Caruso Journal Wrap-up: Weeks 11 and 12

This will be the last update in my Caruso Journal [you can read the other parts here: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 |10]

I got busy last week with some other horn-related things (more on this in a future post) and had to defer my Week 11 journal entry. Rather than  post Week 11 late, I thought it would be appropriate to combine Weeks 11 and 12  into a single, final summary.

When I began practicing Caruso studies 12 weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but in my experience they have lived up to their reputation as great fundamental exercises! My consistency, endurance, and timing have improved over the last several weeks, and as I’ve mentioned before I will definitely be encouraging my students to practice them. Here are a few summary thoughts for anyone who is thinking about getting into Caruso Studies.

  • Go slowly – follow Julie Landsman’s suggested Practice Calendar, or create your own. Whatever you do, come up with something that is progressive and allows enough time (several days to weeks) on each pattern before adding more difficulty and complexity.
  • As a corollary to the above, be patient – if you are playing Caruso correctly, your playing should improve. If it doesn’t, take a break for a while, and/or consult with an experienced teacher. If you don’t have access to a teacher right now, watch (and re-watch) Julie Landsman’s excellent YouTube series.
  • Track your progress – use a chart (or mark in the music) dates and week numbers to help you adhere to the practice calendar. Be vigilant about avoiding strain when playing any of the exercises. I did not get good results when I had to force something to come out. It worked out much better to play to my comfortable limit and then repeat the pattern the next day or every other day.

I’ve enjoyed working on Caruso Studies, and doing so has helped me become more aware of my breathing and physical timing when I play the horn. I’ll keep doing them and trying to get better!

 

Caruso Journal: Week 8

I’m back for Week 8 of my Caruso Studies journal. If you’re wondering how long this series will go, I plan to stop after Week 12, through the end of the first page on Julie Landsman’s suggested practice calendar. If you’ve followed these entries up to this point, thank you for reading!

Speaking of the Practice Calendar, I have a confession to make. Towards the end of the past week (Week 8) I went ahead and incorporated the Chromatics Down exercises into my daily routine, and have also been playing Noodles/Spiders and Intervals on alternating days. It sounds like a lot of new material to add, but Chromatics Down was scheduled for Week 9 anyway, and the Practice Calendar says “In the 3rd month, you may begin doing heavy lifting and flexibility exercises on alternating days.” In reality, I only jumped ahead by a few days.

So, how do these new exercises feel? Pretty good, so far, although I’ve been doing Caruso patterns for long enough now to know that it takes several days (for me at least) to really settle into them. The past few days have gone well, but really it’s about finding the most efficient way to play each pattern, which continues to be a work in progress. More next week!

 

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 3

Week 3 of my work with the Caruso Routine has gone well (Read about Week 1 and Week 2). Week 3 did not add any new exercises, but continued with the Six Notes and Lips/Mouthpiece/Horn. The basic mechanics of the exercises are starting to feel more comfortable and more or less automatic now. I’m looking forward to Week 4, which adds the Harmonic Series exercises. Rather than add these to the beginning of my daily routine, I’m going to swap out a similar pattern in my routine for these. I’m curious how they will work in the context of my regular routine. According to the suggested Practice Calendar, Weeks 4 through 8 are the same, I’m assuming to build further consistency on these basic patterns before expanding the routine further. More updates to come!

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.

%d bloggers like this: