Horn Pedagogy Week 12: Accuracy and Transposition


Accuracy is a big topic. As a prelude to the readings this week, there is a deep thought to be found in the brief article which is the first assigned reading, and another quick thought in the second.

Accuracy is easier for some than for other players and is in short the bane of our existence as horn players. Next read these readings from the Hornmasters series.

As to our other topic this week, there are some further notes on transposition to add. First, check out this handy chart of transpositions in Horn Matters.

Next we have two supplemental readings on the topics of horn in A and H, also found linked from the Hornmasters article on transposition:

And also there is the important question of alto or basso transposition in works of Mozart and Haydn (and others) in the Classical era. Mozart was usually clear in his scores as to alto or basso, and for Haydn the conventional wisdom is or was that if trumpets were present it was basso and if no trumpets were present it is alto. While I will leave this as an optional reading for this course, for those looking for more definitive answers I would suggest the following reading from the Historic Brass Society Journal.

The article begins,

Twenty-five years ago I published an article comparing the use of horns by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn. Among the more specialized aspects addressed was the question of high (alto) versus low (basso) horns in Bb. It had previously been raised by H.C. Robbins Landon, who had expressed his opinion that in Haydn’s early symphonies all Bb horns were high, i.e., alto. He believed that Haydn’s pre-London-period horn parts in Bb should, therefore, always be performed in the upper octave, a step below written pitch, rather than, as commonly accepted, a ninth below. Subsequently, Landon added “alto” to all the Bb horn parts that he edited and published in such important series as the complete symphonies of Haydn—as well as those of other composers. My judgment at that time was that in such situations an editor’s opinions might be stated, but that only the composer’s designation should be published in the score.

If I were to offer one final bit of advice that echoes that given by Harry Berv, if you are given an option and the notation is unclear, play it basso!

Turning back to accuracy, one more optional reading, containing this quote, “The 2nd most effective terrorist I ever worked with was a horn player.”

One final note on accuracy – did you notice there was a topic none of the classic horn methods addressed? It was the use of descant and triple horns, a topic not on the radar in older horn methods. We will look at this topic in more depth in the spring course, but for those interested now please read my E-book, Playing Descant and Triple Horn, available from Horn Notes Edition.

Next week we move on to several of the more common extended techniques seen in horn literature.

This is week 12 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. 

Continue to Week 13 of Pedagogy Course

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