Review: Horn Playing from the Inside Out. Part I, Introduction

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A new publication in 2012 was Horn Playing from the Inside Out — A Method for All Brass Musicians by Eli Epstein. This is I feel one of the most substantial and significant horn method books to be published in years, and as a result is not a book suited to a quick and simple review. This review for Horn Matters will be published in three parts. Up first is an introduction to the review.

UPDATE: The third edition (2016) of Horn Playing from the Inside Out is reviewed here. 

To begin I have to share a pet peeve of mine. “A major horn publication” (you can guess which one) has on a number of occasions had former students of people who wrote books do the reviews of their books. It is better than reading a review by someone with an ax to grind (another pet peeve), but still there is a trap. The student (reviewer) knows what the teacher (author) was trying to say but maybe did not express very clearly in the book. In other words, there are problems in some publications but a former student may not see them as clearly as an outsider might, and that leads to a review that is not as unbiased or useful as it should be.

That being said, I have to now share a disclaimer; I studied privately with Eli Epstein. In the year after I finished my MM at Eastman I stayed in Rochester, played extra with the Rochester Philharmonic, and took a number of auditions. That year I also took lessons with Rebecca Root, Peter Kurau, and Milan Yancich, but the largest number of lessons were with Epstein, who at the time was second horn in the RPO and that year won the second horn position in the Cleveland Orchestra. Those weekly lessons and subsequent contact with him in later years will be referenced in the review that follows. I believe I was among the most advanced students he had taught to that time. Through that study I am very familiar with parts of an early version of his pedagogy, but also I was advanced enough that some topics would have never come up in those lessons either.

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A second disclaimer of sorts for this review is also in order, having to do with my Doctoral study. Those familiar with my resume know that I hold an uncommon degree, the Doctor of Music in brass pedagogy. I pursued this degree (at Indiana University) instead of performance as the large topic of brass pedagogy was and remains a deep interest. This fact gets at my personal excitement level for this publication, as Eli Epstein lays out many ideas that are actually totally new in terms of things ever seen in a horn or brass publication. If that puts him on the cutting edge or out in left field is ultimately for the reader to decide, but I hope in this review to highlight in particular some of these pedagogical ideas as they are unique and will open things up in a new way for some students and teachers of the horn.

Epstein-bookThe book itself is over 150 pages long and is divided into four main sections, as follows:

  • The Basics
  • Musicianship
  • Power Warm-Up and Daily Exercises
  • Orchestral Excerpts: Applying the Principles

For purposes of this review I will be dividing the materials into three parts; basics, auditions, and applying the principles.

Eli Epstein has a page for the book on Facebook, and recently posted the following which is a good introductory summary to close with for today.

As I wrote in the introduction to my book, “During my time in the Cleveland Orchestra, I experimented with, tested and refined hypotheses; then brought these rough ideas to my students at conservatories and summer festivals. Were there universal tools that we could reliably use to take both the technical and artistic mystery out of horn playing? With great excitement, I discovered that universal tools do exist. However, I also found that simply knowing intellectually about these tools was not enough to change the way we play. I realized that retraining our long term muscle memory requires a process of enduring, conscious awareness, and dedicated practice.”

Tomorrow this review will continue with a focus on the basics, on which Epstein has several unique approaches.

Continue to Part II

For information on how to purchase this book visit the website of Mr. Epstein 

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