Writing for horns

Hello, If want to notate a song that has french horns in it how should the horns be wrote out? should I just write them in C or do I need to transpose them somehow? I know when I played guitar in a blues group we had trumpet and sax players and they had to transpose the stuff I would write. In a classical setting does the player transpose there own music or should the composer do it. That asked, regardless of whether or not I should transpose, I could use a resource to tell me how to transpose for each instrument. This is something Im not really sure even were to begin as I have never played any instrument that is not in C Thanks

You need to be a member of Composers' Forum to add comments!

Join Composers' Forum

Email me when people reply –

Replies

  • I second this, but also recommend buying it in the three-volume set along with its companion works, 'The Essential Dictionary of Music' and 'The Essential Dictionary of Music Notation'. Much of the contents are stuff you very possibly have in other books or favorite sites, but these books are very well organized and between the three of them you have everything you need in one handy place. $17.50 for the set on Amazon.

    Bear in mind, this is not a textbook on orchestration, but a resource for the kind of practical information you sought at the head of this thread.

    Tyler said:
    There is a book you might want to get. Essential Dictionary of Orchestration by Dave Black and Tom Gerou. Published by Alfed Publishing Co,. Inc.
    For 7 bucks this book is the most valuable book to have when it comes to instrumental and vocal orchestration.

    Mike said:
    AHHHHHH!!!
    Now that helps bring it all together a bit.
    sounds like this post should be titled Clef's and Transpositions and not just French horn.
    and this all brings up a question. What is a good source to learn the details about this subject..

    I for one want my music ready for people to read...
    writing outside of guitar music forces me to think about these things that I have never had to worry about =p


    Eric Fretheim said:
    I had edited my post above to add some info about clefs, but looks like I crossed the 15 minute time limit while typing (Why so short? I've been on forums that gave you 24 hours!)

    About the Alto Clef:

    The Cello does NOT read Alto Clef. What you have seen is Tenor Clef, where the C clef is moved up one line so that Middle C lays on the second to the top line instead of the middle. As I have self-studied Viola and I played Bassoon in high school, I can assure you that this little move makes a world of difference.

    Tenor clef is much more common. As I recall, Trombone, Euphonium, Bassoon, Cello and Double Bass all read Tenor in their upper ranges. Some of these also read treble clef. It may sound annoying, but trust me, it is a lot easier for a wind or string player to read two clefs than to try to read "8va" notation or ledger lines, both of which are massively annoying. (As an occasional violinist, I am divided on whether it is better to read 8va or read ledger lines. Violins really need an upper range clef of their own, but I'm probably about three hundred years late with the suggestion.)

    In orchestra music, Horn reads Bass and Treble only, no Alto or Tenor. Perhaps in other standards, like military band, but I wouldn't know.
    Writing for horns
    Hello, If want to notate a song that has french horns in it how should the horns be wrote out? should I just write them in C or do I need to transpos…
  • I've found a few orchestral pieces - a few specific for clarinet... By Bartok, Berg, Webern, Hindemith and Xenakis...
    Horns and clarinets were all in C (atonal), even in solo pieces.

    I still cannot believe, that orchestra musicians would not be able to do that... AND, a conductor will probably have less trouble reading non-transposed scores...

    Again... I cannot imagine, that a composer should actually dread himself with something so unnessecary, where as a clarinetist or so can just study the score in so short time... From what I know any professional musician should be able to read standard clefs and scores for their main instruments not transposed.

    Just imagine yourself writing orchestral scores and the least you want to do is write an atonal counterpoint - transposed!!!

    What I do understand is the 1st clarinetist, who changes between clarinets in different "tuning", should not need to transpose in his head. If that very person should not touch two instruments on that day, then I would even call it a wasted time, to do this work for him/her.

    And a personal addition: First thing my teacher told me after writing my first piece for clarinet was: "You don't need to do that." I think he can be trusted on that.

    Ario
  • It is no coincidence at all that the composers you name (with the exception of Xenakis, for whom I don't know) played either piano or violin, instruments that have no need for transposition.

    I don't doubt the conductor's score is in concert tuning in some music, but I would have to see proof that the individual parts were written out this way, at least in music for orchestra. I'm pretty sure the musician's union representative would be threatening to hand the librarian's head to the general manager if untransposed parts appeared on the stands on a regular basis.

    Most professionals are indeed able to transpose, but I don't think I would expect them to transpose while sight-reading. Especially atonal music, where you can't even rely on memorized scales as a starting basis. In the case of atonal music, you are asking for a near miracle unless you hand the music out in advance and give them time to transpose their parts. Time which, incidentally, the union would expect you to pay for.

    Two problems with this scenario, though: 1) Full time professional orchestras change programs once or twice a week. For them, this is a lot of transposing. and 2) why the heck have the same task done, over and over again spread across the years and hundreds of players that could have much more easily been done once, at the start?

    With jazz where you are tonal and mostly reaching into the same bag of tricks all the time, transposing on the fly is pretty common. But this is considerably simpler stuff.

    Transposing instruments are not transposing for reasons of tradition or to irritate the composer, they are done this way for very sound mechanical reasons. The composer needs to forget the piano keyboard when dealing with these instruments, and remember at all times that these are not true chromatic instruments. They have natural keys, and the farther one strays from those keys, the more likely one is to stumble on one of their weakness. The risk is that you end up producing another example like Bela Bartok's infamous glissando in his Trombone Concerto, which is literally impossible to play. The player simply must fake his way through it, because physics simply prevents the instrument from performing the music as written.

    You teacher probably simply didn't want you to bother with something he considered a task for a copyist. I have no doubt that some composers indeed consider it a menial task. Perhaps Bartok did, I don't know. I just doubt that your teacher's music or yours or Bartok's gets to the music stands in the wind section still un-transposed.

