Whether you’re looking to get into music or expand your repertoire of instruments, it’s worth taking a close look at the flugelhorn. This brass instrument resembles a trumpet, but produces deeper, darker tones and plays an important place in British-style brass bands, jazz bands, and orchestras. For example, Clark Terry used a flugelhorn in Duke Ellington’s jazz bad in the 1950s, and Chuck Mangione switched from trumpet to flugelhorn entirely in the 1970s. Even better, the flugelhorn is easy to learn how to play.
In order to help you find the best flugelhorn, whether you’re a beginner or an expert, we considered some important features of this instrument. First, we looked at the key tone, which dramatically affects the octave and sound of each flugelhorn. We also considered the bore size, which affect the air resistance when playing the flugelhorn and whether it sounds more or less like a traditional trumpet. Finally, we considered important secondary features like the size and material, both of which can affect the quality and tone of sound from the instrument.
Top 5 Flugelhorns Review 2019
We spent tens of hours researching the most popular flugelhorns on the market today and poring over customer reviews. The result is our list of the five best flugelhorns, highlighted in the table below. Continue reading for detailed reviews of each instrument, complete with pros and cons. Our Buying Guide covers everything you need to know about selecting a flugelhorn, and finally we sum up our three overall favorite flugelhorns on the market today.
- Key: Bb
- Bore size: .434’’
- Material: yellow brass
- Weight: 7.8 lbs
- Warranty: 5-year limited
More features: monel valves, case and mouthpiece included, two-piece bell, third slide trigger, lacquer finish
This versatile flugelhorn is a favorite among musicians thanks to its reasonable price, medium bore size, and beautiful dark intonation. The flugelhorn is designed with a 0.434-inch bore size, which combines the best of projection volume, air flow, and deep sound quality. The yellow brass finish is somewhat closer to a silver finish and a trumpet sound than the typical gold brass finish found on other flugelhorns, but you won’t mistake the sound of this horn for a trumpet.
Users loved how smooth the operation of the valves are on this horn and appreciated the third slide trigger for easy tuning. The valves are monel for precisely tuning the horn and finished with pearl on top for a clean feeling and durability. Overall, users felt that this flugelhorn was easy to play with its own distinctive sound, and is a significant step up from budget flugelhorns. They also appreciated the light 7.8-pound weight, which makes using the horn for extended gigs somewhat easier.
Bach includes a protective carrying case with this flugelhorn, as well as a Bach 7c flugelhorn mouthpiece. Even better, Bach provides a five-year limited warranty with the horn to protect you against any defects in the tubing. Compared to other flugelhorns, this model is durable and should last for years of practice and shows.
Monel valves for tuning
Includes case and mouthpiece
- Yellow finish pushes closer to a trumpet sound
- Key: Bb
- Bore size: .435’’
- Material: red brass copper, nickel silver
- Weight: 9 lbs
- Warranty: not specified
More features: lacquer finish, 6.25’’ bell, monel pistons, bottom sprung valves, adjustable mouthpiece receiver, lyre holder, third slide trigger adjustment
This flugelhorn from renowned instrument-maker RS Berkeley is the perfect flugelhorn for beginners, at a cost that won’t break the bank. The larger size and weight is easier for many beginning musicians to handle, although it does make the flugelhorn somewhat heavy at nine pounds. The medium 0.435-inch bore size is in line with what professional flugelhorns adopt, allowing you to achieve the signature flugelhorn sound and plenty of volume on this horn without making it too difficult to move air through it. Plus, the large 6.25-inch bell helps to release that air and sound out notes in the middle of the flugelhorn’s range with relatively little effort.
The valves are monel, allowing you to quickly and easily tune the horn before playing, and all of the pistons are hand lapped. There is also a third slide trigger adjustment to quickly modify the tone of the instrument.
Note that the red brass copper and nickel silver construction of this flugelhorn is somewhat unusual compared to the standard gold or silver brass finish. This is in part to keep the cost of the flugelhorn down, but it also makes the horn more resonant like a trumpet. This modification to the sound of the horn is a major reason why this flugelhorn, which is otherwise designed to be quite smooth and shares much in common with more professional flugelhorns, is typically reserved for entry-level musicians.
