French Horn Basics

I know you are excited to start with your French Horn, but let’s get a few things in place before you pick up your instrument.

Posture and Breathing

In order to play properly you first have to sit up straight.  This allows you to breathe deeply and support the sound of your instrument as breath controls all of the sounds you will be making on your trumpet.

One way to do this is to stand up, bend at the waist with your arms hanging loosely to the floor.  Now slowly roll up, aligning your spine so it is straight up and down all the way to your head with your arms at your side.  Think of a string pulling straight up from the top of your head stretching your body out.  Shrug your shoulders up and down, then back and forward.  Your shoulders should sit in a relaxed position at rest between each of these places.  Now, sit on the front edge of your chair and do the same thing.  This puts you in the proper position to support your sound by breathing deeply.

Posture Examples

Embouchure and Buzzing

Embouchure is basically, your lips.  The French Horn relies on the vibration of the lips to produce the sound.  Basically you are going to shape your mouth in a fairly tight oh, then close your lips to an “m” without changing where you cheeks have placed your mouth for the “o”.  This video gives you some starters for playing your instrument.  Embouchure for French Horn – YouTube.

French Horn Embouchure

Holding the French Horn

Now that you have basic breathing and embouchure, let’s make sure you can hold your instrument properly.


First, place the bell of the horn on your right leg.  The instrument will be held at about a 45º angle.  

Left Hand

Place your first three fingers on the valve keys of the horn.   Now your thumb will naturally go into the opening between the tubes and your pinky will curl around the pinky rest.

French Horn Left Hand

Right Hand

Place your right hand inside the bell.

French Horn Right Hand

To see that all put together, or for further assistance check out this video.

How to Play French Horn : How to Hold the French Horn – YouTube.

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