Why do Horn Sections play an octave low depending on the sample library?

Mrittp

New Member
I noticed in some sample libraries the horns play an octave below the midi note pressed (Spitfire Epic Brass, NI Symphony Series) but in other libraries by the same companies (Albion One/BBC brass, Session Horns) they are playing the pitch you would expect.

At first I thought it was just because Epic Bras is playing an ensemble with octave doubling but this is not consistent across the company's lineup and the fact that it shows up again in the Sound Iron Library has me confused.

Why is this not consistent across libraries/what is going on here?
 

Shiirai

Avian Member
Hmm. That is odd. I know that when writing for orchestra, some instruments are played higher or lower than written but that doesn't seem to be the issue here.
 

rrichard63

Perpetual Novice
when writing for orchestra, some instruments are played higher or lower than written
I believe these transpositions are typically a fifth, 2nd or 9th rather than an octave. Guitar is the only instrument I'm aware of that, by convention, sounds exactly one octave lower than written.

Is it possible that the reason some libraries transpose down an octave is to make room for keyswitches beneath where they are played on the keyboard?
 

Duncan Krummel

Just Passing Through
That is interesting. If it's an intentional choice, it was probably made due to old conventions of horn notation. Horn clefs/transpositions is an interesting subject. I'm not great at articulating it, so I'd point you to the article below:


P.S. Not just guitar! Double bass and contrabassoon are also written an octave above sounding, and then there's the subject of euphoniums/baritones/tubas and wind band tradition.
 

Rodney Money

On V.I. avoiding work.
I believe these transpositions are typically a fifth, 2nd or 9th rather than an octave. Guitar is the only instrument I'm aware of that, by convention, sounds exactly one octave lower than written.

Is it possible that the reason some libraries transpose down an octave is to make room for keyswitches beneath where they are played on the keyboard?
Get into the brass band world concerning sound vs written and it will scar your brain for life. Even ”tenor trombones,” Eb and Bbb tubas are written in treble clef!
 

BassClef

Senior Member
French Horn player here... Modern orchestral music is composed for horn in F, so the notes he plays will sound a perfect fifth lower. When you play middle C (C4) on the piano, the horn player will see and play the G above that. Also, modern horn players mostly play a "double" horn, F & Bb. A thumb valve cuts off about 3 feet of the F horn tubing which switches the horn to the key of Bb. The shorter Bb horn is used mostly for the upper register and extreme lower register. However, the horn player operates the instrument as if it was all in the same key, simply pressing the appropriate combination of the 4 valves on the instrument to produce the desired pitch. So composers only write for F horn.

This is similar to the bass trombone where a thumb valve adds tubing to make the instrument longer and reach lower notes. Of course the bass trombone has a larger bore and bell to also give it a bigger sound than the tenor.
 

Shiirai

Avian Member
Yes yes, we've established this, but OP is talking about entire octaves.

Honestly, I think the keyswitch-positioning explanation is most logical.
 
I noticed in some sample libraries the horns play an octave below the midi note pressed (Spitfire Epic Brass, NI Symphony Series) but in other libraries by the same companies (Albion One/BBC brass, Session Horns) they are playing the pitch you would expect.
I suppose it depends on the register, according to Spitfire the Epic Brass library is designed to give more of a punchy and dynamic sound, so perhaps they recorded the library in a lower register.

However this is all speculation, maybe head to their forum and ask them that very question.
 

sinkd

Senior Member
Yes yes, we've established this, but OP is talking about entire octaves.

Honestly, I think the keyswitch-positioning explanation is most logical.
Yes. Likely this allows keyswitches to remain in the lower range of the 88-keys.