Monel valves and hand lapped pistons
Large 6.25-inch bell makes it easier to move air
- Red brass copper and nickel silver construction lightens the sound
- Key: Bb
- Bore size: .433’’
- Material: gold brass
- Weight: 10 lbs
- Warranty: 5-year limited
More features: 6’’ bell, case and mouthpiece included, monel pistons, third slide trigger adjustment, lacquer finish, movable mouthpiece receiver
This beautiful flugelhorn from Yamaha is designed to create the dark sound that the flugelhorn is known for, making it the perfect accompaniment for professional jazz musicians. The gold brass construction and lacquer finish are one of the ways in which this instrument achieves that deep, unique sound, and the small 0.433-inch bore size is another.
While the six-inch bell allows this horn to achieve plenty of volume, the smaller bore size can take some practice to get to the intonation and staccato right – which is why this horn is typically reserved for intermediate and professional musicians. Still, many beginner musicians reported being able to produce smooth sounds from this horn, in part thanks to the quality of the design and the smoothness of the sound.
The flugelhorn also features monel pistons and a third slide trigger adjustment to make adjusting the tone and tuning the instrument quick and easy. Interestingly, this horn has a movable mouthpiece receiver, which can somewhat alleviate the common problem of the mouthpiece getting stuck in the flugelhorn.
It’s worth noting that this flugelhorn is relatively large and weighs in at 10 pounds. This is something of a disadvantage for long sets since it can get quite tiring to hold and play it for long periods.
Yamaha includes a protective carrying case and a Yamaha mouthpiece with this flugelhorn, as well as covers your instrument with a five-year limited warranty.
Deep flugelhorn sound perfect for jazz
Small 0.433-inch bore
Movable mouthpiece receiver
Includes mouthpiece and carrying case
Difficult for beginner and intermediate musicians to play
Weighs 10 pounds
- Key: Bb
- Bore size: .433’’
- Material: gold brass, nickel silver
- Weight: 7 lbs
- Warranty: 1-year limited
More features: 6-inch bell, lacquer finish, monel piston, mouthpiece and soft case included, mother-of-pearl valve buttons, third slide trigger adjustment
This compact and lightweight flugelhorn from Levante is a perfect instrument for musicians looking to make a significant step up in their instrument or dive deep into practicing the flugelhorn. The horn features a small 0.433-inch bore size combined with a six-inch bell, the same as on the Yamaha flugelhorn.
Still, users found that this horn is slightly easier to play than the Yamaha horn thanks to the overall smaller size. In addition, the nickel silver construction mixed in with the gold brass gives it a feel and sound that resembles a trumpet, making it an easier proposition for trumpeters to switch over to this flugelhorn. However, this loss in the depth of the sound quality is one of the limitations that keeps this horn from being recommended for professional musicians, and especially jazz musicians.
Still, this flugelhorn has many professional qualities to it. The monel pistons make it easy to adjust the tone of the horn, while the valve buttons are finished with mother-of-pearl for a smooth touch. Users found that the third slide trigger adjustment moves smoothly when needed. Overall, users loved the sound that the horn makes and felt that it was a beautiful instrument for the price.
Levante also includes a mouthpiece and soft case with this flugelhorn. However, note that the warranty is surprisingly short for such a well-designed instrument, at just one year.
Small bore and six-inch bell
Monel pistons and mother-of-peal-finished valves
Comes with carrying case and mouthpiece
Nickle silver in construction takes away some depth of sound
Short one-year warranty
- Key: Bb
- Bore size: .46’’
- Material: brass copper, brass gold
- Weight: 9 lbs
- Warranty: not specified
More features: white gloves, valve oil and cleaning cloth included, plush lined case included, third slide trigger, lacquer finish
This inexpensive flugelhorn is a non-committing option for beginners or burgeoning musicians to try out the flugelhorn without spending tons of money. The horn is relatively basic and does not produce the deep, vibrant sound quality that flugelhorns are known for, but users found that it does provide an introduction to this instrument that can lead to upgrading later.
