A member of the Brass Family, the French Horn is usually found in Orchestras, Wind and Military Bands. It has a wonderfully full and rich sound that is perfect to create emotional effects. This makes it a popular choice for film composers. With conical bores, rotary valves and large bell flares they are more complicated to manufacture than most brass instruments. As such they are generally more expensive. Commonly you can get a Single, Double or Compensating Horn.

Keep reading for more details on this and more.

 

Single French Horns (F/Bb)

The most basic type of French Horn is the Single, so called as it only has one length of tubing and three rotary valves. They are available in F or Bb. The different pitch is down to the fundamental length of the instrument. The F horn (12 feet) is longer while the Bb (8 feet) is shorter, so sounds higher in pitch. There are different schools of thought about which instrument beginners should start on. Some teachers prefer F and some Bb. On the whole the Bb single Horn is more popular in the UK.

The other big difference between the two is their natural harmonics, (how many/which notes can be played in open position.) The F horn can produce more notes than the Bb when none of the rotor valves are engaged. However, it is more difficult to produce/centre individual notes on the F horn as the potential options are closer together. The notes are easier to pitch on a Bb horn but the quality of sound is not quite as pure.

Single horns are generally only used by beginners as they are the cheapest and lightest option. Many manufacturers now also produce Compact Singles. These are the same length but the tubing is wound much tighter making them easier for smaller children to hold. Eventually though, all French Horn players will be expected to use an instrument that incorporates both F & Bb tubing, aka the Double Horn.

 

Double French Horns

The ultimate instrument for any French Horn player is a Double Horn. These give you the best of both worlds with tuning and accuracy across the scale.

As the name suggests, the Double Horn has two sets of tubing, one in F and the shorter one in Bb. There is an additional rotor valve that diverts the air flow from one ‘side’ of the instrument to the other. This gives the player the flexibility to choose when to use the F or Bb sides of the instrument.

Double Horns are generally not suitable for younger players to start on as the two sets of tubing means they are much heavier. Furthermore the complex manufacturing process makes them far more expensive.

 

Compensating Double French Horns

Compensating Horns are a kind of ‘half way house’ between the Single and Double. They have one main set of Bb tubing and some additional tubing to change it into F. There is again an additional rotor valve but instead of simply switching between two sets of tubing it also routes the air through this extra tubing to effectively make it an F horn.

This enables the instrument to be played like a Double horn but as there is less tubing they are cheaper to produce. Combined with the weight reduction these make them an ideal instrument for an advancing student. The downside of a Compensating is that it doesn’t offer the level of secure tuning and natural harmonics available on a Full Double.

 

Triple French Horn

It is worth pointing out that there is also a Triple Horn which has yet another set of tubing to assist in the higher register. This is usually in the form of a high F or Eb section. These are few and far between. Only the best of the best need consider one of these.

 

About the author

Andy is a Director of Normans Musical Instruments and has worked within the business for over 20 years. During this time he has been involved in all areas from Sales and Marketing to Operations and Web Development so has experienced both Normans and the wider Musical Instrument industry from many aspects. Originally a Brass player, Andy has developed a good working knowledge of a wide range of instruments and is always keen to augment his understanding when an opportunity arises.

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Comments

  • JEROME NEUHOFF 09/05/2018 at 4:50 pm

    HELLO.
    I AM A BAND DIRECTOR AT XAVIER HS IN NYC. I HAVE 3 INCOMING FRESHMAN IN SEPT 2018 WHO AUDITIONED ON FRENCH HORNTHERY SEEMED TO BE PRETTY ADVANCED. I AM A PERCUSSIONIST AND DO NOT KNOW A LOT ABOUT FRENCH HORNS. I WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE 3 HORNS FOR THEIR USE IN SEPT, 2018
    I DON’T KNOW WHETHER TO GET SINGLE OR DOUBLE HORNS. THE PRICE FOR THESE HORNS SEEM CLOSE TOGETHER. I AM INCLINED GET DOUBLE HORNS AS THE STUDENTS WILL PLAY THEM FOR THE 4 YEARS HERE AT XAVIER. MY QUESTIONS IS
    WHICH ONES SHOULD I BUT FOR XAVIER HS?
    THANKS
    JEROME NEUHOFF

    Reply
    • Shona Callow 17/05/2018 at 2:31 pm

      Hi Jerome,

      Thank you for your enquiry.

      This blog will tell you the differences between French Horns. However, I would agree with you that Double Horns would easily be the best and most suitable.

      Firstly I would recommend the Paxman PAX2 at £1662.50 ex VAT which is excellent for a progressing student from a prestige british maker. This Double Horn will take the student up to an advanced level and is great for a grade 6+ player. It features 4 quality rotor valves, nickel silver outer slides and has a lacquer finish. The PAX2 is supplied with a high quality case and mouthpiece.

      Another Double Horn from a different brand, Yamaha – is perfect for an intermediate model ideal for students. The YHR567 F/Bb Double Horn has an easy response, a fantastic colourful tone and precise intonation. An extremely popular model featuring a 12mm bore, yellow brass bell, medium bell throat and an adjustable thumb lever. This Double Horn is priced at £2,499.17 ex VAT.

      Both these models are brilliant French Horns which would fit your Freshmans perfectly. They are of outstanding quality and used by some of the worlds best college students in famous colleges of music, and at the best available price range before going into the ‘double the price’ professional range.

      We currently have both Double Horns in stock and would be able to despatch as soon as an order is placed. If you use the promotional code ‘SAVE5’ at checkout this will give you 5% off your order.

      If you have a further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me (sales@normans.co.uk).

      Thanks,

      Shona

      Reply