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What Are the Different Types of French Horn Mouthpieces?

By Lee Johnson
Updated May 23, 2024
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The different types of French horn mouthpieces can be broken into beginners’ mouthpieces, intermediate mouthpieces, and advanced mouthpieces. Beginners’ mouthpieces usually focus on ease of playability while advanced mouthpieces focus more on flexibility and sound quality. Intermediate mouthpieces aim for a balance between these two factors. The rim, cup, and throat of the mouthpiece are the three main factors which affect its playability and tone. The width and edge of the rim; the depth, shape, and width of the cup; and the size of the throat are the main determining factors.

Beginners’ French horn mouthpieces usually require a round and wide rim. This increases the level of comfort during play and allows beginners to continue playing for longer. Conversely, advanced mouthpieces have smaller, sharpened rims to provide the player with more control over the pitch and precision of attack. Intermediate French horn mouthpieces can be rounded or sharp, but are usually medium in size. Regardless of these conventions, advanced players will sometimes prefer a mouthpiece with a rounded rim and some beginners will prefer sharper rims.

Advanced French horn mouthpieces will have a large cup and a large throat. These two factors increase the players’ freedom to alter the note produced and increase the volume of the instrument. Beginners will prefer mouthpieces with a smaller cup and throat because they do not require as strong an embouchure to play. Embouchure is the word used for the muscles around the mouth required to play the French horn and other brass instruments. Most intermediate players therefore prefer something between these two, a medium throat and cup size.

The shape of the cup of different French horn mouthpieces affects tone more than playability. A “C” shaped cup makes the tone of the instrument darker with more low-end tones being prominent. A “V” shaped cup is more efficient in terms of sound production, and is therefore often preferred by beginners or players with a weaker embouchure. Most players prefer to use a “C/V” shaped cup because it provides a darker tone and still allows for efficiency.

Other factors relating to French horn mouthpieces are also a matter of personal choice. For example, a deeper cup provides a darker tone and a shallower cup provides a brighter tone. Either choice is suitable for players of any level, but most players will opt for a medium depth. Intermediate mouthpieces can also feature a large or a small throat, because they affect the tone produced by the French horn. A larger throat sharpens the higher notes on the instrument and a smaller one flattens the higher register.

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Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On Nov 17, 2013

@SarahGen-- Yes, there are mouthpieces that can help you reach a set of notes better. A medium ranged mouthpiece (not too wide and not too narrow) will let you get to a lot of notes, except maybe for the very low and high ones.

I think that some players rely on their mouthpiece too much. Even though a correctly fitting and comfortable mouthpiece is important, technique and experience is more important when it comes to hitting the right notes.

So my advice for everyone is to make sure that they have good control over the instrument and enough experience before switching mouthpieces. Because there is a high chance that the mouthpiece won't do you much good. I think I prefer a cheaper mouthpiece that fits my mouth just right rather than an expensive and fancy one that doesn't.

By SarahGen — On Nov 17, 2013

Is it true that there are different French horn mouthpieces for different ranges of notes?

I've heard that French horn players have to have different mouthpieces to play high and low notes. Is it not possible to do both with a single mouthpiece?

By ddljohn — On Nov 16, 2013

I guess French horn mouthpieces are very different from trumpet, tuba and saxophone mouthpieces. In the latter three instruments, beginners are recommended to use small, narrow mouthpieces because these make it easier for the player to control the sound. Advanced players use larger, wider mouthpieces because they have good control over the instrument and can get a different variety of tones this way.

I'm surprised to know that it's exactly the opposite with French horn mouthpieces. Beginners need a wide mouthpiece and advanced players, a narrower.

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