The main reason that the horn does not produce the unique flugelhorn sound is that it has a large 0.46-inch bore size. However, this same large bore size makes it extremely easy for beginners to play since moving air through the horn is relatively smooth and unhindered. The brass copper in the construction also contributes to the brightness of the sound, although this is in part what keeps the flugelhorn so inexpensive.
In addition, the pistons are not monel. Users felt that compared to more expensive flugelhorns, the valves on this horn were somewhat difficult to slide, as was the third trigger slide. However, most beginner musicians who have not handled higher-end horns did not seem to notice any special grating in the valves and felt that the horn played quite smoothly.
The flugelhorn is further adapted to beginners by coming with everything you need to play and maintain your flugelhorn, including not only a mouthpiece but also valve oil and a soft case. Note that many users chose to upgrade the mouthpiece, since the mouthpiece that comes with the horn is relatively cheap and users found that the plating wore off within a year of practicing.
Large 0.46-inch bore size is ideal for beginners
Comes with valve oil, mouthpiece, and case
Non-monel valves are difficult to slide compared to higher-end flugelhorns
Lacks the deep sound flugelhorns are known for
Now that you’ve learned more about our five favorite flugelhorns, how do you choose between them to get the instrument that’s right for your ability level, budget, and the sound qualities you want? Our Buying Guide will cover everything you need to know about flugelhorns, from why they are a good choice for your next instrument to the features you need to consider when picking a flugelhorn.
Why you should choose to play flugelhorn
The flugelhorn is highly similar to the trumpet, which makes it easy for experienced trumpeters to jump from one to the other and back. But the flugelhorn offers a deeper and darker tone that is widely beloved by jazz and brass band musicians. In addition, flugelhorns are often smoother to play than trumpets, making them fun and exciting for musicians who have some experience with the trumpet.
Give it to the sound – music for a flugelhorn
The dark, yet smooth tone of flugelhorns makes it a favorable addition to a wide variety of music styles. This instrument is most commonly used with brass and jazz bands, and it can often be included in concert bands as well. Although orchestras don’t always have flugelhorns, there are many pieces that do call for a flugelhorn accompaniment. While most flugelhorn musicians focus on improving their skills in one of these four types of music, there are no rules against playing multiple different types of styles with your flugelhorn.
Flugelhorns are not the most expensive instrument, but like any musical instrument they can get pricey as the quality of the brass and design goes up. Budget flugelhorns, like the Levante or Hawk horns, can be had for under $600. On the other hand, professional flugelhorns like the Yamaha model can cost nearly $2,000.
Features to consider while buying the best flugelhorn
When it comes to finding the right flugelhorn for you, there are a number of important features of these horns to consider. Here, we’ll take a look at the most essential features and explain how they can impact the sound and playability of your flugelhorn.
Your skill level will be an important component to think about when choosing a flugelhorn. Beginner flugelhorns, like the RS Berkeley horn, are designed to be easier for beginners to move air through and are more forgiving when it comes to making quality sound. Professional horns like the Yamaha, on the other hand, can give you more control over the instrument’s sound and key movements but may be discouraging for musicians who are new to the flugelhorn.
The vast majority of flugelhorns, including all of the instruments we reviewed, use a three-valve configuration. These flugelhorns include a slide trigger that allows you to extend the range of the instrument with deeper notes.
However, there are some flugelhorns that add the deeper range with a fourth valve. While some musicians may prefer this extra valve, it can add extra weight to the instrument that can become cumbersome when playing at longer gigs.
Material and finish
The finish of your flugelhorn’s brass is more than just aesthetic – the finish can also affect sound quality. Silver brass typically produces a brighter sound, closer to the sound of a trumpet, while a yellow or gold brass finish produces the darker sound that flugelhorns are known for. As a result, most flugelhorns opt for a gold brass finish.
The sound of a flugelhorn is unique among brass instruments and is often described as deep, dark, and resonant. When choosing a flugelhorn, it’s important not to select an instrument that sounds like a trumpet – you want a flugelhorn that has the distinctive tone that this instrument is know for. Note that because of the flugelhorn’s propensity for deeper, darker tones, it can be difficult to control notes made in the highest register of the instrument.
