I’m often asked by students, parents, and colleagues about specific equipment – be it mouthpieces, cases, valve oil, etc. In an effort organize my thoughts and recommendations, I decided to make this page a sort of 1-stop-shop for all my thoughts on French horn accessories, equipment, supplies, and just about anything else that I can think of.
If there’s anything that I haven’t mentioned, feel free to ask in the comments below. As I add more pages about equipment and my thoughts on it to this site, this page will probably continue to grow!
- Buying a French horn – Buying (or renting) a horn can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for, and unless you live in a big city, you probably can’t try out more than 3-4 horn models at any one store. To make finding a horn a bit easier, I’ve put together this resource with recommended horn models from single-F beginner horns to custom professional-level instruments! Whether you are looking to spend $1,000 or $10,000 – I’ve got a recommendation for you!
- French horn mouthpiece comparison chart – The closest to a comprehensive mouthpiece chart I’ve seen. I’m always trying to add to it, so if there’s something you’re curious about but don’t see on there, please drop me a line and let me know about it!
- Choosing a mouthpiece – Kind of a companion to the chart above, mouthpiece choice can be an arduous process for some. This page gives a bit about my history with mouthpieces, and some advice on what to look for when you’re trying to make a change.
- Music Stand – If you don’t have any stand at all in your practice area, even a small wire stand is better than nothing (plus it’s easy to transport if you ever need to carry it). If you want a more sturdy option, however, you can’t go wrong with the standard Manhasset music stand or their Orchestra model. If you’re looking for something in between a wire stand and the fixed Manhasset, I’m very fond of the Peak music stand. I wrote a brief review of the four different Peak stand models here, and it’s a great compromise stand this is both portable and well-built!
- French horn stand – These things are great in the pit or during long orchestra rehearsals (where you may be resting for awhile). They also come in handy if the only thing stopping you from practicing is getting the horn out of the case! In a pinch, certain guitar stands can also be used as a less-expensive alternative.
- Practice mute – While these may not be the best way to practice every day, if you’re in a hotel, staying with relatives, or just like to practice after everyone has gone to bed, these things are invaluable! You can get an “analog” practice mute (like this Jo-Ral practice mute, the Denis Wick, or the Trumcor practice mute), that just makes the horn quieter, or you can get the Yamaha Silent Brass system, which not only cuts the volume, but you can use headphones to hear yourself better (and block out distractions!) and you can adjust the acoustics of the “room” you’re playing in! I have a Balu practice mute that I use often on vacation or warm-up in hotels, but I played a friend’s Bremner Sshh! mute, and it felt much better than even the Balu mute!
- Recording device – Part of practicing is getting feedback, and the best (and quickest) way to hear how you sound is to recording yourself. While a smartphone can do an acceptable job for quick-and-dirty recordings, you can get a relatively inexpensive Zoom H1 Handheld recorder that is a much better tool for that job. There is also the Zoom H2N and the Zoom H4N (that I used to make my recordings) if you have a slightly larger budget.
- Pencil clip – Not having a pencil will be a thing of the past with this cheap and convenient Pencil clip – go ahead and buy a few for your section mates (or extras for yourself)!
- Horn case – If you carry your horn around a lot, a new case may make it much more manageable as well as better protected! For a fixed bell horn, cases like the Protec Max or the Protec Pro Pac provide good protection and a lot of extra pockets for accessories and music. For a cut bell horn, cases like the Protec Screwbell Pro Pac and the iPac provide similar benefits over most factory cases. In general, try and stay away from gig bags or soft-sided cases (like this Protec), since they provide very little protection for the instrument. If you have a larger budget, Marcus Bonna makes some great quality, lightweight, and protective cases. The Cardocase and, if you want to spend four figures, the Wiseman case, are also options.
- Straight mute – If you’re serious about playing horn after high school, there are two mutes that are generally considered “standard”. The most commonly used is a regular straight mute, such as the Trumcor 45T, the Denis Wick or the Humes and Berg. No matter what, you should get a mute that is tunable – this means the taller, “teepee”-shape instead of the shorter, squatter shape. I use a Balu straight mute, which has worked well for me for over a decade – I even wrote a brief article about redoing the corks, since they were crumbling and degraded.
- Stop mute – Another type of mute that is sometimes used is a stop mute. This mute is not strictly necessary, since it’s designed to substitute for hand-stopping, but it can come in handy for low, loud stopped parts. I currently use a Trumcor Tri-Stop – which has three different sized bells for different registers and timbres (although I use the large one 95% of the time), but there are also versions made (without interchangeable bells) by Tom Crown, Humes & Berg, and Denis Wick. Once again, these are not essential (since correct hand-stopping should be the byproduct of good hand position), but they are handy to have every now and then.
- Foot rest – If you play horn on the leg it’s important that you maintain good posture by keeping your torso long and your back straight. If you have a long torso, you may need to elevate your leg, and a foot rest (used by classical guitarists) is an easy and very portable way to do this. You can find lots of options, but the Monoprice foot rest gets very good reviews and is fairly inexpensive.
- Cleaning and Maintenance supplies – If you haven’t read it, I have my recommendations for valve and slide lubricants on my horn cleaning and maintenance page but, in general, I’m a big fan of Hetman lubricants (#13, #14, #15, and the slide gel/grease) and Blue Juice. Check out my maintenance page for more specific information or instruction.
- French horn sheet music – One of the best things that any horn player can do is to discover the wealth of music written for the horn that is not band music. If you’re tired of practicing whole notes and off-beats in band, or looking for something for Solo and Ensemble or college auditions, you can find something here. All the music is organized according to difficulty level!
- French horn recordings – Having a recording of a piece (or, even better, multiple recordings) can help tremendously when learning. It’s also great for new horn students to get an idea of the horn’s sound – so they can develop their own. This is a list of some of the most famous recordings by some of the most well-known horn players – it’s not comprehensive, but it’s a great place to start looking!
- Music Stand Light – If you play lots of gigs outdoors or in theaters, you know how valuable these can be. Sometimes the lights they give you don’t work well or the bulbs go right in the middle of a show. It’s nice to have your own light in those circumstances! Probably my favorite is the Mighty Bright 53510. It has two brightness settings, a sturdy clip, it comes with a travel case and it can run on both batteries or A/C power (adapter included). It’s quite bright, and the light bar is easy to position. Mighty Bright has several different models – I’m not a fan of the ones with the separate “pods” since they are a little too finicky to position, but some people love them. Whatever light you get, make sure you get one that can do both battery and A/C power and something that uses common batteries (AAs or AAAs) is best, since those are easy to find in a pinch.
- Lip Balm – Depending on where you live, weather can play havoc on your lips. Whether it’s cold and windy or hot and sunny, some form of non-medicated lip balm can really help to protect your lips and keep them feeling fresh and supple. My personal favorite lip balm is Chopsaver(available with or without sunscreen), but I know many people that use (and love) Burt's Bees. The two things that I look for in a good chap stick are non-medicated (I avoid Carmex, since it has camphor), and easy to wipe off (no residue left behind).