French Horn/Bore and bell


QUESTION: I'm a student horn player in Birmingham,Uk and I'm looking for a horn. I've found Conn 10DR and the 11DR and I was wondering; what the differences were between them, does having a detachable bell influence the tone (and how much extra would be reasonable to have a detachable fitted), what difference does silver nickel make to the tone in comparison to gold brass and finally, would you recommend any other larger bored horns?
Many thanks.

ANSWER: Hi, the modern day Conn range is rather complicated and I haven't played any of these Geyer models. As I understand it the 10D has a smaller throat bell and the 11D a medium one, and then the other letters relate to the metal,the R is a rose brass bell.
Rose brass is a redder version of gold brass, both have a higher copper content than yellow brass. Nickel silver is harder because it contains a percentage of nickel as well. The differences between these metals are rather subjective, they do respond differently at different dynamic levels, but as always the differences between one player playing a variety of different horns are much less than the difference between two different players playing the same horn. So you really have to try a horn out and see whether you like it.

To make any other recommendations it would be useful to know what sort of stage of study you're at, what your budget is and what kind of horn you have now. I'd also be interested to know why you're looking at Conns, have they been recommended to you? I don't know anyone who has one of these 10 or 11d models. They might be good - but generally I don't think modern-day Conns are the best thing around.

Maybe you can supply a bit more info and I can help a bit more.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I'm currently working towards my grade 8 ABRSM. I have been down to Paxman's workshop to try out horns and I ended up trying a 10DR. I'm going back down in a couple of weeks to try out some more horns. My price range is up to 2000 and I am mainly looking at nickel silver horns.

Hi, that makes sense. You do have to play them - although it's very difficult to make an informed decision even after much testing. And don't forget that any shop is basically trying to sell you what they want to rather than what you want, however hard they try to appear knowledgeable and helpful. Do you have any advice from your teacher?

For me, basically what you need at your stage is a good middle-of-the-road instrument - don't buy anything large bore! Learn to blow a medium bore horn and don't be seduced by the extra volume easily available from a large one. There are too many trade-offs.

If the Conn seems good then ok, have you also tried a Holton? Even the 378, supposedly an intermediate horn is a pretty good instrument, the 178 even better. The nickel-silver versions are the 379 and the 177. The 179 is large bore, I wouldn't have that one. Is there a particular reason why you like the nickel-silver horns? For me ordinary brass makes a bit more characterful sound, but then some people do sound better on nickel.

I think the intonation of Holtons is generally more consistent than Conns, although as I said I don't really know the 10D series. Certainly my 28D (which I had at college and for quite a few years afterwards) had various dodgy notes (top A is often an issue on Conns, my C# was also very flat) whereas I've never found a Holton with any issues. And they sound great...

Screw bell is of course a very handy option, 90% of pros have one, but I wouldn't have a fixed bell horn converted - try to buy something where the bell ring is designed in. Then again, lightweight backpack cases are good these days so a fixed bell isn't such an impediment as it used to be.

Anyway, feel free to get in touch directly if you want to, is my address. If you take a horn on approval I'd be happy to meet up and have a blow on it if you think that's helpful, I'm in Herts so not too far from the big city.

Merry Christmas!


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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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