How Alpine Horns are Made
of the modern way of making a horn.
General Construction and Qualities of the Alphorn
The alphorn is carved from solid softwood, generally spruce but sometimes pine. In former times the alphorn
maker would find a tree bent at the base in the shape of an alphorn, but modern makers piece the wood
together at the base. A cup-shaped mouthpiece carved out of a block of hard wood is added and the instrument
The alphorn has no lateral openings and therefore gives the pure natural harmonic series of the open pipe,
similar to a bugle. The horn in F has the same notes as the modern french horn, played open, or the modern trombone played in sixth position.
The well-known "Ranz des Vaches" is a traditional Swiss melody often heard on the alphorn. The song describes the time of bringing the cows to the high country at cheese making time. Rossini introduced the "Ranz des Vaches" into his masterpiece William Tell, along with many other delightful melodies scattered throughout the opera in vocal and instrumental parts that are well-suited to the alphorn. Brahms wrote to Clara Schumann that the inspiration for the dramatic entry of the horn in the introduction to the last movement of his First Symphony was an alphorn melody he heard while vacationing in the Rigi area of Switzerland. Finally, the prologue to Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, played on horn without the use of valves but equally suited to the alphorn, is a beautiful, inspired example of the lyric possibilities of natural harmonics.
Alphorn in F
In Austria, Switzerland, Germany and the United States, the most popular key to play the alphorn is in the key of F. All alphorn clubs play in this key.
Our F horn comes in three sections, consisting of the hand tube (or lead pipe), the central tube, and the bell section with foot piece. Each section is approximately four feet in length, comprising a total assembled length of nearly 12 long, or 360 cm. The instrument comes with case and mouthpiece. It is made in Austria from specially selected and aged spruce wood, with a lacquered finish, and is tuned to 440 Hz.
Traditionally alphorns are wrapped with rattan, or further back in history, strips of bark (or beef?!?!), which would help to keep the instrument together after being split, chiseled hollow, and then glued back together. Our modern horns have removed the rattan wrapping to give them a sleek, smooth look. With the availability of modern machinery, the horns are now more durable and better in tune. Our horns are all hand finished and tested for proper production and tuning.