Horn Pedagogy Week 14: Performance Anxiety and Care of the Lip


We have arrived at the final week of readings! This week the main topic is performance anxiety, and the total number of readings are reduced to allow for time to review for the final as well.

One thing to mention, noted after years of teaching, is there certainly is a category of player that while not maybe “as good” as other players, comes off better in comparison. Why? Because they have an ability to hit near their personal best in pressure situations when the “better” player maybe hits 75% of what they should hit. From a conductor’s perspective, the one that hits the performance in the pressure situation better is the better player. You need to get your inner game under control to make it in horn.

There is an element of this topic that students need to be aware of, which is that of beta blockers. While touched upon in the final article linked above, I would also point to these two short articles as places to continue the discussion:

And for a longer, but optional read I would suggest the article on beta blockers linked from the “Beta Blockers or the Inner Game” article above and also from this Random Monday article by Bruce Hembd, noting also his personal comments there on the topic:

Speaking of reasons to feel anxious, one would be feeling unprepared but another big reason to feel mental pressure is if your lips feel bad. So our final topic of the semester is a very brief look at the care of the lip. The most common “ailment” we face as horn players is chapped lips. Thus, a note of caution on lip balms is in order, drawn from text that used to be a part of my Horn Articles Online website.

I have no problems with lip balms in general, but try to only use very mild ones, at least on an extended basis. There are three main active ingredients in the stronger lip balms–Camphor, Menthol, and Phenol. Camphor and Menthol are basically harmless, but Phenol is actually a skin irritant. Phenol is put in the medication to help remove the old, dry skin found on very chapped lips. To use this kind of medication for a short time when you have very dry, chapped lips may be beneficial, but to use Phenol on a long term basis is not good.

My own experience is that you can get hooked on lip balms with Phenol in them. Your lips feel raw and irritated so you grab the lip balm without realizing that lip balm is actually MAKING your lips feel even more irritated! It is a true vicious circle. Honestly, when I quit using a popular brand of lip balm with Phenol in it I had what felt to me like withdrawal symptoms. It was not a lot of fun for a day or two, but after that my lips felt better than they had in years. And I was playing better too.

Use lip balms when you really need them, but try not to use any lip balm on a long term basis, especially those containing Phenol.

For students in the live class at ASU we will certainly talk out some of the newer products for lip care, and while comments on this series seem few this would be a good topic to invite comments upon.

And in the actual class this semester all projects are due before the end of classes and we also have a written final. I like to tie these questions in with the questions typically asked on the MM and DMA written exams, and while I won’t tip my hand online as to the actual questions, to close next week we will have some topics to review from the semester.

Continue to Final Review

This is week 14 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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