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Natural horn

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The musical instrument the natural horn is the ancestor of the modern-day horn, and is differentiated by its lack of valves. It consists of a mouthpiece, some long coiled tubing, and a large flared bell. Pitch changes are made through a few different techniques:

  • Modulating the lip tension as done with modern brass instruments. This allows for notes in the harmonic series to be played.
  • Changing the length of the instrument by switching the crooks. This is a rather slow process. Before the advent of the modern valved horn many ideas were attempted to speed up the process of changing the key of the instrument. See The Cyber Horn Museum for more information on this.
  • Changing the position of the hand in the bell; this is called handhorn technique.

This instrument was used extensively until the emergence of the valved horn in the early 19th century.

[edit] Handhorn Technique

The natural horn has several gaps in its harmonic range. In order to play chromatically, in addition to crooking the instrument into the right key, two additional techniques are required: bending and hand-stopping. Bending a note is achieved by modifying the embouchure to raise or lower the pitch fractionally, and compensates for the slightly out of pitch "wolf tones" which all brass instruments have. Hand-stopping is a technique whereby the player can modify the pitch of a note by up to a semitone (or sometimes slightly more) by inserting a cupped hand into the bell. Both change the timbre as well as the pitch.

[edit] Natural Horn Repertoire

The List of compositions for horn includes many pieces that were originally written with the natural horn in mind. Since the modern horn was just becoming used in the early to mid 19th century, music written before that always employed the natural horn. This includes substantial contributors to the horn repertoire such as Mozart, Beethoven, Telemann, Weber and many others. Others are more ambiguous. For example Brahms was certainly writing much of his major works after this time, but he did not care for the valved horn and wrote for natural horn. Near the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century almost all music was written for the modern valved horn.

[edit] Natural Horn and The Modern Horn

Below lists natural horn keys with their corresponding fingering on the modern horn. If a piece of music says the key on the left you can press the key combination on the right on the modern horn to get the correct tube length. (marked none where no fingering on a standard double horn creates an equivalent length):

  • C alto - none
  • B alto - none
  • B♭ alto - T0
  • A alto - T2
  • A♭ alto - T1
  • G - T12 or T3
  • G♭ - T23
  • F - F0 or T13
  • E - F2 or T123
  • E♭ - F1
  • D - F12 or F3
  • D♭ - F23
  • C - F13
  • B basso - F123
  • B♭ basso - none
  • A basso - none
  • A♭ basso - none
This article was started using a Wikipedia horn article
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