How to Use a Sounding Horn

Congratulations on your new AleHorn XL Viking Gjallarhorn! Or maybe you haven't bought one? Maybe you're just gazing at the page, secretly coveting it? After all, this isn't just any old drinking horn. This is the Gjallarhorn!

Whether you have it in your hands or are just really hoping to get one sometime soon, you need to know how to play a sounding horn in order to appreciate it fully.

But first: keep in mind that this isn't one of those things that people take to immediately. It's going to take a lot of practice to get your mouth to make the exact right choice. So don't get discouraged!

Here's how you make your Horn of Gondor strike fear into the hearts of your enemies:

1. Lick your lips, or use some chapstick. Waxier is better. You want a good seal on this baby.
2. Pucker your lips and put the upper one into the opening at the bottom of the horn. Your bottom one should be slightly below.
3. Take a nice, deep breath and pull it in with your diaphragm, not your mouth. You need that air to get all the way down in your lungs.
4. When you're full of air, push out with your mouth. The push is important: that's how you get volume. But you also don't want to over-push either, because then you won't have any control over the sound. You'll need to find a sweet spot, and that's going to take a couple tries.
5. Practice, practice, practice! Keep trying different lip positions, different force, and even different rhythms.

Want to be famous? Send us a video of your progress and we might post it to our social media.

So, you’ve finally given in to your wildest Viking dreams and purchased a Gjallarhorn— also known as a sounding horn. Congratulations! You’re in for a lifetime of annoying your spouse/roommates, terrifying your pets, and feeling like a fucking bad ass every time you blow that sucker. But first, you need to know the ins-and-outs of the Gjallarhorn. You don’t just pick one up and sound like Heimdall right away. It takes practice, time, and patience. Here’s a quick and easy guide to hit the ground running as soon as the Gjallarhorn is in your hands.

Did you play the trumpet or another brass instrument in high school band? Congratulations– you have a head start!

1. Create a seal
If you pull a Bugs Bunny and put the whole horn in your mouth and blow, that won’t accomplish much. Think more like Boromir blowing the horn of Gondor. To get a good, clear sound, you need to make a perfect seal with your mouth around the horn’s hole, not over. Purse your lips and set them gently around it. If you have chronic dry lips, chapstick will be your friend. Any air that escapes your lips is air that’s not making an awesome sound. Your lips should be pushed against the flat part of the horn, around the hole. Push with your upper lip and keep it tight. Keep your lower lip a little loose. Adjust as needed to make a sound.

It’s important to remember that your first time probably isn’t going to be perfect. You might not even make any noise at all. But keep trying and adjusting. Eventually, you’ll get it right and then positioning will be second nature.

2. Blow that beautiful baby
Take a deep breath. Now, you aren’t going to blow with your mouth. Blow with your diaphragm and your lungs. If that’s difficult for you to conceptualize, practice a few times. Pull in air with your belly and as you’re doing it, picture yourself pulling it all the way down to your toes. Then, push it out of your mouth. It kind of feels the same as throwing up. You’re pushing up with your diaphragm, not your mouth, and not your lips. Those need to stay perfectly still. Your lips are going to vibrate. It’s going to feel weird, even a little itchy or painful at first, but you’ll get used to it in no time.

Sounding Horns

3. Practice, practice, practice!
As with any air-blown instruments, or even whistling with just your lips, it’s going to take time to get things exactly right. Try making micro-adjustments with your lips, re-positioning your tongue, or even using the side of your lips instead of the center. The more you mess around and practice, the cleaner and louder the noise will get. Once you get the sound right, try playing with different rhythms and sounds. Putting your hand inside the bell/end of the horn can change pitch to two or three different notes. With diligent practice, you’ll be an absolute pro in no time.

4. The care and keeping of your horn
Like any instrument, there’s going to be a build-up of spit and gunk in your horn. Wash it out with hot water and soap. I use a long, hookah brush to get in there really good. Once it’s clean, you can also cork these horns and use them as you would a regular alehorn– for quaffing mead or ale. Our horns don’t leak. Make sure to wash it out in between drinks so that it doesn’t attract any unwanted friends, like mold or ants. Take good care of your horn, and it will become a family heirloom for many years to come.

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