These instruments are the soprano parts of a brass ensemble. Like most brass instruments, their predecessors are animal horns and conch shell horns. The trumpet, cornet, and flügelhorn are all played by using the mouth to buzz into the instrument. Both the shape of the player's embouchure and the valves that are pressed down determine the pitch that comes out of the instrument. Cornets are not to be confused with cornetts, which use finger holes to determine the pitch that emanates instead of valves. Valves are parts of an instrument that allow it to produce all the pitches on the chromatic scale, instead of just the selected pitches that a natural horn could create. The trumpet hasn't always had valves. Until the 1800s, trumpets were similar to bugles in that the pitch was altered only by embouchure. After experiments with various slides and crooks, three valves became the standard on the trumpet, cornet, and flügelhorn. Great trumpet players include Louis Armstrong, an influential jazz musician.
The bugle is a simply structured instrument that is much like a trumpet but without valves. It is easily played but can only produce about five tones. Because of it's limited range, it is not a member of the orchestra. It's main use was as a military instrument in the 1800s. It gave signals to foot soldiers, while the trumpet gives signals to the soldiers on horseback. Most people have heard the bugle play ‘Taps.'
The French horn, sometimes referred to as just the horn, is an important part of the orchestra. It provides the tones below the trumpet range but above the trombone range. The French horn consists of a long, looped tube (which is usually twelve to sixteen feet long), a goblet shaped mouthpiece, three valves, and a large bell where sound comes out. The French horn's close ancestor was the hunting horn, which was used to signal hunters as well as play a happy tune at the end of a hunt if it was successful. Like the trumpet, predecessors to the French horn did not have valves. The French horn's tone is rich but mellow. Humidity and temperature can effect it's sound. The player can alter the French horn's sound by positioning their right hand far up the bell.