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Author Topic: Flugel in place of french horn  (Read 4943 times)
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davdud101
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« on: Nov 19, 2016, 01:13PM »

I recently invested in a flugelhorn (it's laying at home right now, in USA so I'll finally get to mess with it in about a months time),
so I've been writing a good number of arrangements for upcoming recording projects lately with a sort of virtual orchestra.

However, the idea with the flugel is that it can serve as a rich, mellow voice under the trumpets and over the trombones. Easier for me since I don't have access to mellophone and can't play french horn so well.
Could it be worthwhile to invest a little cash in one or another french horn mouthpiece and adapter? Would it be a big enough difference in tone quality?
I know I'm shooting in the dark here a bit, but I wanna hear you guys' thoughts on how this might go - maybe I'll try to borrow a mouthpiece to see what I get.
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« Reply #1 on: Nov 19, 2016, 01:55PM »

Why "in place of French horn"? 
Why not flugelhorn for its own voice?
Except its useful range is limiting, not the same range as horn at all.
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« Reply #2 on: Nov 21, 2016, 03:04AM »

Why "in place of French horn"? 
Why not flugelhorn for its own voice?
Except its useful range is limiting, not the same range as horn at all.

Really good points, Doug. Actually that's so straightforward that it's *almost* enough to make me rethink laying a bit of money down for THE instruments I'd need to make the actual sounds I'm looking for.

Any thoughts on instead investing in a Bb-single horn? Some of the hornists I've talked to advise against that, but I haven't been convinced by any reason to NOT go for it, since I can read Bb proficiently enough to play double horn on the Bb side, and the sound characteristics remain similar enough to F-horn for what I need. Right NOW I have access to a (double) horn that I could use to improve my tone, technique and performing skills, and I'm actually living with a horn student/teacher.

I have NOT looked into the *prices* involved in the used *or* new market, but I certainly am not going to make a purchase without having tested instrument personally.

Like I said- it's shooting in the dark here, because I only want it for projects and home and in church, and it's sound that would make a big difference in what I'm able to do, but I'm not sure I have the time/energy to devote to learning YET another instrument when trombone and trumpet have so much to offer already.

What would you guys do?
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« Reply #3 on: Nov 21, 2016, 03:56AM »

I'd go for a single F or Eb horn (you may find the Eb easier to learn than the F).  Or a Mellophone (the curved one that looks like a miniature French Horn).  If you are looking for a conical sound, consider a Baritone (either an English small bore or a Euphonium).
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« Reply #4 on: Nov 21, 2016, 08:33AM »

The option that would have the easiest learning curve would be a British-style baritone horn. If you're already playing trumpet and trombone, it would just be a matter of merging the two skill sets and getting used to the mouthpiece (I would suggest something with a fairly small diameter rim with a deep v cup - maybe a Schilke 44E4). I've seen a baritone used in place of a French horn in a brass quintet and it worked quite well.

A mellophone or alto (tenor in the UK) horn would be more effort to learn than a baritone, but not as difficult as a French horn. Might not quite be the tone you're looking for, though. Also has a limited lower register unless you spring for a compensating instrument.

As for the French horn option? For your purposes, a Bb single horn would probably be perfectly adequate. Even with a Bb, you're looking at a fairly steep learning curve.
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« Reply #5 on: Nov 21, 2016, 09:23AM »

I think a flugelhorn has a beautiful voice and could be worked in nicely. For me much easier than playing an F-horn, but maybe not as much fun. A used single F-horn can be found reasonably enough. Some friends of mine played a few cool arrangements for four "trumpets" where the fourth was voiced more like what I would imagine an alto trombone would do. It was played on flugel and he added some nicely done pedal notes in the chords.
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« Reply #6 on: Nov 21, 2016, 09:38AM »


Any thoughts on instead investing in a Bb-single horn? Some of the hornists I've talked to advise against that, but I haven't been convinced by any reason to NOT go for it, since I can read Bb proficiently enough to play double horn on the Bb side...

But the music is still written in F, isn't it?
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« Reply #7 on: Nov 21, 2016, 09:59AM »

But the music is still written in F, isn't it?
It's for his own use.  He can write the parts in Bb Treble like the trumpet parts.

