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.

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