In a symphony orchestra the horn section is the group of musicians who play the horn (sometimes referred to as the French horn), a brass instrument descended from the natural horn that consists of about of tubing (for a single horn in the key of F), wrapped into a compact, coiled form with a flared bell. These musicians are typically seated to the back of the ensemble and may be on either side at the director's discretion. Placing them to the left with their bells towards the audience will increase the prominence of the section whereas on the right they will have their sound reflected off the back of the stage, with the order from the principal horn (1st horn) to the 4th horn being right to left from the director's view. The section is ordered in this way so the principle horn may be heard by all players as the principle sets the timbre and intonation of the section.
In non-classical music groups such as blues, funk, or rock bands, the horn section refers to a group of wind instrumentalists — usually saxophone, trumpet and trombone players. In blues and jazz, saxophones and brass instruments are colloquially referred to as "horns." The horn section usually has written parts which are prepared by an arranger using orchestration techniques to provide a harmonic and melodic accompaniment to a song or musical group. In some cases, the horn section may improvise a simple backing part using well-known "stock" lines.
Horn sections are an integral part of musical genres such as jazz, R&B, blues, funk, calypso, ska, soul music and gospel music. Most of these horn sections feature some combination of saxophones, trumpets and trombones. More rarely, other wind or brass instruments such as flute, clarinet or tuba may be added.
Other popular musical genres also use horn sections for some songs, such as rock and pop bands.