And if he were to assign them to a horn player he could label them "Horn in Bb" and any good French Hornist will be able to play them.
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« Reply #8 on: Nov 21, 2016, 10:36AM »

A single B-flat horn should be OK for his intended use, particularly if he's not a regular horn player. It will provide better physical separation of the notes in the upper range, with the downside being intonation issues and less velvety timbre in the range below the second-space A. Used single B-flat horns are less frequently seen for sale than F horns, but tend to sell for less since music educators prefer to start students on F horns. And, they are substantially cheaper and lighter to carry than the double horns. If I had to stick to a single horn, I'd prefer the single B-flat one.
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« Reply #9 on: Nov 21, 2016, 01:03PM »

A double horn is basically exactly the same as a trombone with F attachment.  As long as you don't have to read standard horn parts you should be comfortable playing it.  If that's the sound you're after, get one and just think it in concert pitch.
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« Reply #10 on: Nov 21, 2016, 02:31PM »

I saw a faculty brass quintet from UNC Greensboro a few year ago and they were using a flugel in place of horn. I asked the guy about it and it seems they were just between horn players at the time, but it sounded OK.
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« Reply #11 on: Nov 21, 2016, 02:52PM »

I have played French horn parts on an Eb alto horn and that worked pretty well. I don't think you'll be able to play low enough on a Flugle to cover most French horn parts. 
 
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« Reply #12 on: Nov 21, 2016, 04:45PM »

Fluegelhorn is a very common supplement to the alto horn section in British style brass bands. Not a French Horn, but somewhat close. IMHO just go for it and see what happens.

Here's a little sample, the alto horn section (plus fluegelhorn) is nicely cameraed at 3:40.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPwd0k3Pjp0
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« Reply #13 on: Nov 23, 2016, 11:45PM »

That's what I was going to poke at - I have no plans to be a "good" horn player beyond what I need to be able to do for my own projects, so I'll generally be playing my own arrangements by default. I certainly won't be enlisting in any concert bands or anything with that as my main axe.  :D

These sound like really good recommendations so far! The alto horn never struck me as something I would have went for, so I will have to do a bit more research on it in terms of finding out how it's sound fits into the ensemble. It may be a bit too "spread" for what I'm looking for though- too mellow/rich, not quite enough core.
I have access to a (3-valve) euphonium as well, but I'm having trouble figuring out what/how to write for it because its range crosses so much with trombone. I write rather dynamic, energetic pieces and I'm not sure that a SO mellow, conical sound like that WOULD fit very well in my pieces anyway. I'd have to get my hands on an alto horn and test it extenstively to see how it'd fit i with my sound concept. At the same time, given that I'm still contemplating using the conical flugel as my main stand-in, alto horn might be just what I'm looking for.

I suppose that in a way, little can replicate THAT sound that an actual experienced double-horn player achieves on a proper double horn. On another note, being to really get *that* sound that a horn has might be what I want, but I suppose the best way to find out is by trying out as many horns as I can.

Thanks for the tips, guys! I guess this leaves open some other questions... like, what kind of instrumentations work well?
Right now i'm primarily writing for 3 trumpets, 3 alto voices, 2 tenors and a bass trombone as my brass ensemble, plus generally "virtual" percussion, strings, bass (tuba or bass guitar), piano, and usually a bit of ornamentation from some woodwinds (which will eventually be performed and recorded by high-level players rather than synthesized). I have a liiiittle bit of knowledge on the common orchestra, but I'm not any sort of *trained* composer, more of a somewhat experienced experimenter.
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« Reply #14 on: Nov 24, 2016, 09:08AM »

The typical Saxhorn ensemble of the mid 19Th Century would consist of Eb Sopranino (like an Eb trumpet), 2 Bb soprano (basically trumpets), 2 Eb Altos, 2 Bb Tenors, 1 Bb Bass, 1 or 2 Eb Tubas.

If you can swing it, either an alto trombone or an alto horn in Eb would probably fit your ensemble perfectly. 

