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Topic: Faking a second horn

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  1. #1

    Faking a second horn

    The instruments available for the brass section of the score for my musical are: two trumpets (one doubling on flugelhorn), tenor trombone, bass trombone, and French Horn. I'm thinking that I might like to emulate the sound of two French Horns played softly, in a couple of places. (As there really aren't many places where I would need that type of sound, it's hard to justify the need for another brass instrument).

    In experimenting with JABB, I have found that the French Horn played with the flugelhorn a low volume sounds a lot like two horns in their mid-high range. One horn plus a trumpet with a bucket mute also sounds fairly good for the low range. For approximating the sound of low horns, one French Horn + one trombone (open or with a bucket mute) played softly seems to work. So does one horn + bassoon, or one horn + clarinet, depending on the range. But the reeds aren't usually available when I want to do this. I also have an old library of solo Euphonium samples at my disposal. Perhaps the tenor trombonist doubling on Euphonium + French Horn is a better way to go.

    I am just wondering if anyone has ever had to do this with real instruments and, if so, which sounds most convincing.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  2. #2

    Re: Faking a second horn

    Ejr, I admire your attention to detail, and can relate to your perfectionism as reflected in your posts.

    Your current quest towards solving this "faking a second horn" issue has me wanting to reply with a question.

    Without intending to be argumentative, I think it could be helpful to ask - "Why do I think this is a problem?"

    --It's only practical to have one horn in your orchestration. There are some passages where you'd like to give the impression of two horns. There are a number of doubling possibilities, and you've listed them. The trombone could be the most likely candidate, since it's very common to have horns and trombones doubled on the same lines. The two instruments can sound extremely similar.

    --But why does it have to be thought of as a situation where a second horn has to be "faked"--? An orchestra is a massive, complex organism, capable of producing an incredible variety of sound. Beyond the sound of individual instruments, which most people can identify by hearing them, there are all the doublings which produce a unique combined sound - Bassoon and cello, flute and xylophone, those are common ones. A more unusual example is english horn with harp. Any combination is possible for bringing different and unusual colors to the sound.

    So why is it important for the effect of those passages to precisely be the sound of two horns? Why can't it be something else? The combo of horn and trombone would be the closest, as I said above, but the sound you get wouldn't be damaged if you used some other combination - the result would just be what it is, and nobody in the audience would be thinking, "Oh, that should have been two horns"--

    I think you should just make a choice and not be hung up on what would supposedly be more ideal, when I don't feel it would be--. Why does the effect have to be "convincingly" that of two horns--?

    Randy

  3. #3

    Re: Faking a second horn

    My reason for phrasing the question this way is because I am trying to evoke the sound of a particular period (late Victorian/early Edwardian era) -- without having to literally adhere to what would have been the norm for various types of orchestration in that day. Different numbers are meant to suggest, to some extent, the sound of a Sousa march, waltzes, etc. But they all have to be done with a small pit. In the cases I was referring to, I would have used two French Horns if the size of the orchestra were unlimited.

    I agree with all that you have said in your reply. Sometimes getting a particular texture doesn't matter as much as the overall mood and character of the number. Somtimes you just don't want to call too much attention to the instrumentation. But, at other times, you do. Or you just need variety, something the audience hasn't heard before, or a new combination of instruments for a different variation of a repeated theme.

    With regard to the particular score I am working on, I put two French Horns on the lines in question and finally got the sound that had been eluding me. Finding it hard to justify adding a second horn to the pit, I tried all the combos I mentioned and each of them sounded acceptible. So the question I had to ask was: is one better than the other in a real orchestra? (I don't trust my own judgement. I simply don't think I have the musical training or experience.)

    Anyway, thanks for your answer -- French Horn and tenor trombone (I assume without the mute, because you didn't mention it in your reply) -- that's exactly what I was after.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  4. #4

    Re: Faking a second horn

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr View Post
    ...the question I had to ask was: is one better than the other in a real orchestra? (I don't trust my own judgement. I simply don't think I have the musical training or experience.)

