A new French horn is a long term investment — and where you buy can make the difference between a great value and a rip off. Use this step by step guide to find the right option for you.
Know your price
As a general rule of thumb, you can expect new beginner and intermediate models to start in the mid $3000s. If the price is lower, you should question its quality and ability to hold value. Beginning/intermediate players should never pay more than $6,000. Many local music stores mark up horns 30-50% over these prices. The used market is all over the map, but you should expect to find playable double horns in decent condition from $1,500 and up — with added risk of higher repair bills down the road.
Know your horns
Never let someone convince you to buy a certain model horn without doing your own research. With the abundance of information available online, such as our list of reviews, come armed with your knowledge and use it to your advantage. If you’re new to French horns, check out our guide for students.
Local music shops
Buying a horn from your local music shop has some advantages. Some offer discounted maintenance plans and will often stand behind what they are selling. You have a face to the seller and can easily address any issues that may arise. The (often big) disadvantage is that many local shops aren’t well versed in French horns. They probably know a lot more about saxophones, drum sets, amps. We recommend buying from a local music shop only if they have some expertise in horns. Call them up and ask a simple question such as what’s the difference between a Conn 8D and a Yamaha 667. If the owner can’t answer right away, this probably isn’t the shop for you. Better yet, make sure another horn player can vouch for them.
Expert music shops
There are a growing number of specialty music shops with expertise in the French horn market, especially the higher end and custom horns ($6,000+). In addition to selling quality horns, they often offer services you can trust such as maintenance. If you’re lucky enough to live next to one, avail yourself of the opportunity to try out horns. Keep in mind some of these shops may have biases because they may be authorized dealers for only certain brands. As always, do your own research first. Some recommended shops include:
Horns a Plenty
Pope Instrument Repair
Wichita Band Instrument Co
If you’re buying a new horn for less than $6,000, online retailers often offer superior prices and may be more consistent & hassle free in some of their policies around returns and refunds because they deal with 100s of customers daily. While they don’t typically offer great maintenance plans, some may prefer to keep their options open rather than be locked into the shop from which it was purchased. Some you can trust include:
The used online market
Many great deals can be found for used horns. But before you buy, be sure to consult with an experienced horn player. Cheap $500 Chinese horns can look great to unsuspecting buyers, but may only last a year or two due to lower quality standards. We recommend checking out:
eBay’s French horns (relationship w/ PayPal offers some safeguards against scams)
IHS classifieds (good place to find higher end horns)