I find it very enlightening and useful to compare the various aspects of horn playing with other disciplines, some similar, some (on the surface) not similar at all. I’ve done this mostly with sports/athletics and some with business, but more recently I was thinking about the parallels of what we do as classical musicians and what actors in a play do. In short, we recite. We recite texts that others have created for us to perform for audiences. It’s up to us to infuse the bare text with life so that the audience is captivated by our performance (and, hopefully, clamors for more, and wants to shower us with praise [applause] for a job well done).
My new book, Improv Games for 1 Player was just released by GIA Publications. About half of the content is taken from the big book (354 p.), Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians (also GIA) and half is new material that I have collected or invented since the publication of the big book two years ago. The great thing about the big book is its vast content. The problem with the big book is its vast content – it’s not very portable. This volume is much slimmer (56 p.) and should fit easily in any instrumental case.
Reader Jesse called my attention to another training program called Tabata. Let me quote from the first thing that a Google search turned up – an “Ezines @rticle” entitled “Tabata Anything – Four Minutes of Pain to Gain” by John Harker:
“The Tabata protocol is a high-intensity training regimen that produces remarkable results. A Tabata workout (also called a Tabata sequence) is an interval training cycle of 20 seconds of maximum intensity exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated without pause 8 times for a total of four minutes. In a group context, you can keep score by counting how many lifts/jumps/whatever you do in each of the 20 second rounds. The round with the smallest number is your score.”
I have been wondering what form this might take on the horn since Jesse’s comment, but an answer came to me last weekend: I played Shostakovich Sym. No. 5, and there it was: that blastissimo unison section on p. 2 ought to serve nicely as the 20-second high-intensity part of a Tabata training. 4 minutes of this 20 seconds on/10 seconds off routine should be a good way to build up strength, power, and muscle tone without overdoing it or causing injury. It might take some experimentation to decide if the 20/10 time allotments are optimal for horn players; it’s also possible that these numbers can and should vary from one person to the next. But they’re a good place to start.
This Shostakovich excerpt is also not the only one that could be used for this, either alone or in alternation with other excerpts. Tchaikovsky (e.g. Tchaik 4) is full of such spots, as is Strauss, Bruckner, Mahler, Wagner, and others. We would be pleased to hear from players experimenting with Tabata and various excerpts.