Your complaint about the Euphonium conflicting with the trombone would apply as well to the Flugel against the trumpet.
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« Reply #15 on: Nov 24, 2016, 01:24PM »

If the horn sound is what you want, I'd think a Bb horn would be far closer to that than something that is not a horn.
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« Reply #16 on: Nov 24, 2016, 03:37PM »

My thoughts:

1) I play in a big band that frequently has a French horn part. Since I'm tied up playing bass trombone, I can't bring my double horn and play the horn part, so we use the 5th trumpet player on flugel or a trombonist. It works pretty well, but of course nothing is a substitute for an actual horn. So, moving on to the alternatives:

2) Double horns are expensive. They don't get as cheap as trumpets and trombones do, even in trashed used condition, so getting a single will be MUCH lighter on your wallet. However, there is a reason the double is the standard. It can do everything, whereas a single cannot. I need a double because I gig on it, but for someone just looking to add "the French horn sound" to your recordings and don't have a good chunk of change to throw around, a single should do just fine. You can get an old single (either key) for around $100 if you're diligent and patient.

3) With that in mind, let me be the first to suggest as a horn player that you're going to buy a single horn, you should get a single B flat, and only a single B flat. The single B flat is a far more useful instrument than a single F, and it will be easier to learn for someone coming from B flat fingerings. The 3-valve single B flat has the same basic fingerings (sounding pitch) as a 3-valve euphonium. If you find a single B flat with a fourth valve, not only is there a good chance that you have a professional instrument instead of a student one (they don't really make professional single Fs, Vienna horns excluded), but you can also get an extension built for the thumb valve so that it becomes a low F extension, giving it the same functionality as a four valve non-compensating euphonium (or a trombone with an F attachment). This means that you'll be able to play anything you want to except a written F# (concert B) at the bottom of the F bass clef (two ledgers below the C bass clef). And as a hobbyist horn player, you won't have much need for that note anyway. Even with three valves I doubt you'll be wanting to write horn parts below the straight tenor trombone's lowest note (false and pedal tones excluded), so you'll essentially be able to write any note you would write for a straight tenor (again excluding false and pedal tones) and the single B flat will be able to play it with security up into the descant register. The F horn runs out of security at around F4, and when you get much above that you're essentially playing a natural horn. Does it sound better in the mid-low register? Of course, but to get both the fat low horn sound and the high note security you'll need a double.

4)
A double horn is basically exactly the same as a trombone with F attachment.

Sorry, but this is not correct. A four valve non-compensating euphonium is basically the same as a trombone with F-attachment. A double horn has completely different fingerings and is fundamentally a different routing of the airstream through the tubing. If the F attachment in a trombone redirected the airstream into a second handslide at the correct (much longer) length for a trombone in F, they would be the same. Both sides of a double horn are completely chromatic and don't require adjustments in fingering/slide position to compensate for the other three valves/length of the slide no longer being long enough to drop the pitch enough on their own. A compensating euphonium is closer to a double horn, but still not the same. In addition, the F side of a double horn is used across the range of the instrument interchangeably with the B flat depending on the passage, not just to fill in the notes the B flat horn can't play.

4) There isn't really a substitute for horn. Flugel, alto horn, mellophone, etc. are all mellow alto voice brass instruments, but they don't sound anything like horn (and do much better at substituting for each other). That said, I would suggest that the best substitute if you can't/don't want to take the plunge on horn is a section of mellophones (traditional or marching) or mellophoniums. They doesn't sound like horns, but a large section (6 is my preferred number) still sounds great doing the a lot of the same things (soaring countermelodies, mellow pads, etc.). Flugel could very easily play in unison with this section to bolster the sound (and this combination works extremely well), but flugels alone won't give you the beefiness of an instrument with more tubing and a large flare. 3 Eb tenor/alto horns and a flugel are the alto section of a British brass band, so if you wanted that sort of sound you could go with that. Although baritone and euphonium are also great mellow sounds, they are also very different from horn (and fundamentally excel in a different voice type register).

5) As for instrumentation, you can add as many different instruments as you like and find places for them. I have used flugelhorns, mellophoniums, frumpets, alto trombones, and horns together (as well as trombones, euphoniums, cornets, and trumpets) in arrangements, and each has their own role, even if they are scored as sections (rather than just one of each). You could add alto trumpet, tenor horn and British baritone and still be able to carve out individual roles for each of them. I personally love having a large euphonium section (up to 8 or even 10) at the bottom of my arrangements to play surrogate tuba parts below the trombones as well as lush 8-part pads and traditional euphonium melodies and countermelodies. Essentially you just have to experiment with different things and find what works for you. My recordings have a "sound" because even when I have a full horn section and flugelhorns, the mellophoniums and euphoniums remain a centerpiece of sorts.
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« Reply #17 on: Nov 24, 2016, 04:48PM »

Just one correction and a couple of comments:

There was a Sansone horn that was a Bb instrument with a 4th valve that added tubing to the other three to create a horn in F.  It's sort of like a Compensating Euphonium.  They didn't make a big splash for probably obvious reasons.  This could be the type of instrument David might find useful.

