Review update: Horn Playing from the Inside Out, Third Edition

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Back in 2013 Horn Matters reviewed the first edition of Horn Playing from the Inside Out by Eli Epstein. In three parts, that review is still worth referencing (here), as this review update will focus on what’s new in the third edition.

The original edition I called “one of the most substantial and significant horn method books to be published in years,” but the MRI studies are a game changer and take everything to a new level. What Epstein has done is update the book substantially to reflect recent MRI studies of horn playing, correcting and adjusting several principles presented in such a way that this is now without a doubt the most physiologically correct book ever published on horn playing.

Overall the third edition is actually the same length as the first, but this is an illusion. A number of what were blank pages have been eliminated, there must be about 15 pages of new text and illustrations.

The book opens as before. The discussion of breathing is expanded, with the addition of MRI images, those studies informing the text. Where things start to really change are the following sections related to vowels and jaw positions, both of which are very much expanded with MRI images and new illustrations. But don’t let that frighten you, as actually the system presented is slightly simplified, there are fewer vowels (corrected to be more physiologically accurate) and, for those familiar with the original system presented, the elevator now stops at the third floor! Both of these changes address areas that were of slight concern to me in the first edition, and it is clear that while Epstein was very close to correct in the first edition, as presented now in this third edition the concepts accurately reflect physiological reality.

And stepping back a moment, it is wonderful that Epstein has taken it upon himself to over the course of only four years do not one but two new editions of his book! This is such an advantage to self-publication of these materials. In comparison, the Farkas Art of French Horn Playing was never updated after publication in 1956 and has a number of elements that, if he had access to advanced technology, I believe Farkas would have wished to alter.

Continuing in the Epstein third edition, there is a new section on staccato and an expanded section on dynamics, both informed by recent MRI horn studies, and a related new section on finger breathing, a technique used to model changes in vowel and jaw position. That last item is also the subject of a video posted by Epstein, which may be seen here.

mri-hornPart II of the book, on musicianship, is basically the same as the first edition. Part III, the Power Warmup, is essentially the same as well but the new version has the improved vowels and jaw motion prompts. Part IV follows, presenting (legal!) horn excerpts, and again is essentially the same but with updated suggestions and the improved vowels and jaw motion prompts.

The text ends with one new section compared to the first edition, an appendix on choosing a horn, followed by an index, something I wish every horn publication included.

In conclusion, more now than ever, I feel every serious horn teacher and student of the horn needs to consider the concepts in this book. Older publications contain many insights but the authors, lacking X-ray vision, often really were just presenting informed visualizations in critical areas of their pedagogy. Epstein has moved beyond that in this publication; now we have one that presents a pedagogy that truly is informed by science, with new insights that should not be ignored.

For a longer overview of the book and the pedagogical concepts presented please read the original review (here), and, to close, this publication is still printed and bound nicely and is a huge bargain, only $19.95 in hard copy.

For information on how to purchase this book visit the website of Mr. Epstein

For a series of conversations with Peter Iltis on the MRI horn studies see this article.

University of Horn Matters