Caruso Journal: Week 9

Week 9 means I’m now in the third month of work with Caruso Studies. A little over a week ago I incorporated the Intervals, Noodles, and Spider exercises into my daily routine, playing a set of Intervals and two sets each of Noodles/Spiders on alternating days. There are a few more things to add in the coming weeks, but at this point I’ve encountered most of the exercises found on Julie Landsman’s Caruso website.  I would point out that there are lots of variations on the basic Caruso exercises, which allows for growth and adaptation. Here are a few takeaways I recently jotted down regarding my past few months of work with Caruso studies.

  • A day of rest between the Interval Studies seems to be working, and for the most part I haven’t experienced any stiffness from these pretty intense workouts. The flexibility exercises (Noodle/Spider/Snake) provide a good balance.
  • Following the link from this Horn Matters article, I spent some time perusing the Caruso Forum on There is so much content here that it was tough to know where to begin. I did however find some good advice about the use of a metronome for Caruso work. In general the recommendation seems to be to NOT use the metronome except for periodic reference, and to instead rely on coordinating the physical act of foot tapping with playing. It’s difficult to describe the difference in feel between foot tapping and responding to the metronome, but there is definitely a difference. Proactive playing vs. reactive playing sums it up best, I suppose.
  • Julie Landsman’s Caruso Videos have been extremely helpful, and I have been re-watching them periodically as I make my way through the various Caruso patterns. One thing that really stuck with me is her description of support feeling like your belly button is pressing towards your spine. For whatever reason, this concept has really helped with Caruso studies and other stuff too!


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 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!

More Warm-Ups and Routines for Horn

Earlier this year I posted a series on warm-ups and routines for the horn, which in turn was based on an article I was working on for The Horn Call. To continue with that series I thought I’d go ahead and post the full list of the twenty-two routines I looked at for the article (which should hopefully be appearing in the May, 2011 issue of  The Horn Call). I’ve included links for these publications, where available.  The list is by no means comprehensive, but I think it does give a good representation of the kind of materials available.  Please feel free to comment with other routines you have found useful for yourself or students, even if they are not currently in print.

Carmine Caruso, Musical Calisthenics for Brass, Almo/Irving Music, 1979. See also

Richard Deane, The Efficient Approach: Accelerated Development on the Horn, Atlanta Brass Society Press, 2009.

James Decker, The Master Class Series for Horn, Interactive Video Audition Systems International, 1990.

Louis Dufrasne, Dufrasne Routine edited by Thomas Bacon, Southern Music Company, 2005.

Eli Epstein, Power Warm-up for Horn, Self-Published, 1999.

John Ericson, Introducing the Horn: Essentials for New Hornists and their Teachers, Horn Notes Edition, 2007.

Philip Farkas, The Art of French Horn Playing, Summy-Birchard, 1956.

Douglas Hill, Warm-ups and Maintenance Sessions for the Horn Player, Really Good Music, LLC, 2001.

Michael Hoeltzel, Mastery of the French Horn: Technique and Musical Expression, Schott, 2006.

Ifor James, Warming Up, Editions Marc Reift, 1999.

Sam Pilafian and Patrick Sheridan, The Brass Gym: A Comprehensive Daily Workout for Brass Players edited for Horn by John Ericson, Focus on Music, LLC, 2007.

Max. P. Pottag, Daily Exercises for French Horn, Belwin Mills, 1941, 1969.

Verne Reynolds, The Horn Handbook, Amadeus Press, 1997. [out of print, try Amazon for a used copy]

Wendell Rider, Real World Horn Playing, Wendell Rider Publications, 2006.

Gunther Schuller, Horn Technique, Oxford University Press, 1962, 1992.

Joseph Singer, Embouchure Building for French Horn compiled and edited by Richard E. Ballou,
Belwin, 1956.

James Stamp, Warm-ups and Studies: Trumpet and Other Brass Instruments, Editions Bim, 1978, 1981, 1998, 2005.

Forrest Standley, Standley Routine for Horn in F edited by Gene Standley and H. Stephen Hager, Southern Music Company, 2002.

David B. Thompson, Daily Warm-up and Workout for Horn, Thompson Edition, 1994.

Barry Tuckwell, Playing the Horn: A Practical Guide, Oxford University Press, 1978. [out of print, try Amazon for a used copy]

Frøydis Ree Wekre, Thoughts on Playing the Horn Well, Norhornpress, 1994.

Milan Yancich, A Practical Guide to French Horn Playing, Wind Music, Inc., 1970.

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