The 9 Best Student French Horns
This wiki has been updated 16 times since it was first published in October of 2016. Thinking of taking up the French horn or know someone in your family who is? While it's among the most taxing to master, it can also produce some of the most sublime sounds. These student models are designed specifically to make them easy for beginners to hold and play, so you are not discouraged in the early days by the instrument's weight or complexity. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best student french horn on Amazon.
The Benefits Of Music Education
Essentially, that means old dogs really can learn new tricks — and reap the cognitive benefits of the process.
Raising kids is among the most challenging tasks a human being can undertake, and it only seems to get harder and more complicated with each passing year and each new technological development. The fear, particularly in regards to that latter issue, is that all this uninhibited screen time might be doing irreparable damage to our children on a cognitive, psychological, and emotional level.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do to halt the march of innovation, but you can include certain tried and true activities and lessons in your child’s life that may forestall his or her complete neurological atrophy. One of those is music education.
Learning an instrument has long been regarded as a reliable way to build new pathways in the brain, to strengthen character, and to give individuals both a sense of accomplishment and a way into a community of fellow musicians.
A litany of recent research papers reinforces the mental benefits of learning an instrument. In the last few decades, more and more research has been done into the so-called plasticity of the brain, its inherent ability to rewire itself as needed. Essentially, that means old dogs really can learn new tricks — and reap the cognitive benefits of the process. Musicians as a whole demonstrate increased alertness and focus, as well as higher scores on a variety of tests, from basic IQ tests to complex math exams. The reasons for this are varied and only partially understood, but the evidence is clear.
For young students, particularly those in grades K-12, learning an instrument is an all but guaranteed way to introduce them to a community. Whether your child is already plenty popular or they have a hard time making friends, the bonds he or she forms with fellow players will be nearly unbreakable. It also doesn’t hurt to get them involved in this kind of extracurricular activity early, as a commitment to something like that looks great on a college application.
Musicians have to fail a lot to get good. They have to hit the wrong notes, sometimes even in a very public setting, to improve. It takes hours of practice and dedication, and lack of natural ability may be a significant limiting factor. But your kid can do it. And when they do, they’ll come out the other end much stronger for having done it, and they’ll be able to tackle pretty much anything life throws at them with the same grit and panache.
Why The French Horn? And Which One?
There are a lot of instruments to choose from out there. Most young musicians will reach for something they see others play. That means guitars, basses, drums, and keys are toward the top of the list, though piano lessons seem to have the same stigma among very young children as a heaping helping of Brussels sprouts.
If you’re lucky enough to get them interested in a more classical instrument, they’re liable to gravitate toward something like the violin, cello, trumpet, or a similar instrument with a lot of crossover potential. Why would a budding musician reach for the French horn?
Most young musicians will reach for something they see others play.
It may be because they love movies. The French horn has proved integral to the soundtracks of an enormous number of blockbusters, from Jurassic Park to Star Wars. Picking up a French horn and getting good at it might just be a quick way into the movie business.
Once you’ve decided that the French horn is for you (or your kid), you still have to figure out which one to buy. The vast majority of French horns for students are rather similar in design and performance, with the primary differences coming in terms of bore size, valve quality, key, and finish.
To the point of bore size, larger bores will usually produce a better sound, but that makes for a larger, heavier instrument that might overwhelm particularly young or small players. Valve quality is perhaps more important, as a good set of valves will make the instrument much more playable. Valves will come either mechanically linked, or linked to their rotors by strings. Mechanical links are ideal for students, as they’re significantly more durable, even if they have a tendency to stick. String links are superior in performance and are noticeably quieter — an important characteristic during a recital — but they can break and will need to be replaced.
The key of your French horn will, in part, determine the difficulty you have playing it. B-flat is generally considered the easiest key to learn on the instrument, with F being an upgrade in difficulty and tonal possibility from there. Finally, finish refers to the exterior detailing of the instrument, particularly its color. This will mostly be an aesthetic choice, so feel free to make it based on your personal preference.
Keep an eye out for extra tools, as well. Many student kits come with cases, cleaning supplies, tuners, and more, much of which can save you a lot of time and money buying elsewhere.
A Brief History Of The French Horn
French horns, like all horns, have roots in the actual horns of animals that prehistoric man would blow on to create sound. These were obviously much more rudimentary than horns played today, but they laid the groundwork both in design and performance. A lot has changed since then, however, and instruments like the French horn have become wildly complex by comparison.
The term French horn actually derives from the need to separately designate the hunting horns used in France from those used in Germany, the latter of which actually had more tonal flexibility, as the original French hunting horns of the 17th century were more like bugles in that they could only be played in a single key. The German variant incorporated devices called crooks that could change the key of a single instrument.
Eventually, into the 18th century, those very same Germans would add valves to the horn, and French manufacturers did the same, creating a horn that belongs in many ways to both nations. It’s mostly in America that this particular instrument garners the name French horn, while overseas it is often only referred to as an orchestral horn.
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