Caruso Journal Wrap-up: Weeks 11 and 12

This will be the last update in my Caruso Journal [you can read the other parts here: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 |10]

I got busy last week with some other horn-related things (more on this in a future post) and had to defer my Week 11 journal entry. Rather than  post Week 11 late, I thought it would be appropriate to combine Weeks 11 and 12  into a single, final summary.

When I began practicing Caruso studies 12 weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but in my experience they have lived up to their reputation as great fundamental exercises! My consistency, endurance, and timing have improved over the last several weeks, and as I’ve mentioned before I will definitely be encouraging my students to practice them. Here are a few summary thoughts for anyone who is thinking about getting into Caruso Studies.

  • Go slowly – follow Julie Landsman’s suggested Practice Calendar, or create your own. Whatever you do, come up with something that is progressive and allows enough time (several days to weeks) on each pattern before adding more difficulty and complexity.
  • As a corollary to the above, be patient – if you are playing Caruso correctly, your playing should improve. If it doesn’t, take a break for a while, and/or consult with an experienced teacher. If you don’t have access to a teacher right now, watch (and re-watch) Julie Landsman’s excellent YouTube series.
  • Track your progress – use a chart (or mark in the music) dates and week numbers to help you adhere to the practice calendar. Be vigilant about avoiding strain when playing any of the exercises. I did not get good results when I had to force something to come out. It worked out much better to play to my comfortable limit and then repeat the pattern the next day or every other day.

I’ve enjoyed working on Caruso Studies, and doing so has helped me become more aware of my breathing and physical timing when I play the horn. I’ll keep doing them and trying to get better!

 

Caruso Journal: Week 10

My apologies for being a day behind with my weekly Caruso Journal! Yesterday got away from me with various online meetings and other obligations.

Here we are in Week 10, and I’ve expanded the Intervals exercise to thirds, per Julie Landsman’s recommendation to change intervals after two weeks. Perhaps it’s just having two weeks of practice with this exercise under my belt, but the thirds actually feel easier than seconds. Synchronizing foot tapping, breathing, and air attacking the start of each note is going pretty well, except when I get into the highest register. Still a work in progress, but noticing some definite improvement.

Noodles and Spiders are also going well on alternate days. I usually do the C Noodle twice, once at quarter =60 and again at quarter =120, followed by Variation 1 at the same tempos. I also play Spiders on C, E, and G at quarter=60 and 120. I’ve not added Snakes yet, but will do that soon.

In terms of low register work, I’ve incorporated Chromatics Down into my daily routine and use Arpeggios Down for a warm-down at the end of the day. These are deceptively difficult exercises to play with great control and consistency all the way to the bottom of the range. Because these exercises require contact between the lips and mouthpiece throughout their entirety, I’ve found it very important to pay attention to the jaw and leadpipe angle as a means of getting into the low register.

As mentioned in a previous post, my plan is to continue with this journal through Week 12. There are a few more Caruso exercises that I haven’t explored yet, but I plan to do so in the coming weeks.  Feel free to check them out on Julie Landsman’s Caruso page using the links below.

 

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 trumpetherald.com. 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 8

I’m back for Week 8 of my Caruso Studies journal. If you’re wondering how long this series will go, I plan to stop after Week 12, through the end of the first page on Julie Landsman’s suggested practice calendar. If you’ve followed these entries up to this point, thank you for reading!

Speaking of the Practice Calendar, I have a confession to make. Towards the end of the past week (Week 8) I went ahead and incorporated the Chromatics Down exercises into my daily routine, and have also been playing Noodles/Spiders and Intervals on alternating days. It sounds like a lot of new material to add, but Chromatics Down was scheduled for Week 9 anyway, and the Practice Calendar says “In the 3rd month, you may begin doing heavy lifting and flexibility exercises on alternating days.” In reality, I only jumped ahead by a few days.

So, how do these new exercises feel? Pretty good, so far, although I’ve been doing Caruso patterns for long enough now to know that it takes several days (for me at least) to really settle into them. The past few days have gone well, but really it’s about finding the most efficient way to play each pattern, which continues to be a work in progress. More next week!

 

Caruso Journal: Week 7

I don’t have much to report this week, but if you have been reading my “Caruso Journal” posts I’ll assume that you have more than just a passing interest in the method. If so, I highly recommend that you check out this Brass Junkies interview with Julie Landsman, former Principal Horn of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and Caruso Method expert. Her interview is inspiring, funny, and full of great advice for horn players and all musicians.

