Review: The Rules of the Game, by Christopher Leuba

In my previous series of reports on the 44th International Horn Symposium, I mentioned purchasing several publications, one of them being this interesting collection of rules for horn playing and general musicianship. Here’s a quick recap from the earlier post.

One other publication I picked up is a reprint of a short handbook by Christopher Leuba called The Rules of the Game. I’ve only thumbed through it a few times today, but it appears to be similar in some ways to The Art of Musicianship by Philip Farkas: i.e. it uses excerpts from the standard orchestral and solo repertoire to set out some basic principles of music making.

Chris Leuba is former Principal Horn of the Chicago and Minneapolis Symphonies, and has numerous articles and other publications to his credit. Having read his earlier book,  A Study of Musical Intonation, I was very excited to see that The Rules of the Game was being made available again by Faust Music. The content is laid out in two broad sections; the first presents guidelines for good musicianship, and the second focuses on principles of good brass playing. Mr. Leuba’s writing style is to the point and easily understood, and often filled with good natured humor. In his introduction he points out what he considers should be the main focus in one’s musical education: listening.

Were there to be a fundamental overhaul of our music education in the schools, as well as in private teaching, I would suggest that the skill of listening would be the one on which I would place the greatest emphasis. The traditional French and Italian methods of solfeggio training address this succinctly, helping train the performers’ ears and eyes to cooperate towards a common concept. Solfeggio combined with Suzuki might be an ideal.

Part I contains 28 separate rules, each with written explanations and musical examples. Of those, here are a few I found particularly helpful and/or interesting.

  • 1) Any music which can be subdivided must be subdivided.
  • 6) Staccato means separated, not short.
  • 20) “High Notes” High notes are not louder than lower ones. Harmonic progression and rhythmic flow dictate the relative degree of loudness…
  • 28) Any music which can be subdivided must be subdivided.  SUBDIVIDE AND CONQUER !!!

Yes, rules 1) and 28) are repeated, obviously to emphasize their importance. There are many other great one-liners in this section, but my favorite has to be “Subdivide and Conquer.” Don’t let the humor fool you, though, because these are all tried and true principles of great musicianship. Part 2 is equally valuable, but geared more towards brass players. Here are some excerpts from this section, which contains 20 more rules.

  • 3) Posture…Sit, or stand, “around” the spine, and not in front of it.
  • 14) FAULTS…The source of a fault is usually to be found in the note preceding it.
  • 18) REPETITION REINFORCES! Do not repeat errors.

If you want to find out what the rest of the “rules” are, you’ll have to buy the book yourself. Informed by years of experience as a high level performer and teacher, Chris Leuba’s The Rules of the Game is highly recommended to teachers and performers of all levels.

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