If You Like Solo Training Duets, Check Out Solo Training for One Horn!

In looking over some year-end tax information from Mountain Peak Music, the publisher of my two books, I noticed a couple of things:

  1. Horn players like Duet Books! Solo Training Duets  did pretty well in 2019, probably because of the recently released 2nd edition, and also because duets are an enjoyable way to package useful content (fundamentals, long tones, solo repertoire, etc.) Thinking about this generated some interesting ideas for future publications…more on that in the future!
  2. People might not know about my other book, Solo Training for Horn: This book is actually more recent than the first edition of the duet collection, although it has been far less popular. There are probably a couple of causes for this, number one being that it was published in 2016 and horn players might have forgotten about it, and also because it isn’t something you can necessarily pull out and sight-read with a student or colleague. However, I would still encourage anyone who enjoys Solo Training Duets  to check out the solo book. There are several pieces covered in the one-horn book that don’t appear in the duet book, and I think there are some very useful exercises and derivative etudes. One could even put together a comprehensive warm-up/fundamentals routine by picking and choosing certain excerpts. This is a topic I plan to explore further in a future post.

Meanwhile, feel free to visit the Mountain Peak Music website and view the samples from Solo Training for Horn. I also recorded a brief promo/demo video for the book back in 2016. Take a look and listen, and let me know what you think. I would be happy to answer any questions you have about it!

New Book: Solo Training for Horn

Solo Training HornI’m pleased to announce that my new book, Solo Training for Horn, is now available from Mountain Peak Music. If you follow my blog you probably have heard about this project already, but in case you haven’t, here is a brief summary of the book and its contents.

Solo Training for Horn is designed to help you meet challenges found in eight popular solo works. When practiced regularly and intelligently, these studies will provide the foundation for successful performance of the works on which they are based, and other repertoire as well.

This collection consists of 12-15 studies per solo, each one focused on a relatively short passage or collection of passages. Literal repetition is generally avoided in favor of varied and progressive repetition. Most studies begin from a point of ease, and gradually progress to extremes, often going above and beyond what is required in the original works.

Works include: Sonata, Op. 17 by Ludwig van Beethoven, Villanelle by Paul Dukas, Concerto No. 1, Hob. VIId:3 by Franz Joseph Haydn, Concerto, K. 495 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Morceau de Concert, Op. 94 by Camille Saint-Saëns, Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70 by Robert Schumann, Concerto, Op. 8 by Franz Strauss, and Concerto in D, TWV 51:D8 by Georg Philipp Telemann.

And if you would like to hear a few excerpts from the book, here are two promotional videos.

As with my previous publication for Mountain Peak Music, writing Solo Training for Horn was an incredible learning experience. I hope that teachers and students of the horn find it a practical and effective addition to their repertoire of etudes and exercises. If you have any questions about the book or the writing process I would love to hear from you.

What’s next? Once the semester begins I will return to at least semi-regular blogging, and continue preparations for a recital coming up in early October (more on that later). I have a few bigger projects on the horizon, but for now am gearing up for the new academic year.

Coming Soon From Mountain Peak Music: Solo Training for Horn

I’m long overdue for a new post and an update on my forthcoming publication from Mountain Peak Music, but with the end of the semester now in sight I can finally carve out some time to remedy that! In short, the first draft of Solo Training for Horn is over 50% complete, and I anticipate finishing it by the end of August. Intended as a companion to Solo Duet Training for Horns, this book will contain exercises and routines specifically designed to help players tackle challenges found in eight standard horn solos. As with the previous book, all of the works are in the public domain. There is some overlap with the duets, but there are also plenty of new pieces as well. Here is the list:

  • Beethoven, Sonata, Op. 17
  • Dukas, Villanelle
  • Haydn, Horn Concerto No. 1, Hob. VIId:3
  • Mozart, Horn Concerto, K. 495
  • Saint-Säens, Morceau de Concert, Op. 94
  • Schumann, Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70
  • Telemann, Horn Concerto in D, TWV 51:D8
  • F. Strauss, Concerto, Op. 8

Though there are some commonalities between the duet book and this one, I found my work on Solo Training to be much more involved and thus slower. While the material is of course largely based on the works listed above, creating these derivative exercises required a different mindset and approach than the earlier book. To help explain and demonstrate some of these exercises, I put together a brief video to accompany this post. FYI, I will be giving an expanded version of this presentation at the 48th International Horn Symposium in Ithaca, NY this summer. The presentation won’t be an advertisement for my book, but will instead focus on ways you can use some of the same techniques to create your own derivative exercises. These are not new ideas, but I think that students and teachers will find them especially useful because they are now organized and collected in one place.

