I recently came across this great video from Jacob Medlin, owner of Medlin Horns. Jacob is one of the younger generation of custom horn makers in the U.S., and from everything I’ve heard, his horns are fantastic. I have not tried one personally, but I will definitely be doing that in the future. Based on the material on his website, Jacob seems to have a number of innovative ideas, one of the most interesting being his Single B-flat/C ascending horn.
The ascending system has long been popular in France, but has been resisted somewhat in the U.S. The double horn will probably continue to remain the standard horn for most college students, but I think Jacob’s new horn has a lot of potential for orchestral high horn players, soloists, and others. Also, the flexibility of being able to quickly convert the horn from an ascending to a descending system is an added benefit. Jacob has a growing list of endorsements from professional players, but one of the most glowing reviews of his current double horn model is from Thomas Panepinto, a former college classmate and active freelancer. (Thanks Tom for allowing me to reprint a portion of your review!)
Jacob’s horns are awesome. I would say, as would several ‘top-dogs’, that he is building the best horns currently available. I have been searching for and playing tons of horns over the past 2-3 years to find something to replace my Yamaha 867 (which is a hard horn to replace). I played just about every custom and factory horn and all of them had something I did not like about them. They either had ‘bad’ notes, uneven registers, ‘messy’ slurs, delayed response, or they could only produce one type of sound. These Medlin horns are incredible. The intonation throughout all the registers is totally spot on and playing down in the ‘slot’ of each note is easy and effortless. I prefer a darker more smooth sound but I can make his horns ‘bark’ without the pitch sagging or breaking apart. The cool thing is you can totally have Jacob build you a horn with any characteristics you want (brighter or darker, more response, smoother slurs, etc.). I went right down the middle of characteristics because I find myself performing in everything from opera, broadway, symphony, and chamber settings. I needed a horn that plays easy, with great intonation and can handle all the different types of performances I do. The best part, if a few months from now I feel like I need this horn to do something different (more response etc.) Jacob will totally ‘fix’ it…Now comes the true work for me. I get to spend the next month, before the next season kicks off, breaking in my new baby. It should be fun and enlightening. I will have to break old habits of working hard and allow myself to trust that this horn will ‘play’ perfectly if I just put some air into it and get myself out of the way.
With all of the factory and custom horn options out there, making a decision can be quite difficult. Various custom makers tend to emphasize different features in their horns, all while striving to maintain the highest quality possible without pricing themselves out of the market. And while venerated builders such as E. Schmid, Rauch, Lewis, Berg, and Hill continue to be popular, I think in the future we’ll be seeing more and more horns by a new generation of craftsmen like Jacob Medlin, Stuart deHaro, Darin Sorley, Wes Hatch, and others.