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)

 

Brief Reviews: The French Horn Warmup Collection and Dueling Fundamentals for Two Horns

In my last post of 2019 I want to recommend two excellent new publications for horn players, John Ericson’s The French Horn Warmup Collection and Matthew Haislip’s Dueling Fundamentals for Two Horns. Either or both would make great gifts if you are still looking for a last minute holiday present for a horn-playing family member or friend.

The French Horn Warmup Collection includes material from several earlier publications by Dr. Ericson, as well as some new exercises. They can be freely combined in various ways to create numerous warmup and practice routines. All of the basics are covered thoroughly, including range and tone development, flexibility, scales and arpeggios, intonation, breathing, multiple tonguing, and more. I regularly use the exercises for breathing and multiple tonguing, and the “breath-set-play” pattern found at the end of the “Short Daily Routine.” Everything is notated very clearly, and the exercises are explained and presented in a logical manner. The Kindle edition is listed for $3.99, which is an amazingly low price for the amount and quality of the content in this collection. It can be easily read and performed from by using a tablet equipped with the Kindle app. If you prefer a hard copy, it is available through print-on-demand for $8.99, which is also very reasonable. For more on this publication, see Ericson’s post at Horn Matters, as well as this episode of his Horn Notes Podcast. Along with Professor Jeffrey Agrell at the University of Iowa, Dr. Ericson is among a few prominent horn professors making their publications available in both print and digital format. With the ever increasing popularity of tablet devices and digital media, I think this trend is going to continue.

In a similar vein is Dueling Fundamentals for Two Horns, new from Mountain Peak Music. The author is Dr. Matthew Haislip, Assistant Professor of Horn at Mississippi State University. Here is a brief description of the book from the MPM website:

Trill Thrill, Fits of Fifths, Beethoven for Two, and Overtone Madness are just some of the fun—but make no mistake, also challenging!—duets included in Dueling Fundamentals for Horns. This book consists of five chapters: Long Tones; Intervals; Flexibility; Scales and Arpeggios; and Range Extenders. In each duet, both lines are challenging—there is no “student” line and no “teacher” line. Therefore this book works well for lessons or as an excellent tool for two friends or classmates looking to challenge themselves and each other.

I’m a big fan of Mountain Peak Music’s publications, and have published two books of my own with them. The Dueling Fundamentals series capitalizes on a need for high quality pedagogical material for use by college-level players and their teachers. The duets found in Professor Haislip’s book make excellent “lesson-starters,” to be used in the first 10-15 minutes to establish solid fundamentals and set a high standard for the rest of the lesson. They of course could be used throughout a lesson to work on specific technical needs, or assigned to pairs of students for studio class presentations, etc.  I’ve played through many of these with my students, and found them to be well-constructed, useful, and fun. Range requirements usually begin comfortably and progress to extremes, and it is quite easy to adapt these for less experienced players by skipping around and/or truncating the duets. Some of the patterns draw upon classic materials such as Stamp, Clarke, and Gallay, while others incorporate various styles ranging from Beethoven to Philip Glass. In the absence of a duet partner, any of the duets can be performed by a single player to create an individual practice routine.

I am always in the market for innovative and functional teaching materials, and these new publications by John Ericson and Matthew Haislip certainly fit the bill.

As we close out 2019, I would like to thank my readers for taking the time to peruse this site. After almost 10 years of blogging, I still enjoy reading and writing about the horn, and it’s gratifying to know that there are others out there who feel the same way. Wishing you all good health and great chops in 2020!

Thoughts on Organizing Your C.V.

I spent some time this past semester revising my curriculum vitae, or C.V.,  for the purposes of applying for promotion here at ULM. Most of my revisions had less to do with design or content, and more to do with the organization of existing material. Having served on several search committees at the departmental level and higher, I can say that there are many effective ways to organize this document. Your C.V. should be honest, clear, and organized, and present a complete picture of your professional accomplishments, without being padded with extraneous information. For example, you generally do not need to list every church gig or pick-up ensemble performance, unless they are of a high profile nature.  If you have an eye for graphic design and want to create something visually engaging, by all means do so, but make sure that content always takes priority.

If you’re just getting started with a C.V., the following links under “General Advice” will be very helpful in assembling a basic outline. From there, feel free to add some of the items listed in “Categories for Musicians: A Few Possibilities.” Be open to suggestions from others on your C.V., and try to make time each month or so to update it with your most recent accomplishments. Having an updated C.V. will save you time when the next opportunity comes along!

