Friday Review: Flow Studies for Horn

Over the holiday break I spent some time working out of Nancy Sullivan‘s Flow Studies for Horn, a new publication from Mountain Peak Music (cover image at right linked from the MPM website.)  Professor Sullivan is on the faculty at Northern Arizona University, and is quite active as a chamber and orchestral musician. Although we’ve never met, I noticed in her biography that she is also a graduate of UW-Madison, and the book includes a Preface by Douglas Hill (you can read the preface here).  This is a logical, well organized collection, and contains a wide range of exercises. If you’re familiar with the  flow studies developed by renowned trumpet teacher Vincent Cichowicz, you may be wondering if there are any similarities between them and the material in this collection.  Professor Sullivan addresses this in an Acknowledgement page.

The great trumpet pedagogue Vincent Cichowicz is known for using the term “flow study” in his teaching. A concerted effort has been made not to duplicate his original flow study patterns in this book.

For those who studied with Mr. Cichowicz, perhaps this book can be used to supplement his original patterns. For those who never had the opportunity to study with Mr. Cichowicz, perhaps this volume can help to promote the idea of flow.

It is with respect to the immeasurable teaching legacy of Mr. Cichowicz that these flow patterns are offered for the benefit of all horn players. (p. i)

Flow Studies for Horn is divided into three main types of patterns; slow, medium, and fast, though there is considerable variety within each section. For example, the “Slow Flow Studies” section contains scale and arpeggio exercises in several different keys, as well as a whole tone study. The author suggests practicing the studies in a rotation, playing two studies from each section per day.  By following this schedule, a player can cover the entire book in one week – once the patterns have been learned, of course. Doug Hill’s preface does an excellent job of laying out the major benefits of playing these studies, provided that the player spends a little time on the exercises each day.  Many of the patterns can be sight read easily, although the fast studies will require some working out at slower speeds.  The author has intentionally omitted dynamic and metronome markings, so that players can vary the specifics to suit their own needs.  One could also extend the patterns higher or lower (Doug points this out in his preface), or even play them down an octave or in different transpositions for variety.  I also think portions of this collection could work very well as a warm-up routine.  Most of them are in the middle range, and the slow and medium studies especially force the player to focus on good tone production and breath control.  In addition to the rotation noted above, one other way to practice the studies is to focus on a single pattern, but gradually decrease the tempo – in the case of the slow studies – or increase the tempo – for the fast studies.  In the context of a private lesson this could make for a very nice “game” of sorts by seeing just how slowly or quickly you or the student can play a phrase.

Flow Studies for Horn is a great addition to other existing materials, and provides a fun yet rigorous set of exercises for improving tone quality, breath control, and overall technique.

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