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Temperature, condensation & age

14 years 1 week ago - 14 years 1 week ago #374 by William VerMeulen

Dear Sir, what is the optimum ambient room temperature to play horn and does it make a difference what horn at what temperature, ie; would playing a triple with additional metal mass require a bit more ambient temperature to reduce condensation issues.

I ask this, because as a mature player (60, ugh), I have found that condensation is a far more debilitating issue than it was some decades ago. now I have a triple horn that presents this problem at even a greater magnitude than other horns. I do like my single b flats, they are faster to empty.

This problem seems to be far worse as I have gotten older, which is better than the alternative, but I would like to find a solution to the excessive condensation I seem to create.

Curious if you have a comment. Not that I would expect the hall to turn up the thermostat, but perhaps some inventive horn player could devise a unit that would keep a horn at optimum temperature and make life a bit easier for me.

Paul Leighton

William VerMeulen's answer:

Hi Paul,

I love your question. The issue of optimal temperature to reduce internal moisture is a double edged sword. On one hand, we have brass that is conducting the ambient temperature of its external environment. On the other, we are inducing air into the horn that is likely much warmer as it comes from within our bodies. Living in Houston, I have been able to experiment within different temperature environments. We have everything from overly air conditioned concert spaces to outdoor venues with little temperature control in a city that can get pretty warm. I find most horns are built to play best in tune within normal temperature settings, say between 68 and 76 Fahrenheit. Below that and the pitch of the horn goes flat. Above that, it goes sharp. Factor into that the fact that when we go sharp in a hot room, the strings go flat. It can be a struggle. If you pull out the slides, the centers of the notes can change and the overtones line up differently. This can really provide a challenge when you have live recordings, radio and critics scrutinizing your performance. All things being said, I have played in very hot spaces and had NO water collect in my horn at all, but I wouldn't exchange that for the struggle to play in tune.

With a triple horn, you simply have more slides to deal with. Be creative about how you empty your water. You can empty most of your valve slides at once by holding the horn like a steering wheel and tilted slightly left, keeping your third valve down, and wiggling the remaining valves. This should, via gravity allow the water to collect into the third slide area and then when you turn the horn slightly to the right you simply empty your third slides, thus reducing the total emptying time and number of slides needing to be pulled.

As far as your problem having gotten worse as you age, I would say that is good news. Most of my students will find an increase in water collecting in their horns as they become more efficient at putting good quality air into the instrument. Enjoy your water, as a testament to the life your are breathing into your sound. Remember, we play in tune primarily from our ear, so keep listening. We are blessed to play the most magnificent of instruments, where sound and music touch the deepest parts of the soul. Having a little water is a small price to pay.


William VerMeulen
Last edit: 14 years 1 week ago by IHS Online Manager.

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