    You mentioned, 'imagine having to write out atonal counterpoint transposed'.

    I don't. Remember I mentioned that "Rite of Spring" is transposed? Stravinsky wrote on the piano. He wrote it out as a score for two pianos, then wrote out the full score later. Personally, I use six staves in concert key on my short score. (One for solo parts, one for percussion, the rest for the balance.)


    Ario said:
    I've found a few orchestral pieces - a few specific for clarinet... By Bartok, Berg, Webern, Hindemith and Xenakis...
    Horns and clarinets were all in C (atonal), even in solo pieces. I still cannot believe, that orchestra musicians would not be able to do that... AND, a conductor will probably have less trouble reading non-transposed scores... Again... I cannot imagine, that a composer should actually dread himself with something so unnessecary, where as a clarinetist or so can just study the score in so short time... From what I know any professional musician should be able to read standard clefs and scores for their main instruments not transposed.Just imagine yourself writing orchestral scores and the least you want to do is write an atonal counterpoint - transposed!!!

    What I do understand is the 1st clarinetist, who changes between clarinets in different "tuning", should not need to transpose in his head. If that very person should not touch two instruments on that day, then I would even call it a wasted time, to do this work for him/her.

    And a personal addition: First thing my teacher told me after writing my first piece for clarinet was: "You don't need to do that." I think he can be trusted on that.

    Ario
    Writing for horns
    Hello, If want to notate a song that has french horns in it how should the horns be wrote out? should I just write them in C or do I need to transpos…
  • C scores were in vogue during the time of Bartok, Ber, and Webern. However that is not the norm. In fact I know ensembles who wont play C scores.
    I have been playing french horn and been looking at band and orchestra literature for almost 9 years now, and only three times I have had to transpose, and two of the times were due to the fact they either didnt have horn parts period, or they lost them.
    And on top of that, some of the scores you might be looking at are study scores and not the scores the performers or conductor are looking at. And yes, a professional musician can transpose in there head relatively fast, but I assure you that most will tell you that it is not there job to do so.
    From what I have been taught by my profs, and not just my composition professors but all my music professors, and what I know as a performer, music should be handed to the performer of a transposing instrument pre-transposed.Transposing is not really that hard to do on the part of the composer, and with today's technology it is way to easy to transpose an entire score with a press of a button, so there really inst any excuses.

    and like Eric said, there are just to many issue that can come up with asking an entire group of musician to transpose on the spot. And with orchestras not playing new music as much as the use to, if it takes them to long to read they just wont read your music and they will most likely throw it away.

    Ario said:
    I've found a few orchestral pieces - a few specific for clarinet... By Bartok, Berg, Webern, Hindemith and Xenakis...
    Horns and clarinets were all in C (atonal), even in solo pieces.

    I still cannot believe, that orchestra musicians would not be able to do that... AND, a conductor will probably have less trouble reading non-transposed scores...

    Again... I cannot imagine, that a composer should actually dread himself with something so unnessecary, where as a clarinetist or so can just study the score in so short time... From what I know any professional musician should be able to read standard clefs and scores for their main instruments not transposed.

    Just imagine yourself writing orchestral scores and the least you want to do is write an atonal counterpoint - transposed!!!

    What I do understand is the 1st clarinetist, who changes between clarinets in different "tuning", should not need to transpose in his head. If that very person should not touch two instruments on that day, then I would even call it a wasted time, to do this work for him/her.

    And a personal addition: First thing my teacher told me after writing my first piece for clarinet was: "You don't need to do that." I think he can be trusted on that.

    Ario
    Writing for horns
    Hello, If want to notate a song that has french horns in it how should the horns be wrote out? should I just write them in C or do I need to transpos…
  • Thanks for your powerful arguments... not only did you convince me - You even taught me something important.

    I would have never come up with preparing an orchestral score with a reduced version (although I know of it for so long!)... Like a smack in the face : P


    Anyway, thanks and happy new year...

    Ario
  • You're not alone. I think I went almost a decade trying to write out orchestral scores on 16-stave folio manuscript paper (which is expensive!) before I learned I just couldn't do it that way. Probably why I never finished anything but piano stuff early on.

    Ario said:
    Thanks for your powerful arguments... not only did you convince me - You even taught me something important.

    I would have never come up with preparing an orchestral score with a reduced version (although I know of it for so long!)... Like a smack in the face : P


    Anyway, thanks and happy new year...

    Ario
    Writing for horns
    Hello, If want to notate a song that has french horns in it how should the horns be wrote out? should I just write them in C or do I need to transpos…
  • I have developed using the ideas from here 3 songs for string and horn which I have posted in the music dissection section. Please go critique them! =)

    All 3 Songs for String and Horn plus full scores

    Thank you all for your wonderful insights into this subject it has been indescribably helpful.
    String and Horn Music, 3 songs
    I have spent most of the past month writing and/or arranging these 3 songs. You have heard the second one in a past post however I have updated it us…
  • Thank you for the input Thomas =) That is good info to know right there.

    I think I got everything transposed properly but I'm not sure how playable what I have wrote is. The few things I have wrote for horn in the past were very safe and simple "pads" these are my first attempts at getting something more. How do the scores look?
  • https://composersforum.ning.com/forum/topics/string-and-horn-music-3...

    I posted them in the music disection board. figured that was a better location =)

    Thomas Green said:
    Actually Mike, where are the scores?
    String and Horn Music, 3 songs
    I have spent most of the past month writing and/or arranging these 3 songs. You have heard the second one in a past post however I have updated it us…
This reply was deleted.