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English Horn vs. French Horn – ALL Differences (Tone, Structure & More)

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If you are in a hurry, here’s a quick comparison:

English HornFrench Horn
PowerThe English horn looks darker and more forceful because of its lower pitch and pear-shaped bell.The French horn is hard to play because it requires constant airflow and more power.
ToneEnglish horn has a mellow, mournful tone and depressing music.The low and high ranges of the French horn instruments produce a gentle tone, respectively.
PitchEnglish horn pitch is lower than French horn. The range of the English horn spans from E3 to A5 (B5).The French horn is a perfect fifth higher than the sounding pitch.

The English and French horns are very dissimilar to one another. For those of us who play stringed instruments, as well as for those of you who play other instruments or are not familiar with the two distinct horns, it can be a little confusing.

The French horn is a brass instrument, whereas the English horn is a woodwind one.

Since the beginning of time, humans have made sounds with the help of animal horns, though not necessarily for musical purposes.

Given all the German innovations in the instrument’s design and playing, why don’t we call the French horn a German? 

The French horn was largely invented in Germany, but the name “French” comes from the concept and playing style, which were likely imported from France.

This melodic brass wind instrument consists of a long, coiled tube with a conical bore and a wide bell called a French horn. At the same time, the English horn is a gloomy woodwind instrument that belongs to the oboe family. 

It’s not in English, though. Its name comes from the Germanic region where it was first called the “Angelic Horn,” which in common speech sounded like the “English Horn.”

English Horn vs. French Horn – The Ultimate Comparison

The French horn is a brass device with a conical shape and a softer tone than the English horn.

You need to buzz your lips on the cup-shaped mouthpiece to make a sound. You can play certain notes or adjust the pitch using rotary devices. 

The English horn, in contrast, is a reed instrument with holes on its tube that opens and closes with particular key mechanisms to adjust tune.

We will compare both in terms of their features, telling you about the differences and similarities. So, let’s begin!


French horn student models will have tough nickel/silver inner and exterior slides and yellow brass bells. The shiny metal of the bells and slides on advanced French horns will often include more copper.

A double reed, a curved metal crook, and three straight components make up the modern English horn. The instrument is often made of hardwood, though rarely plastic or metal is also used.


Not all French horns are made the same. Some companies that make French horns employ inferior materials, frequently resulting in an instrument that cannot be repaired.

English horns by prestigious manufacturers include Loree, Fox, Howarth, Buffet Crampon, and others.


A single F or a double F/Bb French horn is the most common. Usually, a Kruspe or Geyer wrap is used for double French horns. Hand-lapped rotating valves and hammered bells are features of some professional models.

Also, intermediate will occasionally have a removable bell for simpler equipment transportation.

The English horn body has three parts that fit within one another: the upper joint, lower joint, and bell.

The 7.5 cm-long, small metal pipe that sticks from the upper joint is where the double-reed mouthpiece is hooked. Reeds on the English horn are longer and wider.


The French horn sounds exactly a fifth lower in F. The French horn is among the most stunning and amazing musical instruments in the symphony orchestra, known for its warm, soft, and appealing sound.

The English horn performs a fifth lower than it does in the score. Typically written for a single instrument, it has a delicate, sorrowful tone and an intense resonance. It does a great job of expressing sad, lonely, and depressing music.


By pressing the hand deeper into the bell of the French horn, the tone becomes more piercing, and if we blow loudly while doing so, it produces a harsh sound called “cuivre.”

English horn has a mellow, mournful tone with an expressive resonance but is lower than the French horn.


Due to its rich, velvety sound, the French horn serves as the “bridge” between woodwind and brass wind instruments.

The English horn’s sound is excessively harsh and piercing if the vocal is incorrect.


A good French horn mouthpiece can be purchased from $60 to a few hundred dollars. Modern French horns have a mouthpiece with three rotating valve systems that open extra tube lengths.

English horn has a double-reed mouthpiece in which two reeds lying close together is wider.

