Need ideas for easy and fun at-home music learning? Here's our latest Classical Kids Music Lesson.
Learn about and listen to the beautiful sound of the French Horn.
Target age range: K-6
Fun fact: Although it's commonly called a "French horn" in the United States, most of the rest of the world and many of its players just call it a "horn." And it isn't really French.
1. First, watch this instrument demo:
After watching, answer these comprehension questions:
• To which instrument family does the French Horn belong?
• What does a French Horn player need to do with their lips to make a sound in the mouthpiece?
• What can a French Horn player do to make a muted sound on the instrument?
• How many valves are on a French Horn?
2. Next, study the diagram below.
Think about four main parts of the French Horn:
Can you locate each part in the picture? Think about the function, or job, of each part:
• The mouthpiece is where the player puts their mouth and buzzes their lips.
• The tubing is the big long brass tube that is all wrapped up in coils. Air travels through the tubing. If the tubing was unwrapped, it would stretch out about 18 feet!
• The valves are three levers that change the length of tubing that air travels through when you press them. They help the player play different combinations of high and low notes.
• The bell is the end of the instrument, where the sound comes out. Hint: it is shaped like a bell.
3. Listen and watch a performance of a piece that features French Horn. This piece is called Umoja, by Valerie Coleman. The piece is written for the Imani Wind Quintet, who perform it in the video below. The composer is also the flute player in this performance.
Here are some things to notice and think about as you watch and listen:
• The French Horn plays the melody most of the time.
• Can you name the other instruments in the quintet?
• What are some ways all five instruments are the same?
• What are some ways that each instrument is unique, or different from the others?
• Notice how the musicians look at each other so that they start, stop, and play together.
4. French Horn player Sarah Willis has a popular YouTube series called Horn challenge where she plays the French Horn with others in unusual or unexpected ways.
At an airplane hangar:
And a duet, with another player who plays a little differently:
Below, she tries her best to play a French Horn made of ice!
And finally, with Cookie Monster and Big Bird:
5. Share three things you learned about the French Horn by telling someone at home or writing them down.
Have a question or suggestion? Contact Katie Condon, music education specialist.