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French Horn/Mechanical Vs String Linkages


We're bidding on a Jupiter Double horn with mechanical linkages, for a junior high player who is actually very serious.  My experience from secondary school band, on a free band instrument (an ancient Conn with string linkages) was that string was the worst thing that ever happened to me.  Enough that I switched to oboe rather than deal with constantly trying out the best piece of string or nylon or fishing line and having my band teacher and I struggle to keep my horn playing.  I was quite fast and skilled at working on string linkages for other students by the time I quit the horn.  Anyway, I regret quitting it deeply, thus I am going to give a mechanical linkage horn a try.

Though it seems a lot of companies only mention once in a while that their horn will come with a string linkage, most of the ones I see up for sale, from Holton etc, are stringed.  Is this still the case for most horns?

Secondly: is a mechanical linkage the kiss of death for a player.  Now I see in your answers people saying Chinese horns with mech linkages are clunky sounding, etc.  A Jupiter, from another response you gave, is made in Taiwan, but you found that the model I'm bidding on was somewhat better than the Yamaha of the same class.

I realize Yamaha is now also Chinese-made, which is odd since it's a Japanese company (?)

Anyway, the main concern is whether mechanical linkages are a foolhardy choice.  I'm sure they're good for a junior high player, but should this auction fall through, I'd love to make the right bid next time.  Something that will last for the long haul for a very conscientious and careful student who will be taking lessons asap, as well as playing her two instruments for band (trumpet, her beginner instrument, and the much more cherished double horn).

I truly appreciate any help!

Hi, thanks for your question and sorry for your past traumas with little bits of string!

The two types of linkages both have advantages and disadvantages, but properly maintained neither should be too troublesome.

Cord linkages do need the right cord, and to be strung and adjusted correctly, but I've been playing horns with string linkages for 30 years now and have never had one break in action. I only replace my strings when I service my valves every 5 years or so. I do use fairly heavy-gauge string, and it needs to be the right tension as well as correctly strung. Now that woven nylon line is a thing of the past in fishing you can't just go down to the tackle shop and buy a reel as I did in the 80s, but Yamaha sell an ok string so there's no problem getting hold of it.

Mechanical linkages do wear as they get older, but regular oiling keeps wear to a minimum and they should be good for twenty or thirty years of playing in relative silence.

Historically US-made horns almost all had cord linkages and European ones mechanical. Yamaha also went with string but in a slightly different design, and Jupiter have their own invention, a mechanical ball-and-socket type using plastic parts, they're ok but it's not something any other company has taken up.

I'm not sure whether you've read or remembered quite correctly what I said about the Jupiter, it's an ok horn and as a very cheap secondhand recommendation it has its merits, but I can't imagine myself saying it was a better instrument than a Yamaha. Maybe a more likely find in the cheap end of the secondhand market but certainly not a better horn.

As you say, Yamaha (and Jupiter) manufacture in China these days but there's still a huge gulf between their horns and any other Chinese-made "brand" - many millions of yen have been spent on research, development and quality control.

As you probably know from reading my answers my top two recommendations for the more advanced student on a medium budget are the Holton 378 and the Yamaha 567 - either of these is a really nice horn that isn't too far from a pro horn in response and tuning. If your daughter is really serious and you want a long-term buy I would hold out for one of these. But I'm afraid both feature strings...

But of course there are many other horns out there. Do feel free to run any horns that you're bidding on past me, it's always easier to give specific rather than general advice. Just send a follow-up question and include a link to the listing. Or if you prefer my direct e-mail is jonesthehorn "at" btinternet "dot" com - replace the bits in quotes with the usual symbols.

Hope this helps


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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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