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Buying your first Vienna Horn can be a daunting experience. What should you expect? What should you look for? What should you avoid?

Assuming that you are already playing a horn, you will probably own, or will have played, a double horn in F and Bb.  The Vienna Horn is almost always pitched in F, and should perform as well as the F side of a double horn, if not better.

Vienna Horn harmonic note tuning can be slightly challenging, C's and G's should be perfect, E's are sometimes a little flat, but should be manageable, and no more difficult than the E's on a modern F horn.

Spend some time in each register, most of our playing will focus on the middle register, so start there and focus there.

Low notes can be played all the way down to the pedal G. Playing a low D on 1+3 is a bit tricky, and you may need to lengthen the 3rd slide a little for this note. Going beyond pedal G requires all the valves and a little note bending.

High notes past high G can also be a bit tricky, especially if you have never explored this register on an F horn.

Some unconventional fingering can be useful in the extreme high register.

The horn should be able to deliver all the notes chromatically that you intend to play; think very carefully about buying a Vienna Horn with rolling or wolf notes that will not speak nicely, if they sit in the range that you intend to use.

Many of us are (or have been in) guilty of testing a horn by blowing loud top C's, but how often would we use this note in normal life.... better to explore G, Ab, A, Bb if you need good high note security.

Check that the horn and crook fit together well; that the connection does not wobble. Check that the horn - crook - combination will play in tune (modern pitch is 440 / 442). Some older horns may have been built for a higher pitch. Sometimes used horns are offered for sale, and have been separated from the original manufacturers crook. A crook that is the wrong length, or that wobbles when fitted to the horn, makes it very difficult to evaluate the horn.

The Vienna Horn has a smaller bore than a modern French horn, and this changes the feel of the instrument. I am not sure of the science, but it feels as if our use of air flow and air pressure is altered slightly, experiment with your breathing and blowing until you feel that you have a good control of the instrument. Experienced players from Austria often say "use more air", but how this approach actually works in science is another story altogether.

The mouthpiece used with a Vienna Horn is usually slightly different to a typical french horn mouthpiece, typically being more funnel shaped and having a somewhat deeper cup.

Used horns, rather like used cars, can be variable. There are some historic horns that are still very playable; there are also some bad horns. Not every horn that is built with a Viennese wrap is fit to be used by the Vienna Philharmonic, some used horns just don't play well. Repair, modification, or restoration may improve them, but you would not know for sure until the work was done.

Even now, new Vienna horns are hand made, and are made in small quantities, unlike the large scale manufacture of French horns. 

You should consider each individual example of a makers output on it's own merits, and not assume that any two instruments will look exactly the same or feel identical when played.

I would recommend the following new Vienna Horns;

Brassego Vienna Horns

Brassego on facebook

Jungwirth Vienna Horns

Jungwith on facebook

Yamaha Vienna Horn YHR-601

yamaha hamburg on facebook

There are many mouth piece makers, but I would recommend the Romera Vienna range.


Romera on facebook

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