Decided to pursue the horn for the long term? The English contender wasn’t just cutting it? Well, it makes sense since the French horn lets you grab a bit of everything, from mellow and soft to smooth and roaring. That clunky, dried-out Holton you may have played all through your school years or the lucky local horn that accidentally happened to sound like a dream doesn’t just cut it anymore. You need something that will last you a while. So whether you’re an experienced player, a beginner, or a parent looking to buy one for their child, we’ve got your back. This is a detailed review of the finest french horns for 2022 and we’ll back our research with a comprehensive buyer’s guide that’ll further help you ease into your desired purchase.
Finding a good instrument online is no less than a gamble - at least when you’re in a music shop, you actually get to play the instrument before paying for it. When you’re buying online, it’s always pay first, play later, and deal with frustrating problems even further late down the lane.
Therefore, it’s always a very smart idea to research well prior to buying. Look up the YouTube reviews or scour through the customer reviews to figure out how the instrument you are planning to buy actually sounds.
We’ve broken down most things about the french horns we’ve reviewed above. In this section, we’ll fill you in generally on a couple more things about French Horns so you’re well-equipped and up to pace for vetting them yourself from now onwards.
What is the Difference Between an English Horn and a French Horn?
That’s a great question and here’s even a better question: Why do we call it french when it’s not even french at all?
The horn is traced back to the 16th century when hunters from France and Germany used hunting horns. From this hunting state, the horn evolved into a proper brass musical instrument. The modern design of the French horn was done by German horn makers and most French horns today are remodeled after that design.
So to climb back onto the original question; most Americans confuse the English horn with the French horn and it’s not until the high-school or college years that they figure out the difference between the two.
Well, the French horn is widely used in bands and orchestras (not brass brands). The English horn is an angled horn, sort of like an oboe but about 50% longer. It’s pitched a perfect fifth lower than an oboe.
If you’re looking to spot a similarity between the two, well, the only similarity is that they’re both pitched in F below the concert C pitch - so in an extreme pitch, a horn will probably be able to cover the English horn’s parts.
Are There Multiple Types of French Horns?
It all started with horns without valves, then came the valves-integrated french horns in the 19th century. The initial ones came in the F tuning, followed by them appearing in a B flat side to the F side. This was particularly done so the musicians were able to be more versatile and produce tonal diversity in their pieces.
These particular french horns were called double horns. Here are the few primary types of French Horns available:
Single F Horns
Single Bb Horns
Some Interesting Facts About the French Horn
It’s the French Horn that’s normally known as a horn - as some people may have a misconception that an English horn is referred to as the ‘horn’.
It’s the longest instrument in the brass family.
The double horn is the most famous horn out there since it lets people have tonal versatility on their fingertips.
It has a very old history, dating back to the 16th century.
Although the French have some history with the horns, the modern design of the French horn is actually German.
Horns aren’t only for music - you can keep them as decorative items. The first known horns were actually used by German and French hunters for hunting purposes.
Things to Consider When Choosing a French Horn
If you have never bought a french horn before or if you need a reminder of what to look for when you’re buying one, here you go:
The bore size affects the sound projection and somewhat defines the pitch. The cylindrical tubing of the horn, aka bore size, should be anywhere between .450 and .472 ideally. A horn with a large bell throat will always have a large bore size, and vice versa.
The area where you place the hand when playing the french horn is the bell throat. If your bell throat is small, it’ll result in timbre being less resonant and thinner, however, it’ll make the horn easier to control.
On the contrary, if you need a full-bodied, decent sound with good projection, you need to go for a large bell throat. Although keep in mind that it’s a bit difficult to control a horn with a large bell throat.
The important thing to remember: French horns with large bell throats produce a warmer sound and those with small bell throats tend to move towards progressively brighter tones.
A horn should come with a carry bag (soft/hard case), a pair of gloves, mouthpiece, polishing cloth, piston oil, etc. The more the extra products are, the better is your deal! So make sure you try to bundle all those things in at the time of your purchase.
Any instrument, whether brass or wooden, will always be indebted to its materials to define the quality of its sound and durability.
The most popular material for french horns is the yellow brass - it has a very snappy resonance, warm, medium-dark sound, and is pretty tough. It can be pushed to produce relatively brighter tones as well.
Nickel-silver is another material and is the toughest of them all. It helps create a bright sound and that’s exactly why most nickel-silver horns have large bell throats.
Then there’s rose brass which isn’t the toughest of materials but it helps produce dark tones.
The rotors are designed to connect multiple tubes together. The linkage is either mechanical or string. However, things are a bit more technical here for beginners to get a grasp of.
Here’s what you need to know though; string linkages are the quietest, however, you’ll need a replacement in case the string breaks. Mechanical linkages, on the other hand, are a better option since they don’t need replacement and aren’t that noisy either.
People Also Asked
Q: Should I go for lacquer or non-lacquer body when buying a french horn?
A: The rumor has it that lacquer can dull the sound. Although there’s not enough evidence to prove it. If you’re a beginner, don’t worry about it. If you’re a student or a professional who doesn’t like maintaining their horn a lot, don’t go for the lacquered option.
Q: How much do French horns cost?
A: It’s an expensive instrument - the most standard, beginner ones cost over $1000 easily but you can always get your hands on other local ones that may cost a bit more or less. The mid-level ones cost anywhere between $3000 - $4500. Advanced hornists and professionals may play horns that cost anywhere between $3500 - $5000 - to as high as they want to go.
Within the city limits of NOLA, you may find Camilla hammering away on her 88, playing anything from old jazz to modern country music. Camilla's goal is to one day open a piano studio in New Orleans where she can teach the black and whites and other common jazz instruments to enthusiastic students. Ms. Haywood hopes to bring instruments to old and new musicians alike, reviewing pianos, orchestral instruments, and other products that make her tap her fingers to the beats.