated aerophone colours that one could mention.

Didn't the original british brass band have bugles and ophicleides?! Bands have evolved over time with the added colours of percussion and the replacement of keyed instruments with saxhorns, so why can't the british brass band still evolve? How can percussion be welcome in a brass band but not a brass french horn? If they can blend and they can stick out when necessary then what's the problem? Okay the quality of players are hit and miss, but the increased usage of them would only mean more people meeting the standard necessary to fit in.
 

Andrew Norman

Active Member
A point worth touching on that challenges the addition of French horns is the characteristic use of vibrato in banding. Part of the saxhorn blend is that wibbly-wobbly thing. However, wibbly-wobbliness of the band type is a bit tricky on the French horn - the relatively narrow harmonics can turn a big lip vib into a lip trill, for one thing. For another, the effect is not unlike that of doing the same on a trombone, despite the different bore profiles - distinctly unfashionable even in brass bands these days due to the obviousness of the effect.
QUOTE]

Sorry but that is not true - horn playing traditions in France, Russia and Eastern Europe mean that the horn is played WITH vibrato and a very beautiful sound it can be as well.
The German/English/American school of playing is vibrato free but it doesn't mean that a player can't use it - any more than a brass band player (should) be able to switch vibrato on and off as appropriate.
 

BikeBadger

Member
Okay the quality of players are hit and miss, but the increased usage of them would only mean more people meeting the standard necessary to fit in.

D'ya think? Most players can just about play "normal" instruments somewhere near to "in tune". A French Horn is far from normal - to play one is as hard as playing an Eb tuba with a trumpet mouthpiece. Brass bands have enough tuning problems dealing with the output of their euphonium sections. French Horns would tip us over the edge.
 

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