SOME OF THE QUESTIONS ANSWERED BELOW
Anatomy of the Instrument
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bright in sound, accentuating the treble, yellow brass creates a rich, snappy tone. Almost all student horns are crafted of yellow 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.