Fragmentation/Transposition: Taking a short motive or motives from a challenging passage and transposing it to different keys. This builds more comprehensive technique and greater awareness of the intervals than simply repeating the same passage at the written pitch level. For example, mm. 96-102 from the first movement of Beethoven’s Horn Sonata, Op. 17…

beethoven…can be adapted into the following progressive exercise:

beethoven_exercisesHere’s a demonstration of the complete exercise.

a la Kopprasch: This means taking a familiar pattern and changing the rhythm and/or articulations to create a more engaging and challenging exercise. For example, this triplet passage from the Villanelle by Paul Dukas…


villanelle_exerciseAnd here it is demonstrated.

Flow Study: Removing all but the most important notes from a lyrical or technical passage, and reducing it to a flow study. Notes are gradually added, while maintaining the same basic melodic shape and direction to the air stream. Transposing the exercise to other keys makes it more useful and interesting to practice. The familiar opening of Mozart’s K. 495…




Here’s the video.

Here are two more examples which combine several strategies. Both are based on this passage from K. 495.


The first exercise deals with a small portion of the phrase:


And now the video:

The second exercise deals with the passage as a whole, with varying rhythms and articulations.


And the video.

I hope this brief introduction to Solo Training for Horn has whet your appetite for more, and if you like any of the exercises presented above feel free to print them for your own use. The book will have many more exercises and routines, roughly 12-15 for each solo work. I’m very excited about completing the book, and look forward to sharing it with the horn playing community. Stay tuned for more updates!

Etudes in Review: 30 Etudes for Stopped Horn, by Robert Ward

I picked up this great collection of stopped horn studies at the IHS Symposium in Los Angeles, but have just now gotten around to writing up a review. Author Robert Ward is well-known in the horn world, through his long tenure with the San Francisco Symphony as well as a growing number of compositions with horn. Published by Balquhidder Music, these etudes would be a welcome addition to an intermediate or advanced player’s library.

Over the last several weeks I’ve been working my way through the book, spending approximately 10 minutes on them per day. After covering about one third of these studies, I’ve found them to be fun, challenging, musically rewarding, and a real workout for stopped horn! Before getting into too many more details, here is a brief quote from the Preface.

This collection of 30 Etudes for Stopped Horn presents a variety of challenges for the medium to advanced player. I have included different styles from simple melodies to unmeasured quasi-cadenza, to swing and 12-tone, high and low register passages, and a variety of notations that are commonly used.

The studies are more or less progressive in nature, with each number presenting a few more challenges than the one preceding it. These challenges include rapid stopped to open shifts, meter changes, transposition, and a variety of different articulations, covering a range from B to c”’. Though the primary focus is of course on strengthening stopped horn technique, there are numerous other technical and musical benefits to be gained from this material. As Ward mentions in the Preface, these studies are not recommended for learning how to play stopped horn, but rather are designed to improve one’s abilities once the basics have already been more or less mastered. On the topic of fingerings, Ward writes in the Preface:

Fingerings are the subject of much debate – my experience is that every horn and player combination is unique. What works for one player, may not work for another. But start from the place of fingering one half step lower on the F-horn and go from there. There are many good Bb horn fingerings, especially in the higher register, but again, experimentation is the name of the game.

I largely agree with this assessment, although it might have been useful to include a suggested fingering chart or a few fingering options within the score. The printing and layout are clear, and the overall package is very nice. The main strength of these studies, though, is their musical inventiveness across a range of styles and technical demands. As with the Studies for Unaccompanied Horn by Gunther Schuller and 48 Etudes by Verne Reynolds, many of Ward’s studies would be effective on a recital performance.

