“Hey, I Did Not Miss Any Notes”


Ever think this after a concert? The first time that stands out in my memory is a performance of the Gounod Petite Symphonie for winds when I was a freshman or sophomore in college, playing first horn because I had actually a very poor low range. A graduate student played second horn.

I was reminded of this thought last weekend, hearing the work performed very nicely here at Arizona State. It is not a thought we often have in the horn world, that we did not miss any notes, and it is not a thought I can honestly say I have very often had after a major performance. Another time I recall thinking the same thing was at the end of the Third Horn audition I won in Nashville. 100% accuracy is certainly a part of what it takes to win a job.

Book after book has been written on how to best achieve that place where you can play at your peak. Some address the physical side of the equation, but most go at the mental side of things. I have written about The Inner Game of Tennis before which is a classic and one I have referenced and generally recommended. It is a popular approach. But really, when you get down to it, at this time for me the closest to my personal approach in a publication by a hornist is to be found by Farkas in The Art of Musicianship.

Farkas is an iconic figure of the horn world, but a first point would be to be careful, his writings are not without their problems. Regular readers should have picked up by now that I feel that some elements of his pedagogy as published are clearly problematic. His over the top warnings about too much pressure (that can lead readers to use too little pressure, instead of finding that place that is “just right”) and his one-sided approach to tonguing (that readers try to duplicate, in vain–there is a bigger picture) are good examples. At the same time, there is a certain practicality to what he says that is refreshing, which is part of why I like what he says on performance anxiety.

Too much of what is said out there on the topic can border on psyco-mumbo-jumbo, understood only by initiated insiders. I am not at all into the visualization thing or tactics that border of self-hypnosis. His approach to performance anxiety specifically takes on a religious overtone that for me rings really true and gets to the place I want to be when I perform. Check this article for more on this, and as with many of the articles here at Horn Matters I hope that readers can step back for a critical view of their own approach with the goal of figuring out ways to reach the next level in their playing.

Image credit Bruce Hembd, original article here.

University of Horn Matters