Tenor Horn for a Beginner

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by TimOnPiano, Nov 8, 2018.

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  1. TimOnPiano

    TimOnPiano New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Milan, Italy
    I'm looking for advice regarding a first tenor horn. In the past I played 1 year on tuba and 3 on F horn (with the mouthpiece of a concert French horn but bell forward and with piston valves). I played oboe during my school years and the program required me to double during the marching season.

    I'd like to have an instrument somewhere in between the two: that plays like a tuba but in the mid range like an F horn. It seems like Eb tenor horn could be exactly what I want.

    As a long term goal, I'd like my tone to sound like this:



    He describes his instrument as a 1987 Besson Sovereign.

    Being new to the tenor horn, I'm not sure I could really evaluate a used instrument well. I see there are inexpensive new tenor horns, but I don't want to waste time with an instrument that breaks easily and will never sound good. There are new horns with the Besson name but as far as I can tell they are a new brand as the original was lost with B&H. I intend no offence to Mr. Owen Farr, but they apparently are not the same instruments as the '87 Sovereign from the video. Likewise, I saw a line of instruments for sale under the name "Edgware" but this also seems to be an attempt to coopt the legacy of the older instruments. Has anyone tried out these newer brands?

    Would anyone recommend a tenor horn make/model? Should I hold out until I find a good used Sovereign, or would it be better to take whatever I can find until I work up my proficiency?

    To finish my introduction, I play piano now as my main instrument. I'm planning to play the tenor horn as a solo instrument mostly. I've been thinking it could be nice for Christmas music or to try out the melody parts for pieces where I'm working on the accompaniment on piano.
     
  2. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

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    508
    Location:
    Dereham, Norfolk
    OK - you do realise that its going to take several years to get to that level......? I know you said its your long term goal, but just checking

    Also be aware that the Eb Tenor Horn will handle very differently to the Horn in F and Tuba - especially the latter, as it has a different bore shape (the tuba is more conical, and whilst the tenor horn isnt a straight bore in the style of a trumpet or trombone, its characteristics are closer to straight bore instruments than a big conical bore of a flugel, Euphonium or Tuba

    In terms of advice I'd say you really need to try stuff out if you can before buying it. Owen Farr is one of the best tenor horn players in the world and I would give his opinions credence over anyone on here, but not everyone will get on with an instrument the same. You need to spread the net as widely as you can especially as a decent top level horn can cost you from between 1000 GBP (for a second hand one) to nearly 4000 GBP for a new one. Below that level there are plenty of cheap examples, but be aware you do get what you pay for, and cheaper models usually mean thinner metal, poorer workmanship and not much quality control. Appreciate you say you are learning and in the early days it may not really make much difference, but if you want an instrument that will last you several years as you improve then you perhaps need to look at the higher end than the lower (otherwise chances are you will end up replacing it sooner rather than later).

    Besson took over the B&H range - the roundstamp B&H Sovereign (which ended around 85 or so) is the long term often quoted best of the bunch, but newer (Besson) Sovereigns seem to vary between good and bad. Moving manufacturing to Germany and the UK Lottery grants given to bands (increasing demand) supposedly reduced quality a bit. Willson make a decent horn, and the modern Besson Prestiges are also allegedly excellent, but dont expect either to come cheap.

    In terms of your choice of Eb Tenor Horn, the other point to note is there isnt a huge amount of original solo stuff written for it outside of the British Brass Band market. Whilst the Tenor Horn (or in US and a lot of Europe Alto Horn) isnt a UK limited instrument, its often seen as more of an ensemble instrument (usually playing the alto line in basic 4 part harmony) than a solo one. That said, there are some pieces that do exist, and there is a fair amount of music that was originally written for French Horn that has been transcribed for the Tenor Horn - again there are some good arrangements, and some poor ones. Perhaps if you are writing stuff you may have a convenient gap in the market
     
  3. TimOnPiano

    TimOnPiano New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Milan, Italy
    Thank you for the insight!