If you need some extra stopped horn practice (and who doesn’t?) be sure to check out these etudes!

Etude Talk: Interview for the HornZone

Kyle Hayes, Memphis-area freelancer and editor of the International Horn Society’s HornZone, recently contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to share a few thoughts about etudes (image at right linked from the HornZone page at www.hornsociety.org). I was glad to do so, and the following is the result of our conversation. It should be appearing very soon on the actual HornZone page, but with Kyle’s approval I am also posting the interview here. After you read this, be sure to check out all of the other great content at the HornZone! N.B. I have done some minor editing of the text I submitted to Kyle, and added the relevant hyperlinks to the etude lists at the end.

Etude Talk: Interview for the Hornzone, International Horn Society

Hornzone: How do you know what each etude is trying to teach?

James Boldin: In some cases – Kopprasch, for example – it’s pretty obvious what the composer is focusing on in a particular study. It might be arpeggios, scales, various kinds of articulations, or a combination thereof. In others – an extended concert etude, for instance – the focus might be on several different things at once, or it might shift during the course of the etude. In that case, it’s beneficial to concentrate on one section at a time, working out the specific difficulties in each one. Looking at the question from a broader perspective, the best way to improve at interpreting a composer’s intentions is to study music history and theory as well as take private lessons. This will train your ear and eye to recognize patterns and see the “big picture.”

HZ: How do you practice etudes? (Compare Kopprasch to Maxime-Alphonse.)

JB: I don’t know that I would necessarily practice Kopprasch or Maxime-Alphonse differently. I guess I’ve never really thought of it that way. One time-tested method that seems to work for practicing just about anything requiring speed and/or technique is to proceed s-l-o-w-l-y, gradually increasing tempo. The results may be almost imperceptible at first, but it really does work. Another effective way to practice is to spend more time on the difficult passages, and less time on the things you can already play. That might seem like an obvious statement, but students often fall into the trap of playing something over and over that they can already play and call it “practice.” There is, of course, a time and place to play through entire works without stopping – during the final stages of preparing for an audition, concert, or recital – but during the learning process I think it’s more efficient to focus on the challenges. In both Kopprasch and Maxime-Alphonse, there will be passages that you can execute easily on the first time through, and also passages that will need to be picked apart and practiced over and over to achieve proficiency. It is those difficult passages that should occupy the majority of your practice time. Playing through the entire etude should be done only once the difficult passages have been more or less mastered. Some unoriginal, but still highly effective, methods I use are mouthpiece buzzing unfamiliar/awkward intervals, slurring a tongued passage and vice versa, changing/alternating the rhythms, and working backwards from the end of a difficult measure or group of measures.

HZ: If we aren’t students but we still want to practice (adult amateurs), how do we know when we have studied an etude well enough to know that it’s time to move on?

JB: This is a great question! If you’re like me, when you first started taking lessons you knew it was time to move on to another etude when your teacher said so. As I progressed through lessons at the graduate level, and certainly once I got out of school, I began to take more responsibility for the repertoire I covered, looking into as many different kinds of etudes as I could, and working out of several books at once. The longer I’ve been out of school and away from regular lessons, the more I’ve had to rely on my own judgment about what to study and for how long. I think as long as you are having fun and not getting too bored or frustrated you should stick with an etude or series of etudes for as long as you like. Variety is good too. As great as Kopprasch is, horn players can’t subsist on it alone. Try combining lyrical etudes, Concone for example, with technical ones like Kopprasch. It’s also fun and motivating to set personal goals for yourself, and then to move on afterwards. For instance, you might pick a future date and say “I will prepare this etude to the best of my ability by then and move on to another one.” One reason I started video recording the Kopprasch etudes was to give myself a tangible goal to work towards in my preparation of each study.

HZ: In the case of professionals that are just keeping themselves in shape, do you study a few every day or every week and then move on?

