Interview: Rose French on Rangesongs

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In 2012 Mountain Peak Music released a new book for horn players. While outwardly an etude book, I am hesitant to put Rangsongs in that category as, while usable as an etude book in lessons, it also would work well to guide “self help” study to improve range. I have found this book to be very interesting to explore. I had a few questions that I thought it best to address to the author.

RangeSongs_Horn_SmallJE: What is the history of the horn edition of Rangesongs?

RF: In the fall of 2011 I played with the Flagstaff Symphony for the International Alliance for Women and Music Conference and met with David Vining. He asked me to take a look at the Rangesong book that he had published for trombone and then transcribed for horn. After playing through many of the etudes and thinking of my students and my own range development, it was clear that the etudes as written did not work for horn as well. This was mainly due to the intervals used that I assume work naturally for trombone and the harmonics of the instrument. These wider intervals, especially towards the top of the staff are what I know freak out my students!

So, I met with David, and his response was: great, you fix them! I spent the next year working with the etudes, sharing my versions with my students to see how they responded and enjoyed them. I like the concept because it works on a technical problem in a musical way, but without it directly being involved with a concerto, solo, or orchestral excerpt. Instead of confronting range issues when students see it in Strauss or Mozart for the first time, there is now the option of working on a short musical étude with Several approaches to the target note. I like the idea of putting something difficult in a musical setting to take some of the technical focus off, allowing it to happen more naturally. In addition to range development, these etudes are also a great way to work on transposition, reading bass clef, phrasing, and working in less familiar keys.

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I included some etudes that worked with harmonics, it’s something that I hadn’t given much thought to until thinking about range development on horn and a great way to work with beginners for developing range.

JE: Speaking of beginners, one thing I note as well about Rangesongs is that it could be used by a horn player of pretty much any level. We really have limited options as to materials for beginners. Besides this book, what materials have you been using lately?

RF: I’ve actually started beginners now without a book and teach them to play using harmonic exercises to learn how to use their embouchure correctly, instead of playing stepwise notes. Taking away that visual element makes a big difference for the first weeks of playing the horn.

I really enjoying Marian Hesse’s Daily Routine books, and have been using a lot of folk music, classical transcriptions and having students write their own compositions.

JE: Yes, those are very interesting books, reviewed briefly on Horn Matters here. Back to Rangesongs and speaking of reviews, are there any points made in reviews you have read about the book that you would wish to expand upon or refute?

RF: The reviews have been really positive, I was honored to have Jeff Snedeker write a review for The Horn Call. I’ve seen a review from James Boldin, who also published a video on youtube of an etude (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04iC7PBg9fg&noredirect=1), which has over 500 hits!

JE: It is great to have this publication out and available, it fits in a unique place among horn publications. As a final question, could you share anything about other upcoming projects?

RF: I definitely think there is a need for more material that addresses beginning and intermediate students. As you know, I originally wanted to do a new method book during my DMA at ASU, but went another direction. Having a background in Music Education with an emphasis in the Kodaly Method and the work of Edwin Gordon, I’ve thought a lot about audiation and how it becomes increasingly more difficult for beginners of horn to connect their singing voice to the horn, because they don’t learn how to sing and are unfamiliar with common folk songs! I am working on a new method book for beginners and a collection of solos for total beginners to intermediate students.

I have been teaching for almost ten years at a music academy in Phoenix called Rosie’s House: A Music Academy for Children. Students receive free instruments and lessons and must perform on recitals, a jury, and several exams throughout the year. So even if a students has been playing for two months, they have to play on a recital! This has caused me to write, find and transcribe music for total beginners to students who are auditioning for college. It’s given me some great perspective on the total development of a student from the time they first pick up the horn to when they are finishing high school and what helps them grow as a horn player and a musician.

JE: Congratulations again on Rangesongs for horn and looking forward to seeing these materials as well! Rangesongs may be purchased from the publisher here, and for more on Rose French visit her website. 

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