Caruso Journal: Week 7

I don’t have much to report this week, but if you have been reading my “Caruso Journal” posts I’ll assume that you have more than just a passing interest in the method. If so, I highly recommend that you check out this Brass Junkies interview with Julie Landsman, former Principal Horn of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and Caruso Method expert. Her interview is inspiring, funny, and full of great advice for horn players and all musicians.

On a personal note, while I never had the opportunity to study directly with Ms. Landsman, I did get to work briefly with one of her former students (and section mate in the MET), Michelle Baker. Ms. Baker was on the faculty of the Round Top Music Festival in Texas when I attended in the summer of 2003. Her masterclasses and lessons were fantastic, and I still think fondly of my experiences that summer.

More updates next week as I will be adding some exercises to the routine!

Caruso Journal: Week 6

After 6 weeks of daily work with the Caruso Routine, I’m still discovering new things, and continue to find the exercises very useful for building fundamentals. These will definitely be incorporated into my future teaching! No new material added this week (nothing new until after Week 8), but I’ve been experimenting with the three different beginnings to the Harmonic Series pattern. So far, playing them as written seems to work best for me.

Something else that occurred to me this week is that although the instructions say to keep the mouthpiece on the lips during rests and breath through the nose, there’s a difference between keeping the embouchure set and over tensing it. In an effort to avoid relaxing my setting, it’s tempting to “flex” the embouchure too much, which tired me out very quickly. After several weeks, I think I’ve found the right balance between these two.

To close, you may be wondering what else I’ve been doing in my routine besides Caruso Studies. Back in March I started using Daniel Grabois’s The Daily Drill for Horn Players, published by Brass Arts Unlimited. It’s a great riff on some of the standard warm-up maintenance materials, and was just the right thing (along with Caruso Studies) to help me stay motivated during this period of social distancing. I hope that you have found, and continue to find, reasons to stay motivated!

 

Caruso Journal: Week 5

Five weeks into my work with the Caruso Routine, and things are feeling very good. *If you are new to this ongoing series, feel free to check out the previous posts, which will provide some context. Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

No new material this week, but continuing daily with:

  • Six Notes – Version 1
  • Lips/Mouthpiece/Horn – mostly Version A, although I’ve been experimenting a bit with Versions B and C
  • Harmonic Series –  As written (but quarter=80). I also need to try the alternate beginnings found at the bottom of the page.

One observation for the Harmonic Series exercises is that foot tapping and nose breathing really seem to help with establishing consistency. My initial experience with the Caruso method was that I had to suspend my concerns about nose breathing and just “buy in” to the pedagogy of it for a while until it started to feel more natural. That being said, I do not advocate nose breathing for most other normal playing situations. But for the purposes of his routine, it has been very effective. In a few more weeks I’ll be adding some low range exercises, which will be fun. Stay tuned!

Caruso Journal: Week 4

This week marks one month of daily practice with the Caruso Routine. I hope this journal can serve as a resource for others who are interested in these studies, and if nothing else, it can be a brief diversion from the twenty-four hour news cycle. Here are links to the previous posts in this series: Week 1Week 2Week 3.

In week 4 I started the Harmonic Series exercises, and rather than adding them to my daily routine, swapped them in for another similar, but non-Caruso pattern. My understanding, however, is that like much of the work we do on brass instruments, the exercises themselves are not as important as the way they are performed. These Harmonic Series exercises are very similar to ones I’ve done many times before, but in the context of Caruso’s method the approach is slightly different. The constant feeling of subdivision seems to change the overall feel, for one thing. One note is that I increased the tempo marking of quarter=60 to 80 in order to make it through each line in one breath. There aren’t any written instructions specifying this, but in Julie Landsman’s YouTube videos her student plays each line a bit faster than 60 and also in one breath. Some days they feel better than others, but as this was only my first week with them I am not too worried about the inconsistency. The previous patterns (Six Notes, Lips/Mouthpiece/Horn) have gotten much more consistent with repeated practice.

One other thing I’ve been thinking about in regards to Caruso Studies is that my unfounded perception of them before this undertaking was that they were exclusively “high note studies.” This perception has been proven false, and I’ve found all of the exercises up to this point to be very well balanced, incorporating both work and rest. In fact, in her Practice Calendar, Ms. Landsman doesn’t recommend beginning the “Heavy Lifting” exercises until the third month, and even then she suggests practicing them every other day.

 

Caruso Routine Journal: Week 2

Today marks my second week with the Caruso Routine, as adapted for horn by Julie Landsman. (Read about Week 1 here). As mentioned in my Week 1 post, I’m following the suggested practice calendar found on Ms. Landsman’s website. This week I continued with the Six Notes, mostly using Version 1, as it felt the best, and added Lips/Mouthpiece/Horn

Lips/Mouthpiece/Horn is played three times, first buzzing with the lips alone, then on the mouthpiece, and finally with the horn. To me it feels like this pattern stabilizes and centers the embouchure, and encourages steady air support. Three different versions are provided, with directions to choose the easiest one. Version A feels the best to me by far, as I can easily free buzz a second line G. Free buzzing the third space C requires me to roll in my lips more than usual, and the instructions specifically say to avoid this:

Attempting to manipulate the embouchure in any way will inhibit the progress of this exercise. Just produce the sound in the easiest way possible, without trying to place the chops in a certain way. Do not force the lips into place, even if all three events are slightly different from each other

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to nose breathe when free buzzing the first time through, but I’ve been doing it anyway. I need to review the instructional video to see what Ms. Landsman and her student do. It would make sense to do so. On the third time through Version A (with the horn),  the second note of each group is produced by bending the first one down a half step. It’s not a tiring exercise, but you can definitely feel the embouchure at work when doing it. It seems to be working as an “early in the day” pattern, not first thing, but right after Six Notes. I appreciate the gradual, measured way that exercises are added in the Practice Calendar. Week 3 is the same as Week 2, but Week 4 adds Harmonic Series exercises.

 

Caruso Routine Journal: Week 1

Something that has kept me motivated in my practicing over the last several weeks has been an interest in routines. It’s something I’ve researched and published about, and at a personal level I also find them really interesting. The Caruso Routine is one that I’ve always wanted to try but didn’t feel I had the necessary time to devote to it.

After watching the videos and reading the other material several times on Julie Landsman’s Caruso Method page, I decided to give it a shot. Having never studied long term with a Caruso teacher, I’m taking things very slowly and following the detailed instructions and suggested Practice Calendar found on Ms. Landsman’s website. Initially, these exercises aren’t taking the place of my regular routine, but rather supplementing it.

For Week 1, the only thing on the calendar is The Six Notes, one of the fundamental exercises in Caruso studies. This past week I played the Six Notes first thing in the day, right after stretching and breathing exercises. The nose breath felt a little strange at first, but after a few days began to feel more normal. Foot tapping helps with coordinating the initial breath attack (and I’ve also been using a metronome along with it). So far I’ve only done Version 1, but will probably alternate with Version 2 in future weeks.

So how do things feel after a week of Caruso Routine? Pretty good! The Six Notes works great as a “first notes” pattern, and so far hasn’t made my chops feel stiff. Quite the opposite, things feel relaxed and responsive after playing it. Again, I’m taking things very slowly, and will be adding Lips / Mouthpiece / Horn for Week 2, per the Practice Calendar. As time goes on and I add more exercises, there will be more to report, but my initial impressions are good. For a great article and introduction to the Caruso Method, be sure to visit Julie Landsman’s page, and also check out this article at Horn Matters.

Do You Really Need to Know How to Transpose?

I’ve seen this discussion come up frequently among horn players on social media, and have been considering it from a couple of different perspectives.

On the “Yes, you definitely need to know how to transpose” side, here are some thoughts to consider.

  1. The bottom line is that yes, it is a required skill for professionals and aspiring professionals.
  2. It provides a connection to hand-horn playing and music/composers of the past.
  3. For conductors, music educators, etc. transposing is a necessary skill for score reading and analysis.
  4. Many orchestral parts are not available in transposed versions, so if you want to perform in an orchestra you need to be able to read these parts.

And on the “Well, maybe you don’t always have to know how to transpose” side of the coin:

  • For players in community orchestras and other similar ensembles, having to read non-transposed parts can be a barrier to enjoyment and engagement in those groups.
  • Not necessary to be a “good” horn player, meaning, one can be a competent player in terms of range, technique, and musicality without having this particular skill.
  • I have observed  some condescension towards horn players who haven’t yet mastered transposition or who question how necessary it is today. This attitude does not help make the case for transposition.
  • Can be a difficult skill to master once out of school, especially without a private instructor, and a method to learn it.
  • Can be seen as an archaic tradition, without much connection to modern valved horn playing. *I don’t agree with this view, but have seen it expressed.

All this can be confusing to impressionable music students, so if I could offer one piece of advice it would be to go ahead and start learning to transpose now, it will ultimately make your life easier as a horn player. However, if you’ve taken several years off and are returning to horn playing, don’t feel bad about not remembering all the intricacies of transposition. There are some transposed parts available in the orchestral repertoire, and if you can get your hands on them they will probably do just fine. Should you feel motivated to add transposing to your skill set, there are fortunately lots of great resources available today. Here are a few of my favorites:

I also have a Transposition Practice Plan available on this site, feel free to check it out.

Brief Reviews: The French Horn Warmup Collection and Dueling Fundamentals for Two Horns

In my last post of 2019 I want to recommend two excellent new publications for horn players, John Ericson’s The French Horn Warmup Collection and Matthew Haislip’s Dueling Fundamentals for Two Horns. Either or both would make great gifts if you are still looking for a last minute holiday present for a horn-playing family member or friend.

The French Horn Warmup Collection includes material from several earlier publications by Dr. Ericson, as well as some new exercises. They can be freely combined in various ways to create numerous warmup and practice routines. All of the basics are covered thoroughly, including range and tone development, flexibility, scales and arpeggios, intonation, breathing, multiple tonguing, and more. I regularly use the exercises for breathing and multiple tonguing, and the “breath-set-play” pattern found at the end of the “Short Daily Routine.” Everything is notated very clearly, and the exercises are explained and presented in a logical manner. The Kindle edition is listed for $3.99, which is an amazingly low price for the amount and quality of the content in this collection. It can be easily read and performed from by using a tablet equipped with the Kindle app. If you prefer a hard copy, it is available through print-on-demand for $8.99, which is also very reasonable. For more on this publication, see Ericson’s post at Horn Matters, as well as this episode of his Horn Notes Podcast. Along with Professor Jeffrey Agrell at the University of Iowa, Dr. Ericson is among a few prominent horn professors making their publications available in both print and digital format. With the ever increasing popularity of tablet devices and digital media, I think this trend is going to continue.

In a similar vein is Dueling Fundamentals for Two Horns, new from Mountain Peak Music. The author is Dr. Matthew Haislip, Assistant Professor of Horn at Mississippi State University. Here is a brief description of the book from the MPM website:

Trill Thrill, Fits of Fifths, Beethoven for Two, and Overtone Madness are just some of the fun—but make no mistake, also challenging!—duets included in Dueling Fundamentals for Horns. This book consists of five chapters: Long Tones; Intervals; Flexibility; Scales and Arpeggios; and Range Extenders. In each duet, both lines are challenging—there is no “student” line and no “teacher” line. Therefore this book works well for lessons or as an excellent tool for two friends or classmates looking to challenge themselves and each other.

I’m a big fan of Mountain Peak Music’s publications, and have published two books of my own with them. The Dueling Fundamentals series capitalizes on a need for high quality pedagogical material for use by college-level players and their teachers. The duets found in Professor Haislip’s book make excellent “lesson-starters,” to be used in the first 10-15 minutes to establish solid fundamentals and set a high standard for the rest of the lesson. They of course could be used throughout a lesson to work on specific technical needs, or assigned to pairs of students for studio class presentations, etc.  I’ve played through many of these with my students, and found them to be well-constructed, useful, and fun. Range requirements usually begin comfortably and progress to extremes, and it is quite easy to adapt these for less experienced players by skipping around and/or truncating the duets. Some of the patterns draw upon classic materials such as Stamp, Clarke, and Gallay, while others incorporate various styles ranging from Beethoven to Philip Glass. In the absence of a duet partner, any of the duets can be performed by a single player to create an individual practice routine.

I am always in the market for innovative and functional teaching materials, and these new publications by John Ericson and Matthew Haislip certainly fit the bill.

As we close out 2019, I would like to thank my readers for taking the time to peruse this site. After almost 10 years of blogging, I still enjoy reading and writing about the horn, and it’s gratifying to know that there are others out there who feel the same way. Wishing you all good health and great chops in 2020!

Three Kinds of Warmups

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!

 

More Warm-ups and Daily Routines!

I’m overdue in posting about some new daily routines. In this post (and others) I mentioned the benefit of periodically re-evaluating the daily warm-up and/or practice routine, and the summer months are a perfect time to do so. As with mouthpieces and horns, there is no one perfect example; rather, lots of options and subtle variations to explore. Here are some of those, with dates and publisher information, where available. To read previous posts in this series, see the links at the end of this post.

Horn Warm-ups and Beyond the Warm-up, by Bob Ashworth, Emerson Edition 2011 and 2012

Bob Ashworth has been Principal Horn of Opera North in Leeds, UK since 1978. Both of these slim volumes present several traditional and unique exercises, the first collection dedicated to “consolidating basic techniques and achieving a focused sound,” and the second containing “a collection of ideas and exercises based on fundamental elements of horn playing.” Slurred and legato tongued patterns in the middle range are the primary material in Horn Warm-ups, although the later exercises include staccato variations and higher transpositions. After this thorough grounding in fundamentals, several operatic and orchestral melodies follow. As the title suggests, Beyond the Warm-up expands upon the concepts presented in the first volume, including more variations in style and articulation. Many of the exercises are based on common excerpts found in the orchestral and operatic repertoire.


20 Minute Warm-Up Routine for French Horn, by Michael Davis, Hip-Bone Music

This routine is part of a series of publications for trumpet, horn, trombone, and tuba, and includes an excellent play-along CD with Chris Komer of the New Jersey Symphony. It contains some great stuff, consisting of fundamental exercises that are common across all the brass instruments: lip slurs, broken arpeggios, articulation studies, etc. In my experience, playing the entire routine takes a bit longer than 20 minutes, especially if one takes brief rests periodically. Many of the exercises begin on the open horn and work their way down, which might be a little high for some players to begin right away. In that case I would recommend that they be played from the bottom of the page to the top.


Warm-up Variations for Horn, Op. 94 by Richard Goldfaden, RM Williams Publishing

Mr. Goldfaden has been a member of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra since 1985, and previously held positions in the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and numerous groups in Mexico. His unique take on the daily routine consists of an 8-measure theme in C major, followed by 30 variations (plus a coda) which take the player through multiple styles, techniques (stopped horn, multiple tonguing, glissando, etc.), and degrees of complexity. Several of the variations incorporate motives from the orchestral repertoire, including works by Beethoven, Brahms, and Rimsky-Korsakov. He notes in the preface:

The purpose of the Warm-up Variations is to take the player from a cold lip state to being fully warmed up. It is especially useful after a day or two off the horn. The warm-up starts very comfortably, then gradually widens in range and dynamics. A generous amount of rests are used to prevent fatigue and to keep breathing comfortable.

If you’re looking for a musical yet thorough approach to the daily routine, try these variations.


The Hackleman Routine, by Martin Hackleman, edited by Natalie Brooke Higgins, Alias Brass Company, 2018

A member of the faculty at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance since 2012, Professor Hackleman is highly regarded as a performer and teacher. Most of the material in this collection was created by the author, although there are a few patterns borrowed from (or based on) diverse sources such as Caesar LaMonaca (with whom Hackleman studied), Herbert L. Clarke, Robert Levy, and  Ottorino Respighi. Editor Dr. Natalie Higgins has done an excellent job collecting and formatting these into a unified whole. I don’t want to give too much away, but this collection is really worth checking out because it gives some insight into the author’s teaching and performing philosophy. There is a tremendous amount of food for thought here, some of which will challenge traditional thinking about warming up and horn pedagogy in general.


Daily Studies, compiled and edited by Caesar LaMonaca, published in The Horn Call, February 2017

A longtime member of the Houston Symphony, Caesar LaMonaca (1924-2012) taught horn at the University of Houston and later at Montana State University. Martin Hackleman is among his many former students, and one can certainly see the similarities between their daily practice materials. LaMonaca credits numerous influences in the development of these materials, including Bruno Jaenicke, Robert Schulze, H. L. Clarke, Anton Horner, and John Swallow. The author suggests “a light warm-up before playing the studies-a more extensive one when doing the higher keys,” though the first few exercises could effectively serve as a warm-up as well. Long tones, scale studies, broken arpeggios, breath attacks, and diatonic interval studies in all keys are among the many useful patterns to be found in this free (to IHS members) resource.


The Warm-up: A Basic and Practical Guide to Warming Up, by Wayne Lu, Veritas Musica, 2007

Though his name may not be as familiar as others on this list, Wayne Lu has established a multifaceted career as a performer, composer, and educator. His extensive list of compositions includes works for solo horn, horn in chamber music, horn ensemble, and many more. These are published by Veritas Musica Publishing, which he co-founded. In the Introduction to his very fine collection of warm-up materials, Lu credits A. Kendall Betts, Herb Winslow, John Cerminaro, and many others for their influence on his pedagogy. That being said, the ideas and patterns presented here are unique, and are accompanied by thorough written explanations. A Pre-Warm-Up section includes breathing exercises and aperture buzzing, followed by the Warm-Up proper. Although it consists entirely of slurred patterns, these could easily be adapted into tongued exercises. For more information about Wayne Lu and his music, refer to Laura Chicarello’s article “Becoming a ‘Complete Musician’ ‒ Wayne Lu’s 11 Exigent Etudes for Horn” in the February 2018 issue of The Horn Call.


Method for Trumpet Book 1: Warm-up Exercises and Etudes, by Anthony Plog, Balquhidder Music, 2003, 2015

Anthony Plog is internationally recognized as a composer, pedagogue, and performer, and is Professor of Music at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg, Germany. I first heard mention of this series of books on John Ericson’s Horn Notes Podcast, episode 28, during his interview with Gabriel Kovach, Principal Horn of the Phoenix Symphony. There are seven books in the series, covering numerous aspects of technique. I’ve not spent much time with the material in Book 1, but even a cursory glance through the pages was enough to recognize that this is not a typical brass warm-up. Each section contains a number of progressive exercises that can be combined with other sections, or played by themselves to craft an individually tailored warm-up. A series of 30 etudes follows, a logical extension of the preceding patterns. At $14.95, this volume and the others in the series are a bargain (also available as an Ebook).


Esercizi per Corno, by Corrado Maria Saglietti, IHS Online Music Sales

Corrado Saglietti joined the RAI National Symphony Orchestra of Turin, Italy in 1977, and has held the Principal Horn position in that orchestra since 1990. In addition to his distinguished performing career, he has published numerous solo and chamber works for brass and winds (see his list of works with Editions Bim, for example). His routine begins with middle register scale and arpeggio patterns to be played on the mouthpiece. And while many routines begin with long tones and/or lip slurs and save technical exercises until later, Saglietti includes slurred patterns in 16th notes right away. If performed correctly, this “flow study” approach to warming up can be effective. Later, traditional slurred and tongued patterns in the harmonic series are followed by a whole series of creative patterns covering the range of horn technique. This inventive collection is worth considering, and is very reasonably priced.


Other posts in this series:

Warm-Ups and Routines You May Not Know – Part I – Ifor James

Warm-ups and Routines You May Not Know – Part II – Dufrasne Routine

Warm-ups and Routines You May Not Know – Part III – Standley Routine

When to Change Routines

More Warm-Ups and Routines for Horn

The Daily Routine: A Modular Approach

Warm-ups and Routines Available Online

Changing Up the Practice Routine

 

 

 

 

 

 

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