The French horn (since the 1930s known simply as the "horn" in professional music circles) is a brass instrument made of tubing wrapped into a coil with a flared bell. The double horn in F/B♭ (technically a variety of German horn) is the horn most used by professional bands and orchestras. A musician who plays any kind of horn is called a horn player (or less frequently, a hornist).
Pitch is controlled through the adjustment of lip tension in the mouthpiece and the operation of valves by the left hand, which route the air into extra tubing.〔The background of the purpose in left-handed operation is murky, but may have arisen from the desirability to leave the right hand free to hold a weapon or the reins of a horse. Nonetheless, in view of the right-handed operation of most instruments, the horn offers left-handed players, including children who begin learning an instrument in the early years of school, a way to capitalize on their left-hand dominance, much as baseball favors left-handedness at pitcher and first base.〕 Most horns have lever-operated rotary valves, but some, especially older horns, use piston valves (similar to a trumpet's) and the Vienna horn uses double-piston valves, or pumpenvalves. The backward-facing orientation of the bell relates to the perceived desirability to create a subdued sound, in concert situations, in contrast to the more piercing quality of the trumpet. A horn without valves is known as a natural horn, changing pitch along the natural harmonics of the instrument (similar to a bugle). Pitch may also be controlled by the position of the hand in the bell, in effect reducing the bell's diameter. The pitch of any note can easily be raised or lowered by adjusting the hand position in the bell.〔Whitener, Scott (1990) ''A Complete Guide to Brass'' pp. 40, 44〕
Three valves control the flow of air in the ''single horn'', which is tuned to F or less commonly B. The more common ''double horn'' has a fourth valve, usually operated by the thumb, which routes the air to one set of tubing tuned to F or another tuned to B. Triple horns with five valves are also made, tuned in F, B, and a descant E or F. Also common are ''descant'' doubles, which typically provide B and Alto F branches. This configuration provides a high-range horn while avoiding the additional complexity and weight of a triple.
A crucial element in playing the horn deals with the mouthpiece. Most of the time, the mouthpiece is placed in the exact center of the lips, but, because of differences in the formation of the lips and teeth of different players, some tend to play with the mouthpiece slightly off center.〔Farkas, Philip (1956) ''The Art of French Horn Playing'' p. 21〕 Although the exact side-to-side placement of the mouthpiece varies for most horn players, the up-and-down placement of the mouthpiece is generally two-thirds on the upper lip and one-third on the lower lip.〔 Usually, in order to play higher octave notes, the pressure exerted on the lips from the mouthpiece is increased. But, although some pressure is needed, excessive pressure is not desirable. Playing with excessive pressure makes the playing of the horn sound forced and harsh as well as decreases endurance of the player by about half.〔Farkas, Philip (1956) ''The Art of French Horn Playing'' p. 65〕
The name "French horn" is found only in English, first coming into use in the late seventeenth
century. At that time, French makers were preeminent in the manufacture of hunting horns, and were credited with the creation of the now-familiar, circular "hoop" shape of the instrument. As a result, these instruments were often called even in English by their French names, ''trompe de chasse'' or ''cor de chasse'' (the clear modern distinction between ''trompes'', trumpets, and ''cors'', horns, did not exist at that time). When crooks were invented in order to make such horns playable in different keys, they were first devised by German makers, and so the national designators "French" and "German" came to be used to distinguish the simple hunting horn from the newer horn with crooks, which in England was also called by the Italian name ''corno cromatico'' (chromatic horn).〔Jennifer Beakes, "The Horn Parts in Handel's Operas and Oratorios and the Horn Players Who Performed in These Works", DMA diss. (New York: The City University of New York, 2007): 50, 116–18, 176, 223–25, 439–40, 444–45.〕 More recently, "French horn" is often used because the word "horn" by itself, even in the context of musical instruments, may refer to nearly any wind instrument. Nevertheless, the adjective has normally been avoided when referring to the European orchestral horn, ever since the German horn began replacing the French-style instrument in British orchestras around 1930.〔Norman Del Mar, ''Anatomy of the Orchestra'', illustrated reprint, revised (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983): 215. ISBN 978-0-520-05062-4; Renato Meucci and Gabriele Rocchetti, "Horn", ''The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians'', second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).〕 The International Horn Society has recommended since 1971 that the instrument be simply called the ''horn''.〔(【引用サイトリンク】 url = http://www.hornsociety.org/home/ihs-news/26-people/honorary/61-harold-meek-1914-1998 )〕 There is also a more specific use of "French horn" to describe a particular horn type, differentiated from the German horn and Vienna horn. In this sense, "French horn" refers to a narrow-bore instrument (10.8 to 11 mm) with three Périnet (piston) valves. It retains the narrow bell-throat and mouthpipe crooks of the orchestral hand horn of the late eigteenth century, and most often has an "ascending" third valve. This is a whole-tone valve arranged so that with the valve in the "up" position the valve loop is engaged, but when the valve is pressed the loop is cut out, raising the pitch by a whole tone.〔Anthony Baines, 'Brass Instruments: Their History and Development'' (London: Faber and Faber, 1976): pp. 221–23. ISBN 0-684-15229-0.〕
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