Fingerings for a single Bb Horn

Fingerings for a single Bb Horn

Fingerings for a single Bb Horn    15:19 on Friday, October 12, 2007          

(3 points)
Posted by meibach

My son has decided to take up the Horn, and we purchased a single Bb Horn with an A stop valve from a friend for him to begin. There has been some confusion about the fingerings to use for the horn, however.

When he plays an open "C," it matches perfectly with "C" on the trumpet, and Bb on the Piano. Therefore, we know it is a Bb horn. However, when he tries to use the Bb fingerings shown in his F-Horn Essential Elements 2000 book (it shows both F and Bb), the notes are all wrong. However, if he uses the fingerings for an F-Horn, every note (even sharps and flats) between low C and High C are right on with the Trumpet and piano.

Since he's the only Horn player in his beginning band, we're not concerned, especially since he's learning the F-Horn fingerings. But can anyone explain what is going on?

In an experiment, I tried playing the horn lower (F below middle C), then tried the F-Horn fingerings on a scale. It didn't work. However, when I did this using the Bb-Horn fingerings I got what sounded like a perfect scale (I didn't check the notes again the piano, however).

Re: Fingerings for a single Bb Horn    16:18 on Sunday, October 14, 2007          

(200 points)
Posted by Fredrick

What is an A stop valve? I don't know much about the different makes of horns, so that's why I ask.

As for the fingering problem: The fingerings shouldn't vary between octaves like you say. (Bb fingerings for low F to F and F fingerings for C to C) Most any brass instrument (I don't know of any that don't do this) have a harmonic series of Do, Sol, Do, Me, So, Li/Te, Do and so on getting closer the farther up. And the valves allow you to get the notes in between.

For example, a Bb horn would be able to play low F, C below the staff, F, A, C, Eb (but you shouldn't), F, and so on; these pitches would match to Bb, F, Bb, D, F, Ab, and Bb on the piano.

An F horn plays really low C, low G, middle C, E, G, Bb (again, you shoudln't), C, D, E, and then G on up above the staff (You can play topline F open, it's just waaaaaaaaay out of tune); these pitches would match to F, C, F, A, C, Eb, F, G, A, and so on.

The valves each bring the pitch down a certain amount (lst=1 step; 2nd=1/2 step; 3rd=1+1/2 steps). So once you find what the horn is pitched in (Bb or F, rarely otherwise) the fingerings should stay consistent with the book.

French horn is really hard to place pitches on when you first pick it up (even if you've played other instruments), so check it on all the pitches to make sure it's a Bb horn.

Re: Fingerings for a single Bb Horn    10:47 on Wednesday, November 07, 2007          

(9 points)
Posted by AllHorns

I hate to be the bearer of bad (and confusing) news, but a Bb horn with a stop valve is not a good beginner instrument.

There may be 2 sources of confusion about the fingerings. The chart you used (for F and Bb horn) is assuming that the music you are reading is for the F horn only - that's why they have different fingerings. Also, the double horn chart specifies that the Bb horn fingerings use the thumb (on his horn, the stop) valve, which he should not use at all in the beginning stages.

All modern band and orchestra music, and all the beginning method books, assume a single F or double horn, so the music is transposed for F horn. If, on the piano, you play Bb below middle C, it matches with middle C on the trumpet, and first-space F for the horn. On an F horn, that note is fingered with the first valve; on the Bb horn, it is fingered open (no valve pushed.) If you play middle C on the piano, it matches bottom-of-the-staff D on the trumpet (first and third valves) and second line G for horn - open (no valves) for F horn, and first valve for Bb horn.

Is that confusing enough so far?

Re: Fingerings for a single Bb Horn    14:32 on Tuesday, November 20, 2007          

(1279 points)
Posted by JOhnlovemusic

The single Bb horn is a fine instrument for a beginner.
Just make sure your son doesn't try and use the stop valve as a trigger. When he is more advanced there are some easy tricks you can use it to make difficult passages easier. But for now use the Bb fingering in the chart. The chart is already adjusted for the transposition. As mentioned earlier the valves are merely changing the length of a tube and you are picking from the harmonic series. It takes time to get used to it.

