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An In-depth Look at the French Horn

Anatomy of the Instrument

French Horn Diagram

Initially conceived in France during the 1650s, the French horn is a unique brass instrument that has gone by more than a few names over the past few centuries. No matter what you call it though, this distinctly designed horn has a warm, round tone that's enjoyed by people all over the world.

As well, the French horn is one of the most expensive instruments because of its labor-intensive construction process, which means finding the right one for your needs is extremely important. Below you'll find a few of the more important pointers, making your decision that much easier.

Design Categories

Single Horn

Available in two keys, F and Bb, every single horn is designed with three rotary valves, making them easier to handle. Most often used by younger or beginner players, single horns also come in smaller, more lightweight sizes, tailoring themselves to that audience even further.

Double Horns

With a shorter tube-design, the double horn shifts the key of F and the key of Bb with an added fourth valve. On some horns the lever is even swapped, turning a Bb horn into an F horn all together when used. Crafted to accommodate more advanced musicians, double horns are usually heavier and require a higher skill level to play.

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Noteworthy Features

Bell Throat Taper

When playing the French horn, the throat of the bell is where the hand is placed. While a larger throat offers a more robust sound, it can be difficult to control. On the other hand, a small throat has better control, but the sound may be less resonant.

Screw Bell

A detachable bell that's able to be removed by twisting it off the first branch, a screw bell allows your horn to be disassembled for easier travel. As well, there are no serious drawbacks to this type of horn, making it very popular across all French horns.

Design Wrap

Because the French horn is more or less one long, wrapped tube, there are a variety of coil designs that adjust the look and the sound. The three basic types are:

  • Kruspe wrap – places the fourth rotor valve just above the other three; this creates a shorter link between the fourth valve finger key and the valve itself.
  • Geyer wrap - places the fourth rotor valve just below the other three; this creates a much longer link for the fourth valve.
  • Child's wrap - coiled very tightly to make handling easier for smaller players.

Rotoral Linkages

In order to produce different notes, valves rotate thick, hole-drilled disks in order to vibrate the air column, connected by either heavy-duty string or metal rods.

String Linkage

Using a strong string wrapped around a connecting post (from lever to valve), the string rotates the rotary valve to change notes when the lever is compressed. Brilliantly silent in action, the only drawback is maintenance and replacement are often required after years of use.

Mechanical Linkage

Connecting the levers and valves with a ball and socket joint-style metal arm, this linkage is outstandingly durable, requiring only minimal maintenance. The only drawback is the soft "clicking" it produces when played.

Materials

Different materials produce different tones, and that rings especially true with the bell and first branch of the French horn. From bright to dark, different materials can completely change the way your instrument sounds.

Yellow Brass

Bright in sound, accentuating the treble, yellow brass creates a rich, snappy tone. Almost all student horns are crafted of yellow brass.

Rose Brass

Often also called red brass or gold brass, this material produces a warm tone perfect for intermediate instruments.

Silver/Nickel or Sterling Silver

Offering the darkest tone of the three, these rich sounding materials are most often used in professional and some intermediate instruments.

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Remember, when selecting a French horn you should always consider the musician's skill level, age and planned use. If you're a student, a great place to start is by speaking with your music or band teacher.

In the end, no matter which French horn you decide on, if it's with Woodwind & Brasswind you'll have complete piece of mind. The Woodwind & Brasswind's 100% Satisfaction Guarantee means you have 45 days to be sure it's right for you. If it's not, just return it for a full refund.* And you don't need to worry about paying too much. The 45-Day Lowest Price Guarantee means that if you find the same French horn advertised for less elsewhere, we'll make up the difference. When you buy your flute from Woodwind & Brasswind, you can buy with complete confidence.

* All returned woodwind and brass instruments are assessed a $10.00 sterilization fee. Instruments priced over $3,000.00 are assessed a $20.00 fee. All mouthpieces are assessed a $4.00 fee.

Author

Don Sumwalt

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