First Solos for the Horn Player: Romance, by Alexander Scriabin

Here’s the fourth selection in the First Solos for the Horn Player video series, Alexander Scriabin’s Romance for Horn and Piano. Here are links to the other recordings up to this point.

Along with the second movement of Mozart’s Quintet for Horn and Strings, K. 407, this miniature for horn and piano is probably the most recognized work in the collection. The score and solo part are also available on IMSLP, and  there appears to be little difference between the Mason Jones and IMSLP editions.

A few interesting technical notes about this recording, and thoughts on this project thus far:

  • I experimented with the recording process on this one, using a Blue Yeti USB microphone in stereo pattern to record the audio into Logic Pro X. My hope was to sync this audio with the video from my Zoom Q2n-4k camera, and apply some equalization and reverb to improve the overall sound quality.
  • The latter effort was successful, and the overall sound quality belies the modest recording environment, a bedroom! The sound of the digital accompaniment is pretty good too, although it would have been nice to be more flexible with the tempo and dynamic subtleties. With a collaborative pianist, this would have been easy and natural.
  • Syncing the audio from Logic Pro with the video file should have been a routine task, and one which I have done several times in the past, though not with an identical set up. But as you can tell from the absence of video footage, I could not get it to work! Despite spending several minutes playing around in Final Cut Pro and consulting help pages, it still wasn’t working. I have very limited technical knowledge, but my guess would be that the sample rate between the Logic Pro recording and the camera recording was not the same.
  • Because the sound quality of the audio-only recording was superior to the camera audio, I decided to use it without any video footage, and insert a public domain image of Scriabin and his mistress, Tatiana Schloezer. For the next video I hope to work out the syncing issues.
  • A final note: I decided early on to NOT record every solo in this book. There’s a couple of reasons for this, not least of which is that recording the entire book would probably run afoul of “Fair Use.I haven’t settled on which solos to record for the remainder of the project, but I anticipate five or six more. Enough to to be representative, but certainly not a majority of the book (or even half). After that, I have some ideas for future projects, more to come.

 

First Solos for the Horn Player: Air from Rosamunde

Next in this video project series is an arrangement of Franz Schubert’s Air from Rosamunde. Like the previous selections in First Solos for the Horn Player, this brief solo emphasizes lyrical playing. The range and technical requirements are suitable for beginning to intermediate players.

A few technical notes: if you have the book First Solos for the Horn Player, you probably know that the second movement from Mozart’s Horn Quintet, K. 407  is actually listed third in the book. I will be recording that one as well, but could use some more time to practice it! I also think a more suitable place for that one is near the end of the collection, along with the rest of the more extended and difficult solos. It’s certainly the most recognizable work in the whole book, which probably explains its early inclusion.

As mentioned in my previous post, I’ll be recording these from home for the foreseeable future. I haven’t edited the audio in any way, other than to trim the beginning and ending. The sound is consistent with a small room, but overall acceptable, I think, as is the sound of the SmartMusic accompaniment. Although nothing has been decided yet, it may turn out that our students play juries this way: recorded or live streamed from home with pre-recorded accompaniment. As such, another goal of this project is to demonstrate the possibilities and limitations of  this recording set up.

First Solos for the Horn Player: “No More, I Have Heard Everything,” by W.A. Mozart, arr. Jones

The next video in the First Solos for the Horn Player project is “No More, I Have Heard Everything” (Non Più, Tutto Ascoltai), by W.A. Mozart. Paraphrasing some of the information provided by SmartMusic, this short work was originally for soprano and tenor with chamber orchestra, and was later included in Act II of the opera seria Idomeneo. It’s a lovely tune, and offers ample opportunities for the horn player to work on expressive playing.

For those who might be interested, here’s the equipment I’m using on this project.

