The last several weeks have been quite busy, with many performances both on and off campus. Hundreds of miles of driving (and lots of horn playing) provided me with ample time and motivation to think about warming up. I was also inspired by John Ericson’s recent Horn Notes podcast and new publication, The French Horn Warmup Collection. Be sure to check them out as they are both great.
As for my own personal warmup I made the mistake as a young player of thinking that I had to do the same warmup routine every day, regardless of what condition my chops were in from the previous day, or what other playing obligations lay ahead. I learned the hard way many years ago that this approach doesn’t work for me, and that many professional players modify their routine on a daily basis, depending upon their needs. While I do generally advocate using the same (or similar) warmup more or less regularly, I think there are at least three different kinds of warmups that an advanced player should work out and be ready to use as necessary. Can these three different warmups actually be modifications to the same basic routine – of course! But they can also be completely different, so long as each is effective at achieving the desired goals.
The Normal Warmup: Your everyday routine, which should contain a variety of fundamental exercises. You can choose from dozens of published routines, or create your own customized version based on one or more of these. Whatever you decide, your normal warmup should include both easy and challenging patterns, organized in a logical, progressive manner.
The Recuperative Warmup: This type of warmup can be extremely useful the day after a heavy program or rehearsal. Rather than pushing things, this routine should help loosen up any stiffness from the previous day. Long tones at a comfortable dynamic in the middle register and easy slurred patterns are often found in recuperative warmups. Depending on how you structure your Normal Warmup, you may be able to create a Recuperative one simply by modifying a few things. If your day-to-day routine is more aggressive, you may want to experiment with some gentler exercises.
The Quick Warmup: Third, you need a warmup that can get you ready to play in as little time as possible. There will be situations when you don’t have the luxury of playing the entire normal routine, and it’s helpful to know in advance what will work most effectively for you. A quick routine is also useful for rewarming up later in the day after the initial warmup has already been completed. A few long tones, followed by scales and/or harmonic series slurs are often components of a quick warmup.
Have some more thoughts about warming up? Feel free to share in the comments section!