If you are looking for a gift for a French horn player, here are a few ideas to get you started. This list of French horn gifts should give you ideas for any horn player – from middle school, through high school, and even college!
French Horn CDs
I’ve got a lot of recommended CDs over on my Must-Have Recordings page, but if you aren’t sure where to begin (or you’re buying for someone else) here are some of the CDs every horn player should have in their collection:
- The Golden Echo
- Radovan Vlatkovic Strauss Concertos
- The London Horn Sound – from Mozart, to Wagner, to Queen, these 32 horn players cover it all!
- The Vienna Horns – covering John Williams to Mahler all on single F horns, these guys are monster players!
- Opera! – Music from a variety of operas from the horns of the Berlin Philharmonic
French Horn Music
While I have a lot of music categorized by difficulty over on my Sheet Music page, there is some sheet music that every horn player should own. Such as:
- Kopprasch Etudes
- All 4 Mozart Horn Concertos
- Maxime-Alphonse book 1 or the Preparatory Melodies from the Schantl Collection are great collections of melodic etudes for younger students, or sightreading for older students.
- Brass Playing is No Harder Than Deep Breathing is a great book if you think you need work on your breathing (you do!) or even if you don’t (you do!).
- If you need music for solo and ensemble, Solos for the Horn Player, The Horn Collection: Intermediate Level, and The Horn Collection: Intermediate to Advanced Level are all good collections with a variety of styles to choose from!
- Pocket Music Dictionary – If you’ve ever wondered what a musical term was but not looked it up, you should keep one of these in your case or practice area – there’s no excuse for not reading (and understanding) the ink!
French Horn Accessories:
- 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.
- Music stands – 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. There are also lots of options with folding legs and fixed or folding music desks, if neither of those appeal to you.
- 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 Altieri), 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mouthpiece – Over the Christmas (or the summer) break is a great time to switch (or experiment with) mouthpieces, since there’s usually not much practicing that goes on and you can take a few days to see how the mouthpiece feels after you get used to it. Often what feels great in the first 30 minutes may feel less-great after 3 or 4 days, and a break from regular playing may give you the time to you need to find something that works well. If you’re looking to switch things up, my Mouthpiece Comparison Chart may help you find what you’re looking for, and if you’re totally confused, my Choosing a Mouthpiece page may give you some thoughts.
- 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)!
Other Useful Items
- Lip Balm – In most of the country, this is a time of year when chapped lips can be a real pain. There are many good products out there to keep your lips from getting chapped, but I prefer ChopSaver. It comes with or without sunscreen (especially useful in the summer), it feels great, and it wipes off the lips easily without leaving a slippery or gunky reside. Highly recommended! Burt's Bees is also highly recommended – whatever you choose, try one that is not medicated.
- 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.