  • Horn: Yamaha 667V
  • Mouthpiece: Houser, San Francisco 14-0-2 with 17.5mm Houser E Rim
  • Camera/Microphones: Zoom Q2n-4K
  • Video Editing: Apple Final Cut Pro

I might add that this was the last video recorded in my teaching studio at the University of Louisiana Monroe. Shortly following this session, we were advised that further precautions were being enacted to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The rest of the videos will be recorded from my home, and I might need to adjust camera placement, microphones, etc. to fit the new space. Stay tuned!

New Video Project: First Solos for the Horn Player, by Mason Jones

Like many colleagues around the world, I am now working exclusively online, and all upcoming performances have been cancelled or postponed until further notice. In lieu of live chamber and solo performances, I thought it would be useful and fun to start another video project, similar to my Kopprasch Project from several years ago.

My repertoire choice this time is a book of horn and piano arrangements by Mason Jones, First Solos for the Horn Player. It’s a great collection, but not nearly as well known as his “yellow book,” Solos for the Horn Player, the contents of which can be found on a really great recording  by Gregory Miller. The works in First Solos for the Horn Player are generally shorter and less complex, but are very tuneful and lay quite well on the horn. Any of them would make a fine addition to a recital program in need of lighter, accessible pieces.

I plan to post a few of these each week, recorded with SmartMusic accompaniment. It is my hope that teachers and students find these videos useful during this difficult time. If you like these pieces, be sure to order the book!

Do You Really Need to Know How to Transpose?

I’ve seen this discussion come up frequently among horn players on social media, and have been considering it from a couple of different perspectives.

On the “Yes, you definitely need to know how to transpose” side, here are some thoughts to consider.

  1. The bottom line is that yes, it is a required skill for professionals and aspiring professionals.
  2. It provides a connection to hand-horn playing and music/composers of the past.
  3. For conductors, music educators, etc. transposing is a necessary skill for score reading and analysis.
  4. Many orchestral parts are not available in transposed versions, so if you want to perform in an orchestra you need to be able to read these parts.

And on the “Well, maybe you don’t always have to know how to transpose” side of the coin:

  • For players in community orchestras and other similar ensembles, having to read non-transposed parts can be a barrier to enjoyment and engagement in those groups.
  • Not necessary to be a “good” horn player, meaning, one can be a competent player in terms of range, technique, and musicality without having this particular skill.
  • I have observed  some condescension towards horn players who haven’t yet mastered transposition or who question how necessary it is today. This attitude does not help make the case for transposition.
  • Can be a difficult skill to master once out of school, especially without a private instructor, and a method to learn it.
  • Can be seen as an archaic tradition, without much connection to modern valved horn playing. *I don’t agree with this view, but have seen it expressed.

All this can be confusing to impressionable music students, so if I could offer one piece of advice it would be to go ahead and start learning to transpose now, it will ultimately make your life easier as a horn player. However, if you’ve taken several years off and are returning to horn playing, don’t feel bad about not remembering all the intricacies of transposition. There are some transposed parts available in the orchestral repertoire, and if you can get your hands on them they will probably do just fine. Should you feel motivated to add transposing to your skill set, there are fortunately lots of great resources available today. Here are a few of my favorites:

I also have a Transposition Practice Plan available on this site, feel free to check it out.

Warm-Up Routine Based on Solo Works for Horn

As mentioned in this post, I think my Solo Training for Horn book can be used as a source of effective warm-up and daily practice routine materials. See the link below for a free sample routine drawn from a small portion of the contents in Solo Training. The exercises are based (some closely, some more loosely) on the following works:

  • Sonata, Op. 17 – Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Concerto No. 1, Hob. VIId:3 – Franz Joseph Haydn
  • Concerto, K. 495 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Morceau de Concert – Camille Saint-Saëns
  • Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70 – Robert Schumann

This brief packet addresses the traditional topics you would find in most warm-ups:

  • First notes
  • Legato/Staccato Playing
  • Scales/Arpeggios
  • High Range/Low Range
  • Lip Trills/Flexibility
  • Stopped Horn

But the bonus is that all of the exercises can be clearly related back to major solo works in the horn’s repertoire. If you’re looking for an alternative warm-up routine to add to your toolbox, feel free to download the PDF, and let me know what you think in the comments or an email.