JB:  Yes, similar to what I said in the previous question. I will also pull out etudes I’ve worked on in the past and use them for maintenance or diagnostic purposes. I also like to rotate through etudes I’ve studied previously and new ones. They can either be new publications I’m looking at for review or teaching purposes, or classic studies that I just haven’t gotten around to yet.

HZ: In the case of etudes like Gallay’s 12 grands études brillantes, Op.43, since they aren’t designed as a training tool but for performing, how would you approach them?

JB:  For the technical problems I would prepare them in much the same way as any other etude, and definitely break them up into smaller sections. Musically speaking they could be approached like an unaccompanied solo, going for maximum contrast and expression. You might also take a few more liberties with tempo, including pauses for dramatic effect as well. I really like Michel Garcin-Marrou’s edition of these, published by Gérard Billaudot. He includes some great information for historically informed performances of Gallay’s music.

HZ: When it comes to practicing etudes to help you learn music and excerpts, how do you know what to pick? (Example, Opening to Ein Heldenleben, Shostakovich 5, low tutti part in mvt 1, Beethoven 9, 4th horn solo.)

JB: It’s a really good idea to make your own exercises or etudes out of the difficult passages in the orchestral and/or solo literature. A great example of doing this can be found in Randy Gardner’s book Mastering the Horn’s Low Register, published by International Opus. In addition, you want to keep practicing a variety of different kinds of etudes; Kopprasch, Maxime-Alphonse, Reynolds, Gallay, etc. They all are good for different things, and the more etude books you have experience with the better you’ll be at choosing appropriate studies for yourself or your students. For orchestral music specifically, Maxime-Alphonse has a few studies, Franz Strauss has a set of concert etudes on themes from Beethoven, and more recently, Brett Miller has a created a series of new etudes based on orchestral music by Brahms, Strauss, Mahler, and Russian composers. These are available digitally through the International Horn Society’s Online Music Sales, www.hornsociety.org/marketplace/online-library. Jeff Agrell published a great index to technical etudes in the October, 2007 issue of The Horn Call. The list organizes etudes into twenty-seven categories, ranging from accuracy to echo horn. Ricardo Matosinhos has also created a website dedicated to horn etudes at www.hornetudes.com. It’s a wonderful resource, very detailed and easy to use, and he updates it regularly.

HZ: What etudes would you recommend to be learned by 7th/8th graders, 9/10th graders, 11/12th as a part of their band programs (for the directors to assign for individual practice/playing tests)?

JB: There are a number of good etude books available today, including new editions of classic collections as well as newly composed studies. I think the best approach is to work out of at least a couple of different books at the same time, although there are several one volume collections that cover a variety of issues. Here are just a few of many possibilities. Directors should feel free to adjust or modify things depending on the ability level of each student.

7th/8th Grade:

9th/10th Grade:

11th/12th Grade:

Kopprasch Project “The Final Five” No. 57

Number 57 is an arpeggiated study in staccato articulations, and it is deceptively difficult. Maintaining a centered tone and ringing staccato throughout this etude was a particular challenge for me. The tempo can range from quarter note = 108 – 160, as printed in my edition. Slurring the entire thing is helpful, as is practicing at half tempo. Using B-flat fingerings for notes at the bottom of and just below the staff helped with clarity. A knowledge of harmonic function is important, if not critical, to mastering this etude.

Kopprasch Project continued, No. 54

Here’s the latest installment in the Kopprasch Project. After 54 etudes and nearly three years, I am glad to see this extended project nearing its completion! No. 54 is similar in scope to previous studies in the collection (scales and arpeggios), but with a higher difficulty level. The suggested tempo is quarter note = 84-100, and my personal tempo is around quarter=96. One issue with this study (and others) is breathing. The logical place to breath is after the eighth note in measure 9, but at a fast tempo it is a challenge to take a full enough breath which will last until the end of measure 16. I chose to take a little time in measure 9 and really tank up on the air. In addition, it helps to strictly observe the mezzo forte marking beginning at m. 9.

