A 1982 Horn Right Hand Position Survey: Part II, a few Things I Learned

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As I write this I am still organizing the data from this survey for the IHS Symposium presentation (and future submission for consideration for publication in The Horn Call), but there are some preliminary things I can share that I learned.

Right-hand-surveyFollowing along further in the questions after the one highlighted in Part I, the very next question had to do with if you held your fingers together or spread apart when in the bell. This was one of those eye-opening questions for me, as although they were in the minority, I was not aware there was a school of thought that seriously performed with the fingers separated at all.

A related question had to do with curling the finger tips up or keeping the nails touching the bell. This one it also was not the majority but a number of fine players noted that their finger tips did curl up, not a standard thing we are taught to do.

The one that surprised me the most was a few questions later, where the topic was that of if you alter the amount of cupping of the right hand. For me this is a very black and white answer: no. A number of fine players agreed with me but a majority were open to altering the cupping of the hand for purposes of intonation and artistic tone color variation. For some players for sure part of the issue was a note or notes that were persistently out of tune on their instrument. Speaking for myself only, if I had a horn that had notes that were persistently out of tune I would replace it, there are better horns out there. You need to work it out so that you are not fighting your horn in regard to tuning. Sadly, often it is just players not having any idea how to tune their horn effectively. Read this article for more information to get you headed in the direction of better basic intonation.

Turning to the topic of ideal tonal color, I will say that a substantial number of players commented about not being too covered and disliking a sound that is too covered. It is hard to hear how we come off exactly to others, but when we hear other horn players perform the sounds that are dull and muffled do not cut it. Thus, one thing we have to be sure of is that we are not among those players that sound dull and muffled. I have been playing extra attention to this as I practice this week, and I will be thinking about it when I get back to teaching.

Turning back to the topic of hand position variation, I personally never change hand position for different groups or repertoire, so I was a bit surprised that probably half of the responses offered that they made some use of this technique. This was not a part of my training; I don’t think I will add it in, either, but it is one I will ponder.

Another answer that actually shocked me a bit was on the topic of do you remove your hand from the bell in any performing situation. A number of players I would recognize as fine players said they did for bells up. This, again, was not my training at all. I keep the hand in the bell in as close to the normal position as possible when performing bells up. “Loud and out of tune” is not what you want to be remembered for by your colleagues or conductor.

A final topic of the survey that I will mention today was that of dampening the bell with the torso when playing. This I don’t do and I was glad to know those that do are in the minority. It was not part of my training to be sure, and I find it makes players sound a bit dull and muffled.

The actual comments from the survey are full of great tips and notes. I will be presenting the best of those (anonymously!) in a fast paced session at the Memphis IHS symposium, and I hope to see some of you there!

UPDATE: For the published article with all results see the May, 2015 issue of The Horn Call, pages 50-55.

Return to Part I.

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