Download Horn Pedagory 101 - The Nuts and Bolts of Teaching Horn PDF

TitleHorn Pedagory 101 - The Nuts and Bolts of Teaching Horn
TagsBreathing Entertainment (General) Nature Leisure French Horn
File Size1.8 MB
Total Pages12
Document Text Contents
Page 1


Page 2


Reducing the whole to the most simple parts

Nut and bolts are the basic components of even the most sophisticated machinery.
Likewise, the basic fundamentals of teaching the horn are essential to developing
successful horn players. Even the most demanding literature can be learned by focus on
tone, range, flexibility or facility. By creating good habits and muscle memory in these
four basic “nut-and-bolt” aspects of horn playing, a player will develop in a creative and
positive way.

This presentation will attempt to reinforce “ground-level” foundations of horn pedagogy.
The formative years of horn playing are like carefully constructing the foundation of a
towering skyscraper; once a strong, well-constructed foundation is built, the sky is indeed
the limit.

Establish a correct playing position

The importance of playing position and posture must be considered in any discussion of
basic pedagogy. Many problems which hinder progress of horn students in tone
development, range extension, technical facility and flexibility, can be traced to faulty
playing set-up. Insisting on correct playing posture from the first day can prevent
problems in the future. A sloppy playing posture will likely lead to embouchure and tone
productions problems.

It is helpful to establish an inventory of factors crucial to the playing set-up so a quick
visual scan can identify potential playing problems.

A list of playing posture guides can be outlined as follows:

1. Stand or Sit
2. Bell Placement
3. Right-hand shape and placement in the bell
4. Left-hand position
5. Embouchure Formation
6. Mouthpiece placement
7. Horn-to-head relationship
8. Wet or dry lip
9. Minimal pressure

(This list is patterned after one from Prof. Paul Anderson, retired Professor of Horn
Emeritus to the University of Iowa. A similar list by Dr. Patrick Miles is found in
Teaching Brass.)

Page 6



Tone, Range, Pattern and Flexibility

Horn pedagogy can be divided into four basic areas. Daily attention to drills in each
group will help considerably in developing horn players.


Many factors contribute to tone production: relaxed embouchure, air flow and other
physical aspects. However, where does sound actually start: Embouchure? Air?
Mouthpiece? While all of these are important, I am convinced sounds starts in the brain
with a definite concept of how you want to sound. Here are four descriptors to illustrate a
great sound. Encourage the student to think of a descriptor appropriate to each category.

• Shape

• Temperature

• Size

• Color

To complete the basic concept add:

• Centered/focused and resonant.

Now, combine these and “hear/imagine” that great, characteristic horn sound in your

Page 7



Any discussion of tone must address breathing. Air flow is, perhaps, the most important
physical component of sound.

Instructions: Keep it simple! Avoid giving muscular/physiological instructions; such
physical instructions tend to create tension and actually have nothing to do with moving

Example: “Push the air”; “Blow from the diaphragm”; “Push from the abdomen”

Always think in terms of wind:

• What is wind? Air in motion! Wind into the body and wind out!

Breathing is a two-part cycle. Inhalation and exhalation- these must take place with no
interruption or pause. Interruption leads to tension!

Inhalation: it is defined simply as “suction with minimum friction.”

Example: Inhale with through the corners while the teeth are held close together. This
illustrates suction with maximum friction. Conversely, shape the lips and mouth in an
“O” shape and place two fingers in front of the lips. Now, inhale being aware of the
“wind” moving across the fingers as the air moves into the body. Which results in a
larger quantity and quality inhalation?

Conclusion: Inhale with an “OH” inward. Others syllables which such as TO and KO are
acceptable. Inhale until comfortably full!

Exhalation: Simply blow! Order both quantity and quality of air. Quantity will depend
on range and dynamic. Quality will likely always be “warm.”

Example: Blow directly and vigorously into the palm of the hand. Cold or warm air?
Now, form the hand into a relaxed fist and blow through the thumb and forefinger. Warm


Breathing must relate directly to tone production; remember, the air is the life-blood of

Think of breathing as a commitment! A good inhale indicates the commitment to
produce a good sound!

Page 11


Slurs on the harmonic series are the most efficient method to develop flexibility. The
student should simply “bend” the pitch to the next step up or down on the series until it
“glides” or “pops” in place. This should ensure maximum efficiency of the embouchure
and air.

A common mistake made by developing horn students is the habit of “slotting” slurred
pitches in place. This usually involves “huffing”, a “wah-wah” or "bulging” effect. Like
any tone played on the horn, slurred notes should have the same color at the beginning,
middle and end. Avoid the color change by simply buzzing and bending!


Pattern is the development of technical facility. The key here is fingerings must become
reflex action just the same as any involuntary muscle-memory action of the body.

Begin with simple chromatic patterns as early as possible. As the student progresses,
these chromatic patterns can be expanded. Naturally, scales can and should be used as

Sources for pattern development:

Technical Studies, Herbert L. Clarke. Carl Fischer (Trumpet method: especially, the first
and second studies)

Daily Exercises and Scales. G. Pares. Carl Fischer.

Sixty Studies, C. Kopprasch.


Use a metronome! It helps keep the student honest with tempo and reinforces the
“internal pulse.” When a goal tempo has been reached, increase it!

While it may sound simple, do not stop when practicing pattern studies. This is not to say
to accept mistakes, but this forces the student to continue and not stop the “pattern.” Of
course, go back, slow down the tempo and correct the mistake!

As mentioned previously, be sure the fingertips remained in contact with the valve levers!

Do not ignore the B-flat fingerings on the double horn. Technical advantages are
abundant beyond the typical “American” use of the double horn.

Page 12



The attack is actually a release! Realize the percussive “ping” on the front of a tongued
note results from a retraction of the tongue.

Pronounce this: “Ten turkeys trotting.” How is the “t” sound produced? Does it happen
when the tongue “strikes’ the back of the teeth or as the tongue “releases” from the back
of the teeth? Hence, a light, quick tonguing technique results from a quick retraction of
the tongue rather than a machine-gun like forward piston motion!

Miscellaneous hints:

Space for the horn section: leave plenty of room for the tome to resonate; if bodies are
too close, the sound will get muffled. Also, try to avoid placing the horn section on front
of the percussion section.

Oiling valves: be sure to oil the back of the rotors with a heavier oil such as sewing
machine oil or key oil.

Practice! Does “practice make perfect?” The answer is no!

Practice makes habit! Always create good habits!

Similer Documents