Once upon a time, about 99.2% of all beginning horn players used single F horns. The traditional justification was that the single F instills better technical discipline at the start, giving the student a stronger foundation once s/he switches to double horn.
But in recent years the trend has been more and more to either start on the single Bb horn or go directly to the double. Here, the justification is that the single Bb is the easiest to play, which will prevent the kind of discouragement that might happen if a student feels compelled to use a single F in the name of rigor.
Of course, this approach leaves the single F out in the cold, at least it seems. I'm curious what role the single F might play in the future, if the single Bb replaces the F as the "standard" beginning instrument.
I currently play on a Conn 14D single F just because I got my old compensating double stolen years ago, and haven't had the money for a double up to this point. I'm actually very happy with the response and tone quality, as well as the strong low register - but I'm fully aware of the trouble I run into once I go above written E in the upper-middle register. So I'm now saving up for a quality used double, likely either a 6d or one of the "intermediate" Holton doubles.
However, I'm seriously thinking that I'll hold on to my 14D even after getting a double. The main reason is that I'm used to playing low horn and have begun to really appreciate music where the 2nd and 4th parts go below sub-staff G. So I could easily see myself playing lots of music where I rarely go into the squirrely high register. Another reason is monetary value. Single F horns don't hold their value well because of their strong beginner-oriented reputation. This means that if it somehow gets lost/stolen/damaged, I won't be out too much $$$.
What do you think? Do you see a future for the single F - and if so, what might it be?
I'm lucky enough to have a Carl Geyer single F with stopping valve. It needs work, but even so, warming up on it improves my tone when going onto the double and quite frankly, for Early Classical it just sounds so much better in smaller orchestras or in chamber music. I think that it should be in any serious horn player's !*****!nal. That said, I think it best to try to get a student a double and try getting them to work out on the F side at first but having the ease for the upper end. Something I'd like to see is an affordable compact double since I've seen a number of young kids having major issues trying to even finger a horn. I know Nirschl makes something, but even smaller players have many issues.
I started on horn in the fifth grade, playing the schools Conn 14D. I personally am not I fan of Conn horns(partly from playing on badly maintained school horns-until I got my first Double), but I much prefer the horn in F, to the B-flat. I have found that I use the F-side of the horn much more than other players. I find the sound quality better and intonation as well(and this is every horn I have every played..conns,holtons ,yamaha,hoyers, and reynolds). I had a horn professor who drilled into his students to switch to bflat--side when you reached second space a. Most players seem to rarely use the f-side.I do use bflat for some passages in the staff, but generally not until efat top-space. To each his own I guess. Oh I have noticed that alot of used Conn 6 d horns can be picked up at very reasonable prices. You may want to try to find an old Reynolds contempora( as they seem to be priced cheaply as well-if you can find one) if you want a horn that plays more like an 8d.
After babbling on in that last post, I didnt make the point I intended, that is I think I am a better player for starting out on the single F horn as opposed to the bflat(which I still believe has a less smooth sound).
Apparently I found out that the 14D's bore and bell are pretty similar to the 6D rather than the 8D...so given how happy I am with my tone color I think I'll be just fine with a good used 6D.
After going double, I may get my 14D converted into a natural horn (look up Jackalope on Google to learn about a brass shop in Eugene, Oregon that does natural horn conversions). Eventually I may also add a single B-flat to my a.rsenal too.
Any Single horn is good for a younger beginner because of weight. I learned on a double from the get go, my friends who were good learned on single Bb's.
I think people who learned on Bb have an easier time adding the F horn. F horn learner seem to have a larger learning curve adding the Bb fingerings. I certainly like the tone of the F single for beginners.
As a performer I use doubles, descants, and singles (in various keys).