Friday Review: How to Stop a Horn DVD

The topic for this week’s review is an excellent resource for learning to play stopped horn – How to Stop a Horn – produced by Dr. Randall Faust, Professor of Horn at Western Illinois University. I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Faust at the 2011 Midwest Clinic, and he generously passed along this DVD as well as several of his other publications. Along with instructional videos by Douglas Hill, Wendell Rider, and others, this DVD belongs in the library of any serious student or teacher. In this 30 minute “virtual lesson,” Professor Faust covers the topic of stopped horn comprehensively, from a historical as well as practical perspective. The video is divided into several chapters, listed below.

  • How to Stop a Horn
  • Historical Considerations
  • Excerpts from Musical Examples
  • Acoustical Considerations
  • An Introduction to Marvin Howe’s Treatise Stopped Horn
  • Practical Considerations
  • Exercises to Practice with this DVD
  • Fingerings
  • Resistance
  • Muted Horn Applications
  • Transposing Brass Stopping Mute
  • Bibliography

Professor Faust’s commentary is informed by years of experience as a performer and teacher of the horn, and he concisely – but accurately – explains the acoustical phenomena behind hand stopping. All of his lecture material is accompanied by expertly played demonstrations, including musical excerpts by Beethoven and Saint-Saëns (performed on the natural horn, as shown in the above image), and a thorough demonstration of the overtone series. One innovative technique he uses is demonstrating stopped technique on a detachable-bell horn with its bell removed (see image below). The purpose being to show students just how much the bell must actually be closed in order to produce a characteristic stopped horn sound. He also includes several effective exercises for developing and improving stopped horn playing. It’s also worth noting that many of Faust’s musical compositions make extensive use of stopped horn – check them out by visiting Though I’ve not yet performed any of his music, thanks to Dr. Faust I now have the scores to several of his compositions, and I plan to program them on future recitals. (One idea I’ve been thinking about is a recital of music “for horn players by horn players.” There are several very fine works out there that fit this category, especially by 20th and 21st century composers.)

Be sure to check out this DVD – it’s very well done!  (Read another review of this DVD at Having put together my own video resources on stopped horn and other topics, I can say that it is quite time consuming and takes a great deal of work both in the recording and editing process.  Bravo and thank you to Randall Faust for putting together a fine resource.  [All screen images from How to Stop a Horn used by permission.]

Midwest Clinic Update, Part 2

Here’s a brief update from Day 2 of the Midwest Clinic. My Day 1 update can be found here.  I started the day by attending a morning concert by the Chicago Brass Band, a British-style group who have won several national awards (image above linked from their website). The more I listen to brass bands the more I like their warm, rich sound. Especially notable on this concert was the North American premiere of Apophenia, a work for solo trumpet and brass band by Peter Meechan. The soloist was Jens Lindemann, a former member of the Canadian Brass and an internationally known soloist. Lindemann performed on four different instruments for this three movement work – cornet, trumpet, flugel horn, and piccolo trumpet – often switching from one horn to another multiple times within the same movement. The piece is highly virtuosic, and requires a soloist versed in a number of styles: classical, rock, and jazz, to name a few.  It was a great performance, and both ensemble and soloist pulled off some hair raising passages with brilliant technique and convincing musicality. Hearing this new piece as well as the premiere of Paul Terracini’s new work by the CSO brass yesterday reminded me of how much great new music is out there today.  Knowing the classics is obviously an important part of being a horn player, but it’s equally important to seek out and listen to new works.

After the morning concert I went back to the exhibit hall to make a few purchases, consisting mostly of books and CDs. Here a few notable items I picked up (look for more detailed reviews of these in the future).

  • Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians, by Jeffrey Agrell (GIA Publications) A book I’ve been meaning to get for some time now, I plan to use parts of it in lessons and chamber music coachings.
  • Also Sprach Arnold Jacobs, by Bruce Nelson (Windsong Press) Pretty much everything I’ve read by or about Arnold Jacobs has been a goldmine of insights about brass playing and overall musicianship. I look forward to reading this book as well!
  • Brahms on Brass, Canadian Brass (Opening Day Records) A new recording of piano works by Brahms arranged for brass quintet and brass choir.
  • Tales of Imagination, J.D. Shaw, horn and the University of New Mexico Wind Ensemble conducted by Eric Rombach-Kendall (Summit Records) A brand new release featuring works for solo horn and wind ensemble.

The highlight of my day was an impromptu meeting with Dr. Randall Faust, Professor of Horn at Western Illinois University and a well respected composer, teacher, and performer. Dr. Faust contacted me earlier this week and mentioned that he was going to be attending the Midwest Clinic as well, and we got together over lunch today to talk shop for a bit. I had not met Dr. Faust before, but I knew that he was very active in the International Horn Society and had written a number of works for horn and other brass instruments. He was warm and engaging, and we had a great discussion about horn pedagogy, my upcoming clinic on stopped horn, and several mutual acquaintances in the horn world. As a young horn teacher, encouragement like this from well-established figures in our field is a wonderful thing, and I’m delighted that we had a chance to meet. To top it all off, he generously passed along copies of several compositions, as well as a CD and a demonstration DVD on stopped horn!  I’ll be reviewing these materials more extensively in some upcoming posts, and I want to thank Dr. Faust for his kindness and generosity.

I think I’m blogged out for this evening, but I’ll be back tomorrow with updates on my clinic and more concert reviews.

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