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What Are the Best Tips for Buying a Used French Horn?

By Lee Johnson
Updated May 23, 2024
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It is important to look for several things when buying a used French horn, such as the material used for the bell, whether the bell is detachable and whether the horn is a single or a double horn. Other factors include the instrument’s wrap, the size of the bell throat and whether the valves are operated by string of by rods. In addition, buying any used instrument requires a quick look over its condition to ensure it has been correctly cared for.

The French horn is a brass instrument, which comes in two different styles. The first is a single horn and the second is a double horn. Sound is produced on the French horn by the player vibrating his lips, similar to the way one might blow a raspberry. The noise of this is passed through the circular maze of tubing and valves, eventually emerging from the other end of the instrument as a musical note. A used French horn is one that has been previously owned by another player.

Used instruments are often in a reasonable condition, but some sellers won’t have cared for their instrument well enough. For this reason, a prospective buyer of a used French horn should inspect the instrument carefully, ensuring that it has been kept clean and that there are no obvious scratches or marks on the surface. It is advisable to press down the valves to see if they operate smoothly. If they are stiff, they are likely to just need oiling, but it is important to remember that the seller may accept a lower price if the instrument has not been properly maintained.

Choosing between a single horn and a double horn is the main decision the buyer has to make when buying a used French horn. Single horns are generally cheaper, but when buying used, a double horn may be found at an affordable price. Single French horns have three valves and can be bought in either the key of F or B flat. Double horns, on the other hand, can be used to play in both the keys of F and B flat. This means that most players will move onto a double horn eventually, but single horns are easier for children to handle and operate.

The material of the bell and the first branch of the French horn has a big impact on the tone the instrument produces. When buying a used French horn, it is important to find out which material is used for this section of the instrument. The most commonly used material is yellow brass, which provides a bright tone and full sound. More advanced players may prefer a rose brass or silver and nickel bell. Intermediate instruments generally include rose brass, which gives a slightly warmer tone, while professional instruments use silver or nickel for a more complex tone.

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