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You are here: Home > French Horns > French Horn Buying Guide & Tips

What you need to know before buying a French horn:

  • Brass (Gold colored) vs. Silver; the metal of the horn affects the look of the instrument, as well as the sound.  Since the look is obvious, let’s get to the sound.  Brass horns are most common in student and intermediate horns because it costs more to manufacture with silver, and most companies do not want to spend the resources on student instruments.  Brass, relatively to silver, is a softer metal, and will get a warmer, darker tone than a silver horn would.  Silver would get a brighter sound, with more projection and “sizzle” in the sound.  Although student horns are primarily brass (or variations of brass), you can find professional horns in brass or silver, and it is a personal preference which one is used.
  • Mouthpiece; All horns will come with a mouthpiece from the manufacturer.  Most of these will be standard size mouthpieces, even if it is not printed on the mouthpiece.  If the horn player wants a different size mouthpiece, they can be purchased separately.
  • Cases; All horns come with a case included as a protection for the instrument.
  • Care and Maintenance; The French horn has rotor valves, unlike the pistons of most other brass instruments.  These valves can be extremely fast and efficient if taken care of, but they can also freeze if neglected.  Keeping the valve oiled properly is very important, and proper oils are available. 
  • Single vs. Double; Single horns are usually pitched in F or Bb, although there are others available.  Single horns are usually the first instrument of a beginning horn player.  An easy way to identify a single horn is by counting the number of valves.  If it has 3 valves, it is a single horn.  (Some single horns have 4 valves, but those are less common Bb single horns.)  Double horns will have 4 valves (with some exceptions).  A double horn combines the two single horn keys of F and Bb and puts them into one horn.  Double horns are the choice horn for most intermediate, advanced, and professional horn players.  (There are many more variations of horns available, but a student will only need a single or double horn.)