French Horn/Bb horn


QUESTION: I am a little confused as to what is called a Bb horn w/ stop valve... Is this 4th valve the F side of the horn or what is it used for? Is this considered a progressive horn? Never owned one but I will shortly... Can you give me some info on these horns?  While I'm writing you, thought I would update you on my 'Holton' 76 model...Had it totally gone through, stripped & all & I love it almost as much as my other 'Holton' H180. It is bigger then the other one & needs the larger case, like the Conn 6d. sThanks Alan...Always trying out new horns... (now at 15) :o)

ANSWER: Hello, it's been a while...

The stopping valve, properly called an A/stopping valve, is needed on a Bb single because otherwise you can't handstop in tune - the pitch rises (effectively) about 3/4 of a tone on open Bb horn when you stop, as opposed to a semitone on the F horn. That's why stopping normally has to be done on the F horn, fingering a semitone below normal.

The A/+ valve has the same length slide as the second valve, and can be used two ways, either as a stopping valve (with the slide pulled out so it lowers the horn about 3/4 of a tone) or as an A valve, with the slide in, to make fingerings easier when playing in E for instance. Or indeed to avoid transposition in E or to do D horn as if it was Eb - although nobody I know uses this method because it messes with both tuning and pitching. It's easier just to practice fingers...

If you had to play a low G or F# often in a piece using a Bb single you could also use the stopping valve to correct the sharp 1&3 or 1&2&3 fingerings - pull out the slide a bit and play F# on 1,3&4 and G on 2,3&4 This fingering also works to give an in tune middle G otherwise missing on a Bb single.

As you can see, playing a Bb single is a bit of a specialist art - they used to be popular among principal players in my youth but all symphony players use doubles these days, there are just too many compromises to using a single. I know one player, Steve Stirling, who uses one for chamber and solo work, and who uses all sorts of clever fingerings to improve the intonation and sound in the middle register (where the rest of us would play F horn)

Anyway, I dare say you'll have fun working some of that out... what make is it?


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Opus 4 valve
Opus 4 valve  
QUESTION: Now I am really not sure wither this is a compensating horn or a Bb w/ a stopping valve... Looking at other pictures of almost the same design, they are called compensating horns... I'm sending a picture of it so you can see it!  It is an 'Opus' which is only 5 yrs old & almost perfect shape. Got it dirt cheap & only by accident so 1 more to add to my collection

ANSWER: It's a single, only one set of valve slides. A compensator (more common here in Europe than in the US) would have two sets, the top Bb horn set would look like these and the bottom ones, which are added on to the Bb horn to make it into F horn, would be all quite short, but visible underneath.

I've seen these cheap Bb single mis-labelled quite often as double horns because they have a thumb valve.

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QUESTION: Ok... Now it's clear but raises a couple of other questions... The stopping valve slide on this horn is not the same lenght as the 2nd valve slide like you said... I saw horns that did have the 2 slides identicle but not this one, why is that? (check picture)... I also see Bb horns selling w/out that 4th valve (3 valves) Are these even playable? Why are they even being sold?  I would like to try a compensator horn sometime just out of curiosity... Could this be my next horn???  Thanks again

Ok, so it's a cheap Chinese job and the 4th valve is just for stopping rather than the dual-purpose A/+ valve I described which you would find on a pro horn. As I said, handstopping on Bb horn needs a 3/4 tone valve which is pretty much what that looks like, halfway between the length of 2nd & 1st.

A Bb single without a 4th valve will be fine as long as you don't ever want to handstop (I guess a band player mostly doesn't have to, and a lot of amateur players can't anyway, it takes much practice...  one can always substitute a mute) and as long as you aren't too fussed about tuning. Me, I can't live without an open F horn G...

I wouldn't bother with any compensating horn really. The only advantage is slightly less weight, otherwise it's just an ok Bb horn with a really stuffy and hard to blow F horn attached, and generally with tuning issues. The only make I use for students is the East German Hoyer/Meister/VMI which are at least quite well in tune, but the response on the F horn is still not great which makes the low register much harder than it should be.


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Alan Jones


Can answer just about anything on playing the horn, repertoire, buying instruments, repairs, care and maintenance


25 years of professional playing and teaching in the UK


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