TONY HALSTEAD Horn-practice Method NB before starting this, look at ‘Optional Therapy’ on page 2 NNB 99% of your practising should be done in a seated position, as this is how you will be performing, unless you are working specifically towards a solo/ concerto performance. 1. PRE-Warm-up: Exercise # 1A: (Without mouthpiece) Adopt and maintain an extreme ‘smiling’ lip position for a count of 5-10 seconds. Rest for 5 secs. Adopt and maintain an extreme ‘whistling’ lip position for 5-10 secs Rest for 5 secs. [Option: next time you do the Pre-Warm-up, reverse the order, i.e. start with the ‘whistling’ set-up] REPEAT the above, and then rest for 10 seconds Adopt & maintain a balanced, puckered -smile, ‘correct’ embouchure position for 10 secs Rest for 10 secs REPEAT the above. Exercise #1B: Deep-breathing. Time: 3-4 minutes Imagine breathing along a trough in the bottom of the mouth. This concept seems to help in achieving the full lung inflation that is needed for wind instrument playing. Vary the time taken to breathe in and out. E.g., inhale to a count of 3, exhale to a count of 6; inhale to a count of 5, exhale to a count of 10; inhale to a count of 1, exhale to a count of 12, etc. Vary the counts. When exhaling, your lips should be fairly close together, as if blowing out a candle; this offers some resistance to the outward air-stream. Don’t try to ‘buzz’ any notes yet.
You can do exercise while driving the car, pacing around the room, or walking the dog. Do bear in mind, though, that when playing the horn or other wind instrument we are sitting, or standing, fairly still. Don’t become a walking-breathing ‘junkie’! Exercise #1C: (Without mouthpiece); Time: 1 - 2 minutes. Buzz several up- and- down glissandi starting around middle G. Try to finish on a moderately high or a low note that you can sustain for at least a few seconds. ‘Hear’ a middle note. E.g. middle G, A or F, then buzz it, sustained, for 5-10 seconds. Start with the tongue. When the pitch feels secure, slur it a few times. Look in the mirror, trying to maintain the ‘moderately smiling pucker’ setting; try to avoid spreading the corners. Buzz the lowest note you can manage until the breath runs out. “ “ highest note “ “ “ “ “ “ “ “ Rest for 30seconds Exercise #1D: WITH MOUTHPIECE: Time: 2 - 3 minutes. Place a forefinger about halfway over the narrow end of the mouthpiece so as to simulate some of the horn’s resistance. Then proceed with this exercise: Repeat all of exercise #1C, but buzzing on the mouthpiece. Think of (and apply) firstly ‘minimum’ then ‘moderate’ pressure. Watch the corners of the mouth! Don’t spread them! Rest for 30seconds. PRE-WARM UP ENDS HERE. If the maximum suggested times have been followed, this will have taken about 12 minutes. Minimum time should be about 9 minutes NB: OPTIONAL THERAPY: For a very tired or strained embouchure. Exercise #0: If you have had a heavy playing session the previous day or night, and if the lip feels really sore, stiff or bruised, precede all the above with this very effective ‘natural’ cure: Take 2 clean kitchen bowls or saucepans, and
2 clean folded handkerchiefs, lint or cotton pads. Fill one bowl with very cold water, preferably including ice-cubes; fill the other bowl with very hot water, as hot as you can stand putting a finger in. Dip hanky no.1 in hot water, squeeze it out and apply it to the lip area until the water starts to cool down. Dip hanky no.2 in cold water, squeeze it out, apply it to the lip area until water starts to warm up. Repeat the above steps for several minutes or until the hot water is tepid and the cold is at room temperature. Then rest for 5 minutes before starting the pre-warm-up exercises. However bad the embouchure feels, continue through to and including exercise #1C. When you start exercise #1D, if the mouthpiece feels actually painful on the lips, STOP!! This means that there really is bruising; it may not be visible to the eye, because it is internal. Don’t do any playing at all on the mouthpiece for the rest of the day. Take ‘Arnica’ as either a pill or as (homeopathic) drops in water. Try to do exercises #1A to #1C at least one more time, maybe in the afternoon or evening. Before going to bed, do the therapeutic #0 again. Take some more Arnica. There will be a good chance that next day things will be OK. If it feels better, DON’T overdo it immediately! Do the Pre-warm-up and about half only of the following Playing- warm-up. NB Remember to repeat Exercise #0 (hot + cold water) before going to bed. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------2. PLAYING - Warm-up:
