Buying a horn (commonly referred to as a French Horn) can be a bit of a struggle, as most find it hard to get past the hefty price tag of the instrument of their choice. Remember there are ways to find the horn of your dreams for less than full price, whether it be new or used. Keep in mind that the horn you buy, especially if it's for your child, will last for years. Most beginner/intermediate horns get students through their first and second years of college.
The parts that make a horn tick
Here are a few suggested makes and models that are typically bought by/for first time horn players.
Enough background - time to shop!
Shopping for a horn may be a bit tricky. Music stores encourage customers to come in and try their instruments for themselves, which is something that should be taken advantage of. To find a horn that fit your needs, and those that don't, you can do no better than to actually play and see them up-close. However, even though you may find something in a store that suits you, the sales person/shop owner may not be willing to budge on the sticker price. Don't panic -- there are a handful of ways to get the right price for the right horn. Below are a few suggestions.
* Check out different stores to compare prices. You may get lucky and find that one store is selling your horn at a price you're willing to pay, but at the very least, you'll be equipped with some leverage when you try to bargain with a salesperson.
* Do some research online. Reputable Web sites like Woodwind & Brasswind and Musician's Friend tend to have lower prices than those you'll see in music stores, so it's worth taking a look before doing any physical shopping. Having these prices in mind can also help you bargain with an otherwise stubborn store owner or sales person.
* Buy used!
Buying used can be a bit of an adventure, and may lead to some initial frustration. Give it some time. People are always finding great deals on quality, used instruments. Like any used instruments, though, there are a few things to look for in a used horn. Below are some suggestions.
* Make sure the slides are easily removable and parallel with each other.
* Check to see if the valve caps can be removed easily.
* Small dents on any brass instrument won't affect the sound or the player's ability to use it, but look out for dents larger than a nickel.
* Check the spit valve to see that it doesn't leak and is functional.
* Rust on any brass instrument is impossible to fix, and can make it unusable. Take a good look at the horn to make sure there's no rust present.
When shopping for a used instrument, it's a good idea to bring your teacher along for a second opinion, especially if you're a beginner. Shoppers may be swayed by many factors, including irrelevant aesthetic features, a price too good to believe and a pushy salesperson looking to make a sale. Teachers have dealt with similar situations for years, so their eyes are trained to pick up even the most insignificant flaws. Use them to your advantage.
Things to avoid
One of the most important things to look for in a horn is it's key. Most beginners use horns pitched in F. However, it's typical to find sellers (especially on auction sites) that will tell you that a given horn is pitched in F, when in reality it's what's known as a Single B-flat horn. Though there isn't anything wrong with a Single B-flat, most students learn on a horn in F. So if your child shows up to his/her first lesson with a Single B-flat, both the child and the teacher will be confused, and the entire lesson will be a waste of time.