AND, if you find this material interesting and/or useful, please do check out the entire book, available on the Mountain Peak Music website. It contains much more material than this 15-page sample, as the entire book is over 100 pages.

Download the Solo Training Warm-Up Routine

 

If You Like Solo Training Duets, Check Out Solo Training for One Horn!

In looking over some year-end tax information from Mountain Peak Music, the publisher of my two books, I noticed a couple of things:

  1. Horn players like Duet Books! Solo Training Duets  did pretty well in 2019, probably because of the recently released 2nd edition, and also because duets are an enjoyable way to package useful content (fundamentals, long tones, solo repertoire, etc.) Thinking about this generated some interesting ideas for future publications…more on that in the future!
  2. People might not know about my other book, Solo Training for Horn: This book is actually more recent than the first edition of the duet collection, although it has been far less popular. There are probably a couple of causes for this, number one being that it was published in 2016 and horn players might have forgotten about it, and also because it isn’t something you can necessarily pull out and sight-read with a student or colleague. However, I would still encourage anyone who enjoys Solo Training Duets  to check out the solo book. There are several pieces covered in the one-horn book that don’t appear in the duet book, and I think there are some very useful exercises and derivative etudes. One could even put together a comprehensive warm-up/fundamentals routine by picking and choosing certain excerpts. This is a topic I plan to explore further in a future post.

Meanwhile, feel free to visit the Mountain Peak Music website and view the samples from Solo Training for Horn. I also recorded a brief promo/demo video for the book back in 2016. Take a look and listen, and let me know what you think. I would be happy to answer any questions you have about it!

Practice Tips: Organizing and Learning Lots of Repertoire

Busy students and professionals often find themselves having to prepare many different programs simultaneously, such as solo recitals, chamber music, orchestra/band concerts, weekly lesson materials, etc. If you have time to focus on every thing each day, then you are very lucky! However, the case more often is that there simply isn’t enough time to cover every single piece of repertoire each day. Having to “cram” for too many performances repeatedly can lead to burnout, injury, and a whole host of other issues.

Here are some of my strategies for organizing and working on several different programs at once.

  • Put Everything in a Digital or Paper Calendar: Clearly mark all rehearsal and performance dates in your professional/school calendar. Consider color coding the entries according to the type of program, (ex. blue for chamber music, green for large ensemble, etc.). This will help you tell at a glance what the next upcoming engagement is.
  • Organize Music: I like to use post-it notes and/or manila folders to keep my music in order (see above image). I write the date of the performance(s) and/or rehearsal(s) on the note or the manila folder. This makes it easy to prioritize practice materials chronologically according to the performance date. When I grab my stack of music to practice, I sort things according to the date as well as the difficulty. For example, a difficult work scheduled several months from now might require more regular practice than an easier piece scheduled for the immediate future.
  • Plan Each Practice Session: Schedule your practice sessions, and then create a list of works to focus on in each session. Set specific goals and/or a time limit. Try both strategies (time and goal oriented), and figure out which works best for you.
  • Reflect, Revise, then Repeat: Once a week, take some time to reflect on your practice strategies and goals. Consider changing things up if they aren’t effective.

I hope these tips help you achieve more effective practice sessions!

Semester Preview: Spring 2020

Our spring semester is in full swing, and we have lots of great events happening in the brass area over the next few months. Here is a representative, though not exhaustive, list.

