Recently received from a reader were a series of questions on single horns and triple horns.
1. What is the status of single horns in the modern horn world in terms of manufacturing and market value?
They are not a big player in the market, really. The largest number of the type made today are single F horns, made to hit the lowest price point possible.
2. Are they still a good value for the very young?
They are cheap! It is a topic that actually can bring up some strong arguments among teachers and educators. What is the best model among the options? Single horns are a good value but at the same time single F horns especially are not easy to play and that does not necessarily translate into a student staying with the horn. Personally, I like the concept of the 3/4 size double horn a lot but it does not seem to have caught much market share. More in general may be found here.
3. Are professionals performing on single Bb anymore?
Not much. I own one actually that I like playing on personally, a vintage Alexander. I used it on a session at the most recent IHS workshop, but otherwise have only used it in recital and church settings. It feels like a sports car in ways and is fun to play (horn playing can be fun), but would not work for me to my mind for general orchestral playing in a USA context. But that said they can be useful in certain situations, a good single B-flat can do a lot of what a descant can do in certain works, and I know there are professionals that play a lot of single B-flat in Europe for general playing.
Expanding on a point made elsewhere in this website, I would note also that Bruce and I both feel there is a good case to be made for using the single B-flat horn with young beginners. More in general may be found here on that topic and some specific thoughts on the B-flat horn and beginners are here. But it is a topic that can bring out strong opinions. If you are a strong F horn believer I hope that you might have the chance to take the single F challenge with horns your students actually use and give the topic some new thought.
4. Any real market for single F horns in the states anymore?
Just the student market; low end, cheap.
5. I have heard that triple horns are fast becoming the new standard. Do you see that to be true? Are we there now?
Yes, they are becoming the standard for professional high horn playing at least. It is a big topic! I have a few more thoughts in Horn Articles Online on descant and triple horns. My article there concludes,
There is a time coming soon when every serious, advanced horn student owns a descant or triple horn, much as every serious trumpet, trombone, or tuba student owns several instruments at different pitch lengths that they use in different works. The days have passed when a professional horn player, especially a professional high horn player, can own just one horn.
UPDATE: I have publications out related to both of the topics of this article, updated for 2018 new editions available in print or Kindle versions through Horn Notes Edition:
- Introducing the Horn
- Playing Descant and Triple Horns