John Packer Blog

Welcome to the John Packer blog. Here we’ll keep you updated on all the latest happenings at John Packer Ltd, all the latest music news, musical instruments and competitions.

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A Brief History of the French Horn

by Administrator 6. September 2012 15:19


French horns started life as valveless hunting horns which only played a harmonic series


To fill in the gaps to make the instrument a fully chromatic instrument valves were added. The 2nd valve adds a length of tubing which lowers the open notes by a semitone. The 1st valve adds a length of tubing which lowers the open notes by a tone. The 3rd valve adds a length of tubing equal to a tone and a half so any note playable with the 3rd valve is also possible using the combination of 1st and 2nd valves. The 3rd valve on its own is ‘flat’ so the combination of 1 & 2 is the preferred way. By using combinations of valves on both the Bb & F side gives the horn player many ways of playing each note which is why it is considered to be the most difficult brass instrument to play correctly!

 Single horns
Single horns have 3 valves and are in F or Bb, confusing as both read horn in F music and transpose down a 5th, ie read a C, play a C  and an F 5 notes below will sound out from the horn on both the single F AND the single Bb!

Teachers are still divided on which single horn is ‘best’ to start a pupil with and there are merits on both horns, therefore it is VERY IMPORTANT if a player wants to buy a french horn to start learning on it is IMPERATIVE that they seek advice from their teacher as they could easily purchase the wrong single horn.


Single F horn
Considered to have the ‘traditional’ French horn sound but due to its 12ft tubing is very difficult to pitch in the higher register as the notes are very close together!

Our single F Kinder horn (JP162) is wrapped up very small and is ideal for children.

Single Bb horn
Easier to pitch in the upper register due to its 9ft tubing but can sound more like a trombone! Our single Bb Kinder horn (JP161) is again ideal for children. There are a couple of notes in the very low register, which are not achievable on the Bb horn.

The single F & Bb horns have some fingerings in common with each other namely A, Bb, B, C but with the remaining notes you have to press down different valves to get the same notes! French horn makers also produce full size single horns.


Compensating Horns
These horns are placed mid way between Single horns and Double horns, they are basically a 3 valve single Bb horn of 9ft tubing with an extra 4th or ‘thumb’ valve which when used adds an extra 3ft of tubing which equal the 12ft of a single F French horn.  The 1st, 2nd and 3rd valves have 2 sets of  slides the shoter ones being the Bb side. On compensating horns the Bb slide on the 2nd valve WILL NOT MOVE! Our Compensating French horn is the JP163, probably the most well known compensating horn was the Paxman Studenti which was made by Kalison in Italy.

A Compensating horn gives the player the range of a double horn without the weight of a double horn however, the compensating system  does not offer the level of secure tuning and natural harmonics available on a double horn and consequently is not the favourite choice of many players / teachers who prefer to go from a single horn straight to a double horn.

Double Horns

These have a ‘full’ set of F tubing (12ft) and a ‘full’ set of Bb tubing (9ft) and all the valves have separate F & Bb slides (which can all be removed), it is essentially 2 horns in one which share a leadpipe and bell!

The 4th or thumb valve allows the player to play on either the F or the Bb side of the horn and it is the PLAYER and not the music or the composer who chooses which side to play on. The general rule of thumb is the low register is played on the F side and the higher register on the Bb side, the middle register on either side depending on where you coming from and where you are going!

Double horns options:
Different bore sizes
Different bell sizes
Detachable bells
4th valve as F /Bb or Bb/F
Mechanical linkage or strung
Adjustable 4th valve for smaller hands
Different wraps, Kruspe (offset 4th valve) or Geyer (inline)

 Intermediate double horns:
Holton 378
Yamaha 567

Pro level doubles:
Holton 180 / 181
Yamaha 667 / 668
Conn 10DR / 11DR

Handmade doubles:
Alexander 103 / 1103
Paxman 20/23/25

Contact Steve: for handmade doubles


JP261D Rath French Horn gets BSO Approval

by Administrator 23. July 2012 14:37

MODESTY is always a laudable virtue, but sometimes it is good to blow your own trumpet. Even better if someone else blows it for you!

Robert Harris

Robert Harris, French horn with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, recently road-tested the JP261D Rath French horn with detachable bell.

We developed the JP261Rath french horn with Michael Rath, and it is an ideal horn in terms of price and performance for anyone heading for the higher grades and a considerable way beyond. It features a fully adjustable F/Bb thumb lever making it suitable for even the smallest hands and it is easily reversible for those who prefer the horn to be in Bb rather than F. It is also available  without a detachable bell, the JP261Rath.

This is what Robert had to say:
"I have great pleasure in recommending the JP261D Rath double F/Bb French horn as a fantastic instrument for the intermediate level horn player (grade 4-7). It is a remarkably free blowing instrument and the example I played had an excellent top register. It has mechanical valves. so no strings to repair, and is robustly manufactured. The detachable bell model comes with a very user friendly backpack case all at an extremely competitive price. Perfect for taking to school or youth orchestra. Definitely worth thinking about if you are looking for a first double horn."

JP261 Rath French HornThis is a great French horn. And you can buy it by clicking here

French Horn Giveaway Leads to Annual Event

by Administrator 3. December 2010 10:59

THE response to our appeal for a deserving musician was fantastic; evident that there are not only some very special players who are examples to us all, but also so many very caring and supportive teachers and parents.

A very kind customer wanted us to find a good home for a Yamaha French horn they had donated. Reading the emails that we received was often a moving experience.

It was extremely hard to come up with a single winner amongst so many worthy nominations, so we took the decision to push the boat out and add something ourselves.

In addition to the original donated French horn, we sent out seven of our own instruments to support some wonderful young people. All of the recipients have, in various ways and sometimes in difficult circumstances, shown themselves to be dedicated to their music and an example to those around them.

A big thank you to all those of you who took the trouble to send in a nomination. It is our regret that wasn't possible to accede to all the suggestions.

As this was such a moving experience for us, we have decided to make this an annual process to be repeated every December!

Some of the responses we received from winners:

"Thank you so much for the wonderful news that you are donating a French Horn to one of my pupils. I know the family will be so pleased and I am sure that Josh will put it to good use. Thank you once again"

"That's fantastic news! Just in time for Christmas."

"Many thanks for your generosity in this. I know one of our children has been offered one & his parents are thrilled as I know he will be on Christmas morning when he receives it!"

"Thank you so much for the French Horn. It arrived early this morning and is now with its new owner, who is over the moon. It has certainly cheered Alexander up as he has been quite poorly recently. Mum was also really thrilled and asked me to convey her thanks. Many thanks and Best Wishes for Christmas."