As you start the New Year it is always a good time to re-evaluate your daily routine. Two recent posts on other blogs caught my attention for their comments on the daily regime.
The more recent of the two posts is from the blog of Michael Gilliand, who is Adjunct Professor of Horn at Missouri Southern State University and Principal Horn with the Fort Smith Symphony in Fort Smith, Arkansas. His recent post “So You Want to be a Professional Hornist?” is one I found on the shared RSS reading from Bruce Hembd on Horn Matters, and includes the following on the section on the typical daily regime.
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: pppp; ff>pp
• 30-60 minutes repertoire: solos, excerpts, orchestral parts, etc.
Gilliand in particular is a strong believer in F horn practice to improve accuracy. He comments in his post further that
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.
He included as an example this graphic from the original edition of the Kopprasch etudes; for more see my Horn Articles Online article on the Original Kopprasch Etudes.
[This year I hope to bring out several new publications that relate to the type of music you could use in a daily workout such as the one described from Kendall Betts; more on those as they near publication.]
The second post is from Julia Rose, Associate Principal Horn of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, a great article on her recent re-evaluation of her warm-up and mid-range. As a brief personal preface, I find that I have to warm up a good while in the mid-range before I can work out from the center. The Farkas warm-up mentioned above for example starts too fast for me. Julia has some great thoughts along these same lines.
Ever since college, I have been doing Doug Hill’s maintenance session. Doug was my teacher in college at the University of Wisconsin, and like Doug, I believe the maintenance session can be a major factor for improving and maintaining on the horn. Sometimes the term “warmup” is used interchangeable with “maintenance session.” If one merely wants to warm up, one can do that in 10 minutes. If one wants to work on range, breathing, scales, arpeggios, attacks, etc. during the warmup, then it should more correctly be called a maintenance session. It is usually done at the beginning of the day, but it can be done anytime.
Anyway, Doug’s maintenance session is, shall we say, rather ambitious…it starts out slowly with an attack/release study in whole notes at various pitches, and then launches full-force into a whole series of arpeggios of every dynamic and speed all over the horn, really testing the outer ranges. It has suited me well for many years, but ever since I’ve turned 30, it’s felt like my middle register has become the most problematic range of my horn playing. But I figured it was just a high horn thing, and I’ve never attributed it directly to my maintenance session.
Julia had a recent embouchure injury she had to come back from. With this in mind and jumping ahead a bit in her post she continues
So, once things were healed up, I went with the idea. I took a good look at my maintenance session and decided that I needed to make it more suitable to my needs. You see, Doug’s maintenance session is a really good one, and it suits many people very well, but I have always accepted it blindly because it created such improvement in my playing at the time I really needed it (in college). I needed help with my high range and fluency back then. Now my needs are different. My high range is always there, my low range is there, I know my scales and arpeggios. What feels like is NOT always there is my middle register. It felt stiff and unresponsive much of the time. So, doesn’t it make sense to focus on fluency and flexibility in the middle range?
So, borrowing some exercises from Wendell Rider’s excellent book “Real World Horn Playing,” I’ve started to play most of my maintenance session in the middle register, using open natural harmonics, saving a couple Doug Hill arpeggios for the very end. I’ve been doing this for about a month now, and like I figured, my high and low ranges are there, but now my middle range is becoming much more comfortable. Not only that, but I have more chops left over for subsequent hours of practice. Before I was just burning my chops up and stiffening them during my first practice session. What strengthened my chops back in college is stiffening them for me now.
In short, maintenance sessions are all well and good, but every few years, one needs to step back and evaluate one’s strengths and weaknesses, because they will change over time.
Between these two posts there is a lot to think over in relation to the warm-up and the routine and the New Year. Be sure to check out their full posts and give the whole topic some thought, it will pay off.