Which hunting horns are best?
Hunting horns once were vital tools for group hunts, the loud notes played by the horn sounder guiding hunters as they ran down their quarries. Nowadays, hunting horns are fun collectibles for people interested in the history of horns as musical instruments.
The Liyafy Trumpet Brass Cavalry Bugle is a good product for those interested in signal horns made to coordinate hunts and military maneuvers. Other hunting horns, especially those made from actual animal horns, may better suit fans of medieval reenactments and other anachronistic hobbies.
What to know before you buy a hunting horn
Hunting horns vs. modern brass horns
Traditional hunting horns, unlike modern trumpets, were designed to be held and played with a single hand; since many pre-modern hunts took place on a horseback, a hunter with a horn needed one hand free to hold the reins of their horse. Most hunting horns and military bugles lack valves for altering the pitch of musical notes and have a somewhat limited chromatic range.
Purpose of hunting horns
Since hunting horns were designed to help bands of hunters coordinate their actions over long distances, they didn’t need the large range of notes seen in musical instruments. As long as hunters could play a distinct rhythm of notes (much like the bugle calls seen in military ceremonies), their hunting horn was doing its job.
The oldest hunting horns, true to their name, were made from the horns of male livestock animals such as bulls and rams. As metallurgy grew more sophisticated, instrument makers started making hunting horns out of alloyed metals, brass becoming a particularly popular choice thanks to the unique timbre of horns made from it. Nowadays, brass horn mouthpieces are also plated with silver to kill germs and protect the musician from brass poisoning.
What to look for in a quality hunting horn
Lightness and durability
Hunting horns, designed to be played while on the move, should be light enough that hunters can carry it around with one hand for extended periods. At the same time, hunting horns should be sturdy enough to endure at least some rough handling during more hectic hunting activities.
Timbre and tone
Each horn, particularly handmade ones, has its own unique timbre, a tone and color of sound that resonates through the air in a particular way. Horn types such as Baritone horns, soprano horns and alto horns also have their own distinct ranges of notes. If you have the chance to try out different hunting horns, listen to the timbre and tone of the sounds they make, evaluating their aesthetic qualities and hearing how far they echo in the open air.
Whenever possible, check the mouthpiece of your hunting horn to see if it fits the contours of your lips; if a mouthpiece is too small or too large, you’ll have trouble controlling the pitch of the notes you play on the horn. If your hunting horn has a removable mouthpiece, you can usually purchase better-fitting mouthpieces online.
How much you can expect to spend on a hunting horn
Old-fashioned horns made from actual animal horns cost $20-$30. Bugle-style horns made from brass can cost as much as $200, if not higher.
Hunting horn FAQ
How did hunting bugles evolve into modern trumpets and French horns?
A. As group hunting grew more sophisticated, hunt leaders needed to be able to blow high-pitched notes their fellow hunters could hear over long distances. Over time, the makers of bugles and other brass hunting horns started bending a horn’s pipe into concentric loops, giving hunters compact, portable instruments capable of playing high-pitched notes. Later on, trumpets, French horns and other modern brass instruments were manufactured with valves musicians could depress to further alter the pitch of the notes they played.
How do you play different notes on a hunting horn?
A. When blowing on a hunting horn or any valveless horn, you can play a range of different notes using a technique called “embouchure.” When musicians use embouchure, they alter the pitch of the instrument they’re playing by adjusting the shape and position of their lips and tongue.
What are the best hunting horns to buy?
Top hunting horn
What you need to know: This simply designed instrument, modeled after traditional military field trumpets, can be used to play classic bugle calls or signal hunters from a distance
What you’ll love: This gold-toned bugle is made of brass. Musicians playing this instrument can sound out a large range of notes in the key of B flat.
What you should consider: It’s on the small size and is not suitable for professional playing.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top hunting horn for the money
What you need to know: This polished animal-horn bugle hearkens back to the hunting horns and war horns of fantasy films and the ancient world.
What you’ll love: This old-fashioned instrument is made from polished buffalo horn and comes with a leather carrying case. Each individual horn has its own distinct shape, size and pitch. The smaller horns have reeds built into their mouthpieces.
What you should consider: Some customers claim the small horns sound better when their reeds are removed.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Compared to other hunting horn products, this compact valved instrument can play notes in the key of B-flat.
What you’ll love: This brass instrument, modeled after the traditional signal horns used by mail-coach drivers, has leather wrappings around the circular pipe, a prepackaged mouthpiece and a sturdy carrying case.
What you should consider: To play certain pitches, you may need to purchase different mouthpieces for this horn.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Coleman Gailloreto writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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