Topic: “Clicks” and valve changes


I have been working on final editing of a series of new Bordogni publications (more soon!) and have been playing as a result a lot of slurs and legato. Also, coming off the period instrument recital recently performed (more here) I am looking at my modern horns with fresh eyes so to speak, and the topic of “clicks” came to mind.

So what are clicks?

I don’t believe this topic has been addressed directly in any horn publication actually. I first heard of noted the term used this way by Gunther Schuller when he gave a master class here at ASU in 2004 (more here). I wrote about it at the time,

…“clicks” (his term–I would say “bumps”) in slurs are harder to remove. To a point they can be the result of valve changes but even without valve changes they are hard to not have. Blowing through the notes helps but even on a horn with leaky valves and a very deep mouthpiece I find that clicks are more or less inevitable. On a modern horn with an efficient mouthpiece it is very hard to not have clicks, especially if you are listening closely for them.

valves-snipWhat is interesting is I can certainly tell a difference between different horns in terms of clicks (disruption of the airstream) and valve changes in slurs. One of my horns in particular, it is the best by far and my assumption is it has to do with the way the valves were made, that the valve section of that horn is the best. It is a joy to play on the Bordogni editing compared to for example the 19th century style F horn I used on the recital, that valve section clicks much more in valve changes. One might guess a leaky valve section would be the least “clicky” in the valve changes, but of those available to me the best horn in fact has very tight valves, they are not at all leaky or old.

Of course you can rate horns many ways but with the topic briefly explained I just throw it out to the horn world. Give it a try; it is something you can feel easily if you focus in on it as part of AB testing of multiple horns.

UPDATE: For more on the topic, including a brief look at the underlying cause of clicks, see this recently (2016) updated article in the Hornmasters series:

University of Horn Matters