On a personal note, while I never had the opportunity to study directly with Ms. Landsman, I did get to work briefly with one of her former students (and section mate in the MET), Michelle Baker. Ms. Baker was on the faculty of the Round Top Music Festival in Texas when I attended in the summer of 2003. Her masterclasses and lessons were fantastic, and I still think fondly of my experiences that summer.

More updates next week as I will be adding some exercises to the routine!

Caruso Journal: Week 6

After 6 weeks of daily work with the Caruso Routine, I’m still discovering new things, and continue to find the exercises very useful for building fundamentals. These will definitely be incorporated into my future teaching! No new material added this week (nothing new until after Week 8), but I’ve been experimenting with the three different beginnings to the Harmonic Series pattern. So far, playing them as written seems to work best for me.

Something else that occurred to me this week is that although the instructions say to keep the mouthpiece on the lips during rests and breath through the nose, there’s a difference between keeping the embouchure set and over tensing it. In an effort to avoid relaxing my setting, it’s tempting to “flex” the embouchure too much, which tired me out very quickly. After several weeks, I think I’ve found the right balance between these two.

To close, you may be wondering what else I’ve been doing in my routine besides Caruso Studies. Back in March I started using Daniel Grabois’s The Daily Drill for Horn Players, published by Brass Arts Unlimited. It’s a great riff on some of the standard warm-up maintenance materials, and was just the right thing (along with Caruso Studies) to help me stay motivated during this period of social distancing. I hope that you have found, and continue to find, reasons to stay motivated!

 

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 Routine Journal: Week 2

Today marks my second week with the Caruso Routine, as adapted for horn by Julie Landsman. (Read about Week 1 here). As mentioned in my Week 1 post, I’m following the suggested practice calendar found on Ms. Landsman’s website. This week I continued with the Six Notes, mostly using Version 1, as it felt the best, and added Lips/Mouthpiece/Horn

Lips/Mouthpiece/Horn is played three times, first buzzing with the lips alone, then on the mouthpiece, and finally with the horn. To me it feels like this pattern stabilizes and centers the embouchure, and encourages steady air support. Three different versions are provided, with directions to choose the easiest one. Version A feels the best to me by far, as I can easily free buzz a second line G. Free buzzing the third space C requires me to roll in my lips more than usual, and the instructions specifically say to avoid this:

Attempting to manipulate the embouchure in any way will inhibit the progress of this exercise. Just produce the sound in the easiest way possible, without trying to place the chops in a certain way. Do not force the lips into place, even if all three events are slightly different from each other

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to nose breathe when free buzzing the first time through, but I’ve been doing it anyway. I need to review the instructional video to see what Ms. Landsman and her student do. It would make sense to do so. On the third time through Version A (with the horn),  the second note of each group is produced by bending the first one down a half step. It’s not a tiring exercise, but you can definitely feel the embouchure at work when doing it. It seems to be working as an “early in the day” pattern, not first thing, but right after Six Notes. I appreciate the gradual, measured way that exercises are added in the Practice Calendar. Week 3 is the same as Week 2, but Week 4 adds Harmonic Series exercises.

 

Caruso Routine Journal: Week 1

Something that has kept me motivated in my practicing over the last several weeks has been an interest in routines. It’s something I’ve researched and published about, and at a personal level I also find them really interesting. The Caruso Routine is one that I’ve always wanted to try but didn’t feel I had the necessary time to devote to it.

After watching the videos and reading the other material several times on Julie Landsman’s Caruso Method page, I decided to give it a shot. Having never studied long term with a Caruso teacher, I’m taking things very slowly and following the detailed instructions and suggested Practice Calendar found on Ms. Landsman’s website. Initially, these exercises aren’t taking the place of my regular routine, but rather supplementing it.

For Week 1, the only thing on the calendar is The Six Notes, one of the fundamental exercises in Caruso studies. This past week I played the Six Notes first thing in the day, right after stretching and breathing exercises. The nose breath felt a little strange at first, but after a few days began to feel more normal. Foot tapping helps with coordinating the initial breath attack (and I’ve also been using a metronome along with it). So far I’ve only done Version 1, but will probably alternate with Version 2 in future weeks.

So how do things feel after a week of Caruso Routine? Pretty good! The Six Notes works great as a “first notes” pattern, and so far hasn’t made my chops feel stiff. Quite the opposite, things feel relaxed and responsive after playing it. Again, I’m taking things very slowly, and will be adding Lips / Mouthpiece / Horn for Week 2, per the Practice Calendar. As time goes on and I add more exercises, there will be more to report, but my initial impressions are good. For a great article and introduction to the Caruso Method, be sure to visit Julie Landsman’s page, and also check out this article at Horn Matters.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: