Looking for a New Horn…

I think I’ve implied at least of couple of times in this blog that I was in the market for a new horn, and the time has finally come to start looking.  On one hand it’s quite exciting to consider the possibilities, but on the other it will be difficult to let go of my trusty Yamaha 667v.  The options available are in my opinion better now than they have ever been, with numerous makers producing very high quality products.  With all of these options, there are a number of questions I will need to consider before making such a sizable investment.

  1. Current/Future Performing Obligations: In my current position I get to do a wide variety of playing, from solo and chamber music to orchestral (mostly 1st and 3rd horn).  I want to continue to perform at the highest level I possibly can in all of these situations (and others that may come up), so I want a horn that is very versatile.  I’m not looking to make any radical changes in my tonal concept, so that also helps narrow the field a bit.
  2. Budget: An important question!  I don’t mind spending the money necessary to get a great instrument, but I also don’t want to spend more than necessary to get it.  I don’t plan on going into debt to purchase a new instrument, so that is another budget factor to consider.
  3. Double Horn/Triple Horn:  For the last several years I’ve primarily played on a double horn, with a descant horn in reserve for those situations that require it, but I’m also considering trading up this time-tested combination for a triple horn.  My main concern with any triple horn would be versatility and the ease of transitioning between it and the double – I certainly don’t expect it to perform as well as a regular double horn in all situations, but I want the low F side to be at least passable.

At this point you’re probably asking “Well, what horns are you going to try?”  I’ve heard very good things about the new Hans Hoyer Geyer copy, the G-10, so I am interested in a trying one of those.  These horns are very reasonably priced, and if they live up to the hype, make for an incredible bargain on a top notch instrument.  Another horn I’ve been interested in trying for some time is Yamaha’s custom triple, the 891.   These horns have a good reputation, with a number of well known players using them as their primary instruments.  They are a good bit more expensive than the Hoyers, but if it’s the right horn for me I’ll definitely consider it.  I’ll post some more updates in the future as I begin the trial process, maybe even with some short audio/video clips for a back-to-back comparison of the trial horn with my current one.  I might also add that one great resource for anyone looking for a new horn is an article by Eldon Matlick, Professor of Horn at the University of Oklahoma. Titled “So you Want to Buy a New Horn,” the article is a detailed description of every step in the horn purchasing process.  It is linked here from the website of the Italian Horn Club.

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With the disclaimer that I’m no expert and not even a professional player and that my horn trials were somewhat constrained by the public venue and a good deal of bashfulness on my part: I tried the 667V and the Hoyer G10 at IHS42 and found the latter somewhat stuffy in comparison with the former. I’ll be interested to hear your take on it once you’ve tried it. (I was very taken with the 667V.) I also tried (among others) the Finke Brendan and Americus (well worth investigating in both their double and triple incarnations) and the Lewis & Dürk LDx5–and it was love at first blow with that one. I envy you–all those marvellous horns out there for you to try and a reason to be trying them. Good luck finding one.

You should try the Paxman triple. My bought a used model 70L made in 1980. It is a fantastic horn! Bill Cabellero, principal of Pittsburgh Symphony, plays a Paxman triple. There are several used Paxman triples on Ken Popes website. Marc played a Yamaha triple for about a year. He was not happy with it. I played it for a couple months before we sold it. It was okay, but nothing like a Paxman.

Thanks Luke – I have heard great things about Paxman triples as well. If you don’t mind me asking, was there anything in particular Marc didn’t like about the Yamaha?

Hi James,

I just had a Yamaha 892D out on trial for a month through Musician’s Friend (it’ll be on its way back to the warehouse this week). For me, it was everything everyone hates about triples. The low F side was borderline unusable – extremely stuffy and with a primary color that was far different than the other two sides of the horn. Kind of edgy, but unable to handle any real volume of air being moved through it. Beyond that, I didn’t think the Bb side was all that great either. In terms of sound, I thought it was limited in what it could do well. There was a real lack of vibrance in the tone. Not sure if that’s a function of design, weight, my own mouthpiece selection or playing style, or something else. Mind you, I’ve played a Rauch for my entire career (and have a Yamaha 881 in the closet for special occasions), so maybe I set the bar too high. Certainly there are a handful of professionals that have managed to take the 891/892 and make it work very well for them.

I can’t speak to the Paxman design, but I will point out that the model that Bill plays on – I believe it’s a model 78 – hasn’t been produced in a long, long time. I tried a Finke triple for about a week in 2009 and didn’t like it any better than the Yamaha. Plus, off-brand custom horns (e.g. Finke, Durk) don’t seem to hold their resale value very well, if online ads of used ones are any indication of the market. I suppose buying used would alleviate that problem. (I would, however, second the earlier endorsement of the Lewis-Durk collaboration. The Geyer copy is a very fine instrument.)

I suspect the reason the Schmid F/Bb/Eb triples are gaining popularity is that the added length for the Eb side comes before the change valve, which gives the horn a halfway normal leadpipe length relative to a double. In theory, that should go a long way towards normalizing the low F side of the horn. Plus, the weight isn’t cumbersome. It’s a big step up in cost but if it means liking it enough to unload a double and your descant, perhaps it’s worth considering.

For my money, if you have a double you really like and a descant you really like (or even one you can live with), I think finding a place in the line-up for a triple is hard. You don’t need the low F side to do anything baroque or classical (thinking about certain Bach cantatas or Mozart/Haydn symphonies). And unless you play a fair amount of contemporary music, a triple isn’t really an “in the closet” type of horn the same way a descant is, especially at the price you might be paying for it.

Anyhow, food for thought. I enjoy your blog, and hope you are doing well.

– RG

Hi Ryan,

Good to hear from you – things are going well down here. Thanks for the insightful comments on triples – I’ve got a Yamaha 891 coming in soon for a trial, but if it has an unusable low F side I’ll definitely be sending it back! A Schmid E-flat triple is a possibility, and perhaps I can find one used at a reasonable price. Another double horn I’ve been hearing good things about is Jacob Medlin’s. Maybe I’ll give one of those a try at a horn workshop. Hope all is well with you, and glad you like the blog.

James

I am the Marc that was mentioned in an earlier reply. I felt like the Yamaha did not have the ability to play in loud dynamics with a “dark” or edgeless sound. I like to play with a more “chicago” style, but I felt that when trying to project your sounds during lyrical passages the sound gets bright and edgy way to early. The Paxman gives me the ability to play all sound colors and styles much easier than most horns I have tried. You can still blow down the back wall if needed, but you can also blend nicely with woodwind and strings.
Also, the design of the thumb valve for the F/Bb (the long cylindrical valve on the back of the horn) made for very very slow changes. Big heavy valve takes longer to move. The paxman gives you normal sized valves for both F/Bb and high F, and also allows you to tune high F without adjusting the pitch of the entire horn. (Yamaha high F’s are tuned with the lead pipe).

just my two cents!

thanks!
Good luck!

Hello James,
I am wondering why you are leaving the 667V since you didn’t mention it. I am retired New York Broadway horn player and am looking to leave my 60 year old Conn. I tried the 667V and thought it was a decent instrument. I can’t afford a Rauch (yet) and enjoy playing a horn that I can “lean into”. It seems lately I’m falling into my horn. (i.e. the conn is getting bigger or I’m aging quicker). Any suggestions? Like yourself, I still play in orchestras and need the dynamic range.
Best Regards,
Don

Hi Don,

Thanks very much for your question. First let me say that I really like the 667V. I played on one for over ten years, and it’s a very solid instrument. At a certain point, though, I just wanted to try something different, and settled on the E. Schmid double. Both the Yamaha and Schmid are very fine instruments, although the Schmid is at a bit higher price point. Hope this helps, and good luck with the new horn search!

James

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