Technique builder: Take the Clarke 120 Challenge

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Back last year I posted a technique packet PDF, and among the exercises it contains a version of the Clarke second study, a Classic exercise which passed into the public domain recently. I have used this exercise for years but have at times left it for periods of time.

I realized as I was getting in shape for the IHS symposium that I was struggling to play the Clarke study absolutely clean at even 104 with a metronome! My personal target tempo for this has long been 120 and when I am in top form I can do this easily. So these few weeks it has become a goal and it is a goal I invite readers to aim for as well.


  • Use a metronome; don’t cheat on this point as you will find some keys harder than others but they all need to be 120 at the end, and a bit part of the point of this is to develop your finger timing perfectly in each key.
  • Do the entire exercise several times daily. There is much benefit to be had from playing it slowly with a metronome, and I usually play it slowly first in all keys then quickly in all keys.
  • You can vary the articulations, but it is probably the most challenging as written, under a big slur.
  • A minimum initial target tempo would be the tempo that you can play it on one breath (take a large breath!).
  • Aim to learn it clean at 120!

Progress will be incremental day to day but should be steady toward the goal. With this worked out many things in horn playing will certainly be easier. In particular I feel a percentage of accuracy problems involve finger coordination; this exercise will certainly improve that aspect of accuracy.

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Finally, if it is really impossible for you past a certain speed it could in part be your horn is a tank and the valves won’t do it! Have your horn in top shape and if needed try another horn to see if you have really hit a wall or if the horn is holding you back (for example, a poor trigger throw can slow things down). Good luck!

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