I need help transposing a piece for the horn. I do not play it so therefore it is very difficult getting my head around this. I originally play the violin so brass instruments are totally diff. world to me. I am writing a piece for orchestra in G minor and I have two different sections for horn - G and D horn. However the software I am using only has the F horn option. Your help transposing the piece to both G and D would be very helpful.

  • 3
    Just to clarify, you want it played using the Horn in G and Horn in D, not the standard Horn in F? Have you considered whether such instruments are available? I assume that you're aware that the Horn in F can play in all keys, not just F.
    – endorph
    May 2, 2017 at 3:21
  • Apart from writing the dots out bearing transposition in mind, also be aware of the range of each instrument.
    – Tim
    May 2, 2017 at 7:19

1 Answer 1


Unless you're purposely writing in an antique style, for players who you know possess antique instruments, write for Horn in F. The instrument is fully chromatic. The player will very likely switch freely between the Horn in F and Horn in Bb which are combined in his modern 'Double Horn'. This is not your concern. I repeat - write for Horn in F. That means notating a perfect 5th above the required piich. If you want middle C, write the G above. The convention in horn parts is not to use a key signature, just accidentals for everything. Silly, really (if the music IS tonal). But horn players cling to the tradition.

Very likely your notation software has the option of composing in concert pitch, then automatically switching to a Transposed mode where Horn in F, Clarinet in Bb etc. see the right notation. Confusion is possible :-)

  • 1
    'The convention in horn parts is not to use a key signature' - Is this really the case nowadays? I would not recommend writing a new part without a key signature, unless you want to annoy your horn players. Which is a noble goal, but less than productive :-).
    – endorph
    May 2, 2017 at 12:19
  • Actually, "natural" horns were almost fully chromatic (apart from a few notes at the bottom of the range) by the 19th century, when players had discovered how to "hand-stop" notes, which wasn't possible while the playing technique was the same as for a "hunting horn" played while riding a horse! Some composers (e.g. Brahms and Wagner) considered valve horns to be an inferior instrument with a poorer tone quality.
    – user19146
    May 2, 2017 at 14:17
  • " Silly, really (if the music IS tonal)" - sometimes there was really evil logic in 19th century horn notation, where the music was written without accidentals but the written transposition of the horns sometimes changed bar-by-bar, with no time for any physical changing of instruments or inserting/removing tuning crooks!
    – user19146
    May 2, 2017 at 14:28

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