Horns on the Recital IV: Never Underestimate a Change of Crook


Last week I was feeling pretty set on horns for the recital this year but in rehearsals I still wished I had a better natural and early valved horn and was bummed that a horn I had initially planned to use had not worked out.

The best high range was achieved on a pair of crooks originally made for the “mutt” early valved horn in this article. I was using the F crook on early valved horn and the E crook made on the same mandrel at the same time on my small natural horn with the vintage mellophone bell, seen in this article. That E crook due to a difference of instrument bodies put the small natural horn in F.

Then I had a thought. Had I tried that crook on the big natural horn, this one at right? No, I had not tried all my options. Actually I had at least four reasonable ways that I could put this horn into F, as follows:

  1. The E crook mentioned above
  2. The F crook actually made for this horn
  3. The F crook made for the Hawkes piston horn in this article
  4. The G crook and a F coupler as made for the small natural horn.

A few trials showed me that the “E” crook I was using on the small horn made the best F crook for the big horn and had an even better top G on this horn than it had on the little horn.

So the next step was to put the valve section on this horn. It was built as a “convertible” instrument by Richard Seraphinoff to take a rotary valve section with slides for F and B-flat. I have in a past post described it as a “rotary valve Vienna horn” and it is still a fair comparison I think.

I have been told that Vienna horn players are always looking for a better crook. In short as a single F valved horn that same E crook did wonders to the problem areas, turning this horn into a much better playing horn with a great, classic F horn sound. So this horn will replace the small natural horn and the mutt early valved horn on the recital.

Not everyone has the luxury of a lot of crooks to try but the change I must say is pretty striking crook to crook and most certainly extends to the difference felt by a change of leadpipe on modern horn. Never underestimate the power of a change in this part of the horn.

For more on how crooks are made see this article with a final note being that it has been great to get back to this particular horn. Seraphinoff makes a range of very authentic natural horns, check his website for more information.

University of Horn Matters