Size and weight
While flugelhorns do not vary much in size or weight, the small variation can have a big difference on your playing style. A lighter flugelhorn, like the Levante or Bach instruments, can be easier to hold for longer periods if you frequently play extended gigs. At the same time, the smaller box of these flugelhorns further distinguishes their sound from that of trumpets.
That said, there is nothing wrong with larger or heavier flugelhorns. It is important to make sure the flugelhorn feels balanced in your hand and matches your playing style.
Compared to trumpets, the bore sizes of flugelhorns can vary widely – which means that similar-looking flugelhorns can produce very different types of sound. Large-bore flugelhorns, like the Hawk horn, play more like a trumpet and can be ideal for beginners since they make it easier to move air through the horn. Flugelhorns with larger bores are also capable of producing more volume, although this is not a concern for most players.
The remainder of the flugelhorns we reviewed are medium-bore flugelhorns, since small-bore flugelhorns have bores on the order of 0.415 inches. The smaller the bore of the flugelhorn, the more distinctive the sound. But at the same time, musicians are likely to face more air resistance when playing with a smaller bore, which can be difficult for beginner and intermediate players alike.
There are a variety of different flugelhorn mouthpieces that are differentiated by their tapers. These different tapers will affect your ability to intonate and pass air through your flugelhorn, although it’s easy to change the mouthpiece for one with a different taper after your purchase. If you get a flugelhorn with a mouthpiece and are not happy with the way it plays, consider trying a different mouthpiece before giving up on your instrument.
Flugelhorns are expensive instruments, so many manufacturers provide warranties to give peace of mind and insure your purchase against defects. Yamaha and Bach offer the longest warranties – up to five years from the date of purchase.
Tips for flugelhorn players
The flugelhorn and trumpet are very similar, so if you are coming from the trumpet switching over will be relatively easy. However, there are important differences that you need to consider.
If you are having trouble with your switch to the flugelhorn, consider trying a different mouthpiece or using a flugelhorn with a larger bore. Either of these changes can make it easier to move air through the instrument.
The primary difference between the flugelhorn and the trumpet is that the flugelhorn’s tubing is a larger diameter. This larger tubing is what causes the flugelhorn’s sound to be deeper and darker, as well as explains why the flugelhorn is typically a larger instrument than the trumpet. Note also that the bore size on flugelhorns has a much wider range than on trumpets, so flugelhorns with different bores can have significantly more different sound qualities than can trumpets with different bores.
The most common problem that musicians have with their flugelhorn is inserting the mouthpiece incorrectly. Secure the mouthpiece in your horn with a slight twist, but never force it as it may become stuck in place. If the mouthpiece does become stuck, never force it out with pliers as you can damage both the mouthpiece and the horn – take it to a music shop for removal instead.
When it comes to maintaining your flugelhorn, the most important thing you can do is to keep it protected in a carrying case and out of sunlight or other weather. You should always dry off the instrument before packing it away, as well as apply valve oil to each of the valves before and after every time you play your flugelhorn. It is also important to apply slide grease to the slide whenever you find that it is not moving smoothly through the tubing.
The Yamaha flugelhorn is beautifully designed and offers one of the deepest, most unique sound tones out of any of the instruments we reviewed, making it an ideal choice for professional jazz musicians. The small 0.433-inch bore and six-inch bell combined to offer incredible sound quality and volume for musicians who could deal with the higher resistance to airflow.
The RS Berkeley flugelhorn, on the other hand, is much more suitable for beginners. It features a wider bore size and a larger bell, both of which make it somewhat easier to play, as well as a red brass copper and nickel silver construction that lifts the sound to bring it closer to that of a trumpet.
We feel that the Bach horn is the overall best flugelhorn on the market today because of its all-around performance and design. Users were impressed at how smooth the flugelhorn felt given its relatively modest price, while the small bore size and yellow brass construction allow it to produce the deeper tones for which flugelhorns are known.