General Advice

Categories for Musicians: A Few Possibilities

  • Performance Positions – List in reverse chronological order, include past and present professional orchestra/band positions, established chamber ensembles, etc.
  • Music Festivals and Institutes Attended
  • Adjudication Experience – Competitions, auditions, etc.
  • Publications – in addition to the traditional books, articles, and reviews, you can list audio recordings (as a solo/featured artist, or collaborating artist), original compositions, musical arrangements, etc.) If you have an active professional website or YouTube channel you may consider including these as well. Organize all of the above by category, so that they are clear to the reader at a glance.
  • Selected Student Positions and Accomplishments – Jobs, competitions, auditions, etc.
  • Commissions and Premieres
  • Guest Masterclasses
  • Conference Performances and Presentations – You may consider organizing these both chronologically and by scope: international, national, regional, and state. I like this because it draws attention to the most high profile things you have done.
  • Selected Solo and Chamber Music Performances – You will want to limit these to the most significant ones.
  • Recent Orchestral Performances – Again, limit these to the most recent and/or significant.

Lagniappe Brass Videos

LAGNIAPPE BRASS LOGO(3)Last week the ULM Brass Faculty presented our annual holiday concert. This is always a fun concert, but this year there were a number of things that made the event special. First, our concert was part of a new chamber music series for the Monroe Symphony Orchestra, called “MSO Presents.” Second, we were joined by some special guests, turning our brass trio (Black Bayou Brass) into a full brass quintet, the Lagniappe Brass.  The term “lagniappe” is derived from a Louisiana French Creole word meaning “something given as a bonus or extra gift.” We thought it a fitting name for this ad hoc ensemble, and we hope to schedule more performances in the future. Our extra players included Steven Cunningham (trumpet) from Grambling State University, Cory Mixdorf (trombone) from the University of Arkansas, and a few ULM students who helped out on percussion parts for Sleigh Ride. For several pieces on the program we were also joined by ULM keyboard professor Richard Seiler on the organ. It was a really fun concert, with great attendance and an appreciative audience, for which we are extremely grateful! Special thanks to Steven and Cory; Craig West, Executive Director of the MSO; and Grace Episcopal Church in Monroe, LA. This concert would not have been possible without their efforts. And now, here are some brief excerpts from the concert. Hopefully they will put you in the holiday spirit!

*For those interested in the technical side of these things, see additional note at the bottom of this post.

We recorded this performance using several different methods: two Zoom Q2n recorders set up in front and behind the ensemble (primarily for video, but also recording audio), a pair of Cascade ribbon microphones set up in a Blumlein configuration directly in front of the quintet, and a Zoom H4 set up in the balcony at the rear of the sanctuary. All of these audio sources gave us a variety of ways to mix the sound, which I did using Logic Pro X after the fact. It would have been easier to run everything into the same audio interface, but we didn’t have the capability to do that for this particular performance. The video switching was created using Final Cut Pro, which has a very handy tool for syncing audio and video from various sources. Looking at the various videos back to back, you can tell that I was experimenting with (or rather fumbling around with) different lighting effects and color balances. This was my first experience with combining video and audio from so many different sources, but I think the end product is more visually engaging than a single camera. Look for more videos like this from us in the future!

Throwback Thursday: Senior Recital Recordings, October, 2001

While going through some old CDs recently, I came across my final undergraduate recital at Appalachian State University. I don’t recall the exact date, but it would have been sometime in October of 2001. I had not listened to these recordings in years, and doing so was a great trip down memory lane. Here is the program, with embedded audio. Feel free to take a listen!

Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of the program handy, but if memory serves here are the names of the other performers.

Kudos to all of them for very fine performances! Overall I still feel good about that recital from nearly 20 years ago. *An interesting piece of information about the Mozart is that one of the viola players injured their hand the day before the recital, and we had to get a sub at the last minute. I can still vividly remember getting the call from my teacher on the day of the recital, and singing my way through an impromptu rehearsal of the Mozart that afternoon with the new violist!

I have many fond memories of Boone and Appalachian State, and  got a terrific undergraduate education there, studying with Dr. Karen Robertson. During my senior year I also had the opportunity to perform with the Asheville Symphony as well as the usual collegiate ensembles. I’m so thankful for those opportunities, as they really helped me get on the right track at an early stage in my career. Looking back on where I was playing-wise at the time, I struggled with the high range and also had issues with intonation, endurance, and consistency of sound. I continued to work through these over the course of my graduate studies and well into my first few years at ULM. To close, I think the big thing to take away from this throwback Thursday post is to never stop practicing! Be proud of your successes  – as I was and still am proud of this recital from 2001 – but always  keep trying to become a better horn player. 

 

Three Kinds of Warmups

The last several weeks have been quite busy, with many performances both on and off campus. Hundreds of miles of driving (and lots of horn playing) provided me with ample time and motivation to think about warming up. I was also inspired by John Ericson’s recent Horn Notes podcast and new publication, The French Horn Warmup Collection. Be sure to check them out as they are both great.

As for my own personal warmup I made the mistake as a young player of thinking that I had  to do the same warmup routine every day, regardless of what condition my chops were in from the previous day, or what other playing obligations lay ahead. I learned the hard way many years ago that this approach doesn’t work for me, and that many professional players modify their routine on a daily basis, depending upon their needs. While I do generally advocate using the same (or similar) warmup more or less regularly, I think there are at least three different kinds of  warmups that an advanced player should work out and be ready to use as necessary. Can these three different warmups actually be modifications to the same basic routine – of course! But they can also be completely different, so long as each is effective at achieving the desired goals. 

