In this article I will try to give you the most French horn information for beginners so you can make a right choice when purchasing one. I will give you some technical variations of this instrument so when you do purchase one you will choose one to suit your needs, because there are so many options and variations to choose from.
What is the main job of a French Horn
The FRENCH HORN is an orchestral.instrument, although its mellow tone quality often lends the French Horn to be paired with woodwind instruments, it is a brass instrument.
There is a main tubing which could stretch to over 4 yards and an extra 2 or 3 yards with additional tubing which usually is made out of brass.
The length of the tubing is what gives you your pitch. The tubing space is much thinner on this instrument and has more tubing than a trombone. You have to blow further with the French Horn to make the sound but this will give you a higher pitched note than most of your other brass instruments.
You can hear the French Horn in an orchestra because of its distinctive sound. There are two types of sounds a French Horn can make. A softer timbre to blend with the other instruments, and a clearer distinctive timbre that sounds out over the orchestra.
How difficult is a French Horn to play
Because of the way the tubing on this instrument is French Horns have a reputation for being a hard instrument to play. The bell on the French Horn is pointed backwards because this instrument was used for hunters warnings which makes it more difficult in orchestras for the players.
What makes the French Horn more difficult to play is not only are you just pressing fingers on buttons and blowing but you have to adjust different pressures of your lips, for example: In the lower section of the French Horn harmonics (notes that can be played just by squeezing and relaxing of the lips,) the notes play softly without much projection. To play the French Horn in the higher range, from G upwards, the notes used much more often in an orchestra. The problem is what makes it more difficult is the harmonics are very close together which makes the notes much harder to hit perfectly and the musician accountable for the perfect amount of lip squeezing to hit the exact note.
With practice a musician can train his or herself to accomplish this but it is a lot harder than lets say playing a Flute. Here is an u-tube video on how to play a French Horn.
How to choose a French Horn
There are several types of FRENCH HORNS, and different types of valves. These choices can affect the cost of the instrument and repairs. The best French Horn to choose for a beginner is a single horn in F. This type of horn is the easiest to learn on, lightweight, and lower cost,
1 Single horn – this is the most basic and is the least expensive. It is operated by using three rotors and comes in two keys: F and Bb. The F horn is the older horn with its lower tuning and its natural horn sound that is strong in its low and mid-ranges They are limited in accurately in the higher-ranges.
The Bb horn was created because of the limitations of the F horn in the higher-ranges, this horn does have limitations also, it has a less desirable tone in the low and mid-ranges and the inability to be able to play all the low register notes. Because it is light weighted and accurate in its high-ranges, professionals will use this horn for certain compositions.
2 Double horn – This horn was created to solve the problems that the single horn’s have by improving the responsiveness across the French Horns range. Because of the tubular engineering of this instrument, it is capable of shifting between the F key and Bb key through the use of having a fourth rotor. Operated by the left thumb this rotor cuts out about four feet of tubing from the vibrating air column within the horn.
Some horn’s also can be changed so that the lever works the other way around, turning the horn into an F instrument when engaged.
Double horn’s can be very versatile and therefore very popular and a primary choice for intermediate and professional players. They are more costly and they do have an added weight compared to the single French Horn so that’s why the single horn is best suited for the beginner, unless the student is really committed to the instrument. The double french horn allows the player to play at a better level switching between two keys Bb and F, each one will give you better quality to different ranges of notes, this allows the musician to be able to play low notes with deep tone projection as well as high notes with a great sound quality.
There are two types of wrap, meaning this is the way the tubing is coiled. There is the Kruspe wrap and the geyer wrap. The Kruspe wrap locates the fourth rotor above the other three when you have the horn in the playing position. This wrap gives it a shorter linkage between the rotor lever that controls the fourth rotor and the actual rotor. The Geyer wrap locates the fourth rotor behind the third. This linkage reaches past the other three rotors which makes it much longer.
3 Triple horn – This is starting to become a popular horn, especially with professionals. It provides better response in the high registers. While the double horn combines the F and Bb into one horn, the triple horn adds yet another, the alto F horn. It can handle any range with ease.
This horn is more expensive and is heavier than your single and double horn so this would be one of the drawbacks when you are trying to choose which horn you would want if you are on a budget.
4 Descant horn’s – This horn has greater stability in the upper registers and if you don’t have much concern for the lower and middle ranges this would be a good choice for you. It is a double horn combining the Bb and alto F horn’s. It is less expensive and weighs less than your triple horn especially if you are going to focus on the horn’s higher range.
5 Marching horn – This french horn is modified using a specialized body style using a different wrap that can be held straight forward, like a trumpet.
6 Mellophone – This is a more popular choice for marching bands today in the key of F as an alternative for the FRENCH HORN in the key of Bb because it has more of a higher or alto sound compared to the darker sound of a french horn.