#2A: Time: 1-2 minutes. Insert a mute (normal, non-transposing); this eliminates or at least lessens your subconscious desire or need to make ‘a good sound’ initially. Play several gentle, slurred middle-register chromatic scales over a range of, firstly an octave, then a twelfth. Start around A or G below middle C. NB Remember to BREATHE and to push air THROUGH the horn, not ‘at’ it. NNB No tonguing yet. #2B: Time: 1-2 minutes. Remove the mute and repeat the above. Don’t worry at this stage about getting a ‘pure’ or ‘clean’ tone quality. Exercises #2A to #2D are primarily ‘callisthenic’ procedures rather than musical statements or performances! (Play unmuted from now on) #2C: Time: 3-4 minutes. a) Play slurred sections of the harmonic series (stay on one valve combination at a time, of course) working outwards from the middle register. Start on the F-side (if you have one) and proceed to the Bb side by alternately lengthening and shortening the valve combinations Music example #2Ca: b) Gradually add on more notes, including the out-of-tune notes of the harmonic series e.g. Harmonics 7 (quite flat) and 11 (quite sharp) as well. Play as high as top-space G, and maybe the G# and the A above. Music example #2Cb: #2D: Time: 2 minutes: Repeat the 2nd part of #2C but gradually introduce tongued groups of notes; try to play higher, up to Bb, B natural and C if possible. Music example #2D: Rest for 30 seconds -one minute
#2E: Time: 2 minutes. At this point, you should start concentrating on achieving a full, round, ringing tone-quality. Play 4 or 5 major and/or minor scales over a range of at least 2 octaves. Alternate between slurring and tonguing patterns. Include at least one 3 -octave scale, e.g. Start on ‘pedal’ A and play up to A above the stave, and down again. #2F: Time: 2 minutes. Repeat # 2E but play arpeggios instead of scales. Include at least one diminished or dominant 7th arpeggio. Rest for 30 sacs. to one minute #2G: Time: 3-4 minutes. Play a series of Long tones, at different dynamics and in different registers. Not just the ‘old-fashioned’ crescendo-diminuendo ones, but including a) fully-sustained sound; b) starting forte then diminuendo; c) starting piano then crescendo; d) pianissimo, as long as possible. Alternate tongued attacks and breath attacks. PLAYING-WARM-UP ENDS HERE. Total time of warm-up: c.20 minute’s maximum, c.15 minute’s minimum. Rest for 5 to 10 minutes. -------------------------------------------------Practise Plan after ‘Playing- Warm-up’: Optimum: 3 sessions of daily practise on ‘free’ days: Session 1: 25-30 minutes, starting 5 to 10 minutes after end of complete warm-up “ 2: 30-35 minutes (afternoon) “ 3: 35-40 minutes (evening) Alternative 1: 2 practise sessions on moderately busy days: Session 1: 30-35 minutes, starting 10 to 15 minutes after end of warm-up
“ 2: 40-45 minutes (afternoon or evening) Alternative 2: 1 practise session on busy days: A 40-50 min session if possible; if you need to, take a 3-5 minute break at some point. Some days you will do only the Pre-Warm-up and the Playing-Warm-up, followed by a rehearsal or a performance session. If you are travelling to a rehearsal or performance, and delayed, you can (and must!) still do most of the Pre-Warm-up, especially when travelling by car! If you do it on the train or ‘plane, you might get some funny looks............you could in fact do the Pre-Warm-up in the toilet! 3) TONING-UP EXERCISES #3A: Jaw-flexibility exercise. / Middle-to-Low register control exercise. / 3-5 minutes NB Obligatory for all practise sessions. Staying on one valve combination, starting around or on middle C, ‘bend’ notes down (flatten the pitch) by simultaneously lowering and protruding the bottom jaw. The jaw ‘guides’ the embouchure into the next correct slot for the next note down. Middle C is lowered to G; G is lowered to pedal C. Middle B is lowered to F#; F# to pedal B, etc. Don’t allow the note you are playing to drop down to the next one until you are sure that its pitch has been bent/ flattened by at least a semitone. Work through all fingering combinations on both sides of the double horn. NB This exercise needs plenty of breath. Music example #3A: Rest for one minute Options: choose either #3B, #3C, or #3D, alternating between practise sessions. If your practise day includes the optimum 3 sessions, you will cover all 3 exercises each day! #3B: Lip-trills: 2-4 minutes A moveable, therefore flexible lower jaw is essential for lip-trills. Exercise #3A is helpful for this.
