From the Mailbag: What Horns do Professionals Play?


A question that comes in often in various ways is something along the lines of “What horns do professionals play?” Bruce Hembd and I have both answered this question a few times over the years in our older blogs and in Horn Matters. One of my recent versions of an answer is here, where I began by saying,

A question a lot of people wonder is who plays what horn and also the related, larger question of what is a professional quality horn? My standard answer is a professional quality horn is a horn that a professional would seriously consider playing. In other words, it is not something determined by marketing but by the market.

To briefly expand on the thoughts expressed in the post linked above the idea is, especially if you aspire to be a pro, to find a horn you think you can win a job on; a horn that produces a professional sound.

Part your homework as a student of the horn is to look around and see what professionals actually play. This may involve getting beyond the advice of your teachers who may have strong opinions on the matter that don’t necessarily bear out in the real world or don’t work well for you.

An aside I would offer is a story. Back now some years ago Bruce and I worked together on the IHS Online and one proposal we put into practice was a horn for sale area (which still is in operation). When we were testing horn listings before the service went public Bruce I believe put up listings for “Fischer-Price” and “Crayola” horns (with a “colorful tone”). They were just place holders, of course, but ever since that time I have used a line with students something along the lines of there is a time to move on from the Fischer-Price horn to a horn a professional would consider playing.

If you are in doubt, try some other horns and try to get some honest feedback. In fact, even if your are not in doubt try some horns! You need to get a clear idea what a professional horn feels and sounds like. With the very serious note being while you have to try to work out your playing also it could be your problems with the low and high ranges and volume are very much horn related. Keep your eyes open and be willing to make the jump to a better horn, it can make tons of difference.

My longer, Horn Articles Online article on the topic of suggested horns and mouthpieces may be found here.

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