Playing the alphorn and the Büchel

The alphorn is considered the Swiss national instrument and – based on his origins as a herders horn – also a symbol of the dairy industry in the Alps. Its shape is derived from the curved trunks of hillside fir trees. Nowadays, the instrument is constructed by carving glued pieces of wood down to the right size and shape, cutting the block of wood in half, hollowing out the halves, gluing them together and then wrapping the resultant pipe in adhesive tape. A wooden mouthpiece makes it easier to produce harmonics. One of these harmonics, known as the 'alphorn fa', is a physically determined partial tone between F and F sharp. The sound of the alphorn and the Büchel, an instrument which resembles a trumpet in shape and is popular in Central Switzerland, is warm and resonant. The alphorn is played as a solo instrument, in duos, trios, quartets, in choirs and also to accompany symphony orchestras or church organs. Nowadays it’s also used for pop, jazz and rock music, by groups of natural instrument enthusiasts and in experimental folk music. The Swiss Yodelling Association (EJV) promotes the alphorn tradition since 1910.

Detailed description


Traditional craftsmanship



Thomas Juchli, Hans-Jürg Sommer: Die Mundart des Alphorns (= The idiom of the alphorn = Le langage du cor des alpes). Oensingen, 2015 (DVD)

Charlotte Vignau: Modernity, complex societies, and the alphorn. Lanham, Maryland, 2013

Hans-Jürg Sommer: Eine Auswertung und Interpretation historischer Quellen zur Alphornmelodik. Oensingen, 2013

Frances Anne Jones: The alphorn in western art music - a cultural and historical study. University of Hull, 2014

Rudolf Gallati, Christoph Wyss: Unspunnen 1805-2005. Die Geschichte der Alphirtenfeste. Unterseen, Interlaken, 2005 (2. Auflage)

Brigitte Bachmann-Geiser: Das Alphorn. Vom Lock- zum Rockinstrument. Mit Beiträgen von Hans-Jürg Sommer, Rolphe Fehlmann, Res Margot und Matthias Wetter. Bern, 1999

Pierre Grandjean: Le Cor des Alpes. Lausanne, 2011

Dieter Ringli: Schweizer Volksmusik. Von den Anfängen um 1800 bis zur Gegenwart. Altdorf, 2006

Franz Schüssele: Alphorn und Hirtenhorn in Europa. Hölzerne Hörner von der Schweiz bis nach Schweden, von Russland bis Rumänien in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Friesenheim, Buchloe, 2000

Hans-Jürg Sommer: S’Büchel-Büechli. Melodien aus der Tradition geschöpft für Büchel, Oensingen 1995

Hans-Jürg Sommer: Eine Auswertung und Interpretation historischer Quellen zur Alphornmelodik. Oensingen, 2010

Charlotte Vignau: On Swissness in Alphorn Performance. In: Bulletin. Informationsblatt der GVS/SMPS und der CH-EM. Altdorf, 2009, p. 56-71




Eidgenössischer Jodlerverband
Fachkommission Alphornblasen

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