Brief review: Blow Your Own Horn! Horn Heresies

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Originally published in 2011, Blow Your Own Horn! Horn Heresies by Berlin Philharmonic hornist Fergus McWilliam (website here) has been out in a second edition since 2013. “An anti horn-method method,” this book certainly deserves to be read widely by horn players.

On page one he lays out his reasons for writing the book.

Huge amounts of traditional horn pedagogy are often misunderstood and misapplied, not only by students but also by their teachers, and what numerous successful professional hornists teach their students is frequently not even what they themselves actually practise. To make matters worse, too frequently neither teachers nor students recognize and admit to the situation.

Quite a few points in the book go against conventional wisdom, and he explains them well as they come up in the text; straight talk presented clearly.

I recently quoted the book briefly in this Horn Matters article, which gives some flavor of his content.

Two more brief quotes, again for flavor:

  • “I am a musician first and only secondly a hornist” is a very politically correct statement.
  • Playing safe causes more accidents than taking chances does.

There is so much in this book, it really is very worth reading in full by every serious student or teacher of the horn. Some commentary, such as on auditions, is slightly Eurocentric, but still every chapter has points any player can apply.

That said, I would only offer one slightly negative comment. It is not that hard to find things generally from the table of contents, but still I do wish that this book had an index, especially considering it is in a 2nd edition.

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