A quick look at Horn Playing: A New Approach


Recently Alex Manners completed a Doctoral project looking at published horn warmup routines, described in this recent article and accompanied with two podcast episodes (here). The study is very complete but one book inadvertently missed was Horn Playing: A New Approach by John Burden.

Burden 001It is not a new book, having been published back in 1972. It was off the radar as a warmup book for Manners and myself at least in part because the title does not reflect clearly what the content is – that it is mainly a warmup book. And, my copy was loose in my office; it was not with the other warmup books and was only found in recent cleaning.

It is an interesting book and it is still in print. At the time of publication Burden was Professor of Horn at Trinity College of Music, London, and had previously served (for eight years) as Principal Horn of the London Symphony Orchestra.

In the introduction he states that the book “is intended for beginners of all ages.” Good bits of advice are presented in the text, such as the following quote on horns.

It is obviously impossible for me to advise the reader on buying a suitable instrument and I would suggest that it is essential to seek the advice of a professional horn player. There are a number of instruments available which are not particularly good and it is a shame to waste money on poor equipment.

He works through some basics of horn playing as it starts out, but if you just play the printed exercises in order it is certainly a workable warmup routine. For example on page 13, after a series of middle range exercises, he states “it is time to start extending the range,” going first downwards and then upwards using harmonic series studies presented in the book.

As the book flows along he takes time to address various topics. His section on tuning the valve slides is very practical and clear, and it is certainly something you have to consider as you warmup. On the other hand, his description of using the diaphragm to “force air through the lips” is not physiologically accurate.

In any case, this article is to mention this book, it is yet another warm-up resource and one that is not that well known today.

University of Horn Matters