I'm just wondering, how fast can a French Horn play 16th notes? Like, I've got this 1 measure passage of a descending 16th note chromatic scale at 152 bpm - is that too fast? It's to be played legato. Can the performer move the valves that fast?

2 Answers 2


How long a run and how good a player? A short run of 16ths at 152 bpm is no problem A longer run would be OK for a good amateur or above. He'll have played worse in etudes.

This example isn't as hard as it looks. And if anything is holding your players back from emulating it, it isn't the mechanics of the valves.

(Obviously, don't write concertos in the ensemble of a middle-school band piece! But a short chromatic run is really no problem.)

  • The passage is one measure and, since it's an orchestra piece, I've got it dovetailed so that 2 horns play the first 8 notes, landing on the third beat, where the other 2 play the next 8 sixteenths. That ok?
    – Miguel
    May 26, 2018 at 21:12
  • 1
    That's OK. But if you want to hear a continuous scale, don't be afraid to write it all for all the players. Or for two of them, or one of them, depending on what effect you want. If a hornist can play half a chromatic scale, he can play all of it. Save dovetailing for when there's a danger of one player running out or breath.
    – Laurence
    May 26, 2018 at 21:18
  • Yeah, it's mostly because I just don't want the sound of 4 horns because I want the horns to blend in with the rest of the orchestra, so just 2 at a time. It's also right before the horns get a big melody, so I guess it's also partially for balance, partially for balance. Make sense?
    – Miguel
    May 26, 2018 at 21:24
  • @Miguel Horns have a wide dynamic range, and four horns are not necessarily much louder than one. If you want them to play pp, just mark the part pp!
    – user19146
    May 28, 2018 at 9:37

I am playing for a while now and I play nearly all literature. I am not fast. The fastest I can play is 16th @110bpm. Afterwards neither my tongue nor my fingers match the speed. I heard records from Japanese guys (pros from the military band) that played up to 120bpm. I believe playing longer series of 16th at 152 bpm is unreasonable, even legato. For short series of 16th in legato speed can be faster.

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