    Yes, I realize a good instrument won't sound good on its own and that means putting in the time (years). I'm looking at this as an opportunity to get a clean start with my embouchure. I just figure it's better to start thinking about good tone sooner than later.

    Would you elaborate a bit more in the differences between Tenor Horn compared to Euphonium and Flugelhorn? The difference with F Horn was more clear cut: that it plays higher in its harmonic range and that is why the partials are so close together. (or at least that is the textbook answer I found). I had originally looked into the Euphonium after hearing some very nice performances on it. The price is a bit prohibitive for me and I would prefer something that plays in a higher range. I hear good comments about Flugelhorn, but I think the small mouthpiece (essentially the same as for trumpet?) would be rather difficult for me. I'm looking to Tenor Horn as my compromise. I read up on the history of Saxhorns to try to better understand how it relates to the others, but textbook knowledge only goes so far. I wanted to hear more examples of Tenor Horn performances, but as you mentioned it's usually buried in the middle of an ensemble. I'm mostly looking for a nice mellow sound, but with enough chromatic agility to handle a quick passage or add some embellishments.

    Indeed, I took notice of Besson thanks to Owen Farr:



    It seems like a sincere commitment to quality. I'm wondering if anyone has experience with the new Besson instruments.

    Another name that caught my eye is Paul Riggett, who worked at B&H until the mid 80's when he left to found Sterling. His Sterling instruments are hand made but since about 2010 he has a partnership with John Packer to help with their mass produced JP372 line. I did at least appreciate that they were honest and upfront about the instruments being made in China and intended to be cheaper. Here again, it would be interesting to hear if anyone has some experience with these instruments.

    If anyone is in Northern Italy (I'm in Milan) I'd be interested to hear about brass band activity in the area. With not much hope for an ensemble, I expect to just play on my own or with family / friends. Actually I also liked the idea of an upward bell to help when playing in confined spaces.

    Thank you also for the advice about instruments and brands. The good thing is that I don't have a deadline and I can take my time to look for the right instrument.
     
  4. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    Messages:
    508
    Location:
    Dereham, Norfolk
    Sterling are another top make although I hear of less people playing Sterling tenor horns. They are a little more ready with customising certain aspects - such as the size and weight of bell, positioning of triggers, finishes etc than some, although this comes at a cost. Hopefully there will be a Tenorhorn player on here that will have had a try out at least, but they are quite popular on Euphonium

    Regarding types its probably easier if I explain a little more. MOST Brass instruments can be grouped into 2 main types - straight bore and conical bore. A straight bore, as its name suggests has pretty much the same size tubing from the leadpipe (where the mouthpiece sits) to where the bell starts to flare out. Instruments in this category include trumpets and trombones. There is a fair amount of back pressure - in other words when you play the instrument, a certain amount of air gets very compressed because the tubing is narrow, and a small amount comes back towards you (think of waves on a beach). Sound is generally quite "hard" and "brassy" and the instruments are designed to project their sound fairly effectively - a bit like using a rifle. Experienced players can play softly and tenderly, but it generally takes more effort than with other instruments

    The rest are conical bore, in other words as the tubing progresses from leadpipe to bell, it gets wider. The most pronounced cone shape is in the tuba family, which technically includes the flugel, which whilst called a "horn" is actually a soprano tuba in the way its designed. Generally the sound is softer, requires more effort to project, and will often take more effort to "fill" - because you are having to make air move through the wider areas more effectively whilst blowing in the narrow end. However once achieved, the sound is more mellow and expressive than any straight bore instrument

    Horns and Baritones are conical bore, but the cone is not quite as pronounced so they behave in the manner of both - its very easy to overblow (hence why some will refer to the Baritone horn especially as a "Barking Iron" - in the wrong hands it will sound extremely hard and the whole instrument noticeably vibrates). In a British Brass Band, the instruments in the Saxhorn family (which these are) will often blend well with all of the other instruments - for example its easier for a saxhorn to play as a 4th trombone or a 3rd Euph than a Euph to play as part of the trombone section. The Baritone is essentially a "Tenor" Tenor Horn - pitched in Bb along with Euphonium and Trombone as opposed to the Eb Tenor Horn. Because of the bore shape and upward bell, it can be difficult to project the sound without overblowing

