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History of the Tenor Horn

Updated July 19, 2017

While the tenor horn may not be as popular as its cousin the French horn, it still plays an important role in British brass music and in other Western brass ensembles. The tenor horn is over 150 years old and has undergone relatively few changes in design since its inception. Apart from its distinct sound, it is also known for the variety of names it is called depending on the country and part of the world it is in.

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The tenor horn was invented in the mid-1800s and was intended to be the alto voice in the saxhorn family of instruments. The tenor horn is most commonly used in brass bands, orchestras and concert bands.


This instrument goes by several names and is known as the tenor horn in the U.K., the Eb Alto horn in the U.S. and the Althorn in Germany.


The tenor horn is an Eb instrument that has curved tubing and is similar in shape to the French horn. It has a mouthpiece on one end and a larger bell on the other, and the pitches can be adjusted with valves that are located in the middle.


The tenor horn was invented by Adolphe Sax, the same person who invented the saxophone.

Famous Players

There is a long list of famous tenor horn players but three of the most famous are Django Bates, Sheona White and Owen Farr.

Fun Fact

Since the tenor horn has a similar shape to the larger tuba, it is often referred to as a little or mini tuba.

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