Why Do French Horn Players Put Their Hand In The Bell?

Why Do French Horn Players Put Their Hand In The Bell
Written by Corey Morgan

Here’s a summary why french horn players put their hand in the bell:

  • For Support
  • For Funneling The Sound
  • For Hunting Reasons

If you play the horn, chances are you have already been asked this question! We are aware that the right-hand needs to be placed inside the bell; nevertheless, we are curious as to why this is the case. This article is written explicitly for this purpose and I hope you find what you seek.

What Is There To Know?

The natural horn, in contrast to modern French horns, did not have a bell attached to it. Therefore, changing the rate at which air was blown into the horn was the only method horn players could adjust the pitch of their sound.

The end result of this was that the notes they produced were restricted to natural harmonics. Because of this, they were unable to play a D or an F on the instrument. However, now that the hand-stopping technique has been developed, horn players can reach a wider variety of sounds.

What Is The Hand-stopping Technique?

When using the right hand to completely seal off the bell, the air pressure that is blasted into the instrument is increased, which results in the production of a sharp metallic tone that is approximately a semitone higher. This technique, known as hand-stopping, is utilised to give a song a certain atmosphere by altering the tempo.

The hand-stopping technique was developed as a means of playing notes that were not natural harmonics. The technique involves stopping one’s hand while playing. Hand-stopping is a technique that involves controlling the pitch by adjusting the amount that one’s right hand is inserted into the bell.

This method incorporates both the full-stop and the half-stop, and it was made popular in the middle of the eighteenth century by a horn player from the Czech Republic named A. J. Hampel. It is possible to perform chromatic music on a natural horn thanks to a technique called hand-stopping, which involves changing a note by a semitone or a whole tone in either direction.

Why Do French Horn Players Put Their Hand In The Bell?

  • For Support

When playing the French Horn, the bell is facing backwards, and the instrument is played on its side rather than upright like most horns. Due to how difficult it is to play notes with the left hand alone, including having a right hand within a bell makes life a lot easier for both hands!

  • For Hunting Reasons

Horns, like the French Horn, have their roots in hunting, where they were used to help guide a group of hunters to their prey.

Think of them as a musical arrow or a beckoning call. If you are a hunter on horseback, you are going to need one hand for that, which is one of the most prevalent reasons why horns were initially played with one hand.

When we started creating them with sophisticated melodic valves and bulbous brass bells, they really became a two-hand job. Because of this, it is fair to assume that the French Horn’s right-hand placement was more of an afterthought.

  • For Funneling The Sound

In addition to allowing the player to tune the instrument, the hand that is placed within the French horn also provides the player with an excellent means of directing the sound in the appropriate direction.

It is especially helpful for people who play in orchestras or brass bands, in which the goal is to accompany other instruments rather than dominate them.

What Happens When French Horn Players Put Their Hand Completely Into The Bell Of The Horn?

The act of completely putting one’s right hand inside the bell of a French horn is referred to as “hand stopping”  as I mentioned earlier. A method that has been used to blow horns since the 18th century!

In practice, the function of hand stopping is quite similar to what its name says it performs. The player of the French horn would place their full hand within the bell of the instrument, so that it would more or less block the bell pipe as they played. Then, if they continue blowing, this will cause the sound to change because of an increased accumulation of pressure.

As a consequence of this, the tone produced by the instrument would be noticeably more metallic and approximately a semitone higher than the norm. Excellent for setting a particular tone or atmosphere in a song or instrumental piece.

How Do You Put Your Right Hand In A French Horn?

It is not as simple as placing your hand in a French Horn. There is, in fact, a lot to it. In order to become a professional French Horn player, one must learn this method.

Your right hand, which you cup, is where it all begins (only slightly). Your face will get pale if you have cupped your hands too tightly. Your thumb should also be loose while resting against your forefinger. You should not have your fingers clenched together firmly.

Once you have mastered the art of holding the French Horn in your left hand and sliding your right hand up into the bell with your palm facing upwards, you are ready to play. Only the back of your hand should come into contact with the French Horn’s brass.

All you need is your thumb to determine how far into the horn you should dig. Your thumb should come into contact with the metal at some point during this process. If you are lucky, this will be near the junction of the bell and the bell pipe.

Forearm shape should be checked at this time, as your hand should be at the correct depth at this point. It is not supposed to bend. Your forearm should be flat and your elbow should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Except that you should not tense up like you would while trying to flex your muscles.

Keeping your forearm straight is important, but you will need to flex your wrist back and forth when you are on the field. That is because the horn’s tone is tuned when you do this.

Yes. Your hand has the same effect as a piano pedal. All of which makes it simple to match the pitch of other instruments and to adjust the volume at the same time.