I would like to acquire a natural horn to play a very low pitched tone. I am not educated in music, so I don't even know how to describe the tone in a correct way (is it "low pitched"?), but I found a fitting tone in a YouTube video:

I have not succeeded in finding out which properties will affect the tuning of such an instrument (diameter, length, form, material, etc.), so I was hoping to find some advice here. Best case information for me would be the name of a specific instrument and a link to a video or sound file. But it would also help me to get a hint how to better phrase my requirement (in technical more correct terms).


2 Answers 2


You mean the pedal note or fundamental note?

„Certain low brass instruments such as trombone, tuba, euphonium, and alto horn are whole-tube and can play the fundamental tone of each harmonic series with relative ease. . Trombone and tuba in particular are often called upon to play pedal notes (fundamental notes) and so-called "false harmonics" and "false tones" below their normal range.“



The sound and tone depends

a) from the length

b) the pressure of the lips

c) the angle of the air stream (from the lips to the mouthpiece, embouchure)

you can try this out with a simple garden hose:


If you’re asking about:

(diameter, length, form, material, etc.)

This answer implies: material and form ... they don‘t matter, but the length. (I‘ve been playing for over 60 years all kind of brass instruments. You can produce a pedal tone on all of them, even without a mouth piece, with loose lips. But with one it’s easier, of course.)

  • Thank you for you answer! After reading the articles on "pedal note" and "fundamental note" I guess I mean the fundamental note - so I should ask: which properties of a natural horn foster a lower pitched fundamental note? I was hoping someone with more experience in musical instruments could listen to the "Gjallarhorn"-video I linked above and tell me something like "To have a horn make a sound like that, it must be very long and cone shaped, but its material doesn't matter" or "that's impossible, the sound from the video must be generated or at least reworked" or something like that.
    – wayn3
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 12:50
  • aha ... why didnt you tell this to us. I will edit my answer :) Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 14:13
  • Whether the tube's shape is straight or conical has a big impact. The Wikipedia page you link to makes at least indirect reference to this, but see also this question/answer. The links there may be useful. FYI, in case you're interested in updating your answer here.
    – Aaron
    Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 4:17
  • I don‘t say anything about the shape of the tube ... Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 7:03
  • Right. I'm saying that you might want to add that.
    – Aaron
    Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 7:04

It's really pretty simple: for a horn (aka brass instrument or equivalent), you've got a tube with a vibrator at one end and the other end open. The fundamental pitch has wavelength (ideally) 4 times the tube length. Quoting from a random thesis paper on brass instruments: (The Physics of the Trumpet - Berkopec)

The trumpet is considered in first order as [a] tube[,] closed at one end with a pressure antinode at the playing end. This results in standing-wave solutions with an odd number of 1/4-wavelength[s] between the two ends, such that k_n = nπ/2L, where n is [an] odd integer value. The corresponding modal frequencies are therefore in the ratios 1:3:5:7: etc.
The assumption that Z=0 at x=L is not perfect, because the open end of the pipe radiates into the surrounding air which has mass and [thus] also its own impedance.

Quoting from wikipedia,

Whole tube vs half tube The ease with which a player produces the fundamental note of each harmonic series for each tubing length of a modern brass instrument varies with the instrument's design. As bore width increases relative to length, it becomes easier for the player to resist the instrument's tendency to jump to the second harmonic instead of producing the fundamental frequency. Brass instruments with sufficient bore to allow the "whole tube" to vibrate easily, as opposed to "half the tube" (i.e., the second harmonic), are called "whole-tube" instruments.

  • it's like you say: the longer the tube the deeper the tone. Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 14:18
  • FYI, according to this article, it's not the length but the "conical-ness" of the bore that determines how true the fundamental/pedal tone is.
    – Aaron
    Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 4:20

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