Etude Projects

Trumpet teacher and performer Craig Morris has got a great project going on YouTube.  Called the “Charlier Project,” his goal is to record all 36 of Théo Charlier’s “Etudes Transcendantes.” He has already got a few of them ready to go, and has posted them on YouTube (see below).

Another part of this project that I find very interesting is that Morris has also pledged to make these recordings “with no editing or effects of any kind.”  The rationale for this decision is quoted below from his blog, http://www.livmusic.com/

Besides the obvious insanity, however, there are some good reasons to take on this project. In this day and age there is so much editing and processing that goes into recordings that it is difficult to know what a top professional trumpet player actually sounds like, what his/her abilities truly are. You can decide for yourself if I actually belong in that category, but whatever your opinion, these etudes will give you a very real idea of how I actually play. My hope is that this knowledge will be useful for players who are trying to ascertain where they stand in their progress on the instrument, at least as it pertains to these etudes. Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves for playing that we should really be proud of, worried that we just don’t measure up to the players we hear on recordings, especially so called “live recordings”. At other times we aren’t demanding enough, thinking that perhaps top players have perfect recordings simply because of the editing, not knowing how well those people actually played. In this project, however, there is no doubt. For better or worse, this is how I sound. I simply start recording takes until I have one that I am reasonably happy with, and then I continue on, hoping to improve on that. After I’m done, I listen through my top takes and select my favorite to post to YouTube. Simple, honest, and hopefully not horribly painful as the etudes get more difficult (this is where that insanity comes into play).

Morris makes some great points about the level of editing and processing that goes into commercial recordings today, and I look forward to hearing the rest of his YouTube project.  Now, on to the horn-related part.  We have our own “Charlier” etudes – those that continually challenge us and push us on to higher levels – and I think it would be a great project for a horn player looking for a doctoral dissertation, or simply someone looking for an extended summer practicing project, to record, say, Kopprasch Op. 6, or  all of Maxime-Alphonse Book 4, 5, or 6(!) in the fashion that Morris describes (no splicing, editing, etc.).  Or what about the Verne Reynolds Etudes, or Gallay Unmeasured Preludes, Schuller Unaccompanied Studies, the list goes on…  Even if all of the results aren’t necessarily worth posting in a public forum, think of the musical and technical benefits such an undertaking would bring to one’s playing, not to mention providing a point of reference for others studying or teaching those etudes.  To my knowledge, the only complete recording of a collection of horn etudes is Kling’s 40 Characteristic Studies, recorded by Stephen Hager. If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m considering a project of this type myself, although I’m not sure exactly which etudes I want to record, and I’m sure the actual recording process will have to wait until the summer.  But the great thing is that there are numerous excellent etude collections out there, all in need of solid reference recordings for students and colleagues – there’s plenty to go ’round. I could also easily imagine a collaborative project amongst several performers and teachers to record several collections of etudes – a YouTube Horn Etude channel!

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