Optimism/Realism/Pessimism and the Horn Player

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Right now I have over thirty posts in various stages of underway. This post when still in progress I initially titled “Abused by the Horn.”It has been one that has been hard to pull together as it touches on a topic that we don’t much like to face, the topic of our relationship to the horn, which is at times a bit abusive of our psyche.

My son loves to visit Sea World and to see the Shamu show. In that show there is a theme put forth along the lines of “if you can dream it, you can do it!”

As horn players we have learned that this is not factual reality, if it was something we ever once believed. Reality is there are things you can dream but still can’t do. Specifically, you can dream 100% accuracy all you want, you can work hard all you are able on every aspect of technique, you can practice like a maniac and study with the best teachers ever, you can visualize the perfect performance, and you still won’t be perfectly accurate.

Some try to stay optimistic by focusing on positive statements such as “Be the Music,” “I can play in all registers with ease and security,” etc. If it works for you, great. But for me this tactic has always rung very hollow.

The dream of playing perfectly is something that began to be squashed as a reality we could ever achieve from a pretty young age. This is actually one of the sources of the “twa-twa” or “wa-wa” problem many hornists have. We on some unconscious level sneak in on attacks so that we don’t make the giant clam. We are in fact afraid of the horn.

But then again, that dream of perfection is what kept us going! We were challenged by it, this personal Everest to climb, and we good hooked by the challenge. So on that side of things it is good. To make it you need to be pretty driven and optimistic that you can be one of the ones that have the best chance to make it, because there are many easier things to do than play the horn.

Writing this I know I would rather be an optimist on the topic of accuracy but there is a point where we have to face a choice between being a realist and a pessimist while trying to remain optimistic.

Other musicians are not always the most supportive on this topic either. At times you can pick up a vibe something like “that was good playing for a horn player.” The sad fact is it is easier to play accurately on almost any other instrument.

Back to the initial title I had for the post, are we victims, abused by our instrument? Elements of our psychology are beat down a bit for sure by the horn being the way it is. We hate to admit it but that collective psychological abuse from our instrument is something that in a way defines the horn culture.

University of Horn Matters