A Review of Ultimate Horn Technique

In my earlier post on transposing I mentioned John Ericson’s new book Ultimate Horn Technique.  Published by Horn Notes EditionUltimate Horn Technique is the latest in a line of excellent publications on a variety of topics related to horn playing (the cover image at left is linked from the Horn Notes Edition homepage).  I’m sure there will be other positive reviews of the book, namely in the Horn Call: Journal of the International Horn Society, but I wanted to write a brief review relating my own experiences with it.  I bought both this book and another new publication, Ultimate Low Horn, at the 2011 Southeast Horn Workshop in early March.  Since then I’ve been working regularly out of both, and almost every day with Ultimate Horn Technique.  The complete title reads Ultimate Horn Technique: Exercises from 19th-Century Masters to Develop Finger Technique, Range, Transposition, Characteristic Playing, Intonation, and Double and Triple Tonguing.  After using the book on a daily basis for the last several weeks, I would say that it definitely delivers on these goals!  The preface states that the material was drawn from methods by Gallay, Kling, Meifred, Dauprat, Arban, Gumpert, and Schantl, though the author has expertly edited and organized the various exercises into a cohesive whole.  The book is organized according to key, consisting of a set of exercises in each of the major and minor keys. Each major key section generally contains the following.

  • A basic ascending and descending scale exercise covering two to three octaves
  • Several more scale studies in that key, with varying articulations dynamics, and rhythms
  • An arpeggio exercise
  • One or more characteristic studies emphasizing lyrical playing
  • Double and/or triple tonguing exercises
  • Several transposition exercises

The minor key sections contain the same kinds of exercises, but without the multiple tonguing and transposition studies.  In addition, the appendix includes several intonation studies for two horns by Gumpert and Kling.  Although there are several possible ways to approach using Ultimate Horn Technique, I initially worked through it more or less cover to cover (minus the appendix), taking about two days for each major key and one day for each minor key.  When I got to the end of the book I started over at the beginning.  I like the variety of spending no more than two days on any one key, and I can already notice an improvement in each exercise on my second trip through the book.  John also mentions in the preface that accuracy is one of the main focuses, and these exercises have certainly helped improve my own accuracy. I highly recommend practicing all the exercises with a tonic drone such as the TuneUp system or something similar.  Playing with the drone not only helps improve intonation, but accuracy as well.  The first time through I played the studies very slowly, making sure to get everything under my fingers before moving on.  The transposition exercises are excellent, and a welcome addition to the standard methods (Kopprasch, etc.) out there.  I have worked with the two horn intonation studies a bit in lessons, but I plan to use them even more beginning in the fall semester.  Overall I think Ultimate Horn Technique is a great resource for the intermediate to advanced horn player, and I will be recommending it to my students in the future.

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Thanks for the review! I just ordered my copy the text (coupled with the low horn and the high horn book that were also on my wishlist). I plan on doing a little exploring and look forward to seeing these studies packaged in a more usable way and learning some new ones along the way. I think this will be a nice treat to start off the summer practice season.


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