Horns Buying Guide

If you're in the market for a new musical instrument  or maybe even your first instrument  ever, your choice is going to hinge on a combination of factors.  From playability--some horns are easier for beginner's lungs than others--to price, tone and the quality of construction, you have a lot to think about.  And if  after all that mulling over you're still unsure about which member of the brass  family will really tickle your fancy, do a little hands-on research!  Go to the local music  shop and test out some of the goods.  Then consult your budget and your music teacher about which noise-maker you want to pursue!

Types of Horns

A Bit More Common


A trumpet has a three valves that produce different notes when pressed in various combinations.  The sounds that are produced are very distinct to this instrument, offering a bright, crisp feel to any musical piece.

French Horn 

French horns produce sounds that are an octave lower than both the trumpet and cornet, thus the sounds are a bit more mellow.  The horn itself is made up of a tube of coiled brass and sports a flared bell at one end, much like that of the trumpet, but larger.  This instrument typically has three valves, although the double French horn has four.  And both single and double models offer a challenge for beginner players with insufficient lung power.


Trombones come in both straight tenor and F-rotor designs.  The straight model is easier for beginners, while the F-rotor has a bit more tubing inside the main section that may require a bit more lung power. The trombone's sound is distinctive, much mellower than that of the trumpet.


Related Guides

Some Unique Choices


Although similar in style and construction to the trumpet, the cornet produces a much richer sound than trumpets.  The bell at the end is the only significant difference in its appearance, as it is much wider than that of the trumpet.


This is the largest member of the brass instruments family, with three valves and a long, thick brass tube that opens up to a flared bell.  Due in part to its size, the tuba is the most expensive of the brass horns.


Also spelled "fluegelhorn," this horn resembles the cornet a bit, but has a wider bore.  Its sound is also similar to that of the cornet and trumpet.

Helpful Accessories

After you purchase your instrument, make sure you have:

Buying Used

If you're on a tight budget, you can consider buying used brass horns.  They will probably cost around one-half to two-thirds of the original retail price.  Just remember to:

  • Assess the age and condition before buying.  If you buy a shoddy instrument just to save cash, you'll only end up spending more down the road on repairs.
  • Stick to a well known brand that has a reputation for creating long lasting, quality instruments.
  • Test out the tone before you purchase.  Here brand names are also important, as they tend to produce better tones and are less likely to have mechanical issues.

Major Manufacturers

For accessories, extra pieces or the instruments themselves, try looking for these brands:

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