Beginner French Horns

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Beginner French Horns

Band students with French hornsWhile it might seem almost any French horn would do for a beginner, having a French horn that works properly is actually critical.  Making the initial notes is challenging when the French horn works, impossible when it doesn't.  A beginner who can't make the correct sounds while others do is quickly discouraged.  Band directors can often predict which students will drop out of band by looking at the quality and condition of the instruments they begin on.

A beginner doesn't need the best French horn, but he or she does need a French horn that plays in tune, doesn't require excessive air, stays in correct adjustment, and can be repaired and adjusted as it (inevitably) needs it. 

Appropriate beginner French horns are available from many sources:

  • Buying outright.  If you're sure your child will like playing music and will want to stay with the French horn, buying one outright might make sense.  However French horns that are appropriate for band aren't inexpensive, and as French hornists advance they almost always want to change from single horn to a double horn.
  • Renting.  Renting gives the child (and parents) time to see how s/he likes playing music, consider whether French horn is the correct instrument, and consider what type of French horn is right for the longer term.  The band director knows and usually advises beginners' parents where they can rent the right kind of instruments, considering not just the cost of rental and quality of the instruments, but also the condition they are kept in and the support the company provides to keep the instruments playing properly.  Rent paid is usually applicable to the later purchase of an instrument.  Renting is the most popular way to start a student in music. 
  • French hornBuy (or borrow) a used one.  When a good used French horn can be gotten at a low enough price, it might make sense to take a chance on the student and buy it.  But check first with the band director to assure the French horn you're considering is the appropriate quality and will play in tune with the band.  Then take it to an instrument repair shop to see what it will take to put it in playing condition.  (French horns that have been sitting up for a year or more virtually always need thorough cleaning and adjustment (often $100-200); if slides or valves are stuck, braces are loose, or dents need removal, the cost will be more.)
  • Internet.  Although the Internet is considered a dangerous place to buy a musical instrument, someone who knows what they're doing and is careful can sometimes find a bargain.  Most of the French horns sold on the Internet are foreign off-brands and inappropriate for school band use; many don't play in the keys music in America is written in and so are totally unusable.  However appropriate French horns can occasionally be found on eBay and other Internet sites, sometimes at good prices.  Once again, be sure it it a French horn that is appropriate for band, and either check its condition carefully or anticipate repair costs as part of your purchase math, since a French horn that has been sitting up is likely to need some work to play properly.