Heidi Wick – Applying Natural Horn Technique to Modern Valved Horn Performance Practice, DMA Ohio State University, 2001, 88 p.
I don’t have a single answer for this next question; I do have a bunch of possible answers and even more follow-up questions. Read the question. Think about it. Then send in your comment and we’ll compare thoughts on the subject.
What is the best thing to play in those situations where you have only a very short time to warm-up, e.g. before you go on stage for a performance (recital, band, orchestra, chamber music) or for an audition, etc.? You only have, oh, 15 seconds. Or 30 seconds. A minute, max.
Ideas that you might address in your answer(s):
What do you usually play in those circumstances?
What is the optimum thing to play?
Funny thing about horn players. As students we get introduced to a warm-up/workout routine in high school or college and we learn it (a good thing) and then proceed to repeat it for the next umpteen years. Routines have one big positive: you know how it goes, they cover a bunch of stuff – all good stuff – and you can zip through them and feel good about yourself. You’ve done your duty, taken your daily vitamins, and now you can go practice. What could be wrong with that?
Nothing – it’s all good. Except that one little thing…
Most of my thoughts on improv go into my other blog, Improv Insights, but this is a lot about horn; I was just asked a question in an email by Jacob Schnitzer, an undergrad horn student in the studio of Patrick Hughes at UT-Austin. He wondered about the role of jazz in a horn player’s experience. Here’s what I wrote back:
More notes from long ago….
The two sides of the brain interfere with each other. Therefore, a real artist (in sports or music or dance etc) has no thought because he is totally focused on the thing he is doing and the feeling of it, all of its subtle requirements, to let it be fulfilled. Left side partisans regard this ‘no-mind’ state required to produce the art as a negative thing.
You learn technique from basic exercises, not from etudes, especially complicated etudes. Unless you break the etude down into its basic components and make an etude out of each basic component.
Below are further transcriptions from that notebook from long ago. Keep in mind that each paragraph may not necessarily have anything to do with the one before it, that it may have been added days or weeks or months after the last entry.
Dealing with the unenlightened…. There are those, who, because of their own insecurity about themselves and their playing, will attempt to undermine your confidence about yourself and your playing. The easiest to deal with are those who are blunt about it; but most often, these people like to couch cutting remarks in words of pseudo-praise. The defense is to be unconcerned with anything they say – once you let your spirits be at the mercy of praise and criticism, you are completely in these people’s power. They aim to manipulate your feelings and it is your choice to let them or not. e.g.: auditions.
Think of high notes not as being ‘hard’ but only as having different requirements – air, muscle tension, attack, mouthpiece pressure, etc. If you attach the judgment of ‘hard’ to it, then this sends a signal of ‘Danger -flight or fight!” to the body, dumps adrenalin, muscles tighten, fighting each other, breathing hindered, Panic, can’t think straight, clam city!
When I first started playing professionally in an orchestra many years ago, some interesting things happened. Life was a little different than I had imagined before that. Everyone’s experience is different; what happened in mine back then was, first of all, the job was a different experience than I expected. I had imagined musical excitement every day – what a dream to get to play music for a living! Well, sometimes. A good bit of it was, after a while anyway, pretty routine. A small part of it was sheer terror. But that part is not what I want to talk about here. I want to talk about the other thing that started happening back then…
I’ve never figured it out it. If someone knows the answer, please clue me in. It’s this: we are hectored to play scales from early on. Although I’m not a fan of the traditional way that they are approached (octave only, emphasis on major scales and easier keys, going up and down only), there is a good reason for this: a good deal of the music that we play is constructed from scales. All well and good. Except for one thing: the other half of the way music is constructed is arpeggios. But they are not part of the hectoring. They are perhaps touched on, but never asked in, say, high school contest or All-State auditions. Young players are largely innocent of any kind of familiarity with arpeggios, even just major 135s. Your new all-state student may be able to zip through her two octave major scales, but watch what happens when you ask them to play a one octave major arpeggio in all keys. Even a few keys. Even just triads. They just give you a puzzled, pained look that says, nope, haven’t done that, they don’t ask for them in all-state auditions, why should I bother if I’m not required to do it?
Braces! I never had them as a kid (so my lower teeth look like a derailed freight train from the air) and can only empathize what it must be like to have to try to play horn. Pressing that hunk of metal against your lips with that razor wire decorating your front teeth slicing your lip from the other side. Ow. Ow. Ow!
My 7th grader, N, just got braces and is in that situation. I told him that there are products (like Braceguard) that provide something of a cushion on the brace metal for brass players. He says it doesn’t hurt and doesn’t think he needs it. But it’s clear that his range has clearly suffered. Playing a third space C might as well be a high C. He loves to play the horn, but is very much limited. What to do? How do you keep a young player busy until the braces come off in a year and a half? Continue reading