Etudes in Review: 30 Etudes for Stopped Horn, by Robert Ward

I picked up this great collection of stopped horn studies at the IHS Symposium in Los Angeles, but have just now gotten around to writing up a review. Author Robert Ward is well-known in the horn world, through his long tenure with the San Francisco Symphony as well as a growing number of compositions with horn. Published by Balquhidder Music, these etudes would be a welcome addition to an intermediate or advanced player’s library.

Over the last several weeks I’ve been working my way through the book, spending approximately 10 minutes on them per day. After covering about one third of these studies, I’ve found them to be fun, challenging, musically rewarding, and a real workout for stopped horn! Before getting into too many more details, here is a brief quote from the Preface.

This collection of 30 Etudes for Stopped Horn presents a variety of challenges for the medium to advanced player. I have included different styles from simple melodies to unmeasured quasi-cadenza, to swing and 12-tone, high and low register passages, and a variety of notations that are commonly used.

The studies are more or less progressive in nature, with each number presenting a few more challenges than the one preceding it. These challenges include rapid stopped to open shifts, meter changes, transposition, and a variety of different articulations, covering a range from B to c”’. Though the primary focus is of course on strengthening stopped horn technique, there are numerous other technical and musical benefits to be gained from this material. As Ward mentions in the Preface, these studies are not recommended for learning how to play stopped horn, but rather are designed to improve one’s abilities once the basics have already been more or less mastered. On the topic of fingerings, Ward writes in the Preface:

Fingerings are the subject of much debate – my experience is that every horn and player combination is unique. What works for one player, may not work for another. But start from the place of fingering one half step lower on the F-horn and go from there. There are many good Bb horn fingerings, especially in the higher register, but again, experimentation is the name of the game.

I largely agree with this assessment, although it might have been useful to include a suggested fingering chart or a few fingering options within the score. The printing and layout are clear, and the overall package is very nice. The main strength of these studies, though, is their musical inventiveness across a range of styles and technical demands. As with the Studies for Unaccompanied Horn by Gunther Schuller and 48 Etudes by Verne Reynolds, many of Ward’s studies would be effective on a recital performance.

If you need some extra stopped horn practice (and who doesn’t?) be sure to check out these etudes!

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