  • February 3-4: Scott Hartman Residency Professor Hartman has been on the faculty of Yale University since 2001, and was a member of the Empire Brass for many years. He will be on our campus for a few days, holding several master classes and other sessions, culminating in a recital on February 4. The ULM brass faculty will be joining him on a couple of pieces.
  • February 17-18: Composer-in-Residence, Douglas Hedwig I first encountered the music of Douglas Hedwig through the New Music on the Bayou Festival, and have really enjoyed getting to know his many works for brass. Hedwig is a former member of the trumpet section of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and is also an accomplished composer.  My colleagues and I will be performing two large works by him during his residency (details taken from the composer’s website):
    • A Certain Slant of Light (2015): Five-movement, 17 minute work for brass quintet, organ & percussion (1 player).  Inspired by the poem by Emily Dickinson.  Commissioned by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chattanooga, TN.  Premiered on May 4, 2015.  Published by Carl Fischer Music, NYC.
    • Four Third Streams for Wind Quintet (2018).  Premiere, January 27, 2019
  • March 10: Trio Mélange Recital I really enjoy performing with this ensemble, and our recital this spring will include several new works for soprano, horn, and piano. More information in a future post!
  • March 21: Louisiana Horn Day This is the first of what we hope will become an annual event in Louisiana, to foster interest in the horn and to promote membership in the International Horn Society. In addition to a recital and master class presented by our Guest Artist (Dr. Stacie Mickens, Associate Professor of Horn at the University of North Texas), the day will also include Contributing Artist performances, exhibits, and a mass horn choir.
  • March 31: Brass Day Right on the heels of Horn Day is our annual Brass Day, which continues to be a very popular event. This year the Dallas Brass will be joining us as Guest Artists, along with a college student brass ensemble and a high school student brass ensemble. Both groups will have the opportunity to perform with the Dallas Brass on their evening concert. If you are a brass player in the Northeast Louisiana area (or beyond), you do not want to miss this free event!

In addition to the above, there will be numerous other noteworthy performances by our ULM ensembles and various regional orchestras. I hope everyone has a healthy and productive spring!

Barry Tuckwell’s Contributions to Horn Literature

Word of  Barry Tuckwell’s (1931-2020) passing spread quickly throughout the horn playing community, and was met with sadness as well as a number of heartfelt and touching reminiscences. His incredible career as an orchestral musician, soloist, and recording artist has been justifiably lauded by such diverse outlets as The New York Times  and The International Horn Society. Like Philip Farkas, Barry Tuckwell had an immeasurable impact on generations of horn players, and he will be missed greatly. I only heard him perform live once, in the late 90’s during one of his last solo tours. Like many, though, I became familiar with Tuckwell’s artistry through his numerous recordings, which span a huge range of horn literature.

His publications were also widely circulated, though some are now out of print. See the list below, as found on his Honorary Member page on the International Horn Society’s website.

  • Horn (Yehudi Menuhin Music Guides)
  • Fifty First Exercises for Horn
  • Playing the Horn; A Practical Guide
  • Great Performer’s Editions (Telemann, Beethoven, etc.)
  • Mozart Concertos for Horn

Tuckwell was also an avid proponent of new music, with an extensive catalog of works written for and because of him. The following list (with recording links where available) can be found in a chapter of Douglas Hill’s book Collected Thoughts on Teaching and Learning, Creativity, and Horn Performance (Warner Brothers Publications, 2001). The chapter is aptly titled “New Music for and Because of Barry Tuckwell,” and is well worth reading in its entirety. Here is the introduction to the chapter:

In 1996, Johnny Pherigo, editor of The Horn Call: Journal of the International Horn Society, invited me to write an article that would review the compositions written specifically for the soon-to-retire, world famous horn soloist Barry Tuckwell. A number of these wonderful compositions were favorites of mine already, so to learn of the others was a welcome opportunity. What follows is a revised version of the original, which was based upon an extensive interview with Maestro Tuckwell and a visual and, in most cases, aural review of each composition. The body of works discussed stands as representative of the finest solo horn writing of the late-twentieth century. p. 170

List of Works Composed for and Because of Barry Tuckwell ( as found in the chapter “New Music for and Because of Barry Tuckwell,” in Douglas Hill’s Collected Thoughts on Teaching and Learning, Creativity, and Horn Performance (Warner Brothers Publications, 2001)

 

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