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Topic: horn and trombone: how to tell the difference in their sounds

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  1. #1

    horn and trombone: how to tell the difference in their sounds

    Hi there,

    I hv just started learning here. I find it quite hard to tell the difference in brass sounds especially between the french horn and trombone.

    Do you think it's necessary to be able to listen to a brass song and tell which sound is produced by which intrument?

    Any suggestions? Thank you very much!

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    www.wisemanproject.com
    Posts
    398

    Re: horn and trombone: how to tell the difference in their sounds

    It would be helpful to know the differences between horns and trombones. If one knows them, s/he can write more effectively to those instruments.

    One of my orchestrational principals is:
    Musicians play most musically when musical lines are not given to, but written for their instrument.
    Kentaro Sato (Ken-P)
    Composer/Conductor/Orchestrator
    www.wisemanproject.com

  3. #3

    Re: horn and trombone: how to tell the difference in their sounds

    Quote Originally Posted by plusle View Post
    Hi there,

    I hv just started learning here. I find it quite hard to tell the difference in brass sounds especially between the french horn and trombone.

    Do you think it's necessary to be able to listen to a brass song and tell which sound is produced by which intrument?

    Any suggestions? Thank you very much!
    Hi...

    Sometimes it is indeed difficult to sort the two out, especially in the upper registers or deep in a mix. The RANGES of the two instruments overlap extensively.

    Here are some hints:

    If you take a trombone and stretch it out, you will see mostly cylindrical tubing. That imparts a more strident, martial, piercing tone. ALSO: The trombone slide cannot produce a pure legato as a valved instrument can, so if you hear some portamento in the sound as it plays a legato passage, it is a trombone. The slide trombonist must "fake" legato by a very subtle and light use of the tongue to interrupt the airstream as the player moves the slide

    If you take a horn and stretch it out, you will see mostly conical (conoidal) tubing. That's what gives the horn its characteristic mellowness of tone.

    Actually, the orchestral horn in F has the same tube length as the TUBA in F (!) but the tubing is narrower and the hornist is playing on the upper partials on a tiny mouthpiece. That's why horn players "clam" so frequently . But if you hear a pure legato with no portamento between notes, that is a sign that a valved instrument is at work--the horn. If the instrument(s) is (are) playing a "hunting call" it is a horn.

    If a tenor-range brass instrument is playing an orchestral passage with woodwinds, it is most likely to be a horn; horn is frequently used to blend with woodwinds--it can also be a sort of bass pad for woodwinds (low horn).

    If you are listening to a brass ensemble--no strings or woodwinds--it is frequently difficult to distinguish the french horn from the euphonium...both are mostly conoidal and have significant overlap in range. In fact, I often play in french horn ensembles and frequently perform horn music on euphonium.

    Hope this helps...

    Jim
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  4. #4

    Re: horn and trombone: how to tell the difference in their sounds

    Thanks Ken-P for the advise, i visited your website, hope your book will be released soon!

    Thanks Snorlax (r u a pokemon fan too?) for the tips, i will look out for portamento and hunting call...

    however when the whole orchestra is playing i still get confused. now i browse youtube videos to listen and see orchestras playing. hopefully this way i can learn to better associate a sound and the instrument.

  5. #5
    Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    venice, ca|paris, france
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    68

    Re: horn and trombone: how to tell the difference in their sounds

    vibrato

    horn players, in the states anyways, are taught to play with no vibrato

    that is one way i pick out horns and clarinets in the mix


    oh, and also their placement in the orchestra will help pick them out too

  6. #6

    Re: horn and trombone: how to tell the difference in their sounds

    I accept with information:when the whole orchestra is playing i still get confused. now i browse youtube videos to listen and see orchestras playing. hopefully this way i can learn to better associate a sound and the instrument.

  7. #7

    Re: horn and trombone: how to tell the difference in their sounds

    Quote Originally Posted by plusle View Post
    Do you think it's necessary to be able to listen to a brass song and tell which sound is produced by which intrument?
    Ahm ... yes.
    After a while it will be easy for you, too.
    All your strings belong to me!
    www.strings-on-demand.com

  8. #8

    Re: horn and trombone: how to tell the difference in their sounds

    Quote Originally Posted by plusle View Post
    Hi there,

    I hv just started learning here. I find it quite hard to tell the difference in brass sounds especially between the french horn and trombone.

    Do you think it's necessary to be able to listen to a brass song and tell which sound is produced by which intrument?

