Why The F (horn)? - Houghton Horns

Why The F (horn)?

Now that I have your attention, let’s talk a little bit about the advantages of practicing on the “F” horn!

Historically, our modern-day horn is a descendent of the hunting/natural horn. The sound uttered on these early instruments was likely raucous and rustic (I’m being generous here). But, like other early instruments, the technique and artistry evolved.

Mozart wrote some of our most beloved horn concertos for his friend Leutgeb and the Eb Natural Horn. Practicing these concertos on the F horn (1st valve) can help us get in touch with our horn-playing “roots”, giving us a deeper appreciation for the rich history of the horn.

Acoustically, the “F” horn is the longer horn on our double horn (F/Bb) offering more resistance and available partials. The tone is thick, complex, and multi-dimensional and closer to what many players believe is an ideal horn tone.

By playing on the F side of the horn, we are required to focus air and embouchure more keenly in order to navigate through the resistance and closer partials. This, when done successfully, will translate into a greater ease of playing when we return to the double horn fingerings.

Also, playing lip slurs on the F horn is extremely important. Gliding smoothly and evenly through the harmonic series will help lay the foundation for maximum tone and flexibility.

Have I convinced you of the value of practicing on the F side yet? Keep reading…

As a private horn teacher for over forty years, I have discovered many tips that have helped myself and my students improve on the horn. One of these is regarding accuracy, the never-ending quest of every horn player on the planet! When one of my young students is dealing with accuracy and consistency issues (don’t we all?) I have them prepare part of a Kopprasch etude (or similar) using only F horn fingerings. By training their ear and embouchure to center notes on the F horn, I have noticed tremendous improvement in this area.

In summary, practicing on the “F” side of the horn helps us:

  1. Connect to the horn’s rich heritage
  2. Cultivate a warm, ideal tone
  3. Promote ease of playing
  4. Develop smooth, even slurs and greater flexibility
  5. Improve ear training and accuracy


Why  The F horn not?

— Karen Houghton

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