Different types and number of valves
A french horn can come without valves which would be a natural horn, this type has only harmonics available to play. French horn’s with valves are played with the left hand which is different from your other brass instruments.
Most of the french horn’s comes with lever operated rotary valves, which makes it easier for the musician. Some comes with piston valves, which does make it harder to move through quickly.
You can also choose if you want three valves or four valves on your horn. Single horn’s mostly have three valves and sometimes a fourth valve utilized for tuning purposes. Double french horn’s usually have four valves, these amount of valves usually determines if it a single or double french horn.
Nickle Silver or brass option materials
The metal options on a french horn adds to the play ability of the instrument. Each one is coupled with weight and thickness which adds to the unique tone, sound, and projection of the instrument. It depends on your needs which metal you should choose. The best way to determine this would be to visit a music store so you can sample the different types and once you determine which one best suits your needs then you can start doing your shopping whether it is a music store which might be more expensive or online.
Some Good Popular Brands
The manufactures I mention below comes out with instruments that always have good quality, a great reputation in the industry, and are very considerate in keeping the musician in mind when creating the instrument. Buying one of these brands allows you to feel that you are getting what you pay for.
1 – Mendini – This is a Chinese brand which they produce a wide range of french horn’s. This brand is not as well-known as the other manufactures that I will mention but they are well-made horn’s and customer’s are well satisfied with their purchase.
2 – Schiller – This is a German company who has been well-established since the late 1800s and gives you a good quality instrument. This company always works hard to meet the customer’s satisfaction.
3 – Yamaha – This company is well known for its expertise in creating instruments for the customer. Everyone recognizes Yamaha as a good reliable quality brand. They are always getting and researching opinions from teachers, students, and professionals when they are developing their instruments.
4 – Conn-Selmer Company – This company is Americas leading manufacturer who is located in Elkhart Indiana, East lake Ohio, and Monroe North Carolina.
5 – Holton Manufacturer – This company started out in Elkhorn Wisconsin right up until 2008 and was transferred to East lake Ohio. Their French horn’s and mouthpieces are created through the joint venture manufacturers Frank Holton and company and the support of legendary horn Virtuoso Philip Farkas and Merker.
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Best French Horns Reviewed by Professionals
1 Mendini MFH-20 – This is a single horn with three valves and has all the features a beginner student will need. It is very affordable and has good projection. You will need to upgrade though as you progress in your studies. U-tube demo
2 mendini MFH 30 – This model is good for intermediate players. This model allows you to project over the orchestra with the intonations that lacks with the single horn. It has great intonation, it is a double horn allowing for movement towards professional playing and is very affordable. You will have to upgrade for professional playing though and is more expensive than the MFH 20.
3 Schiller Elite V Double French Horn – This model is an affordable option and is ideal for quartet or concert bands. This brand produces some finest valves that makes effort playing a reality. Schiller brands are ideal for beginners as well as advanced players. This is a versatile, elegant, and durable horn.
4 Yamaha YHR-31411 – This model has great intonation and projection and the comfort of the design is well-thought-out by the manufacturer. It has a tapered mouthpiece, wrap for holding, and smooth airflow which is why it is a comfortable handling instrument. The only problem I see with this model is its expensive. U-TUBE DEMO
5 Yamaha YHR 567 – This model has a bright sound and good projection. It has a fourth valve for comfort and has a great higher register intonation and is resistant to wear and corrosion. This is an intermediate instrument which is a little pricier than your other intermediate models but worth it. U-TUBE DEMO
6 Yamaha YHR-668N11 – This model is for the professional player. It is very accurate when it comes to pitch and is a very comfortable instrument to play. You can customize this model because it has a detachable bell and choice of metal and offers separate Bb tuning. It is very expensive though.
7 Holton H179 Fardas Series – This model is best suited for a player that has graduated from being a hobbyist. It is known for its deep and rich sounding notes, It is made from a hard silver nickel that delivers brighter punchier tones and has a larger bell. A professional will definitely appreciate the sound of this model with its rich tones. U-TUBE DEMO
8 Conn8D – This model has a nickel-silver finish that makes it look unique and is popular among st professional players. It has dark, rich notes that cannot be missed whether playing solo or in a group. U-TUBE DEMO
9 Conn11DS – This model offers the player a brighter sounding instrument that works well with section players or soloist. This model will never go unnoticed whether in a group of players or a solo. You will be in safe hands with this model whether you are a beginner or advanced player
Hopefully I gave you enough information in this article so you can make a wise and easier decision on purchasing a french horn to your liking when you are shopping for one. If you have any questions or comments on this article please don’t hesitate to ask or comment and I will do my best to answer them