Cormac Ó hAodáin on The Orchestra: A User’s Manual

In my post on bells up playing I mentioned a great website called The Orchestra: A User’s Manual.  Essentially a guide to orchestration, the site is filled with wonderful commentary and demonstrations by members of the Philharmonia Orchestra, including Cormac Ó hAodáin on horn. The site is a little dated in terms of its design but overall is still very usable and fun to spend some time on. Looking at the section on the horn, the information is divided into the following categories: construction, range, articulations, effects, hand positions and mutes, extended techniques, player’s tips and tricks, and links.  In most cases the descriptions and demonstrations are geared towards composers who want to learn how to write for the horn, but the information can be applied just as well to players.  Each of the categories above has copious audio and video examples to illustrate various possibilities on the instrument. For example, the articulations page includes notation and demos for eight different kinds of articulation, from legato to flutter tonguing.  Of particular use to composers are the demonstrations of legato/staccato/staccatissimo in the low, middle, and high ranges.  Sometimes composers will write a rapid, staccato passage in the low range for the horn, not really knowing what the actual effect will be when it’s played.  Another very nice demonstration page is the one on range, which allows you to click on a specific pitch and hear the horn play it.  By now you have probably gathered that a lot of work went into putting this site together, and one could easily spend several hours going through all the video and audio clips.  One last thing I wanted to point out is Cormac’s message on “good writing” for the horn.  He notes that the composers who wrote best for the horn understood the instrument and how it functioned (i.e. the harmonic series).  I think the same can be said for horn players too!  I’d love to see this site updated with flash video and embedded audio examples – having all that great information in one place makes it a fantastic resource for players, teachers, and composers – however  much of this kind of information can now be found on sites like YouTube.  One that comes to mind immediately (and also one of the best, in my opinion), is this video from Dani Reynolds on extended techniques.

About the Author

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Equipment, Instruments


I have plenty of hobbies, but this not really one of them. I enjoy writing posts, but since it’s pretty much 100% professionally related I don’t consider it a hobby.


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