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French Horn/Reynolds Contempora FE03 french horn



I just got a Reynolds contempora fe03 from my local music store. It's quite old and the lacquer are all gone. There are some dents on the bell but all fixed. All slides are smooth and the rotors moves freely and responsive. The shop manager is a trombone player. He tried and showed me he can play but he didn't get the best sound out of it. I can hear a big solid sound is coming.

I'm going to give this to a 8 years old boy to start. Based on the store manager's effort on it, I'm a little worried that this horn might not be easy to blow for a beginner. Am I true? If yes, what things can I do to help a young kid? By the way, the manager gave me a Bach 18 mouthpiece. Will it help?

At this moment I don't have a private teacher for the boy. I bought an elementary method book and Phillip Farkas' The Art of French Horn Playing for the boy and I to read and practice together. Is this a good idea to start? By doing the similar thing, my younger daughter had learned clarinet successfully with me.

Thanks for your help!

ANSWER: Well, it's not the instrument I would start any small child on. Firstly, it's big and heavy and he won't be able to hold it up. Secondly, although it's a pro-standard instrument, it's an enormous bore hooting machine from the 1970s. It's very easy to blow, in fact far too easy, but needs more air than an 8-year-old has.

On this side of the pond (in the UK) we use kinder horns, small-wrap F single horns which are light, enable the correct posture and hand position in the bell, and have a bit more resistance because of the extra bends and small bell. Then when the child grows a bit (usually around 12-13 years) they move on to a full-size horn. But only a medium-bore one, I wouldn't use a Reynolds.

Teaching him yourself with no knowledge is also a high-risk approach. Bear in mind that the embouchure is vital and as every child has a different physiology it really needs a lot of experience to get it right. And once established it's a nightmare to change anything. Brass players also learn a lot of their sound from their teacher, those from teachers who play to them regularly always get to make a better sound.

Despite all I've said, you may end up teaching your son to play quite satisfactorily... but in my opinion the odds are stacked against.


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QUESTION: Thank you very much for the insight comments! Let's see how things come out. We have a trumpet/french horn teacher for the other 2 big kids. He can step in when the 8 years old boy is ready. All my kids seem to have the gift at born that their embouchures are naturally correct for trumpet based on the comments from the teacher. Do you think a thinner opening mouth piece would help with this horn for the 8 years old boy?

ANSWER: A good middle-of-the road mouthpiece would be my option, should be medium depth cup (many US ones are too deep) and about 16.5-17.0 mm inside cup diameter. You can easily Google the spec of most common mouthpieces and find comparison charts between different brands.


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QUESTION: Bach no.18 is 16.15mm cup dia. I'll get another one with around 16.5mm cup dia. I'll let the boy try Bach 18 first though. Let me think if I need to get a medium bore horn for the boy while proceeding. I will take the boy to my older kid's teacher for an assessment as well.

Thanks a lot!

Hi, the Bach 18 is listed as medium depth cup, but generally all the Bach range have a deep and rather conical shape. Of common US makes I find the Holton Farkas MC the closest to what I would use (a Paxman 3B which is probably hard to come by where you are)


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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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