Background Information

In lesson 6 the children are introduced to a new instrument – the French Horn – the aim of this lesson is to learn how to identify it’s basic properties and recognise it’s sound. It is introduced to the class as Freddy the French Horn, who is part of the Brass Family. Instruments in the Brass Family create sound when a musician blows through a mouthpiece and their lips vibrate (like blowing a raspberry with your lips) and pressing buttons to make different notes & tunes.

Index for the table:

1. Discussions

2. The French horn

3. Role of the French horn in the Orchestra

4. History of the French horn

5. Freddy the French horn poem

1. Discussions:

The theme of expression will be discussed and explored through the introduction of French Horn .
The discussion of expression allows the children to understand and communicate their thoughts and ideas.
  • This helps express themselves and show their thoughts about emotions and what they are.
  • It provides insight into how each child understands the world around them, using practical activities to develop social skills and group interaction.
 2. The French horn:
The French horn is part of the Brass Family. Instruments within this family are made of brass (metal). The instrument was modelled on early hunting horns.
It is handheld, and sound is created by blowing through a mouthpiece. The French horn has a mellow, timbre or sound. It has a medium-pitch.
As well as playing with the whole orchestra, the French horn plays a solo while the prince sings his song.
Its music is expressive and matches the dreamy tone of the prince’s song.
The French horn is only known by this name in English, with the rest of the world simply referring to it as ‘the horn’. It got its name because the French were known for their main role in the production of hunting horns.
The French horn (as we know it since the 1930s) is a Brass instrument made of brass metal. It is made up of brass tubing which is bent into a coil and has a flared bell at the end.
It is played by blowing through a mouthpiece and is controlled by a players air in their lungs and the muscles around the their lips. Additionally, most modern French horns have valves which are controlled by buttons, pressed by the left hand, and control the air flow within the instrument. Pitch is controlled by the position of the player’s hand inside the flared bell. The French Horn produces clear & mellow sounds.
A musician who plays the French horn is known as a horn player.

3. Role of the French horn in the Orchestra:

The French horn falls into the Brass instrument family. In the classical orchestra the horns are grouped together and can be found in the central righthand section of an orchestra. As the evolution of music occurred so did the use of the French horn within classical music. Composers (e.g. Beethoven onwards) used 4 horns in their music, pairing them; one playing the high notes while the other pair playing the low.
In more modern orchestras you may find that the 4 horns also have an assistant which is used as a back up for the 1st horn during certain passages in the music.

4. History of the French horn:

Since biblical times, the horn has been used in a variety of ways including in religion and in war fare.
The use of the horn in religion still survives in Judaism; it is known as the Shofar and is used in traditions and religious rituals.
The earliest form of horn used by humans (and still used today as the Shofar) was an animals horn, typically ram. It would be used as a sign of warning (during battle – when an enemy was attacking) or spiritual calling.
As times evolved, so did the construction of instruments. Metal horns began to circulate as early as the 10th century, with humans emulating animal horns in the form of metal horns. As centuries went by the horn began to be associated with the hunting of animals, known as ‘hunting horns’, these were sounded when men would go out for a hunt (often known as a type of sport throughout history). This association continued throughout the centuries as composers (such as Mozart) would use the horn in their music to symbolise the hunt.

5. Freddy the French horn poem:

The French horn has distinct features, distinct sound and is held in a specific way.
The children learn a poem to help them understand its features. The poem should be said in a mellow tone and has actions that go along with it:
I am Freddy the French horn big and round
You blow me to make my special sound
I’ve three gold buttons that can be pressed
To make brass sounds that I like best!
  •  Actions to the poem can be found in the video provided under the subsection ‘Preparation’ in Lesson 6 – French Horn.
Once the poem has been said aloud, the children have a chance to identify the different features of the French Horn.
  • Allow them time to express their thoughts as to the appearance, sound etc.