French Horn Playing

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The French horn is a brass instrument that is often heard in movies, symphony orchestras, radio and television, and it has evolved over the centuries into its modern form. Understand the basics of the French horn with help from an experienced musician and music instructor in this free video on brass instruments.

Part of the Video Series: The French Horn
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Dr. Steven Gross of the University of California at Santa Barbara, French horn Professor and Director of the Wind, Brass, Percussion Program here. I'm glad you tuned in to learn more about playing the French horn. The French horn is an instrument that you've probably heard a lot of even though you may not know it. For example, you may have heard this somewhere before. So, this is the instrument that produces the sound and it's heard in movie theaters, symphony orchestras, radio, television, Internet and many medium. It's considered one of the most poetic and elegant of all the instruments. It has a long history. The horn, in fact, is something that's been known since antiquity in many cultures and our sound is produced by buzzing our lips together like this. It's like everything you wanted to tell some of your favorite high school teachers. So, you vibrate the lips against the metal surfacing that's called a mouth piece and from ancient times we've had a lot of different ways to produce the sound. For example, the conch shell. We can drill out a hole at the tip here. A similar affect can be produced using a log or a metal tube. For example, this long instrument has been separated into two for convenience, but this is something like a herald trumpet or an instrument that can produce sounds over a long distance, but as you can see this is kind of difficult to hold or if you were part of the medieval period, it's something that you held while riding a horse. So, what has been done is to take this long tube and curl it up like this so it can be carried over the shoulder. It's also called a natural horn and I'm going to reach over here and show you an example of what's called a natural horn. In other words, a French horn that doesn't have the valve section here. So, we can still produce the sound like this without the valves and just using the tension in the lip. And then finally, we have the horn of modern hero. This is the instrument you saw initially. It has valves and we can make lots of changes in sound.

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