Most horn players today are fortunate to have a wide variety of quality practice materials available to them. Using the internet, one can readily find dozens of great methods, etudes, and other exercises to purchase (for a list of some of them, see this article). One recent addition to these materials is Bruno Schneider‘s Horn Fundamentals, published by Editions Bim. Schneider is a well-known name among horn players, having performed extensively throughout the world as a soloist, chamber musician, and clinician. His collection contains many familiar patterns, as well as some new ones (or new approaches to familiar patterns). You might ask “Why buy another collection of the same old exercises?” – a valid question – and here are a few reasons. 1) As a teacher, I consider it part of my job to be aware of as many new publications as possible. I don’t buy every new publication that comes out, but rather try to go for a good sampling of what’s currently available. 2) Often what seems like “the same old exercises” really isn’t, either because of actual changes to the material or because of an updated or different pedagogical approach. 3) Having a variety of materials gives us options as players and teachers. Even if you are very satisfied with your current materials, you never know when you might come across your next favorite exercise. There are plenty more reasons, but hopefully this is sufficient to prove my case. At the very least, if you’re a professional musician and/or teacher you can deduct them on your taxes! Getting back to the matter at hand, here’s a summary of the contents in Horn Fundamentals.
- Preface: I love this quote. “Efficiency in technical development requires patience, creative imagination, and a dedication to the ultimate goal of technical perfection…” (p. 2)
- Flexibility: Lots of basic patterns using the harmonic series, covering a three-octave range.
- Fast Flexibility: Builds on the materials from the previous section, but with faster and more difficult patterns. One interesting update to these otherwise familiar exercises is the inclusion of fingerings for E-flat alto as well as the customary F and B-flat.
- Scales: Tw0-octave major and minor scales with a variety of articulations for comprehensive study. The most interesting thing to me about this chapter is that the scales are notated using the Grand Staff. It seems like such a simple thing, but I’ve rarely seen the concept of bass clef notation for horn players approached in this way. In using these particular exercises with a few younger students I noticed that they seemed to grasp the idea of bass clef much more quickly.
- Intervals: Diatonic, chromatic, slurred, and tongued.
- Articulations: Another very interesting set of exercises, focused mainly around developing finger dexterity and articulation clarity on short diatonic patterns.
- Chromatic Exercises: Designed to help stabilize the mid-low range, and work through any embouchure breaks.
- The Start of Sound: These are both accuracy exercises and long tone studies. Schneider notes that “The start of the note is a touchy moment which needs to be mastered in all dynamics throughout the entire register. The impulse which one gives before attacking the note is determining and corresponds to the pick up gesture of the conductor.” (p. 58) Articulation variations are included as well.
- Exercises to Play Loud: Aimed at improving forte dynamics and beyond, these exercises are anything but subtle. Although not explicitly stated, it would be advisable to take short breaks between these exercises, and/or to play only a couple of them per practice session.
The typesetting is very clean, with plenty of space between staves and exercises. My only criticism is that it would be nice to have spiral binding so that the book lays flat on a music stand. Annotations are in French, German, and English. The price is fairly reasonable, especially for 76 pages of great exercises. If you’re looking to switch out some or all of your daily exercises, or if like me you just enjoy studying and comparing different practice materials, Horn Fundamentals is a worthwhile addition to your library.