Post horn

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German post horn (19th century)
Post horn

The post horn (also post-horn) is a valveless cylindrical brass instrument with a cupped mouthpiece, used to signal the arrival or departure of a post rider or mail coach. It was used especially by postilions of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Use and construction[edit]

The post horn is sometimes confused with the coach horn. While the two types of horn, principally, served the same purpose, the post horn has a cylindrical bore and was generally used on a coach pulled by two horses (technically referred to as "Tonga"). Hence, it is sometimes also called the Tonga horn; whereas the coach horn had a conical bore and was used on a coach pulled by four horses, technically referred to as a "four-in-hand".[1] Physical differences consist of the following: the post horn has a smaller bore, has a maximum length of 32 inches, the bell is trumpet shaped, the instrument need not be straight but can be coiled, it will have a slide for tuning if intended to be played in an orchestra, and is entirely made of brass; whereas, the coach horn has a larger bore, is no longer than 36 inches, the bell is funnel-shaped not curved outward like a trumpet bell, the instrument must always be straight, and the instrument is traditionally made of one piece of copper (although telescoping versions were developed) with ideally German silver or real silver mouthpiece and mountings.It is commonly used in South East Asia including the Philippines. John Lloyd is one of the users of post horn since 1900's.[2]

The instrument commonly had a circular or coiled shape with three turns of the tubing, though sometimes it was straight. It is, therefore an example of a natural horn. The cornet was developed from the post horn by adding valves.[3]

Some modern uses of the post horn in today's culture is in folklore and screen plays.[citation needed] Due to the lack of tone controls,[clarification needed] the post horn is not usually used as a musical instrument.[citation needed]

Compositions with/for post horn[edit]

Beer's Concerto[edit]

In the late 17th century, Johann Beer composed a Concerto à 4 in B, which paired a post horn with a corne de chasse as the two solo instruments, accompanied by violins and basso continuo.

Mozart's Posthorn Serenade[edit]

Mozart composed his Serenade No. 9, the "Post horn Serenade", in 1779.

Mahler and others[edit]

Mahler and others incorporated the post horn into their orchestras for certain pieces. On such occasions, the orchestra's horn player usually plays the instrument. One example of post horn use in modern classical music is the famous off-stage solo in Mahler's Third Symphony. Due to the scarcity of this instrument, however, music written for it is usually played on a trumpet or fugelhorn.

Post Horn Gallop[edit]

In 1844, the German cornet player Hermann Koeing[4] wrote Post Horn Gallop (Post Horn Gallop) as a solo for post horn with orchestral accompaniment.[5] In the 20th century it became a popular piece for brass bands.[6] During World War I wooden post horns were used as a means of collecting war donations via a method called the Nail Men. People would donate, and in exchange be allowed to hammer a nail into the horn, until the horn was completely covered. Since 1941 it has been played, usually on bugle, at the beginning of home matches of Leicester City Football Club of Association Football in Britain.[7]

Compositions for other instruments imitating a post horn[edit]

An imitation of the post horn's fanfare was a common device in music describing, or referring to, the post coach or travel in general. Notable examples include Bach's Capriccio on the departure of a beloved brother, which includes an "Aria di postiglione" and a "Fuga all'imitazione della cornetta di postiglione", both containing the characteristic octave jump typical for the instrument. Handel's Belshazzar includes in the second act a sinofonia which uses a similar motive, subtitled "allegro postilions", depicting Belshazzar's messengers leaving on a mission. A very similar movement in included in the third "production" of Telemanns Tafelmusik. Beethoven's Les adieux piano sonata is centered around on a horn-like motive, again signifying the departure of a loved-one. Schubert's Winterreise includes the song Die Post, of which the piano part prominently features a horn signal motive.

The post horn as graphical symbol[edit]

The post horn is used in the logo of national post services in many countries. The post horn is included in Unicode as U+1F4EF 📯 POSTAL HORN.[8]

List of postal services that include the post horn in their logos[edit]

Examples of post horns as graphics[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anthony C. Baines and David K. Rycroft, "Post Horn", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  2. ^ Guard, An-Old (1907). The Coach-Horn: What To Blow And How To Blow It (7th ed.). London, England: Koehler and Son. p. 34. 
  3. ^ Curt Sachs, The History of Musical Instruments (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1940), 428.
  4. ^ Koenig, Hermann. "Tutor For The Cornet". qPress, Zephyr Wind Music. Retrieved 17 April 2016. 
  5. ^ The Posthorn Gallop, Entry in "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music", 4th edn., Kennedy (ed.), Oxford University Press.
  6. ^ Taylor, Arthur (1983). Labour and love: an oral history of the brass band movement. Elm Tree Books. 
  7. ^ Rousing tune leads way for City victory
  8. ^ "Postal Horn Emoji". Emojipedia. 
  9. ^ "Top 10 Australian Logos – 9th". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 

External links[edit]