    Anyway, thanks for your answer -- French Horn and tenor trombone (I assume without the mute, because you didn't mention it in your reply) -- that's exactly what I was after.
    Right, I meant the traditional combo of a tenor trombone with french horn, and not with a mute.

    As for which is "better" in a real orchestra, I again ask - better than what? You're the composer, don't let the mystique of musical training intimidate you into not trusting your own instincts.

    Randy

  5. #5

    Re: Faking a second horn

    When I say "better", I simply mean closer to the sound I am after (in this case, two French Horns) -- i.e. in softer passages, can one French Horn + one open Tenor Trombone, in thirds or sixths, sound more like two French Horns than one French Horn and one Tenor Trombone with a bucket mute, etc.?

    I also have an old Euphonium library, so I was toying around with pairing the horn with the Euphonium (the idea being that the tenor trombone could optionally double on this instrument). I met a Euphonium player on a film once, who regularly works in Broadway pits. He knows all the other bone players and said that nearly all of them double on the Euphonium.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  6. #6

    Re: Faking a second horn

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr View Post
    The instruments available for the brass section of the score for my musical are: two trumpets (one doubling on flugelhorn), tenor trombone, bass trombone, and French Horn. I'm thinking that I might like to emulate the sound of two French Horns played softly, in a couple of places. (As there really aren't many places where I would need that type of sound, it's hard to justify the need for another brass instrument).

    In experimenting with JABB, I have found that the French Horn played with the flugelhorn a low volume sounds a lot like two horns in their mid-high range. One horn plus a trumpet with a bucket mute also sounds fairly good for the low range. For approximating the sound of low horns, one French Horn + one trombone (open or with a bucket mute) played softly seems to work. So does one horn + bassoon, or one horn + clarinet, depending on the range. But the reeds aren't usually available when I want to do this. I also have an old library of solo Euphonium samples at my disposal. Perhaps the tenor trombonist doubling on Euphonium + French Horn is a better way to go.

    I am just wondering if anyone has ever had to do this with real instruments and, if so, which sounds most convincing.
    I regularly play French horn parts on a small euphonium as part of my brass quintet and in a brass choir. Perhaps you already know that horn, flugel, and euphonium are conical instruments whereas trumpet and trombone are cylinders. That's why horn, flugel, and euph are mellow and trumpet/trombone are piercing. So matching horn with flugel or euph is a good bet.

    Problem is, if the euphonium part is much above the F above middle C, it will dominate the horn unless your euphonium player is very good and can play very softly in the upper register. This is true in general, but is exacerbated by the fact that the euphonium bell points upward and the horn bell points toward the back. If the passage is quiet, set the desired dynamic in the horn part and write the euph one dynamic lower. This will be most true if your doubler's euphonium is a large-bore british style compensating instrument. If s/he has a smaller-bore 4-inline horn like a Yamaha 321 (the horn pictured in my avatar), the job will be easier. If the part for euphonium goes much above that F over middle C, or the passage is very quiet, use flugel with matching dynamics.

    Trombone can also work as a second horn.

    Truth be told, if there is dialog or singing happening as these instruments are playing, NOBODY will know what two instruments are playing.

    PS--What euphonium library do you have???

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

  7. #7

    Re: Faking a second horn

    Yes, I was thinking about the connical bore in the euphonium and flugelhorn. The euphonium library I own is by Dan Dean. It is in giga format, which I converted into a separate Kontakt 2 instrument for each articulation. It isn't the greatest, but I love the way a real euphonium sounds and I'd like to include it as an optional double in my score if it makes sense to do so.

    I was thinking of using the flugelhorn for doubling parts that are primarily above middle C (with the French Horn voiced below it) and the euphonium for doubling parts that are primarily below middle C (with the French Horn on the upper voice).

    But knowing that the trombone will work for the latter combination is helpfull. All trombone players may not double or be able to switch instruments in time. So, it's good to have it as an option. (As for the flugelhorn, I am all ready using it in my score. And there are two trumpet players, so there is usually time for one of them to switch.)

    Allegro Data Solutions

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