Move over, French horns - outside of the orchestra pit, you've got some competition: alto and tenor horns. Staple instruments in ensembles like marching bands and brass bands, these horns produce a mellow tone that carries the midrange, providing support for all the other instruments in the group. If you think of high and low instruments like trumpets, cornets, trombones and tubas as fabrics in the "tapestry" of a band, then the alto and tenor horns are the threads that hold the whole thing together. You may not be playing in the spotlight as often, but for many musicians, the role played by alto and tenor horns is an even bigger source of pride.
So what's the difference between alto and tenor horns? Essentially, just a name. They're usually called alto horns by American musicians and tenor horns by British ones. Both are tuned in Eb and use a large mouthpiece, and both have the same rich tonal qualities. You might try looking into models referred to as alto horns if you like American-style instruments and tenor horns if you prefer European design elements, but in terms of the tone, key, mouthpiece and repertoire, these are effectively the same instrument.
When you're setting out to choose your alto or tenor horn, the biggest considerations are your personal skill level, playing situation and budget. For instance, if you're a beginner musician in need of an affordable first instrument, check out something like the Jupiter 456 Series Eb Alto Horn or the Amati AAH 311 Series Eb Alto Horn. If, on the other hand, you're a professional player in a national band, the Besson BE2050 Prestige Series Eb Tenor Horn and the BE950 Sovereign Series Eb Tenor Horn might be more up your alley.
Whichever alto and tenor horns appeal to you, there's no doubt that you'll have a key part to play in any band when you've made this instrument your own. There's a reason why it's a popular horn on both sides of the Atlantic, after all, even if it is by two different names: thanks to its impressive projection and rich, reliable tone, it's an incredible instrument no matter what you decide to call it.
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