Technical Materials III: Uncommon Materials I Teach From

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First, to add one big point in the previous post in this series, I don’t teach with a one-size-fits-all routine that is the same with every student. There is a big picture that we are working with individuals who have differing strengths and weaknesses.

My Doctorate is in brass pedagogy and my dissertation focused on 19th century horn methods. The title was this mouthful: “The Development of Valved Horn Technique in Early Nineteenth-Century Germany: A Survey of Performers and Works Before 1850 With Respect to the use of Crooks, Right-Hand Technique, Transposition, and Valves.” In short I looked at a lot of 19th century publications. This opened my eyes to a number of books out there that while not well known today give a clear window into the pedagogy of master horn teachers of long ago.

What is great about these books in general is these materials were written above all to fill a need in their teaching and that got me thinking about them as I considered what I felt I needed to make my teaching more effective. But on the negative side these old methods are extremely dated and organized in a way that is really hard to use today. They suited the teachers who put them together but don’t suit the modern student very well.

What I did was over time begin to split out the best of these materials and organize them into a technique book. I did not begin to use these until a few years into my teaching in Arizona and only this summer in the final version underway now I put the names of the composers of the exercises back in. Most of my current students probably only have a vague idea who wrote the exercises they have been working on, but the truth is coming out!

The biggest chunk of music comes from the Meifred method published way back in 1840. This was the first significant method written for the valved horn and I still marvel at what he did as really he was pretty much starting from scratch as to how to present development of finger technique. I have a lot more background on Meifred here. People don’t use this book today for several reasons, among those being he was actually pushing a very unique approach to valve horn technique that combined valves and right hand technique in the bell. (And, of course, it is long out of print). But if you eliminate that part of the equation actually the materials Meifred created for this book are pretty inventive and have a lot of practical use today.

Besides Meifred, the Kling and Gallay methods are also referenced about equally in the technical materials I have developed. Both present some really nice scale patterns and also I use a number of their exercises for transposition study. As an aside, Kling was also very quotable in his method and did not hold back in passages such as this:

The assertion, which has been absurdly made in recent times, that the use of the crooks in connection with the ventil [valve] horn should be discontinued, as being absolutely useless, since everything could be transposed on the F-horn, is not worth serious consideration. Hornists who follow such mischievous advice by attempting to transpose all passages on the F horn will find themselves frequently coming to grief and exposing themselves to the ridicule of the audience. I advise the employment of the G, A, and high B-flat crooks whenever these are indicated by the composer. By their aid, the passages will be rendered with greater ease, more clearly and with truer tone than when they are transposed on the F horn.

In the main technical part of the book the other horn teachers referenced are Dauprat and Schantl. The Dauprat method is huge, and I mainly reference some of his low range exercises for transposition study. From Schantl I have drawn a few melodic etudes that are “lost etudes” compared to those selected by Pottag in his book of preparatory melodies. From Meifred and Kling I also reference other short melodic etudes; the idea is to balance the finger technique with melodic studies to work on turning great phrases.

Horn teachers don’t teach double tonguing much. I have used materials in the Yancich Method because Arban studies on the whole seem a bit high and there is not that much else that I want students to work on from Arban. What I did for double tonguing in the technique book was track in Arban studies for the most part transposed down a bit so they lay better for horn.

Lastly in my collection I reference some tuning studies from the Gumpert and Kling methods. These I use more as sight reading than anything else, which is why I have them in an appendix, but they are I think very valuable and underrated resources.

As I write this post the technique book has been through a couple generations of draft versions and is nearing the layout stage for publication. It will hopefully be in print at the end of the summer along with a low range collection selected from Bordogni, Gallay, and Pre. These two publications will for me fill a big gap in what is out there and will hopefully be of interest to other teachers who are looking for new, practical materials. However, there is still one general area of technical material that I would love to find some better materials, and that will be the topic for the final post in this series.