What to try when trying new horns
So you’ve decided that you want to buy a new instrument and you have the thing in your hands. How do you tell if it’s a good instrument and what you really want? What do you play in order to fully test it out? Hint: You probably shouldn’t just play the loudest excerpt you know and if it sounds good, you get the horn.
The first thing you should do is find a place to try the horn that is quiet and where you can actually hear what the horn sounds like. If you’ve ever been to a music conference with a showroom full of instruments, the room with everyone playing obnoxiously loud is not the place to test a horn that you’re seriously considering buying. You can always bring the horn to a practice room or empty classroom (Just let the vendor know you’re taking the horn so they know it wasn’t stolen!). Once you’ve settled down and can hear yourself think, then it’s time to pull out your tuner to get into the nitty gritty of the horn’s intonation and tone quality. It’s a well-known fact that to win a musical audition, you need to play in time, in tune, and with good tone. Well, being in time is really just down to you as a player, but the instrument affects both your tone and intonation and should be what you are testing when trying out a horn.
Now that you are in a quiet space and able to gauge the important aspects of your instrument, what do you play? You might be thinking that this new instrument is like a fancy sports car, and you need to put it through its paces by playing all the fast and loud excerpts you know, but by doing so, you’re skipping over what will give you a true representation of the horn. You SHOULD play your daily warm up and slow scales. Why, you ask? Sounds boring, but you have hopefully played your daily warm up and scales enough that you know them like the back of your hand and exactly what they’re supposed to sound like. Then you can directly compare how you sound on the new horn with how your old horn sounds, and scales will also check for intonation and how much slide pulling you’ll have to do. It’s also very important to play everything slowly, so you can hear any subtleties.Finally, if your warm up and scales check out and you really like the horn, then you can play your loud excerpts to see how the horn responds from a lot of air and volume. After all of this, you’ll have tried about every type of playing you’re going to do on the horn, from soft to loud playing, slurs and articulations, scales, and low and high register playing (all of this should already be in your daily warm up!). Buying a new instrument should be taken seriously, and you should really take your time when trying one out. Here at the Tuba Exchange, we have a quiet room specifically for you to sit down and try out our instruments and we give you plenty of time to get a good feel for how your new horn plays. We hope this blog was helpful, and if you’re ready to try out some new horns, come see us!