For a final book review of 2014 we have a new publication from Randy C. Gardner, Good Vibrations – Masterclasses for Brass Players. This publication is a substantial 156 pages, spiral bound. All the musical examples are drawn from standard horn literature and the tips given all are extremely applicable to the horn.
The book is full of tips, which are to be found on virtually every page. Chapter topics include breathing and embouchure, articulations, range, flexibility, endurance, lip trills, stopped horn, practice, and more. The tips flow naturally from the topics at hand.
The opening chapter, on “The Foundation,” is full of concepts that would apply to really any musician. I like very much that the book is based on tips, fleshed out with many useful exercises in much the manner that you are in a lesson or masterclass with Gardner. The general format makes it very easy apply concepts and ideas of use to you as a reader.
For a concrete example, the book has a very helpful section on double tonguing (a topic not covered at all by Farkas in The Art of French Horn Playing) which is followed by several musical examples. The first is from the Symphony No. 3 of Mendelssohn, third horn. It is one I am very familiar with as the former Third Horn in the Nashville Symphony, played it on the audition and in the orchestra! It is one that I learned single tongued. It did not even occur to me as a student to double tongue it – I only learned of this option working with students much later. Of the placement of the excerpt in the section on double tonguing Gardner notes
Some hornists have the ability to single tongue these passages at [quarter note] = 126 or faster. Most do not. Regardless, I suggest that these passages be used to assess and practice your double tonguing technique. Insist on clarity and evenness of articulation before focusing on speed! A fast version of a mess is still a mess. Perform cleanly.
That is just one bullet point of hundreds in this publication. You will find many thoughts of use to you in improving all aspects of your playing.
Helping you find those thoughts, another feature I very much appreciate is this book has an index. So for example if you are looking to work on your accuracy the relevant passages are on pages 3 and 109-115. Not all horn publications include an index, which enhances the usefulness of the publication.
There are a two minor negatives that should be mentioned to close. First, if you want to find the Mendelssohn 3 excerpt I mentioned above you won’t find Mendelssohn in the index, you will have to find the section on double tonguing and search from there. The index could be expanded (an index of musical examples would be an excellent addition) in a future edition. The other minor negative for me is the title. Good Vibrations – Masterclasses for Brass Players of course contains materials of use to any brass player, but at the same time the musical examples and even entire chapters are very much horn centered. It will be “read” at least at first glance as being a “horn book” by players of other instruments rather than a book aimed evenly at all brass instruments. Other brass players will still find much of interest if they take the time to read into the publication, and will want to reference the “Skill Assessments” presented at the end of the appendix from the CCM brass faculty. Perhaps in a future edition specific materials for players of other brass instruments could be integrated into the text more fully.
This is a great book and is one that horn players will want to pick up, it is chock full of information and a bargain at $29.95. The Amazon listing is here.