French horn

The French horn

The French horn, often shortened to horn... 

The french horn is a member of the family of aerophones, one of the Hornbostel-Sachs classification of instruments which use wind to produce sound through the vibration of blown air.

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Diagram of the French horn


Use of the French horn

The French horn player performs seated or standing supported by the right hand inside the bell and the left hand palm gripping the tubing.

The left hand fingers are used to press the keys (finger plates) to reach the different pitches of tones. The right hand is used inside the bell to also mute the instrument by cupping the bell opening.

When playing, the musician blows air into the mouthpiece while vibrating the lips. Increasing the amount and speed of the air enables higher notes to be reached.

Tuning slides are used to tune the horn and also allow for other tones to be played.


Similarly constructed instruments of the french horn family are the (left to right) post horn, bugle, natural horn, and Wagner tuba. See the different types of french horns in the Brass Section.


Where in the Orchestra?

The french horns are normally seated centrally behind the clarinets, right of the  2nd violins and in front of the timpani. Typically four horns are used.

Noteworthy French horn Players


Joseph Leutgeb


Dennis Brain

Portrait of musician Barry Tuckwell with his horn, circa 1965. (Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images)

Barry Tuckwell