Vienna Symphonic Library Forum
Forum Statistics

182,025 users have contributed to 42,199 threads and 254,650 posts.

In the past 24 hours, we have 3 new thread(s), 9 new post(s) and 57 new user(s).

  • Writing for 4 horns

    I have been writing for four horns using 4 individual horns. Is the Ensemble Horns a4 only for when you wish the sound of horns in unison? Or can it be used for 4 separate parts? Also, as I am using Sibelius, if I need to use Ensemble horns as well as single horn (Triple Horn), how do I switch to Ensemble Horns from The four separate horn parts, as each part will be showing the same notes, but I wouldn't want to switch to four instances of Ensemble. Horns?

  • It sounds like Dimension Brass might be the best tool for your particular needs, since all four horns were recorded individually, and can be used that way or in unison. The ensemble horns are indeed for unison parts. Using the ensemble horns patch for four individual horn parts will sound like 16 horns are playing instead of four.


  • Unfortunately I have Ensemble Horns, which may have been a mistake. At present I am using Horns in Special Edition 1 and 1+. If I were to use Ensemble horns within Sibelius, I wonder how I would organise it so that I could switch to ensemble Horns when needed? Maybe this specific question should be given to the Sibelius section. Phil

  • Dim Brass is only one soultion ind digital world that can produce real divisi


  • Hi Phil, I don't know how this works in Sibelius, but if you're using the Vienna Instruments player you can easily switch between solo and ensemble horns on the fly using a simple matrix of two patches.


  • If the parts you are performing go from unison a4 to all four horns on different notes, you can switch between the unison 4 horn ensemble to the 4 separate triple horn parts.  You would go from one MIDI channel of four horn ensemble for the unison, to 4 separate MIDI channels of the triple horn (each on different ptiches) .  If you have unison notes on the different parts though, you cannot use this approach with the solo triple horn because it will cause phasing.  Also, you cannot use the 4 horn ensemble for four parts, because it will result in 16 horns playing very artificially. 

    You have not made a mistake in getting the 4 horn ensemble however, because it is a great collection that includes articulations not found in the other horns.   Also, if you ever get the "Epic horns" ( the 8 horn ensemble) the four horns you already have are perfect for doing a two-part divisi of the 8 horn ensemble.  They match flawlessly.  

    Though if you can at some time, you need to get the Dimension Horns since there is no worrying about any of this - you can simply write for one, two, three or four horns in unison or any harmonization.    Though I personally still love the sound of the "Epic" horns as the main horn sound on a big orchestral setting. 


  • Hello.  I am a bit off-subject, but as a theory teacher and horn player, it is worth noting one small historical quirk when you are writing for 4 horns. If you want to look like you know what you're doing, you might want to write the four parts from high to low in this order, which is traditional:

    1324

    Historically,  the horns 1 & 3 play the two highest pitches of chords, with 2 & 4 with the bottom notes.

    There is no 21st Century logic here, but 1st & 3rd are still usually high-range players while 2 and 4 specialize in lower ranges.

    it is no huge deal, but horn players will certainly pick up on the correct voicings, especially pros, and I always want them on my side when they are reading my music for the first time.  

    Of course, a good orchestration teacher will point this out to you, but if you didn't know, now you do.


  • last edited
    last edited

    @Russell Wilson said:

    Hello.  I am a bit off-subject, but as a theory teacher and horn player, it is worth noting one small historical quirk when you are writing for 4 horns. If you want to look like you know what you're doing, you might want to write the four parts from high to low in this order, which is traditional:

    1324

    Historically,  the horns 1 & 3 play the two highest pitches of chords, with 2 & 4 with the bottom notes.

    There is no 21st Century logic here, but 1st & 3rd are still usually high-range players while 2 and 4 specialize in lower ranges.

    it is no huge deal, but horn players will certainly pick up on the correct voicings, especially pros, and I always want them on my side when they are reading my music for the first time.  

    Of course, a good orchestration teacher will point this out to you, but if you didn't know, now you do.

    Good point, except that for studio work in Los Angeles, it's 1,2,3,4.


  • You are right that classical music uses that breakdown.  I was a horn player in symphony orchestras and the lower parts were 2nd and 4th.  The 3rd player was usually better than the 2nd!    Of course the difference won't really be audilble in a recorded orchestral context.


  • Yes, as I mentioned, it only counts when dealing with living human beings actually reading music.  Not a problem for virtual horn sections!  They ALL manage to play the high Cs perfectly.  What's not to love?

    Russell Wilson

    Prof. of Music

    Utah State University


  • The only thing I would add to this is that in commercial music everyone can play everything. In fact some film orchestrators write chords high notes to low notes numerically. I find it irritating, but am considered rather an old fuddy duddy for still using the Classical convention.


  • Well DG that is true, but in major "classical" orchestras that actually pay full-time salaries the competition is so fierce that every player is essentially virtuosic in ability.  My experience, as a very lowly 4th hornplayer, was with quite different orchestras.  Part of the reason I got interested in samples. 

     However Russell, I like your pointing this out and in fact it inspires me to attempt - insanely - actually representing the tradition in MIDI performances.  No one will hear it but I will know.  As I sit nodding complacently at The Institute.


  • William, I'd bet horn players will hear it!