Someone Once Said “Horn Players Are Piranhas”

There’s a french horn in my closet.

It’s collecting dust. The keys have frozen with years of neglect, time, and valve grease but I’m sure it could sing again with enough care.

For kids in my elementary school, fifth grade band was a big deal; it was practically a rite of passage. Besides chasing boys and girls, fifth grade band was the most exciting thing in the world. One special day in class, our teachers gave us the opportunity to write down two instruments we wanted to play. Then, we met privately with the band director who let us try them and discerned which one we got to play.

I had listed the oboe and french horn as my top two choices simply because I had heard they were difficult to play. Always a little overachiever. Then, at my little Sorting Hat ritual of sorts with the band teacher, I couldn’t make a sound on either instrument. “You seem like a french horn player,” the teacher determined and off I went, french horn in tow.

She was right, you know.

We french hornists are odd ducks. Once I Googled personality types + french hornists. I unearthed a lot of s*** talk. I guess it’s no surprise that musicians can also be competitive  and snarky. This blogger begins his paragraph about horn players by writing, “Regarding the French horn, I have only two words of advice: Stay away. Horn players are piranhas.”

I can’t read this and not roar with laughter.

Our instruments are equally particular. Playing the french horn was partly making music and partly playing “find the spit” hidden in the instrument’s vast, tangled web of tubing or lubing up the valves. My teachers recommended smearing Lansinoh nipple ointment on the valves & Preparation H on our lips to reduce swelling.

One afternoon my college horn teacher shared his observation of french hornists with me: “In all of my years instructing french hornists, I’ve noticed a couple of things; Hornists are often above-average in intelligence but also lazy.” My eyes widened. “Let me explain!” he continued. “French hornists approach situations in a way that they think saves them time, but actually creates more work in the long run.”

Years later when I catch myself ironing one outfit at a time or hand-washing dishes because the dishwasher is full from the time I didn’t put the clean ones away,  I laugh.

Because it’s true you know.


  1. Beth Ann Chiles

    I had no clue you were a fresh horn player! Love this post . And yes— you are highly intelligent. ?

  2. Chicago Cousins Review

    This post is awesome for many reasons, including the fact that I, too, had the Sorting of the Hats ritual, but mine was in 4th grade. I was gunning for clarinet or drums (same reasons as yours for my first 2 options), but I was the only one who could make the mouthpiece of a coronet buzz, so I was not placed in Gryffindor. In hindsight, I’m disgusted at the passing of wind and brass instruments and not at all surprised I got mono that year. Did you ever resort to the Prep H? 🙂

    • Jeni

      Thanks Christine! The passing of wind and brass, like you just passed them all around for everyone to try? Yikes! I remember doing that with Clearly Canadian cans:)

  3. Alicia

    Haha! I love this, I was a trombone player, same family 🙂 same big numb lips after playing each day… I’m it didn’t last long for me. About 6 months… I made it through one band concert, then I was done, I was like, “life mission over, I played in a band concert.” Don’t worry, the trombone was a hand me down. We weren’t out much…

    • Jeni

      I feel like french horns and trombones are like sister instruments:) Would love to try one! I did end up quitting band in college. I loved to play but hated the band program.

  4. Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids

    Why didn’t I know you were a band nerd like me?! I was a trombone player and while I felt an immediate bond with all low brass, it always seemed like the french horns were close by. The french horns were special and different, yet were realist, unlike the trumpets. 🙂

    • Jeni

      I feel kinship with trombone players! We always sat near each other. I bet we could play each other’s instruments pretty easily.

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