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Single Bb French Horn designed with students in mind ideal for complete beginners and people with small hands. Durable and with excellent tuning characteristics. Lightweight case. Recommended by Ian Smith Royal Ballet Sinfonia.
What the Experts Say
The Hornblower 161 is the best student instrument I have tried by a long way. For a young horn player there are many good things about it, not least the case - more later!
The instrument is made in China. Many of you might switch off at this point having come across Chinese instruments in the past. But it would be a mistake to tar this horn with the same brush, as I was impressed with the very high quality - it is solidly built and seems very robust The handgrip is well thought out, incorporating both a finger hook and a ducks foot, which can be adjusted to suit any size of hand (even mine).
Unlike most student models where third valve slides can be broken easily, all the slides are well thought out to avoid unnecessary damage. It has a rose brass leadpipe and is lacquer finished. My one small concern is that it has strung valves rather than mechanical linkage*. A good idea from a maintenance point of view, but in practise it could be a problem you need to know how to restring them!
With regard to playing, it has excellent response throughout the range, plays pretty well in tune and the valve action is very precise. It comes with a range of accessories including a Paxman mouthpiece -a good move as bad habits can be formed by using poor equipment in the early stages
There are two schools of thought on starting beginners on the french horn One is that it is better to start players off on the F horn as this cultivates the best horn sound. The other thinks it is better to start beginners on the B flat horn, as pitching is easier, thus enabling a pupil to make quicker progress. This instrument is pitched in B flat and has been specifically designed to have a small wrap making it easier to hold and therefore particularly suitable for young players.
Now to the case. It is a hard case but with a soft, leatherette finish on the outside and is very compact. The look of the case is very important these days, as you have to appear trendy! (Very difficult with most french horn cases). **
All this for an educational price of £350 ex VAT* (RRP £625 inc. VAT) which at around half the cost of most other student models, must make this a leader in its field.
Ian Smith Royal Ballet Symphonia.
* This model now incorporates mechanical linkages * Since this was written the Hornblower has been further improved by the use of a new lightweight back-pack style case. ** Prices have dropped substantially since this was written
JP161 French Horn, as recommended by Ian Smith of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.
* Quotes provided courtesy of John Packer Ltd