Stepping Up the
Stepping Up the FRENCH HORN
After playing for a few years, beginning French horn players often start to look for ways to enhance the sound of their horn. While a new mouthpiece can improve the sound initially, it will eventually be appropriate to consider a new horn altogether. If a student is taking private lessons or playing more advanced music, it may be time to upgrade the entire instrument to a performance-quality, or “step-up,” French horn. Step-up F/Bb Double French Horns extend the range of the instrument by adding an additional rotatory valve. Step-up French horns also have more options to choose from. For example, players can choose between a Geyer or Kruspe wrap to customize the feel of their horns. They can also choose mechanical or string linkage, depending on what features matter the most to them. Some step-up French horns even have a detachable bell, making the instrument more portable.
F/Bb Double Horn
Characteristics to Consider
F/Bb Double Horn: Step-up French horns add a 4th rotor to shift between the F horn and the B♭ horn, which essentially makes it two horns in one. This adds to the versatility of the horn and increases its range, tone, and intonation. Adding additional fingering options with the fourth rotor also makes it simpler to play in the higher and lower register.
Wrap: A French horn wrap refers to the placement of the 4th rotor on a step-up horn. Two types of wraps are typically used: a Geyer wrap or a Kruspe wrap. With a Geyer wrap, the 4th rotor is in line with the other rotors. The Geyer wrap has less tubing and also tends to have less resistance and a brighter tone. On an instrument with a Kruspe wrap, the 4th rotor is located in front of the other three rotors. The Kruspe wrap has more tubing, and tends to have more resistance and a darker tone. Personal preference is key in determining which is best for you.
Linkage: French horn valves rotate thick, hole-drilled disks to produce notes. These rotary valves are connected to the levers with either heavy-duty string (string linkage) or metal rods (mechanical linkage). String linkage is quieter than mechanical linkage, but it is also subject to wear and tear. Mechanical linkage is very durable, but it sometimes produces a slight clicking sound as the horn is played.
Detachable Bell: Some step-up French horns also feature a bell that detaches from the instrument. This feature doesn’t really make a difference in the sound quality of the instrument, but it does make the horn a lot more portable. This is especially helpful for the student who carries their instrument back and forth between school and home on a regular basis.
It is important to decide which of these features is most valuable to you as a player. The best way to do this is to try a wide variety of step-up French horns. At Menchey Music Service, we have upgraded French horns from Yamaha, Eastman, and Conn and we are ready to help you find the right fit!