Shopping for a new horn

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01 Oct 2008 15:14 #179 by Robert Ward
Shopping for a new horn was created by Robert Ward
Question:

Hi Bob!

I have started my quest towards purchasing an instrument. I would like any advice and information you may be able to share with me about the differences between the Alex 103, the Hoyer 5800 series and the Hoyer 6802NSA-L. I have been trying to find a store in the Eastern US that would have some in stock for me to play, but most are special order. Problem is - I don't really know what I want. I always thought it would be the Alex. I'm not so much the big Conn 8D person. But then the Hoyer models were recommended to me as comparable. Is there any place I can travel to play on these horns? Do most people order from word-of-mouth or some type of experience with the horn itself? Thanks so much for your time.

Kathy

Bob Ward and Jon Ring's reply:

Hi Kathy,

I'm on a plane coming back from Nashville after a tour that also included NY, and I'm sitting next to my colleague Jon Ring, so he's going to help me answer the question...

So the first thing I'm curious about is how you came to choose those particular horns as ones that you were interested in. II you are looking for a smaller belled instrument. It seems to me that you might want to try some other ones too, including used instruments such as Rauch, Berg, Ricco Kuehn, Hatch, Yamaha 667 or 667VS, Hill, Conn 10D, Lewis, etc.

In case you haven't found it:

http://www.hornplayer.net/advert.asp?action=v&t=0

is a great resource, as many players advertise their used instruments there. Also good are these sites:

http://store.osmun.com/browse.cfm/2,257.html
http://www.poperepair.com/
http://www.dillonmusic.com/HeleoCart/ProductCategory/Used+French+Horns(25).aspx
http://www.homelesshorns.com/Sales.html

I think that the question that you implicitly raise is a good one - how do you try a horn out first? Seems like you have only a couple of choices - the horn comes to you, or you go to the horn. I'd suggest contacting the above places to see what thy have in stock for new and used instruments and go there and try them. If you find something you like, ask for a trial period.

Now if you find a horn on hornplayer.net that you want to try, you have to make arrangements with the seller about who pays for shipping, and how long you can try out the horn for. Most people are pretty accommodating, but your mileage may vary.

My advice is to try a LOT of horns before you decide. I wasn't sure about your price range either, or your level of playing, so if you are a student, you should also consult with your teacher about this choice and have them play any horn you are considering. It's also helpful to be able to try out the horns in a large space with someone else listening.

When you are trying a horn, make sure it plays in tune with a good sound. By that I mean "are the natural overtones in tune with each other?" There's nothing worse than a horn where, for example, the interval between third-space C and top line F (when played on the Bb horn) is either too narrow or too wide.

Does the horn encourage you to play musically? Some horns are just fun to play. Is the horn easy to play in all registers? Is it responsive? Can you change the tone color for musical reasons? Can you play really softly as well as loudly? How's the slurring, particularly in the middle register at the bottom of the treble staff?

Also keep in mind that we all bring our old habits from our previous instruments to the new ones we are trying, so, for example, if you are used to bending a certain note one way on your old horn, you'll try and do the same thing on the new one. So try and get a feeling for the innate tendencies of the new one by using a tuner extensively at first and consciously trying to play in the center of the note.

"OK, OK, but what about those horns I mentioned," she thinks. Well, I have to confess that I'm not that familiar with those particular models. I will say that the Alex is not a common horn professionally in the US, and that the Hoyers that I have played have been OK, but have seemed physically a bit heavy to me and therefore not responsive. Were they those models? I'm not sure.

Anyway, hope that helps - good luck with your voyage of discovery...

Bob

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