Practise a lower-jaw-activated, rather fast vibrato firstly, on the notes that require trilling. The more ‘musically vulgar’ and extreme the vibrato is, the more helpful it will be to the eventual achievement of a good trill. The vibrato helps the embouchure to ‘break away’ from the single pitch onto the next functional note of the trill. One pulse of the vibrato ultimately yields the two adjacent pitches of the trill. #3C: Accuracy: 2-4 minutes Visualise and ‘hear’ a random series of notes that you then play. Remove the mouthpiece from the lips between each note. (Maybe you could use the Farkas exercise for this.) Make some of the attacks ‘without tongue’. NB Your mental visualisation (‘imaging’) of each note should contain an exact quantification of its type of attack (hard, soft, moderate, etc); its tonal timbre (bright to dark and intermediate shades); and its duration. Music example #3C: #3D: High register: 4-6 minutes 1) Whistle (without the m’piece) a few notes in the middle of the whistling range. Whistle some ascending intervals, e.g. up a 5th, a 6th or even an octave if you can. Notice that the upward slur is achieved by the raising of the tongue towards the roof of the mouth. Memorise that sensation! The ascending-octave (or higher) tongue movement is used in the next section (2). 2) Play a series of rapid upwards glissandi using long-ish valve combinations so that you can ‘catch’ lots of the notes of the harmonic series. Take deep breaths, and blow quite quickly but not too loud, around ‘mezzo-piano’ to ‘mezzo-forte’, with a light-ish mouthpiece pressure so that the lip doesn’t get too ‘slotted into’ the lower pitches particularly, but ‘skims’ over the notes. Start on any note between Middle C and 2nd line G. When making the glissandi, remember to raise the tongue as in whistling. Try to press only a little more as you approach the top of the glissando. As long as you aren’t pressing VERY hard or stretching/ bunching the lips (try to keep the chin down, see the picture in the Farkas book) after about 8 or 10 glissandi there will be a sort of
‘average’ high or high-ish note which emerges as the one most often achieved at the end of the glissando. Rest for 30 secs and try to remember what that ‘average ‘ note was. E.g. Top A, Bb etc. Maybe high C! Even if you were only getting up to a G this exercise is worthwhile. 3) Do the glissandi again, maybe 5 - 10 times, but this time, really aim for the ‘average’ note that you were getting/ achieving with some consistency in part 2. When it feels secure, sustain it for 3 - 5 secs (longer if you wish). Try to get a strong sensation, while sustaining that note, of exactly how firm your abdominal area is. It should be ‘set’ as if to protect from injury by e.g., a punch. 4) Glissando to that high note, sustain it for 2 - 3 secs and then, without any valve change try to move (slur) up just one more step; this will probably be a semitone. E.g. if the glissando has been on the F horn, 1st valve, and if the sustained note has been high A (15th harmonic of the Bb/concert- Eb series) the next note will be high Bb (16th harmonic). If you have been using the Bb horn for the glissando, e.g., 4th valve plus e.g. valves 2 and 3, and the high sustained note was high G# (12th harmonic of the C#/ concert F# series) the next note will be a rather sharp high A (13th harmonic). When moving up to that next higher note, try to make the abdomen even firmer, and don’t press any harder with the mouthpiece; raise the tongue even higher and the Next note WILL come out! Be happy enough if you get it a few times, if only for ½ a second. If you feel strong and secure on it, sustain it for a few seconds. NB Important: Rest for at least 2 to 3 minutes! #4: Studies (‘Etudes’) Having played any of the above exercises, #3B, #3C and especially #3D which is (and should be) quite strenuous, now is a good time to practise (initially in short sections before attempting a performance) a ‘low-register’ study. Good ones are:
