Place your left hand on the valves and your right hand in the bell. The hand in the bell helps you not only to hold the instrument but eventually play in tune with other instruments and musicians. Pretend you are going to shake someone’s hand but with fingers and thumb together. If you were to make your bell a clock face, the hand would be approximately around the 1:00 to 5:00 position on the right side of the bell. (insert picture) There should be room for a small orange or golf or ping pong ball to go past the hand. Try not to cup the hand, but flatten it initially.
Make sure the right hand does not completely cover the bell.
Your arm is an extension of the horn in the bell. If you were to play stopped horn (insert video sound clip) you would be able to use your hand in the bell to close the door so to speak, to seal it to make a muted sound. (Video example of closing and sealing the bell vs open hand position) The hand in the bell was used before valves were invented on the Natural Horn. (video example) Here is an example of how we would use the hand in the bell to play a scale. First see it with valves, then without.
Make sure that your bell is not positioned so it’s playing into your body, but away from your body, and that your arms and shoulders stay relaxed.
When you bring the French Horn up to your lips or embouchure, the lead pipe should be at about a 45-degree angle. You may decide to hold your bell off your leg or on your leg. It really depends upon the horn in relation to your body. If it is too big to put on your leg or hold off your leg, smaller students could start with the bell on a chair temporarily and not worry about the hand in the bell at first. (show pics of alternative hand positions.)