French Horn Care & Maintenance Videos

French Horn Care & Maintenance Page

The Basics


Sit on the edge of your chair, and always keep your:

  • Spine straight and tall
  • Shoulders back and relaxed
  • Feet flat on the floor

Breathing & Airstream

Breathing is a natural thing we all do constantly. To discover the correct airstream to play your instrument:

  • Place the palm of your hand near your mouth.
  • Inhale deeply through the corners of your mouth, keeping your shoulders steady. Your waist should expand like a balloon.
  • Slowly whisper "tah" as you gradually exhale air into your palm.

The air you feel is the airstream. It produces sound through the instrument. Your tongue is like a faucet or valve that releases the airstream.

Producing The Essential Tone

"Buzzing" through the mouthpiece produces your tone. The buzz is a fast vibration in the center of your lips. Your embouchure (ahm'-bah-shure) is your mouth's position on the mouthpiece of the instrument. A good embouchure takes time and effort, so carefully follow these steps for success:


  • Moisten your lips.
  • Bring your lips together as if saying the letter "m."
  • Relax your jaw to separate your upper and lower teeth.
  • Form a slightly puckered smile to firm the corners of your mouth.
  • Direct a full airstream through the center of your lips, creating a buzz.
  • Buzz frequently without your mouthpiece.


  • Form your "buzzing" embouchure.
  • Center the mouthpiece on your lips. Your teacher may suggest a slightly different mouthpiece placement.
  • Take a full breath through the corners of your mouth.
  • Start your buzz with the syllable "tah." Buzz through the center of your lips keeping a steady, even buzz. Your lips provide a cushion for the mouthpiece.

Taking Care Of Your French Horn

Before putting your instrument back in its case after playing, do the following:

  • Use the water key to empty water from the instrument. Blow air through it. If your horn does not have a water key, invert the instrument. You may also remove the main tuning slide, invert the instrument and remove excess water.
  • Wipe the instrument off with a clean soft cloth. Return the instrument to its case.
  • Remove the mouthpiece. Once a week, wash the mouthpiece with warm tap water. Dry thoroughly.

Horn valves and slides occasionally need lubricating. Your director will recommend valve oil and slide grease, and will help you apply them when necessary.

Getting It Together

Step 1: Hold the horn in your left hand, and place the bell of the instrument on your right thigh. The bell should point backwards, slightly angled to the right.

Step 2: Use your right hand to gently twist the mouthpiece into the mouthpiece receiver.

Step 3: Place your left thumb inside the thumb ring. Your fingertips should rest on the valves. Place your little finger in the hook.

Step 4: Cup your right hand slightly. Keep your fingers together and put your thumb against your index finger as shown above. Place your hand inside the bell. The back of your fingers should touch the far side of the bell.

Step 5: Always sit up straight when playing. Hold the horn as shown above.

Information above provided by Hal Leonard from the Essential Elements Methods Books.

Demonstration Videos

French Horn Assembly

French Horn General Care

French Horn Embouchure

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