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What Is a Double French Horn?

Liz Thomas
Liz Thomas

A double French horn is a combination of the B-flat and the F horn. This combination fixed problems with very high notes, as single instruments were very inaccurate. Different manufacturers are preferred depending on location and musician. Traditionally horn music was used to create special effects in music. This is one of the most versatile instruments in the orchestra due to its very large range.

The first double French horn was made in 1897 by a German man named Edmund Kruspe. This new version was made to fix the intonation problems in the higher musical range, where the single horn pitch was very inaccurate and difficult for musicians to master. This instrument is actually a combination of the F and B-flat horn.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

The F version of the horn produces deeper, warmer tones while the B-flat version produces higher and brighter tones, all of which are easily played in tune. Each type of tone refers to one side of the instrument. The valve actually changes the length of the instrument which in turn changes the harmonics and pitch.

In Europe, musicians tend to play the double French horn made by Paxman of London or Alexander of Mainz. The Alexander version has a medium size bell, while Paxman models come in a range different sized bells. Each musician will typically have a strong personal preference for a favorite model.

In the United States, the two most commonly used double French horns are the Knopf and Kruspe models. The Knopf version has the fourth valve positioned so that it is played by the pinky finger, while the Kruspe has the valve positioned so it is played by the thumb. This placement of the vale means that the air flow is quite different between the two models.

A double French horn is often found in an orchestra. Originally, the horn was used to create specific, unique sound effects, such as signaling for the hunt. This sound is also used to symbolize distance. Most orchestras will have at least two horn players, though some pieces can call for as many as 20, namely Richard Strauss' Eine Alpinesinfonie.

The different tones and tone coloring make this brass instrument used extensively in fanfares and military music. When the horn is played with long and mellow tones, it is thought to blend very well with woodwind instruments. Professionals describe the double French horn as one of the most versatile orchestral instruments, due to its large range.

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Discussion Comments


@cardsfan27 - I don't know what I would do in your situation. I can tell you that I have a friend who plays a King double French horn, and she says she really likes it. I think they are about the same price as Yamaha horns. I'm not sure how quality compares. I play a Yamaha saxophone, and I've never had problems.

One thing you might try is looking online on sites like Craiglist where people might have listed horns. If you live in a rural area, there's probably a limited selection, though.

If you could find the nearest music store, they usually rent or sell used instruments. They might be able to make a deal with you where they would send you the horn and let you rent it for a couple of months. You could try it out then and see if it was something you wanted to keep.

I guess the final option would be to look at online auctions. You would have to be sure of what you were buying before hand in that case.


Does anyone know of a place to find a double French horn for sale? I used to play a trumpet when I was in band, and I always wanted a chance to play the French horn, but never got to.

I'd like to have one to play around with just for fun and to keep me entertained. I would like a cheap French horn if possible, but I don't know what differences there are in quality between the brands mentioned and something like a Yamaha double French horn. I knew people that had Yamaha trumpets, and they seemed to be fine for someone who didn't need a high end instrument.

Unfortunately, I live in a fairly rural area, and there aren't any music stores around that I could drive to and take a look at different horns. On the other hand, I would at least like to be able to play the horn before I bought it.


I have a friend who plays the French horn. I doubt that she knows it is really a combination of different ranges.

What did the original French horns look like? Since the double French horn combines two keys, does it have to be larger or have more tubing? The horns are pretty compact as it is considering how much material is used. Just wondering if they might have been smaller in the past.

If you wanted to buy a French horn, are all of the ones sold now expected to be double French horns, or do you have to check to make sure that are not just the B flat or F versions? Would these be called single French horns, or do they use a different name?


I have been in bands for almost 15 years, and I never knew that the french horn was actually a combination of two different keys. It is interesting because instruments in the B flat and F ranges would be at opposite ends of the musical spectrum.

I really love the sound. I think it probably is the most beautiful instrument not only because of its sound, but its shape, too. After reading this article, I found a recording of Eine Alpensinfonie, and it is very nice.

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