    Any suggestions? Thank you very much!
    Get a copy of Star Wars-A New Hope and listen to it over and OVER again,each time listening for what "elements" you want, be it French Horn or Trombone.

    You have to be able to develop "Big Ears" inasfar as what you are looking for,sonically speaking.

    Oh yeah, be aware that John Williams,composer of Star Wars, often scored French Horns and Trombones WAY beyond their normally given registers.I believe it was something he learnt from Jerry Goldsmith (another fantastic composer) while Williams was an apprentice of his. If you want to hear French Horns WITHOUT mouthpieces,rent "Planet Of the Apes".

  9. #9

    Re: horn and trombone: how to tell the difference in their sounds

    To me, the horns have a more diffused sound than the trombones. Trombones have (or can have) a sharper attack.

    As far as sample libraries go, I love Westgate's horns. They have so many articulations and can make so many different sounds, that I seriously underestimated the beauty and usefullness of this instrument until I started using it.

    I also use the trumpets, trombones, and flugel horns from JABB (and occassionaly the Bass Trombone from GPO, when I want a very brassy bite to the bottom end). I think the JABB Bass Trombone sounds most like a French Horn. And all the trombones sound more like French Horns when I use the instruments with the bucket mute. (Though I can still distinguish between them -- especially if I am using the Westgate samples for my horn parts and the Garritan samples for the trombones).

    Furthermore, I have to say that the JABB Flugelhorns also sound good with the horns. (You wouldn't mistake them for French Horns on their own, and I wouldn't say they so much as blend together as sound nice together.)

    Finally, in using all these samples, one thing I have learned is that the extent to which I am able to distinguish individual instruments depends an awful lot on how they are voiced and what other instruments are playing.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  10. #10

    Re: horn and trombone: how to tell the difference in their sounds

    It's quite difficult at first, but here are a few thoughts on the sound of both instruments:

    * Firstly, if you're listening to a 'traditional' symphony orchestra the French Horns will sound slightly to the left of the stereo mix. The trombones will sound to the right.

    * The horn in general tends to sound less harsh and brassy than the trombone. Where as the trombone sounds "present" and almost fizzy, the horn sounds a little bit more distant and vague. It can often sound almost woodwind-y and does have a lot in common tone-wise with instruments like the bassoon (but, of course, can become much louder and brassier than them). The horns (as an ensemble) also tend to sound a bit more "pad like" musically, where as the trombone sounds a bit more rigid most of the time.

    * A big difference is often in the way they are played. The trombone (modern trombone, anyway) uses a slide to move between notes. This means it takes time to get from one note to the other much of the time. To that extent trombones tend to play shorter, sharper passages and have slightly more of a stacatto sound (this isn't always true, but generally). Think John Williams and Star Wars; the sharp, fizzy staccato chords are trombone!

    By comparison the horn usually sounds more lyrical and flowing. It can be used in staccato passages of course but generally isn't as sharp or cutting as the trombone. The horn is also called upon as a melodic instrument much more often than the trombone.

    In time you'll come to learn the difference pretty easily. It's difficult to describe but the trombone is brassier, fizzier and much more "present", whilst the horn tends to sound more remote and languid. In most orchestral recordings you'll hear it quite clearly. Not the best example but:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGMKCrUFuMU

    Listen to this from about 1:20 in. There is lots of interplay between the brass. Trumpets and Trombones sound quite clearly to the right of the track and have a sharper, fizzier sound with more treble and presence. French Horns play slightly to the left and have a slightly more sombre, muted sound. Of course the horns also do lots of sharp attacks and staccato in this piece but it sounds slightly more muffled than the other brass. The horns also play the majority of any brass melodies. The horns tend to play a lot of melodies, often in conjunction with strings and/or woodwinds but equally on their own. They are lyrical with a good range and warm sound, so they do well for creating big, grandiose melodic statements.

    In the track I linked, at 4:47, you get a good indication of the horns and trombones together incidentally. The trombones add bite and fizz to the phrase, whereas the horns give it a warmth and depth.

    Hope this helps. When you think of horns think warm, lyrical, expressive but with a somewhat vague, pondering and 'pad' like quality. When you think trombones think a bit more 'traditional' brass sounding - big, sharper, more presence and a fizzier tone in general. Also a bit more limited in terms of the musical passages it can play compared to the horn. If you're hearing a big, lush brass melody its more likely to be horns.

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