French Horn/Returning Player



I am returning to playing horn after 25 years! This is going to be hobby for me, and I am joining a community band. In high school and college, I played a Holton H179, and I did very well with that.  I am currently looking for a used horn. While I would like a good deal, it is very important to me that I get a nice horn.

Do you have any general recommendation on brands?

Here are three horns I am watching on ebay.  I would love your input!

ANSWER: Hi, welcome back to the world of horn-playing!

It looks as if so far you're looking for a direct replacement for what you had before, a large-bore, nickel-silver horn.

If I had to rank the three you have picked the Conn would be at the bottom of the list - as it's probably a later Texas-made instrument rather than the older and more sought-after Elkhart model, and generally I don't rate Conns too highly. The Holton and the Yamaha are both good horns, although I find the Holton rather expensive, I know it's been restored and re-lacquered but $3000 plus for a used Holton is top dollar.

What I wonder is, if you are re-starting after 25 years and probably have limited practice time, whether you would be better off with a medium rather than large bore instrument. You might find it easier to make a more focused sound and find the higher register easier. Then again you might not, so you might need to try before you buy. Models to look for are the Holton 177 or 178, or even a 378 which is not at all a bad horn and costs less. Yamaha don't really have a good equivalent, I don't like the 667V and the 667, their other medium bore, is a tad too small and a bit tinny. I've never played a Conn 10D but hear some good reports of them.

If you're set on a big nickel horn then the Yamaha, if you can get it around $2400, represents good value. There are usually plenty of Holton 179s around, they aren't the most popular these days, and it should be possible to get one in ok condition around the same price if you're patient. It's worth looking here  as well as on Craigslist and so on, not just at Ebay , although there's obviously more available there.

Hope this helps a bit, let me know how you get on...


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QUESTION: This information helps A LOT!  I think you are right on about the medium bore.  I just talked to my old horn teacher, and she had sold me her horn back in the late 80s.  She corrected me that it was a 177, not a 179!  I will take you advice to heart and look for a 177 or equivalent. She told me I also probably really liked it because I have small hands.  If I find a good candidate, I would like to run it past you for advice!  Thank you!

ANSWER: Yes, Holtons sit very nicely in the hands, they also have a short mouthpipe so feel a bit more compact than other makes. I am a bit biased though. Most of my more advanced pupils have 379s and I have a H104 which I've played for the last 20 years. That's a really great horn, by the way! (or its newer equivalent the H105)


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QUESTION: Sorry to keep pestering you!  Would you mind weighing in on these two possibilities?

Hi, keep pestering, that's what I'm here for...

I would snap up that H177 before anyone else does. Apart from the one dent it looks in good condition, I think it's quite an old horn (it might be interesting to find out the serial to date it, they need to look on the bottom of the 3rd valve casing) but the price is really very good for an overhauled professional Holton. And I think the 177 is just the right horn...

Looking a bit more closely at the pictures, I would guess a 1970s horn, serial in the 500000-500500 range, and there are a couple of small details where the refurb could have been better - 3rd valve needs shaped Holton rubber bumpers not the rather clumsy corks, easily obtained on the internet and fitted, and 2nd valve needs the proper retaining screw, unless the old one snapped off and it's been drilled out and re-tapped. You could ask. Lacquer looks well worn in places. But I bet it plays very nicely!


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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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