Review : 12 Jazzy Etudes, 10 Jazzy Etudes, and 15 Low Horn Etudes, by Ricardo Matosinhos

This summer it was my pleasure to carry on some correspondence with Portuguese horn player and teacher Dr. Ricardo Matosinhos. During the course of our discussions, Ricardo was gracious enough to write a review of my new CD, as well as send me copies of his publications 12 Jazzy Etudes for Horn, 10 Jazzy Etudes for Hornand 15 Low Horn EtudesWith these three collections (published by Phoenix Music), Ricardo has created a substantial addition to the etude repertoire, building upon what already exists as well as exploring new territory. He writes the following in the Preface to 12 Jazzy Etudes.

These etudes were written with the aim of filling a gap in the Horn repertoire. Usually advanced etudes for horn are too difficult in many different aspects at once. In these etudes I used different scales and modes with some extended techniques, but always in an easy and funny way; if an etude is difficult or even very difficult in one aspect, it will be easy or even very easy in others. I dedicate these etudes to the Russian horn player Arkady Shilkloper and his music, whose influence will be easily identifiable in some of these etudes.

I have not played through all of the studies in these three collections, but I have played through several, as well as listened to Ricardo’s very fine recordings on his SoundCloud page. He performs his works with style, gusto, and monster technique! It is obvious from his playing that Ricardo has a complete command of the instrument, as well as a solid understanding of the jazz idiom. If you’re on the fence about purchasing any of these books I would start by listening to the recordings – here’s No. 1, “Crazy Steps” from 10 Jazzy Etudes, the second volume of studies.

Catchy, isn’t it?  I have worked on this one a bit, and it is just as fun to play as it is to hear. Overall, the second book of studies is more approachable than the first, especially if you are new to jazz rhythms, jazz articulations, and several kinds of extended techniques. However, if you like challenges, go ahead and dive right into 12 Jazzy Etudes. You’ll find rhythms in the style of Messiaen, tuneful melodies in a variety of modes, and extended techniques like singing, tapping on the bell, microtones, and more! I highly recommend first listening to the recordings and reading the comments and suggestions provided (these are found in all three books). In some ways Ricardo’s music reminds me of Douglas Hill’s jazz-inspired compositions; they are difficult, but well worth the effort it takes to learn them.

15 Low Horn Etudes is the newest of the three, and is dedicated to Sarah Willis, 4th Horn in the Berlin Philharmonic. There are some very fine low horn studies out there – Neuling’s 30 Special Etudes for Low Horn, Marvin McCoy’s 46 Progressive Exercises for Low Horn, Douglas Hill’s Low Range for the Horn Player, and more – and 15 Low Horn Etudes is well deserving of a place among them. They of course emphasize the low register, but also call for extended techniques, lots of flexibility, and the ability to read some complex rhythms. And I would also add that many of the studies in all three books could make very nice unaccompanied works for a recital or other performance.

In closing I also highly recommend Ricardo’s website: he is hosting a competition for performances of his etudes, has compiled an annotated catalog of horn etudes, and recently updated his extensive list of horn theses and dissertations. Well done Ricardo, and keep up the great work!

Kopprasch Project Continued, No. 47

This installment in the Kopprasch Project is another challenging study in mid/low range flexibility. These types of etudes really work out the range around my break, which is an area where I can use the practice! The time signature used in my edition is 12/16, with a suggested tempo of dotted-eighth=76-92. The more familiar Gumpert/Frehse edition uses 2/4 in the time signature, so a suggested tempo range there would be quarter=76-92. Finding the right tempo took a little of bit of experimenting; too fast and the low register skips became less clean, too slow and making the phrases in one breath became an issue. Eventually I settled around dotted-eighth (or quarter)=88. One practice tip is to slur slowly through this etude, breathing wherever necessary, just to find the centers of each note.

Kopprasch Project Continued, No. 43

After an extended hiatus, here is another installment in this series. No. 43 is deceptively tricky, especially when played at faster tempos. My edition suggests dotted-quarter = 104-132, and I topped out around dotted-quarter = 120. Try practicing this etude slurred or legato tongued to work on centering every pitch.

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