PSA on Horn Sections Sitting Backwards

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We all know that the standard arrangement of horn sections has the players blowing down the section from the first horn. In other words, from the audience, the section would look 4-3-2-1-A (A being the assistant, if utilized). The second horn is to the right of the first horn player, in other words.

If in two rows the seating is similar. Visualizing as if the section is riding in a car, the first horn is in the driver’s seat, the second in the passenger seat, the third behind the driver, fourth behind the passenger.

ny_phil.jpgHorn players can become targets in the game of seating of ensembles, and in particular some band conductors have the big idea to seat horns in the other direction.

I think the thinking is somehow related to the notion that the section needs to “tune from the bottom.” This is actually a terrible idea though, in reality we always tune in the other direction, the second needs to gauge pitch in relation to the first horn, and on down the section. This is very standard in the horn world.

Of course, the intended audience for this article is conductors, and they will probably not often read this article. But this post is to say this is a pet peeve of hornists in general. Please don’t make us sit in backwards sections!

UPDATE: An early Facebook comment pointed out that the Vienna Philharmonic sits backwards in relation to the article above. There is always an exception that proves the rule….

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