Video: Lip Trill and Range Development Exercise by Douglas Hill

Here’s a short video demonstration of a great exercise for working on lip trills and range development. The exercise can be found in two publications by Douglas Hill, Warm-ups and Maintenance Sessions for the Horn Player, and High Range for the Horn Player. Both books are highly recommended, and I have used them regularly for the past several years. To read Professor Hill’s insightful suggestions about developing range you’ll have to check out these books yourself, but here are a few of my own thoughts on this particular exercise.

  • Developing lip trills and the high range takes time: This is something I didn’t realize as a young student, but it really does take years of regular practice to build both your trills and the upper and lower limits of your range. I didn’t have a particularly strong high range as a college student, but over the course of the past 10 years or so I’ve experienced incremental (if sometimes slow) development.
  • This exercise can seem extreme at first, but over time the body becomes accustomed to it. When I first attempted this exercise in 2002 I thought, “I’ll never be able to play that.” However, simply attempting to play in an extreme range for a few minutes a day will yield results if given enough time. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, of course, and if things are feeling good, I will repeat a couple of the high notes in search of better tone and/or intonation. I do that on this video for the high E and F.
  • If executed properly, this exercise should feel easy. When everything is working correctly, playing up there doesn’t require lots of effort. Incorporating lip trills into high range practice helps to ensure that only the minimum amount of tension is being used. If you’re too tight, the exercise starts to feel like work.

In sum, there aren’t really any shortcuts to either of these techniques, and the best way to work on them is slowly, gradually, and with lots of patience!  Do you have any favorite range or lip trill exercises?  Feel free to comment below.

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Three Things You Should Practice Every Day

Although you might not be required to perform each of these techniques every day, it is essential that you keep them in good shape so that they are ready to go when you do need them.  I’ve found that even just five minutes or so of dedicated practice in each area helps to maintain proficiency.  If your regular daily routine doesn’t already include patterns for developing the following skills, you can choose from among the many excellent resources already out there, or create your own.

Lip Trills: Whether you already have a solid trill or are still perfecting your technique, daily practice is crucial to improving and maintaining this important part of our playing.  If you get bored doing the same trill exercises every day, change them up or create a rotation so that you are covering a range of materials.  Here’s a short list of publications with excellent trill exercises.

William R. Brophy, Technical Studies for Solving Special Problems on the Horn, Carl Fischer, 1977.

Bruce Hembd, “Exercise: My Lip Trills Stink,” published on Horn Matters, 2009.

Douglas Hill, From Vibrato to Trills to Tremolos…for the Horn Player, Really Good Music, LLC, 2003.

Douglas Hill, Warm-ups and Maintenance Sessions for the Horn Player, Really Good Music, LLC, 2001.

Sam Pilafian and Patrick Sheridan, The Brass Gym: A Comprehensive Daily Workout for Brass Players edited for horn by John Ericson, Focus on Music, 2007.

Wendell Rider, Real World Horn Playing, Wendell Rider Publications, 2006.

Multiple Tonguing: As with lip trills, I’ve found that unless I practice double and triple tonguing daily, fluency and clarity are lost over time.  You want your multiple tonguing to be as reliable as possible so that when playing rapid articulations you have the option of seamlessly switching over to double or triple if necessary.  Here are some resources.

J.B. Arban,  Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet edited by Edwin Franko Goldman and Walter M. Smith, annotated by Claude Gordon, Carl Fischer, 1982.

William R. Brophy, Technical Studies for Solving Special Problems on the Horn, Carl Fischer, 1977.

Douglas Hill, Warm-ups and Maintenance Sessions for the Horn Player, Really Good Music, LLC, 2001.

Ifor James, Warming Up, Editions Marc Reift, 1999.

Sam Pilafian and Patrick Sheridan, The Brass Gym: A Comprehensive Daily Workout for Brass Players edited for horn by John Ericson, Focus on Music, 2007.

Wendell Rider, Real World Horn Playing, Wendell Rider Publications, 2006.

Milan Yancich, A Practical Guide to French Horn Playing, Wind Music, Inc., 1970.

Stopped Horn: I think one of the main reasons why stopped horn doesn’t stay consistent unless practiced daily is because of the drastically different resistance and resulting sensations at the embouchure.  Virtually any long tone, scale, or articulation exercise can be modified for stopped horn practice – the important thing is to put in the time every day.  Practice both F and B-flat horn fingerings, but practice the best options for your instrument more often so that they become automatic.

You should of course practice other things every day, like long tones, high/low range, flexibility, scales, etc., but practicing your trills, multiple tonguing, and stopped horn daily will set you apart from many players.

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