Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tuning a Double French Horn

Double French horns have two sides, each with different tone qualities.

Double French horns consist of two sides that tune to different pitches. The B-flat side is pitched a fourth lower than the F-side. Using a tuner, you can identify whether each side is flat or sharp. Some horns come without a separate B-flat tuning slide. Check to see if yours has a separate slide for the B-flat and F-side by looking for two main tuning slides that are not directly connected to the valves. If there is only one main tuning slide, you will need to tune the F-side to match the B-flat side. This is because, without a B-flat tuning slide, you can't separately tune the B-flat part of the horn.

Play a concert F note on the F side of the horn. Use the tuner to see if the pitch is flat or sharp. If the pitch is flat, push in on the small F tuning slide. Identify this slide by finding the small slide that is not directly connected to a valve. If the pitch is sharp, pull out on the slide until you achieve the correct pitch.

Depress the thumb valve and compare the F concert pitch from the F side of the horn to the B-flat side. Adjust the main tuning slide on the B-flat side until both sides play the same pitch, pushing in if the pitch is flat and pulling out if it is sharp. The main tuning slide on the B-flat side of the horn is the largest slide on the horn. It is also not directly attached to a valve. The timbre between the two sides of the horn will be different, but the pitch should be the same. Use the tuner if you need help determining if the pitch is in tune. If you only have an F tuning slide, skip this step.

Play a B-flat, below the staff, using the F side of the horn and the first valve. Depress the thumb valve to switch to the B-flat side and tune the 1st valve B-flat pitch. Make small adjustments in tuning by adjusting the first valve slide inwards if it is flat, and pull out if it is sharp. You can identify the first valve slide because it is attached to the first valve.

Tune the second valve by playing the fourth-line D on the F side of the horn. Adjust the second valve slide that is attached to the second valve. Depress the thumb valve to play the pitch B on the B-flat side and ensure it is in tune. Push in on the second valve slide if the pitch is flat, pull out if the pitch is sharp.

Push the third valve tuning slide all the way in. This slide will be attached directly to the third valve. Play the second-line A on the F side of the horn, using the first and second valve. Alternate to the third valve to play the same A. Return to the first and second valve. Pull out the third valve tuning slide until the pitches match.


  • Tuning a horn is not an exact science. During a performance, you will have to make small adjustments with your embouchure to correct minor flaws in intonation. The embouchure refers to the muscles in your face and how you tense them to create pitch.
  • If you have a horn that has only one tuning slide, it means you have a single horn and not a double horn. These horns only have one F tuning slide.
  • The main tuning slides are not connected to a valve. They also usually have a trigger on them to quickly remove condensation that builds up in the horn.