Top Sites for Brass

A recent article over on Brass Musician lists the “Top 10 Online Resources for Brass Players,” and leading the list is Horn Matters, maintained by John Ericson and Bruce Hembd.  First, hearty congratulations are due to Bruce and John for putting together one of the most comprehensive, well-designed, and aesthetically pleasing sites of its kind.  I was an avid follower of both of their blogs for many years, and now I look to Horn Matters for the latest information in my field. Looking at the rest of the “Top Ten” list, I recognized many sites like Hornplayer.net, Musical Chairs, and Douglas Yeo’s website, but there were several that were new to me.  Be sure to check out all of the sites on the list – they represent some of the best and brightest in brass performance and pedagogy today.  I fully realize that with the number and  variety of resources available online, putting together such a short list must have been a difficult task.  I thought I might add a few more sites to this list, not as replacements, but rather as supplements.

University of Iowa Horn Studio: Maintained by Jeffrey Agrell, this is an excellent comprehensive site, with hundreds of interesting links for horn players and other musicians (brass or otherwise). Also be sure to check out Professor Agrell’s blog, Horn Insights.

Horn Central: Similar in scope to the University of Iowa site, but with a slightly different layout, Horn Central has recently undergone a redesign, making it much easier to navigate.  This site contains some very comprehensive repertoire lists.

Wilktone: I discovered Dave Wilken’s blog this summer, and I highly recommend it to any brass player interested in finding out more about how the embouchure functions.  Dr. Wilken has numerous resources on this site, but the real gem in my opinion are his excellent high-quality videos of brass embouchures.

IHS Online: The official online home of the International Horn Society, this page should definitely be in the “favorites” category of any serious horn player.  The site is updated regularly, and includes podcasts, classified ads, indexes to The Horn Call, and much more!

Alright, now it’s your turn.  Do you have any favorite horn or brass-related sites?  I’d love to hear about them – just post the link(s) in the comments section below.

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Horn Videos with Professor Patrick Hughes

I just came across this excellent series of videos by Patrick Hughes, Associate Professor of Horn at The University of Texas at Austin, and also a fellow UW-Madison grad.  They are available on the website of the Center for Music Learning at UT-Austin. The link to the videos by Professor Hughes came from another great web resource for horn players, Horn Central.  Horn Central is similar in scope to the University of Iowa Horn Studio web site, with links to virtually every horn related topic out there.

Professor Hughes covers several different issues, including fundamentals such as embouchure, posture, articulation, and breathing, as well as more advanced techniques like vibrato. Most of the videos are set up in the form of an interview, with questions delivered off camera (not sure who the interviewer is). Although Patrick and I were not at UW-Madison at the same time, I definitely picked up on some of Doug Hill’s teaching in his comments.  However, he also has some interesting ideas that I have not heard before, especially regarding tonguing and the use of the air stream. Another great feature is several shorter close-up videos of his embouchure playing in the low, middle, and high range.  Listed below are a few of the comments I remember in particular (paraphrased).

On embouchure and mouthpiece placement: Although the “rule” is 2/3 upper lip and 1/3 lower lip, Professor Hughes has seen almost every variation out there.  In fact he tells his students to find a mouthpiece placement that is “comfortable.”

On articulation: He recommends saying the word “Thomas,” and rarely, if ever, uses the tip of the tongue to articulate.  He also rarely uses a “doo” tongue, preferring instead “tah.” The reason for this is that the “doo” tongue tends to sound like slurring, which is in fact when he uses it – to “fake” a slur.

On the air stream: Practice “spinning” the air on a lower note before ascending to a higher one.  The idea is to have the air already close to the speed it needs to be for the upper note, so that the only real change that has to happen is at the aperture.

Of course, I highly recommend watching all of these videos.  Professor Hughes sounds great on his playing examples, and he has an enthusiastic and logical approach to the horn and music making.  Another great set of videos in this series features Ray Sasaki on trumpet.

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