A horn is a conical instrument.  So is a Flugel Horn (which is actually more like a bugle).  The tonal quality of either is VERY different from cylindrical trumpets and trombones.

A Double French Horn has the same length overall as a trombone in F ("Bass" Trombone) with a second "half" that is exactly the same length as a tenor trombone.  But the parts are generally written much higher.  This is possible because the instrument has a very small bore and a much smaller mouthpiece than is used on a trombone.

Mellophones and Mellophoniums are smaller than a trombone; generally the same length as an Alto Trombone in Eb or Alto Horn.  They are not as conical as a French Horn, but are more conical than a trombone or Eb Alto Horn.

The question David has to wrestle with is whether he wants a homogenous cylindrical ensemble (trumpets and trombones), a conical ensemble (Flugelhorns, French Horns), or a mixture of both.  Then he can go forward learning the instrument that fills his needs best.
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« Reply #18 on: Nov 25, 2016, 01:27AM »

The question David has to wrestle with is whether he wants a homogenous cylindrical ensemble (trumpets and trombones), a conical ensemble (Flugelhorns, French Horns), or a mixture of both.  Then he can go forward learning the instrument that fills his needs best.

This is a good question, Bruce. I think what really picks at me though is that I'm nervous about writing TOO much. Since I don't compose for a "pure" brass band (British, or just generally) - I use additional virtual instruments to create a sort of "epic movie soundtrack" sound - I get a little jittery when it comes to writing large amounts of parts that aren't, for example, doubling in octaves, or generally might be in danger of over-cluttering the mix or arrangement or doing something that might reduce the clarity of the voices as individuals or groups.
But I was listening to one of Driving Park's multitracks and DIDN'T get the feel that it was ever 'overly swamped' in sound or anything, even though he used a far bigger instrumentation (by 3 to 4 times) than what I currently have or have used in the past.

I also thought to experiment with a single, fast setup where I open the template in Sibelius and write and arrange for the same group every time, then open the template in Cakewalk and record/mix with the same group in mind. I figured it'd be a cool way to move towards sculpting a certain 'sound'.

When looking at the case as a whole again, I DO need to have both rich, mellow tones like euphonium, flugel and other conical instruments. I suppose I absolutely don't want to limit myself to only big bright stuff, but I can say for certain that *only* mellow/conical sounds isn't where the compass is pointing. So I suppose what I could use most is examples on both how the different types of horns sound in and out of context, as well as good references for how they can be arranged to get the greatest benefit out of their sound and possibilities.

I'd actually love to hear more elaborations (and more importantly - see/hear examples) on how different types/groups of instruments and different instrumentations can best be put to use. Reading how it can be done is making it much easier for my ears to HEAR how it's done when listening to brass band arrangements and stuff.

Thanks for the good feedback, by the way everyone! This is a rich topic that can directly assist me in creating my arrangements!
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« Reply #19 on: Nov 25, 2016, 10:03AM »

Just one correction and a couple of comments:

There was a Sansone horn that was a Bb instrument with a 4th valve that added tubing to the other three to create a horn in F.  It's sort of like a Compensating Euphonium.  They didn't make a big splash for probably obvious reasons.  This could be the type of instrument David might find useful.

That Sansone single B flat was cool because it had 5 valves - the 4th valve lowering the pitch by a fourth like an F attachment or euphonium 4th valve (it wasn't compensating though), AND a 5th valve used for hand stopping so you didn't have to transpose (but open it could also function sort of like a tuba 5th valve to bring the 4th valve fingerings closer to tune). Because of the extra two valves and their weight and functionality, some orchestral hornists used them instead of double horns. A few other manufacturers have done 5-valve single B flats, and they're the pinnacle of what a single horn can do.
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