|Intro to Horn|
|What Is Not A French Horn?|
The French Horn began its music career as the most important brass instrument. It claims this title because at the time, it was the only brass instrument used in the orchestra thanks to having some ability to play music before the invention of valves. As the years flew by, many more alto range instruments appeared. Most of these alto instruments aimed to replace the French Horn in one context or another. The vast majority aimed at marching, but some also hoped to provide an easier instrument in a pinch.
These things are not French Horns:
Mellophone: The most "popular" wish-it-was French Horn is the Mellophone. The Mellophone, no relation to the Marching Mellophone, is a Cornet derivative with some admirable traits. It plays with sufficient finesse, has a good and unique tone quality, and has a spectacular range. With a suitable mouthpiece, I find that I could likely control three full octaves with enough practice. Alas, the Mellophone has a major flaw. In an attempt to resemble a French Horn, it features a large bell. The bell is so large that intonation is a train wreck. It doesn't sound too bad on its own, but once you try playing in a real ensemble, you find yourself lipping almost every note in tune.
The Mellophone was apparently created to provide an instrument which could be quickly deployed to cover a French Horn part owing to the fact that a Trumpet player could likely pick it up and play in a few minutes. Unfortunately, it doesn't really sound like a French Horn and the poor intonation makes it every bit as hard to play as the French Horn. Maybe if it had less bell...
Tenor Cor: This is not a Descant Horn or a Mellophone. It's a Tenor Cor. Tenor Cors can also be found with rotary and Vienna valves for either handedness.
Tenor Cor is essentially an Alto Horn with a French Horn bell. The bell isn't exactly that of a French Horn, but it's produced with the same tools. The sound is very similar to a Saxophone but projects more like a Euphonium. Technical prowess is very good, but my Tenor Cor has a very poor high range and is incapable of even reaching high C without hand stopping.
As it's very difficult to get Tenor Cor in the key of F, never mind the very confusing tone quality, I don't assume these instruments were created to be French Horn replacements. I figure it's more of an attempt to tame the Alto Horn.
Alto Horn: Not sure how you could confuse an Alto Horn for a French Horn, but just in case, here it is. The first Alto Horn is your typical British brass band style upright in Eb. The second is an American marching style upright also in Eb. They also came in that fashion with the bell bent forward for marching and were quite popular in the first half of the 1900s.
Alto Horns typically come in the key of F or Eb and have been used for various roles. Owing to their great finesse and insane volume, Marching Alto Horns can be fielded as French Horns or Saxophones. In the past, Alto Horns were used instead of Alto Saxophones in the earliest renditions of the jazz band. These days, the Alto Horn finds itself underappreciated and underutilized in the face of flashier but less efficient instruments.
Other Crap: In order of photos...
Altonium: An Alto Trombonium...umm. It's not an Alto Horn. It has a small bore, uses a French Horn mouthpiece, and is stupidly quiet. Very interesting but useless for marching and very uncomfortable to hold because it's so tiny. I never tried it besides goofing around, but I imagine these would make pretty decent poor man's Descant Horns.
Frumpet: Another thing that uses a French Horn mouthpiece. I've never played one, but I assume it's a lot like the Altonium. They apparently have abysmal intonation owing to the mouthpiece mismatch.
Marching Mellophone: Marching Mellophone is not a Mellophone. Mellophonium is the real marching Mellophone. Marching Melly has quite a reputation and I don't know why. Being an Alto Valve Trombone with a big bell, it has good intonation and plays well. Not even close to being as bad as they say. But at the same time, it only has marginally better intonation compared to the Marching Alto Horn and isn't even in the same league in terms of dynamic contrast. I can only assume that because the Marching Melly can be played sufficiently with smaller mouthpieces and looked flashier, it beat out the vastly superior Alto Horn.