Date: Sat, 4 Dec 1999 09:52:30 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: [TPIN] OFF: French Horns

> Learned friends,
> The father of one of my trumpet students has approached me to assist him in
> getting a good used horn for another of his children. Really, a horn--a
> French horn. So as to perpetuate the illusion that there is nothing that I
> cannot do, I agreed to help. He is looking for a double horn that will be
> suitable for his child from the eigth grade, which she is in now, at least
> through high school--something analogous in the trumpet world to a nice Bach
> Strad or a Yamaha heavywall.

First of all, prepare your friend for some sticker shock.  The equivelent of that $1200 trumpet is going to run him around $4000-5000 in a horn, maybe discounted as far as $3000 used.  There are however some fairly acceptable instruments that go for around $2k-3k new and are available used for as little as $1000.

The big thing you want to check for in used horns is the quality of the valves.  Any mechanical play of the rotor shafts, or clicking sounds after any loose screws have been tightened is a sign that some work will need to be done on the bearings.  You can also check for leakage by pulling a valve slide, then waiting a few seconds to press the corresponding lever - there should still be a satisfying pop. Simplr bearing adjustment is only around 20 bucks per rotor, but a complete rebuild to fix excessive leakage is several hundred bucks - per rotor.

Mostly anything that is actually marketed as a student horn is junk - you have to get to the 'professional' models to get anything that plays right.  So the following should probably be avoided:

Holton 378, Yamaha 567, anything by Bach or Getzen, anything imported from China, India, Pakistan, Eastern Europe most 'compensating' rather than 'full' double horns (distinguished  by their shorter valve slides)

Here's a personally biased list of some decent horns and what you might pay for them in used condition:

Yamaha 667, 668 - up to $1800
Yamaha 667v, 668v, 862 - up to $3500
Yamaha 861, 867 - up to $4000
Holton 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 188, 190, also 200 series varients of these,
the 'merkermatic' and 'tuckwell' - up to $1500 (maybe more for the latter)
Conn 6D - up to $1000
King Fidelo or Eroica - up to $1200

The following horns very a lot in playability and value, often with no connection to their cosmetic condition.  They should only be purchased after being evaluated by a skilled horn player who regularly plays the particular model:

Conn 8D - $800 to $4000
Alexander 103 - $2000 - $5000
C.F. Schmidt or copy with piston change valve - $???
   (some may find the grip uncomfortable)

The following handmade instruments are a steal at any price:

Engelbert Schmid, Lawson, Lewis, Berg, Hill

> And of course, if you happen to know of one you'd recommend for sale
> somewhere, I'd appreciate that tidbit as well.

Look on

> And while we are on the subject, perhaps you can explain to me why trumpets
> are most often plated silver, trombones lacquered, and french horns are made
> of lacquered nickel silver.

TRADITION!  Actually unlaquered brass is pretty common, too.


- --
Christopher C. Stratton,
Instrument Maker, Horn Player & Engineer
30 Griswold Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 492-3358 home/shop