Horn Pedagogy Week 6: Practice and Warm-Up

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Finally we get to some real horn playing, and this week is jam packed with information to consider in relation to your typical warm-up and practice habits.

First up is a brief reading relating to the topic of practice.

With that we turn to the warmup. For this 2016 course update I have two questions to ask first:

  • When was the first horn warmup published?
  • When did players start warming up?

It is actually pretty notable that the first horn warmup materials were not published until 1941, Daily Exercises for French Horn by Max Pottag. A very recent Doctoral project by Alex Manners goes into this whole topic more, and is reviewed in a pair of podcasts presented here.  In that article I also note that horn players before 1940 probably warmed up but not as we do today. Going to our beginnigs, “…it seems to me if you look at say the Duvernoy Méthode pour le Cor (1802) the general idea way back then was probably just to noodle around on short exercises until you felt ready to go.” There are exercises in published routines that must have their roots in earlier times, but the general scheme of warming-up on the horn as we think of it now was likely unknown before the 20th century.

In any case the Hornmasters have a lot to say on the topic, in a group of readings linked below.

After discussing that we turn back to the broader topic of practice:

Solo and chamber repertoire will be covered in much more depth in the spring semester; this class session is only meant to give a taste of the topic. However, this is the class session where we briefly highlight some of the most practical of our etude literature. Please refer to this article for highlights of what will be discussed in class as well.

A lot of those etudes not coincidentally can be used very effectively to work on slurs, legato, and tonguing, the topic we delve into next week.

For those following online only, you may wish to read the series of three articles that starts here on etudes that I use in my teaching to get some sense of the actual class discussion we will have.

And to close I would simply note that I am really not convinced that every published warm-up you will find is actually realistically what the author normally personally did. Maybe it is, but then again maybe it was more what they hoped to do or recommended to people, but when push came to shove they had other ways to personally warm-up that set up their chops better for actual performances. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for warming up, and there is a very good argument to be made that if you don’t vary it over time you will not progress on the horn. And remember, too, that some routines were in fact used prescriptively in teaching by the author to address specific needs of individual students, such as Caruso. For more on Caruso routines and the horn see this article:

This is week 6 of a fourteen week course in horn pedagogy. The introductory article is here, and the series is presented for the educational purposes of our readers. 

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