Horn Pedagogy Week 9: Tone Quality, Chords, and Musical Phrasing

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By this point some readers following the course are probably feeling that the focus has been on technical minutiae. I can relate to that thought, as even putting the course together and reading the articles I am beginning to feel a little overwhelmed by the volume of  the content. So to start this week of readings off, a suggestion; take it a little easy. Skim readings of less direct interest to you and don’t try to figure out what is right and wrong with everything you read.  The overall goals being to develop a better understanding of how to master the technical aspects of horn playing to make the music really happen and also to equip yourself to teach people with different problems than you have overcome in your studies.

This week the course turns a corner to a point and we have a mix of the technical and the musical. The readings are again all from the Hornmasters series.

At the very end of The Art of French Horn Playing Farkas presents a section of tips. The following quote is from that section and also ties in with our topics of the week. The interpretation of dynamics relates to musicality and will vary by musical context. Farkas wrote

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Most students go through years of indecision before finally coming to the realization that in ensemble playing there are, in effect, two distinct types of dynamic marks. One set is for accompaniment passages, and the other is for solos. Piano in an accompaniment means just that—play softly. However, the same mark in a solo passage might require much more volume. A solo passage must carry, even though the dynamic mark indicates softness. Your first duty in playing a soft passage is to make it audible….

Although solo passages can often be a degree louder than the dynamic indicated, the opposite is true of accompaniment dynamics. Here it is our duty to keep down sufficiently to let the soloist come through even though it means playing piano when mezzoforte is indicated. Thus the orchestral player might make a simple rule for observing dynamics. Solos should be played a little louder than indicated and accompaniments slightly softer

Farkas expands on this general topic in The Art of Musicianship. Another publication by a horn player that covers some of the same general information in a practical and concise format is The Rules of the Game by Christopher Leuba, which I also recommend the reader looking for more information to consult. A review may be found here.

Next week we move on to range development.

Continue to Week Ten of Pedagogy Course

This is week 9 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.