    Cornets are also conical bore but are almost on their own in their design

    A Saxhorn (either Tenor or Baritone) in the right hands can sound beautiful. It has sound characteristics that are like nothing else - they can be either bright and brassy or mellow and dark, whereas the other instruments will usually be one or the other. I'd say on that basis they can be one of the hardest instruments to master fully - probably why they are not often thought of as a solo instrument, but there is no reason why they shouldnt be
     
  5. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

    Messages:
    209
    A word of warning, please don't be tempted by a cheap tenor horn. I have a little experience with cheap instruments, whilst the cheap cornets are certainly playable and intonation is reasonable (by no means good) I have yet to see a cheap tenor horn that is anywhere near in tune, most are virtually unplayable as some notes are so far out of tune. Unfortunately, they are so far out of tune as to be impossible to get anywhere near even by pulling slides.
     
  6. TimOnPiano

    TimOnPiano New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Milan, Italy
    Thank you both for the advice. You've convinced me of the value of finding an experienced teacher instead of going the self taught route. I think this could help a lot to catch embouchure problems quickly and work on good technique from the start. It should also help for finding a decent instrument.

    I really appreciate the extra information about Euphonium compared to Baritone. That filled in some holes in my understanding. I admit I had to pull up side by side photos of the two to fully see the difference. Your descriptions of how the various instruments behave was especially helpful to put my own experiences in the right context.

    I just have a couple follow up questions. Is the Euphonium considered a member of the Tuba family or is it in a class of its own? Also, since the Flugelhorn is essentially a soprano Tuba, is there a Tuba variant in the tenor and/or alto range?
     
  7. Hsop

    Hsop Member

    Messages:
    83
    Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

    According to Wikipedia the flugelhorn appeared in 1828 before the introduction of a tuba around 1838. Youtube has an extensive selection of brass band videos which may help you determine which instrument you would like to learn. Good luck with whichever one you choose. :)
     
  8. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

    Messages:
    209
    As a former flugelhorn player, I always thought of the flugelhorn as a hybrid between cornet and tenor horn. A lot of the music is the same as one of the cornet parts and it's also in a similar Bb pitch. However to listen to it, it sounds more like the tenor horn and the player usually sits at the end if the tenor horn section next to the baritone, or where I used to sit, at the bottom of the cornet section next to the tenor horns.
     
  9. TimOnPiano

    TimOnPiano New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Milan, Italy
    For anyone new to the thread, we're looking at what make / model / year would make a good first tenor horn for someone switching from another brass instrument.

    We also have an interesting discussion here about how playing a Saxhorn differs from playing more conical instruments. Among the posts last week, there is some great information about tone production and blending instruments. It's definitely worth the time to read from the top.
     
  10. TimOnPiano

    TimOnPiano New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Milan, Italy
    That's very helpful. I'm from the Western US originally and these instruments were rather rare in the ensembles (at least in my area). Occasionally a couple trumpet players would be tapped to double on Cornet or Flugel but that was about it.

    I went into a local music shop here asking about Tenor Horn. They showed me a used Jupiter and recommended I take a Flugel instead.

    On piano, I worked up the accompaniment for Roger Emerson's arrangement of In Flanders Fields for SATB choral. I think it could sound very nice with brass instruments on the vocal parts. SA and TB are each mostly in unison and I think two instruments would suffice. From the comments here, it seems like a duet of Euph/T. Horn or with Flugel might work really well.

    One motive for picking up the Tenor Horn myself would be to explore some of these options on my own, or at least to only need to find one other player at a time (Euphonium or Flugel).
     
  11. Queeg2000

    Queeg2000 Active Member

    Messages:
    209
    Don't forget parts are not easily interchangeable between tenor horn an flugelhorn, or tenor horn and baritone or euphonium as the tenor horn is keyed in Eb whereas the others are Bb.
     
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