Pros And Cons

French Horn

A crucial component for bands and orchestras to succeed at all levels.A challenging instrument to play and master.
Few students are French Horn playersPrivate instruction is highly suggested.
Creating several chances for achievements in various advanced level groups.Expensive to rent or buy an instrument.
The demand for good French horn players is strong at all musical levels.

English Horn

Longer than oboeChallenging instrument
For concert band scores, English horn parts are also written.Expensive
The demanding instrumentBeginners first practice on the oboe, then play the English horn

Why Is French Horn The Hardest Instrument?

Some instruments are tougher to play than others, even though all instruments are challenging when you first start.

Because the French horn’s notes are more closely spaced apart than the English horn, it is considered the most difficult to play. As a result, you must practice and develop your sense.

You must also understand how to deal with the issue of cracked notes. A lot of effort must be spent disassembling the French horn to wipe out the saliva that frequently collects in the tubing.

English Horn And French Horn

The English and French horns are very separate instruments. French horns are brass instruments about 12 to 13 feet long and 3.7 to 4.0 meters, wrapped into a coil and played by zipping the lips inside a mouthpiece shaped like a funnel.

The instrument tube has a huge bell flare at the end and is primarily round in shape. 

A musician can more readily play certain notes or pitches on modern French horns due to three rotating valve systems that extra open lengths of tube.

In addition to the adaptability of detachable bells, horns can be categorized as single, double, compensating double and triple horns. 

The most popular and famous French horn form is the double horn. Triple horns considerably increase the instrument’s midrange frequencies by adding a third valve and reaching the second-highest range in the family of brass instruments.

It is a vertical instrument with a long, open tube and numerous holes along it. The ability to change notes is provided by key mechanisms that the player presses down to open and close the holes all along the tube.

English Horn VS French Horn sound

The English horn has an oboe-like sound. As you move up the range on both instruments, the tones become drier and have a rich tone with a powerful carrying force in its low-frequency region. 

The English horn’s practical written range is from B3 (below middle C) to G6 (above the treble clef staff). More than a fifth can increase that range by skilled performers.

The tubular size of a French horn is constant. The less common B-flat variation or F key is used in manufacturing.

The bass F note, three octaves below Middle C, to the alto F note, an octave above, make up the French horn’s three control valves’ basic range. 

Several horn designs may be compatible with the metal tube modifications known as “crooks,” which can be used to alter the factory-tuned pitch. The French horn’s range has successfully been extended by advancement.

Is English Horn Difficult To Learn?

The English horn is a challenging instrument, much like the other double-reed instruments, due to the breath control needed to play it. Its melodic range spans from the second E above to the E below middle C.

It is pitched in the key of F. The oboe is much smaller than this instrument; thus, it can be more difficult to play as quickly as you can on the oboe.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the English horn better than the French horn?

Unfortunately, the French horn is more versatile and has more range than the English horn.

Which one is the hardest to play, English horn or French horn?

The French horn is one of the most difficult instruments to play because you have to maintain a constant airflow through tubes ranging in length from 12 to 30 feet.

Why is the French horn manufactured in different lengths?

The French horn is available in long lengths because different notes can be played by this horn depending on how long the tube is.

What is similar between the French horn and the English horn?

Yes, they are windy and airy instruments that we commonly call aerophones. This is the sole similarity between them.

In summary, the French horn has the legal right to be termed a horn because its origins are in a real animal horn. The English horn is referred to as a horn because it made people think of the horns played by angels in medieval paintings.

The English horn is a straight-away woodwind musical instrument with a rounded bell end; it sounds woodsy and depressing. At the same time, the French horn is a strong, assertive, and smooth wind instrument. It has a cone-shaped mouthpiece.  

The normal pitch for both instruments is a fifth lower than what has been written on them. Artists must first choose clearly which instrument they should concentrate on because both are expensive and challenging to acquire. Since it takes a lot of effort to produce a clean, pure tone, learning these instruments requires tremendous talent and dedication.