Why do French hornists keep a hand inside their bell?

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Why do French hornists keep a hand inside their bell?

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Partially as a way to hold the instrument, since there’s no other good place for your second hand, and partially as a way to apply a muting effect. Trumpet and trombone players can do something similar by covering their bells by hand, it’s just easier when your one hand is already on/ in the bell.

Source: Brass player (primarily euphonium) for the past 30 years.

It’s a mute. The player can control the volume of the sound by altering how they position their hand inside the bell.

It’s also, obviously, to help hold the instrument up; there’s no other natural spot to put your other hand with the way the French horn is designed.

Several reasons:

1. Before valves were invented, the specific placement of a hand inside the bell helped the hornist play different notes not available on a natural horn.

2. Fully putting the hand in gives you a very distinct muted effect.

3. There isn’t exactly another place to hold it.

In addition to the other answers, a modern horn is built to be distinctly sharp if you *don’t * have your hand in the bell, so you kinda have to do it now to stay in tune.

In earlier times, before the advent of valves, you used your hand to change the pitch of the note you were playing, either bending it down by partially obstructing the bell, or up a half step by “stopping” the bell almost completely, thereby shortening it. You can pretty easily play a full C major scale by combining those two techniques, and experienced players could do much more.

Elementary school French Horn player here (1984-1988). I couldn’t even remember why it’s held that way except to keep the darned thing on my lap. LoL. My question is if it’s to keep the instrument in tune, what about marching French horns which are played horizontal like a trumpet?