Monthly Archives: December 2009

So You Want to be a Professional Hornist?

{Disclaimer: The below is very basic information and not intended to be the right thing for any individual person. We are all different and need different thoughts and techniques to reach the goals we seek. I believe that every music school should provide a class that is required of every music student. This class should be about the world of music, expectations, number of jobs for number of job seekers, and basically telling the student what they are getting themselves into}

Reading through tweets on Twitter today my mind began to wander. Not that what I was reading was not interesting, informative, humorous, or enjoyable, but some tweets tweaked my minds thought processes. Those individuals, fellow musicians, I follow on Twitter that have such wonderful minds. So open, fresh, thought-provoking, and they just seem to be good people. Today, especially, the posts from these individuals brought to mind some thoughts on the job as a principal horn and what takes to be a professional hornist.

Holding the principal horn position in an orchestra is quite thrilling, but also quite demanding mentally and physically. Every little thing that happens to you health-wise or in every day life can affect your performance. This is not just an issue for the principal hornist but any performing musician. Health is the utmost importance and I can say that I have played through colds, flu, strep throat, headaches, and myriad other maladies.

In speaking with other principal horn colleagues there are some that feel our necks are on the line each and every time we put horn up to play. Some expressed they felt this even when practicing at home. In the back of ones mind is the thought that one must not make mistakes. Mistakes happen, but as principal horn with the numerous solos, playing only in the upper tessitura, long periods of not playing (where are we? Rest 124?) and then being required to peg some stratospheric note out of nowhere, and so much more the expectations are quite high.

Life as a musician is quite grand. To perform music is such an honor. So many times I found myself listening to a colleague during a performance and becoming so enthralled with their expression that I felt time had stopped. It can be so glorious.

So, do you still want to be a professional hornist? Let me provide some thoughts. Most of these have been garnered from my teachers or colleagues. This is not the end-all method for anyone to become a professional hornist. Just some thoughts on the topic.

Typical Daily Regime for the serious student which was garnered from Kendall Betts, former principal horn of the Minnesota Orchestra during a master class:

  • 20-45 minutes F horn warm up such as Farkas.
  • 30-60 minutes etudes, some or all on F horn, such as Kopprasch, Kling, Gallay, Belloli, Reynolds, and others.
  • 20-45 minutes technical routines such as scales, arpeggios, broken arpeggios, chordal arpeggios, Clarke, Arban, Singer, or other technical materials.
  • 20-45 minutes long tones: pp<ff>pp; ff>pp<ff: holding pp, holding ff. (Long tones should not be performed higher than current capability. Slowly add a half-step every couple of weeks or so.)
  • 30-60 minutes repertoire: solos, excerpts, orchestral parts, etc.

After that master class I lived by the above regime. Even today I work on these areas each and every day.

As with any muscle-related activity one must be very cognizant to not overdue. If you are currently not practicing regularly do not attempt to use the above regime. One must also consider rehearsal and performance schedule. It is also very important to log your practice. As a student logging your practice regime will allow you to analyze your routine, when you are tired, when you feel fresh, and work to change your routine so that it meets your needs.

For young students work on the F horn is extremely important. Work on this side of the horn truly aids endurance, more natural slurs, better intonation, smoother piano not attacks, and more tonal color due to the sounding overtones. Truly, work on the F horn will provide one with some difficult practice After one has work through the first four or five Kopprasch Etudes the results will be clearly evident.

Kopprasch, Etudes, Op. 6, etude no. 29, mm. 1-18.

The above only provides some basic information on the time involved each day for a hornist. This will vary depending on the needs of the individual. There is so much more to being a professional musician on any instrument, and this is only the beginning. These are just thoughts from one hornist on a cold, snowy day who had a little bit of time in between playing scales and arpeggios, and going through a few Kopprasch etudes on F horn.

Let me leave you with Sir Simon Rattle’s thoughts on hornists:

You never eyeball a horn player. You just don’t. They’re stuntmen. You don’t eyeball stuntmen when they’re about to dice with death.

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Checking out WordPress’ “Post by Email” – Only a Test

There is a new post by email feature for WordPress.com. Wanted to test this feature and use some of the special formatting tags.

As I write this test for WordPress’ “Post by Email” feature I keep hearing “This is a test. This is only a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System”. Then there is that loud, sharp tone piercing through the radio speakers. According to the U.S. Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau “the Attention Signal most commonly associated with the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) was a combination of the sine waves of 853 and 960 Hz, a completely disharmonic combination that is extremely offensive to the human ear”. Really? Offensive?

With Winter hitting hard here in SW Missouri I thought a warmer photo would be nice. This allows me to test the photo upload feature when emailing a post to my blog. This photo was taken late Spring 2009 while driving to Kansas for a performance.

Happy Winter to all. Hopefully, I will have better stories and more posts in the new year.

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