The English horn employs a double-reed mouthpiece to produce sound. It is made of two selected pieces of cane, so bound together that barely a slit is left between them. This mouthpiece is inserted into a tube, which is fitted into the upper end of the instrument. When the reeds are in the player’s mouth, he sets the column of air in the instrument into motion by blowing though the opening between the reeds. The various tones are obtained by pressing the fingers on the little metal keys over the hole cut along the sides of the instruments. The selection and care of the reeds for any of the single-reed and double reed instruments require keen attention. This is especially true in the case of the double reeds; not only must the two reeds be of the best quality but they must match exactly. Many professional woodwind players fashion their own reeds.
The name English horn misleads you. It is not English generated and it is not a horn. In its early form of it was bent in a half-circle, and the French call it a cor angle (bent horn). It is easy to see how bent horn could be mistaken to mean cor anglais (English horn).
Because the English horn is six inches longer than the oboe, its double reed is fitted into a small metal tube. This is attached to the upper end and is bent back to meet the player’s mouth. The expressive tone of the English horn is well suited to solo passages. It combines admirably with violas and cellos.
The English horn has a long curved mouthpiece and a bell-shaped at the bottom. Although it is played like an oboe, its voice is different. It is lower, smoother, richer, more mellow and mysterious. It is also less nasal. If the oboe and the flute may be called the violins the woodwind, the English horn is the viola. Composers can save this instrument for the moments when they want you to daydream or feel lonely. Once you hear it, its lovely voice will return to haunt you for days to come. You may wonder why this woodwind instrument is called a "horn" and what makes it especially English. Nobody really knows for sure. So this story gets people confused.
To imagine what an English horn looks like. think of an oboe with a bulb on the bell (bottom) of it.
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