Instrument of the Month: The Horn
Fun Facts about the Horn
- The horn is a member of the brass family.
- The horn is easily recognized by its circular form.
- The horn consists of a long slender metal tube, up to seventeen feet long, curved around and around, ending in a wide bell.
- The modern horn has four valves. In its usual playing position, the bell is pointed down and away from the listener. The musician buzzes into the mouthpiece, uses the left hand to press the valves, and moves the right hand in and out of the bell to control and change the quality of the sound. For a louder effect, the musician plays the instrument with the bell up, instead of down.
- There are usually four horns in an orchestra, but there can be as few as two and as many as eight or more, depending on what the music requires.
- The ancient ancestor of the horn was an animal horn.
- The distinctive coiled shape of the instrument was developed from a type of hunting horn that came into existence in France during the second half of the 17th century. The tubing was coiled into a hoop so that it could be easily carried on the huntsman’s shoulder.
- The instrument is called different names in different countries: horn, French horn, German horn, double horn… In 1971, the International Horn Society issued a statement that codified the official name of the instrument as the “horn”: “The International Horn Society recommends that HORN be recognized as the correct name for our instrument in the English language.”
About the Brass Family
All members of the brass family:
are made of long brass tubes curled up into different shapes.
have cup-shaped mouthpieces that are buzzed into to create sound.
have a bell—that’s the flared end of the brass tube where the sound comes out!
Where do you find the horns in an orchestra?
- The horns are usually located toward the center of the orchestra.
Listen to the Horn
Here are two wonderful music selections featuring the horn!
Felix Mendelssohn – Nocturne from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Felix Mendelssohn – Nocturne from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1:40)
- Good night and sweet dreams! A nocturne is music about the nighttime, when all is quiet and calm. The horn creates a magical mood of peaceful sleep. Close your eyes and relax as you listen to this beautiful nocturne.
As you listen, imagine that you are asleep and having a pleasant dream. Draw a picture of your dream! Play the music as many times as you like while you draw! Send it to us using the button below.
Benjamin Britten – The Horns from Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
Benjamin Britten – The Horns from Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (0:43)
The composer Benjamin Britten wrote this music to introduce kids to some of the many sounds the horn can make.
After you listen, make up a story about the music and write it down. Play the music as many times as you like while you create your story. Send it to us using the button below.
Click the button below to send us your drawing and story!
Be an Artist!
Color in the horn and add a fun background, or draw your own horn. You are the artist and can use whatever colors or designs you like to make it special!
Click the photo to print and draw
Click the button below to send us your art! We will add it to our online KIDS’ GALLERY,
along with these other fine examples of kids’ art:
Lesson Plan for Teachers
More Music Featuring the Horn
Franz Schubert – Music from Symphony in C major, The Great
Franz Schubert – Music from Symphony in C major, The Great (1:48)
- Can you imagine the horn saying, “Welcome, friends!” to everyone? The composer Franz Schubert wrote this beautiful music to make everyone feel happy, as though they didn’t have a care in the world.
Richard Strauss – Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks
Richard Strauss – Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks (1:25)
Till Eulenspiegel is a funny name for a funny character from German folklore. Till was a big practical joker. The horn plays the role of Till, and you can hear that he's ready to play a prank.
Learn More About the Horn
Learn more about the sounds the horn can make and the moods it can create
Bruce Roberts explores mood and emotion in music—how the music makes us feel. He plays four short songs and asks that you think about what kinds of feelings you have when you hear the music.