I sometimes joke with students and tell them that when you become a horn teacher you buy a “new horn teacher’s kit” with all the various and sundry items that usually occupy one’s teaching studio. In reality of course these essential tools of the trade are pieced together over many years, and often at considerable expense. In the next couple of posts we’ll look at some of the tools I’ve come to rely on as a teacher.
My primary instrument is a Yamaha 667vl double horn, purchased in 2001. I own another 667v which is a few years older and also a very nice playing instrument as well. It doubles as a back up horn, and also an instrument for my wife, who is a very fine horn player herself. You can see an image of the newer 667v below. It has always served me well, but I’m beginning to get the “itch” for a new horn. However, with the economy being what it is, I have no problem waiting a while before making a large purchase like a new horn.
The lacquer’s a little worn in places, and there are the usual dings and scrapes, but the valves are still quick and overall intonation is quite good. I have customized the horn a bit with a Schmid left hand support and finger cups from Stuart deHaro. The horn also projects very well, although for my next horn I would like to consider one with a slightly larger bell throat and possibly a bit heavier bell. In the photo you can also see my current mouthpiece, a Laskey 75G. The 75G works very well with this horn, and it’s one I keep coming back to.
I also own a Holton H200 double descant horn (shown below), which I purchased from Douglas Hill. I was in the market for a descant horn but I didn’t necessarily need (and couldn’t afford) a top of the line instrument, and the Holton fit the bill very nicely. It is a nice horn at a very reasonable price, and I’ve used it several times over the last few years. I would like to do more playing on it in the future, particularly Baroque solo works like the Telemann and Förster concertos. My only complaint about the horn is that the intonation is sometimes a bit quirky, tending towards the sharp side. Anyone else had this issue with the H200?
Compared to some other horn teachers, my mouthpiece collection is pretty modest. I have the usual Bach, King, Yamaha, and Holton mouthpieces which so often wind up in horn studios, as well as several Laskeys (75G, 75J, 80G, 70G). I have played on all of the Laskey mouthpieces at one time or another, but as I said above I keep coming back to the 75G. I also have several mouthpieces made by Tom Greer of Moosewood Hornists’ Requisites. You can see several of these in the picture below, as well as the famous “rim-on-a-stick” embouchure visualizer. I use the visualizer with a mirror to help students become more aware of their top to bottom lip ratio in the mouthpiece.
A couple of the more interesting mouthpieces I own are shown below. From left to right they are an Osmun copy of a Neil Sanders rim with their “Chicago” cup, a “Megamoose” mouthpiece by Tom Greer, and a clear mouthpiece by Kelly. The Sanders copy is a great mouthpiece for students with braces, as it provides quite a bit more cushion. I bought the Megamoose while in graduate school, and actually played on it for quite a while. I liked what the heavier mouthpiece did for my sound, but for me I felt like I had to work just a bit too hard even after playing on it for several months. The Kelly mouthpiece is another great tool for embouchure visualization, although in some cases the clear plastic fogs up quite quickly with condensation.
Metronomes, Tuners, etc.
A metronome and tuner are of course essential tools for any horn teacher or player, and you can see the ones I use everyday in the picture below. My go to metronome is a BOSS Dr. Beat DB-88, which I don’t think is being made anymore, and has been replaced with a newer model. My tuner is also made by BOSS, a TU-80. I also like using online metronomes and tuners – you can read more about those in this post. And last but certainly not least is the indispensable dictionary of musical terms. I own several, but this pocket sized Schirmer dictionary is very handy and has all of the commonly used musical terms.
Coming up next – mutes, breathing devices, and valve oil.
“The Kelly mouthpiece is another great tool for embouchure visualization, although in some cases the clear plastic fogs up quite quickly with condensation.”
I use face mask defoggant, available at a SCUBA supply shop on the inside of mine, which works perfectly. It takes a little practice to see exactly how much to put on. I usually put on a little more than I think I need, let the student play for a bit, then wipe off a little with a paper towel until I’m getting a clear view.
I’ve also heard shaving cream works, but never tried it myself.
Looking forward to your next installment.
Thanks Dave! I wondered how you kept the mouthpieces clear in your videos.
Love this- lots of good things. I’d like to hear more about the Holton descant… I’m in the market.
Thanks for reading Kyle! I’ll post some more thoughts about the H-200 next week.
I have played on Holton’s (a vintage 178 and a newer 179) all of my career, and they all play sharp. Holton advertises that A=445 on their Horns. Adkinson put their A-5 leadpipe on the 178 and one of the improvements is a pitch of A=442. (with no slides pulled). I used Neill Sanders (17M and 17D) mouthpieces for several years. I had bout with, what they thought, was “Bells Palsy” and had to rebuild my embouchure. The wider rim let me continue to play through the rebuilding process. I am now back on a Schilke 30 or a Laskey 70G. Can’t really decide which is better. The rim on the Schilke seems to be a little more forgiving at age 69.
I had never used Giardinelli, so when they had their “Fire Sale” to Brass-Woodwinds, I ordered several of their Horn mouthpieces. Pure dumb luck, one was a short blank F-12. It has turned out to be a really great match with my vintage Holton 178. I would agree with John Erickson: Some mouthpieces seem to be “Horn specific.”
Over the years I have collected a lot of mouthpieces. It is the one way I can get students to try mouthpieces and not have to pay out a lot of money. When they find one they like, we try to find one like it for them to purchase. PS the Giardinelli F-12 is very close to the Laskey 725G, that I often use for solo work. So there is something presently available.
Thanks for reading and commenting! Yes, there really is an art it seems to finding the right mouthpiece for a horn. I’m always looking, but have had pretty good results with the equipment I’m playing on now (Houser GS12 with stainless steel rim).