The Normal Warmup: Your everyday routine, which should contain a variety of fundamental exercises. You can choose from dozens of published routines, or create your own customized version based on one or more of these. Whatever you decide, your normal warmup should include both easy and challenging patterns, organized in a logical, progressive manner.

The Recuperative Warmup: This type of warmup can be extremely useful the day after a heavy program or rehearsal. Rather than pushing things, this routine should help loosen up any stiffness from the previous day. Long tones at a comfortable dynamic in the middle register and easy slurred patterns are often found in recuperative warmups. Depending on how you structure your Normal Warmup, you may be able to create a Recuperative one simply by modifying a few things. If your day-to-day routine is more aggressive, you may want to experiment with some gentler exercises.

The Quick Warmup: Third, you need a warmup that can get you ready to play in as little time as possible. There will be situations when you don’t have the luxury of playing the entire normal routine, and it’s helpful to know in advance what will work most effectively for you. A quick routine is also useful for rewarming up later in the day after the initial warmup has already been completed. A few long tones, followed by scales and/or harmonic series slurs are often components of a quick warmup.

Have some more thoughts about warming up? Feel free to share in the comments section!

 

Eldon Matlick Masterclass and Recital

Dr. Eldon Matlick with Lee Dunford and Neill Roshto, members of the ULM Horn Studio.

The ULM Horn Studio recently hosted Dr. Eldon Matlick – Professor of Horn at the University of Oklahoma – for a masterclass, recital, and several group lessons. It was a treat getting to observe Professor Matlick’s teaching, and to gain some insight into his pedagogy, which I wasn’t familiar with prior to this visit. It’s always interesting and beneficial for my students (and me) to hear familiar concepts explained in fresh ways. Here are a few ideas that stuck out to me from his masterclass and group lessons with our students:

  • Articulation: “The tongue slices through, but doesn’t stop, a never-ending column of air.”
  • Warming up: use air attacks, begin with mouthpiece buzzing, followed by leadpipe buzzing, then move to the horn.
  • Right Hand Position: Put the right hand straight down the middle of the bell, as described in this video by Engelbert Schmid – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6eDD_nz3xo
  • Accuracy – problems often result when the horn is not correctly tuned. The ear and lips are trying to produce a different pitch than the horn is set up to play. This can be corrected by properly tuning the instrument. *See below.
  • Playing the horn should be easy – this is a principle that was clearly evident in Dr. Matlick’s recital performance, which was wonderful. He never once sounded fatigued, despite playing a program with several big works including the Appel Interstellaire by Messiaen and the Sonata for Horn and Piano, Op. 178 by Joseph Joseph Rheinberger . His playing was heroic and very musical, with a vibrant, singing tone.

Speaking of his program, of special interest is the instrument he used for the Rheinberger, a Vienna horn built by Andreas Jungwirth. I believe this was the first time I’ve heard a Vienna Horn performed live, and it was done masterfully. Kudos also to ULM collaborative pianist Justin Havard for his solid work on the difficult piano part. To my ear, the tone of the Vienna horn is smaller and more focused than the standard double horn, warm and liquid at medium to soft dynamics, with a thrilling (but not unpleasant) edge when played loudly. Dr. Matlick also very generously allowed my students to play on his Jungwirth as well as another Vienna horn made by Yamaha during his masterclass. Though the Vienna horn is primarily used as an orchestral instrument in Austria, there are several groups around the world that promote and advocate for this unique instrument. The Scottish Vienna Horns is but one of many examples. With Dr. Matlick leading the charge, perhaps the Vienna horn is poised to become a more popular and viable option for American horn players. Time will tell!

In closing, be sure you check out Dr. Matlick’s videos on YouTube with the University of Oklahoma Horn Ensemble, as well as his two solo recordings on the Mark Records label: Bavarian Horn and The French Connection. All are excellent examples of great horn playing!

Bonus: Here is the procedure Dr. Matlick suggested for tuning the double horn. Fingerings in [] assume a standard double horn, standing in the key of F.

  1. Play third-space C  [T0] (adjust main tuning slide)
  2. Play third-space C [0] (adjust F tuning slide)
  3. Play third-space C [1] (adjust first valve slide on the F side)
  4. Play third-line B-flat [1], then match [T1] (adjust first valve slide on the B-flat side)
  5. Play fourth-line D [0], then match with  [T12] (adjust second valve slide on the B-flat side)
  6. Play third-line B-natural [T2], then match with [2] (adjust second valve slide on the F side)
  7. Play second space A [12], tune, then match with [T12]
  8. Play second space A [T3], tune slightly low (adjust third valve on B-flat side), then match with [3] (adjust third valve slide on F side)

I think these are all the correct steps, but any errors are certainly mine and not Dr. Matlick’s. While this procedure is slightly different than the way I do things, it will certainly work, and is both systematic and thorough. If you haven’t tuned your horn this way before, give it a try!

 

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