A Basic Horn Warm-Up

In preparation for an upcoming presentation on warm-ups and routines for horn at the 2011 Louisiana Music Educator’s Association State Conference, I’ve been going back through some of my materials, including this brief routine (see .pdf link at the end of this post) I put together a few years ago.  It is heavily based on other routines, but is designed to be playable by almost any level of student.  In my teaching I was looking for a warm-up that beginning students could basically sight-read, so I compiled and edited several familiar patterns until I arrived at something that worked for even my youngest students (junior high).  It doesn’t have anything fancy, but covers all the basics.  One of the first things I ask younger students in lessons (and the older ones too) is whether they have a regular warm-up and routine.  If they don’t, I usually recommend this one as a starting point, which can later be traded up in favor of a longer, more developed routine.

In my presentation I’ve divided things into what I consider to be the essential components of a warm-up:

  • breathing
  • buzzing
  • long tones
  • scales/arpeggios (slurred and tongued)

And the optional (more along the lines of a routine rather than a warm-up):

  • Range development
  • Double/Triple tonguing
  • Lip trills
  • Stopped Horn
  • Transposition
  • Flexibility exercises
  • Improvisation

There are more categories that could be included, but these should be enough to start a nice discussion of the various approaches to warming up.   I understand that time is always an issue for any high school band director, and many directors use a standard warm-up routine for the entire band.  I think this is great, and my warm-up is intended as a supplement to whatever a director is currently using.  Most of the routine can be played in 15-20 minutes, or if time is of the essence the bare minimum can be done in 5-10 minutes.  As an extension to the standard breathing, buzzing, long tones, and lip slurs, this routine also includes all the major and minor scales and arpeggios in a one octave pattern.  The pattern is designed to provide a variety of dynamics and articulations, something often missing when students practice scales.  The one octave patterns can easily be expanded to two or three.

My general goal with this presentation is to get more horn students to warm-up regularly before rehearsing, practicing, or performing. Once they get into a pattern of warming up, I think the students and their directors will notice big improvements in their playing – always a plus!

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Some good stuff here! One thing I personally like to stress in my teaching is the complete separation of the terms “warm-up” and “routine”. I think that they are, indeed, two completely different things; however one can use the routine as an essential warm-up for the day of playing. When I think of warming up, I think of it as a time to simply get the blood flowing into my face so that I don’t injure any muscles (breathing free buzzing, mouthpiece buzzing, and a few notes to get started), sort of like what you do before you exercise. The routine, then, is like the workout. The workout is the part that makes you bigger, stronger, and faster (lip slurs, long tones, harmonic series work, lip trills, scales, etc).

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