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Choosing an all around instrument

  • IHS Online Manager
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03 二 2008 10:34 - 10 二 2008 01:36 #29 by IHS Online Manager
Choosing an all around instrument was created by IHS Online Manager

I would like to ask the pros, which are their preferences in choosing a normal(all around) instrument and mouthpiece, not something for specific kind of music.

Traianos Papadopoulos


Dear Traianos Papadopoulos,

If a professional horn player today could only have one instrument to cover the work in a modern orchestra, or as a soloist, or in chamber music, the obvious choice for me is a regular, full double horn in F and B flat. With this kind of instrument you have the complete, normal range available, plus the possibility for changing sound colours by using different length of tubing according to your taste, or according to the needs of the music in question.

There are some alternatives, however. It is possible, at least for high horn players, to function with only a single B flat horn (I did that for some years of my professional life, it was a 5-valve single), or, if you want to work in the Vienna Philharmonic, to focus exclusively on a single F-horn, Vienna style.

Another alternative is the triple horn. Several players today consider this the ultimate model, covering every need. However, please read my letter to the Horn Call, where I express some different viewpoints on this model, in response to an article praising it highly.

As a principal horn player with a regular double horn it might be necessary to also have a descant horn available, for the Christmas Oratorio by Bach, or for certain Haydn symphonies etc.

And these days, at least in Europe, the conductors have gotten more and more interested in the sound of the natural horns. Of course, looking closely at the double horn, it is really 12 natural horns put together, so theoretically, if a natural horn is required, one could just press the right set of fingerings and thus stay on one length of tubing. Say for Horn in D, press 1 and 2 on the F-side and do the rest with the lips and the hand in the bell. Unfortunately, the bells of today are quite a bit larger than those of the old times, so in the end a real natural horn is different.

If the question posed is about brands of horns, I will only say that there are many good instruments available today. For each brand you can find one or more famous horn players who recommend just that brand, and in certain cities or countries you can find one or two very good and very dominant players who basically set the rules for everybody else when it comes to what kind of equipment everybody else more or less has to have in order to get work. I think by reading my article, originally written for , called "Never say never, again," you will understand my thinking on this issue a little better.

When it comes to the choice of mouthpiece, I personally was always afraid to get infected with the famous "mouthpiece disease" I resisted changing my mouthpiece for (too) many years, before I realised that the mouthpiece means more for the sound you will be able to produce than the instrument does!

I like to have enough space for my lips, i.e. that the diameter is not too small, and then I like to have the possibility of a round and somewhat dark, clear and ringing sound, thus my personal ideal mouthpiece should be relatively deep and cupped inside. The bore could be somewhat large (the bore of my own mouthpiece is 5,1) to accommodate a speedy air stream.

But people are different - we have different teeth and lips, not to mention different preferences when it comes to sound. When advising people that I have not seen or heard, I will follow the advice of Philip Farkas in his book The Art of French Horn Playing. He recommends moderation, nothing extremely wide or deep or shallow. And then he points to some brands and numbers that could fit this description.

Hopefully this is not too confusing. Life as a horn player can actually be quite confusing, so in that perspective my answer probably fits.

Best of luck to you!

Stabekk, January 28, 2008.

Frøydis Ree Wekre
Last edit: 10 二 2008 01:36 by IHS Online Manager.

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