If you want to entertain yourself find a fairly good horn player and have him play a piece of music on his or her double horn.Then have them play the same piece on only the F-side of the horn. There is a different feeling in the mouth and lips depending which pitched horn you are playing and the 'good' horn player who doesn't practice the upper register on the F-horn and only on the Bb horn will miss about as many notes as your son does.

Have patience, it is good you understand the comparison to the piano, that will help him immensly !


Re: Fingerings for a single Bb Horn    14:53 on Tuesday, November 20, 2007          

(3 points)
Posted by meibach

Thanks for the response.

The issue is that the Bb fingerings don't produce the proper notes. He is playing Bb (trumpet) music using the F fingerings and plays in tune with other Bb instruments. If he uses the Bb fingerings he's not even close.

I can't explain it, and neither can anyone else!

Re: Fingerings for a single Bb Horn    16:53 on Tuesday, November 20, 2007          

(1279 points)
Posted by JOhnlovemusic

AH !!!!
yes, well those of us who play french horn and need to read trumpet music put down our Bb trigger and play with F horn fingerings. The Bb fingerings are transposed fingerings to play the Fhorn notes on a Bb horn.
So, by using F horn fingerings on his already Bb flat horn he is already doing the transposition with the valves.

don't think too hard about it and it will make sense after awhile. Relax - the F horn fingerings are for all the "F Horn players" The Bb fingerings are for us F horn players using our Bb side of the horn but still wanting to think we are in F.

Make more sense now?

Re: Fingerings for a single Bb Horn    18:37 on Tuesday, November 20, 2007          

(3 points)
Posted by meibach

NO! I'm going to have to chew on this one for a while.

What you said would make sense to me, except he isn't using the fourth valve when he plays the F Horn fingerings.

I'm not too concerned because the music he is making is beautiful (for one month of experience) and he's very enthusiastic.

Re: Fingerings for a single Bb Horn    18:51 on Wednesday, November 21, 2007          

(8 points)
Posted by hoponpop3

odd, are all the slides in right?

Re: Fingerings for a single Bb Horn    09:20 on Friday, November 23, 2007          

(1279 points)
Posted by JOhnlovemusic

I may have been a little excited and confused you. I am sorry.
There are a couple of ways to look at this.

One way is the way I tried to explain it (unsuccesfully). Perhaps a better way is to talk theory. Every brass instrument is really just a set of metal tubes. Each metal tube has a series of harmonics it can sound. When we put a fingering down we are choosing a tube length, then we choose to play one of the harmonics on that tube. This is really what is happening but can be confusing.

When your son is playing with the trumpet he is actually playing an entire harmonic series higher than the trumpet and quite frankly can probably play an entire scale on any given valve. The notes are closer together than at the lower harmonic octave. So it may not matter which valve he puts down. For example concert C can be played on his horn with any of these valve combinations; 0, 1, 13, 124, etc). The higher he plays the more fingering choices he has, again, as the harmonics get closer and closer together.

What I was trying to say about already transposing is because the most common horn in America is the double F/Bb horn, most students are taught to think only in F-horn. Therefore the fingering chart has been modified and the Bb fingerings are not really the correct fingerings for a Bb instrument. The F-horn fingerings are correct for the instrument (regardless of the key).

It's a lot like Tuba. Most American Tuba players are taught alternatre fingerings from the beginging. Because many tubas are in Bb, but the parts are in C. English Tuba players are not taught the 'false' fingerings.

If you were in England or other parts of Europe the fingerings would be taught differently. And in fact when looking at the second line on the treble clef that we Horn players know as G, you would be taught it as C.

The fourth valve you mention is known as a "stop valve". It does not stop the horn but it does move the horn into the key of A so that you can play what is known as "Stopped horn". Yyou can't really play stopped horn properly on a Bb instrument. Stopped horn raises the pitch of your horn. In F it is only a half step. On the Bb horn is can be 3/4 of a pitch, which will not work. So, the "A" tubing is added to compensate for the harmonic series difference.

I understand it is a littel confusing, but I hope the theory helps a little bit more.



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