Choosing a French Horn
The rules for choosing the best French horn are the same for all musical instruments.
You need to balance your budget with what is available and what instrument really suits your needs and most importantly what you like the sound. Unfortunately, the horn is the easiest of instruments to start playing. This is because you need a considerable amount of puff to make the notes. Because of this, it uncommon for people to start playing the instrument until they are at least 11 or 12 years old.
Some students decide to start on the trumpet and change over to the horn later on. Once you have decided to become a horn player, you might find yourself in demand from local music groups, because there is a shortage of players around.
Horns used in both orchestras and wind bands and you should not have any problems getting a place in a local orchestra or group.
However, Bassoon, a reputable manufacturer, makes an instrument called the “Kinder” Horn, which said to be more suitable for young beginners. Even so, you can expect to pay about £700 for it. If you do not choose this student instrument, be prepared to pay more than £1000($2000) for a standard new double horn!
A well-cared-for horn will last many years and make the player’s job much easier. Major repairs will be avoided and the total repair time and cost will be minimal.
Empty water after each playing session and wipe down the valves and the bell section (this removes skin acid). Securely store the horn in its case.
Weekly maintenance –
Oil valves in three places:
Unscrew the cap and oil the bearing.
- The underside posts the space between the axle and its bearing.
- The valve itself by placing oil in the valve slide, rotating the horn to the upside-down position and allowing the oil to drain into the valves.
Grease the slides and clean the mouthpiece (inside with a mouthpiece brush, outside with a silver cloth to prevent tarnishing).
Monthly or periodic maintenance –
Clean the entire instrument with warm water and dish soap. (Warm water cuts the grease without damaging the finish.
Hot water makes the lacquer peel off.
Use a bathtub or a deep sink
- Remove all the slides. Run warm water through the horn, starting at the bell end. Pour in some dish soap. Keep running water through until it comes out clean.
- Clean the lead pipe with a “snake” or hard-running water.
- Wipe the outer surfaces and let the horn dry while you clean each slide with dish soap and warm water.
- Dry and relubricate the slides. Reassemble the horn. Oil the valves. Check all corks/rubber stoppers and replace as needed.
After removing the valve cap, make sure the marks on the bearing and the top plate line up. If not, the valve improperly aligned and will affect your playing. Check the water key (spit valve) cork for proper sealing.
A poor seal results in an airy sound. Replace strings once/twice per year with braided nylon. String one valve at a time using the others as example Always store the instrument clean, dry and well lubricated.