Gallay: studies for 2nd horn (tuneful and musically enjoyable); De Pre: studies Neuling: Studien fur Tiefes Horn, 2 volumes (less charming, musically, but quite a workout); Verne Reynolds: 49 studies, some of which are low-register studies. These are very challenging but worthwhile. (‘Digression’: Neuling: Bagatelle for horn and piano: Unfortunately, this rather poor and musically unchallenging piece is frequently requested at orchestral low-horn auditions. The only good thing that can be said about it is that it contains quite a lot of low notes! I have personally seen, on several players’ copies of this piece, the word ‘Bagatelle’ crossed out and replaced by ‘Bag of s--t’!) NB Always work on a low-register study after practicing #3D! If your practise session has not included #3D, choose and work on one of the following: Belloli: 12 Grand Studies (Otto Langey Tutor, Boosey and Hawkes); Maxime-Alphonse: studies (Leduc): books 4, 5 or 6 are the probably the most interesting. NB When playing the Maxime-Alphonse studies be aware that some of the suggested fingerings are intended for the ‘traditional’ French ascending-3rd-valve horn; Verne Reynolds: 49 studies (Schirmer) Gunther Schuller: studies (OUP) I don’t personally recommend the Kopprasch studies (although I am aware that many players use them) as I find them too predictably formulaic and musically dull. There are many other study-books worth investigating, e.g. Gallay’s studies and ‘unmeasured preludes’: Ward Fearn’s Exercises in Flexible Horn Playing. My own Suite for Solo Horn (Emerson edition) occupies the middle ground between a study and a recital piece. NB If you have spent 10 to 15 minutes practising a Study, you will have reached the end of your 1st session (of 3), especially if you have devoted the maximum suggested times to the Toning-Up exercises. Your 2nd practise session should begin with a shortened version of the Playing- warm-up routine, then miss out the Study (unless you have practised #3D) and go straight to sections #5 through to #8. If you can do only 2 practise
sessions, spend 8 to 10 minutes of session 1 on a Study, and then proceed to the options of #5 + following (below). #5: Concert works: sonatas, concertos, chamber works, orchestral extracts. Your choice! NB If you are preparing a work for public performance or recording, don’t be content with having only enough stamina to play through it once. Make it your goal to play through it twice with hardly any rest between the 2 performances. To achieve this, build it up by degrees; e.g. play all 3 movements of a concerto or sonata (if you can; if not, play as far as you can) and then immediately try to play at least the first third or half of the first movement once again. On the next practise session that includes this piece, try to repeat a longer portion of the first movement. Next, add the first section of the 2nd movement etc. Strenuous orchestral solos also benefit from this technique, e.g. Mendelssohn’s Nocturne. A good time of day to practise this technique would be in the evening, since the chances are that your public performance will be at this time of day. Be sensible, though: if your performance is to be a midday or afternoon concert, structure your preparation with this in mind. #6: Sight-reading: Play anything you haven’t seen before; try to record your attempt on tape so that you can investigate afterwards how good or bad your playing was, whether it actually bore any resemblance to the printed page! #7: Various alternating technical problems: e.g. Hand-stopping; Transposition: get to grips with those awkward Italian Opera keys e.g. A basso, Ab basso; Using different mutes including the brass transposing mute; Double- and triple- tonguing; Slurring wide intervals; Improvising cadenzas for classical works; Using an electronic tuner constructively, by checking (and seeing) how well you can play in tune at some higher pitches than A=440, such as A=442 or even higher, as used in some European countries as well as on many pianos. The Viennese ‘Bosendorfer’ pianos may even be tuned to A=444 or higher! #8: ‘Warm-down’: play some ‘mezzo-piano’ to ‘piano’ pedal notes; then ‘flap’ the lips for several seconds as if saying ‘brrrrrr’ on a cold day. Empty the water from your horn and put it back in its case, not on a chair! END OF PRACTISE SESSION NB ALWAYS do #8 in the last 1 or 2 minutes of a session. NNB don’t even try to do every one of sections #4 through to #7 on every practise session; there won’t be time. Aim to do 2 or 3 of them on each session of a 3- or 2session day; 3 or all 4 of them on a one- session day.
*Optional (but recommended): wash your mouthpiece rim in warm water and dry it off after every session. The reasoning behind this is that some players gradually become allergic to certain bacteria in their own saliva, and these when deposited on the mouthpiece rim can cause irritation similar to metal allergy. It is worth taking this simple and effective precaution even if you play on a hypoallergenic rim, e.g. Gold-plated, Acetal, or Perspex. ------------------------------------------------------ C Anthony G. Halstead, 30.10.2001--------1