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The United States Army Field Band
The Musical Ambassadors of the Army
W Washington, DC

French Horn Fundamentals
by Sergeant First Class Patrick M. Lipphardt Sergeant First Class Alan G.White

The United States Army Field Band 4214 Field Band Drive • Fort Meade, Maryland 20755-5330 Phone: (301) 677-6586 • Fax: (301) 677-6533 E-mail: •

The U.S. Army Field Band

French Horn Fundamentals

French Horn Fundamentals
by Sergeant First Class Patrick M. Lipphardt Sergeant First Class Alan G. White

The horn is a transposing instrument. The horn in F sounds a Perfect 5th lower than concert pitch. Example 1 Horn Transposition

The word “embouchure” defines the formation of thelips and their placement on the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece should be centered from left to right, although it is fairly common for the position to be slightly off center because of the unique structure of each individual’s jaw and teeth. Place the mouthpiece on 2/3 upper lip and 1/3 lower lip. The inside rim of the mouthpiece must be above the ridge of the upper lip. Keep the lips pursed, cornersfirm, with the chin pointed. Avoid puffing the cheeks. It is not correct to “smile” when forming an embouchure. Position the lips as if blowing across a soda bottle. One exercise for correct embouchure formation is to hold a pencil in the lips (like a straw). Notice how the lips grip the pencil from all angles. This is how the lips should “grip” the air stream as a tone is produced. When ascendingin range, place more lip inside of the mouthpiece. Take care to avoid smiling when moving higher. Also, raise the tongue position in the mouth (think “ee” as in “teeth”). When descending in range, the jaw should drop slightly. Also, the tongue should be positioned lower in the mouth (think “o” as in “oath”).

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G on the horn sounds like C on the piano


Concert Bb isplayed as an F on the horn The French horn is a difficult instrument to play and demands a great amount of concentration and attention to detail. Like a singer, one must hear the note before it can be played correctly. One must train the ear as well as the embouchure by internalizing pitches. There are no tricks or shortcuts. The finest players practice diligently and patiently, paying closeattention to basics.

A proper hand position is critical for correct tone production and intonation. When seated, players should rest the bell of the horn on the right leg. To properly form the hand, extend the right hand as if shaking hands, with fingers straight and not spread apart. Place the tip of the right thumb onto the middle knuckle of the index finger; this willforce the hand to “cup” into the correct shape. Place the hand into the bell of the horn so that the triangle formed by the thumb and knuckle is supporting the weight of the instrument. The entire back of the fingers should be in contact with the bell. This hand position will remain the same while lifting the bell off the lap as many advanced players do, or when standing. Take care to avoidpointing the bell directly into the body, as this will muffle the sound. Remember, unless the right hand is positioned correctly, the location of tuning slides is irrelevant.

Air is a horn player’s fuel. It’s free, so be sure to use plenty of it. Using insufficient air causes many problems for beginning horn students. When playing horn, one cannot breathe normally using shallow breathsthat lift the ribs. Instead, take a deep breath moving the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the abdominal cavity from the chest. By pushing out the diaphragm, the lungs fill from the bottom up, expanding the rib cage in the final part of the breath. When playing, the diaphragm and rib cage compress the air, while the throat regulates the amount of air released. Remember to quickly reset the...
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