Video Demonstration: Range Songs for Horn

Earlier this semester I wrote a brief review of a new publication by Mountain Peak Music, Range Songs for Horn. The materials have been adapted specifically for horn players by Rose French, and it makes a great addition to other method books and exercises for range development. After working out of the book for the last month, I’m even more convinced of my initial impressions – Range Songs really works! I’ve been playing a couple of high exercises and low exercises for about 5-10 minutes each day, as a supplement to my regular routine. Before beginning to play any of the exercises I read over the Introduction carefully (available online as part of the sample pages). It not only explains how to use Range Songs effectively, but also offers some great comments on range development in general. Here’s a short video of me playing through one of the high range exercises.

It’s still a work in progress, but I’m already starting to notice more ease in the high range. In addition to the suggestions from the Introduction, I also highly recommend practicing each tune with a tonic drone. My B-flat above the staff tends to be sharp (maybe I’m raising my eyebrows too much?), but practicing with the drone is helping me learn to bring the pitch down (I left the drone off for the video recording). Another tactic I’ve been trying is putting the right hand further into the bell than normal. At a certain point clarity and projection can start to suffer, but for the most part the further I can get my hand into the bell the more stable the high range. This is a well-documented phenomenon in horn-playing, but it helps to remind myself of it as often as possible! And finally, it helps me to play each phrase by itself a few times to find the most efficient way to approach the target note, and then put it back in context. So much of what we do in the high range is determined not by what we do on the high notes, but by what we do before them. Has anyone else out there been working out of Range Songs (or other range development exercises)? If so, what are your thoughts?

New Gear Reviews: Mouthpiece, Music, and Valve Oil

Here’s a short collection of mini-reviews on new equipment and music I’ve been using recently. I’ll probably post more detailed reviews in the future, but as I’ve only been using these items for the last few weeks I don’t have as much to say as I would after a more extensive trial period. However, I feel strongly enough about them after this short period of time to put down a few things in writing.

  • Houser Mouthpiece Works, Standley GS 12 cup with H-Kote rim: I actually purchased this mouthpiece a while back after hearing some very good things about Houser products, and since I don’t have any pressing performance commitments in the next few weeks, I thought this would be a good time to test it out. I’ve been using it for the last couple of weeks, and really like it. Generally if I don’t like a mouthpiece I can tell within the first week or so. There was nothing wrong with my trusty Laskey 75G, and in fact the Houser has some very similar playing characteristics. Here’s a shot of them side-by-side.

The rims are very similar, but the H-Kote (stainless steel with a titanium coating) is more comfortable than the silver plate on the Laskey (the Houser rim is a model “E”, 17.5mm ID). I have tried gold plate in the past, but something about it just didn’t feel quite right. The Houser seems to have just a bit more bite on the inner edge, although it isn’t uncomfortable at all. Here’s another side-by-side shot, this time looking into the cups.

The bore is almost identical between the Laskey and the Houser, as are the cup depths, but the Houser cup has a slightly different shape. Where the Laskey cup is “S” shaped, the Houser is more “V” shaped. Both cups are silver plated, although Houser is also well known for their stainless steel cups.  When trying out a new mouthpiece, I recommend having some definite ideas about what it is you’re looking for in that mouthpiece. In my case, I wanted a more comfortable rim and a bit more sensitivity/control. The Houser seems to be delivering on both counts right now, and I’m looking forward to playing on it for the immediate future.

  • Mountain Peak Music, Range Songs for Horn by Rose French: The folks at Mountain Peak Music have come out with another excellent publication, a horn version of their Range Song series. There are other books out there that deal with range, but I’ve not seen very many that approach its development in such a thoughtful, systematic way. The book works progressively through both the high and low range, with groups of melodies focused around a goal or target note. As confidence is gained on a target note or notes, the student can then move on to higher or lower pitches. The melodies are about a minute or so in length each, so a range building practice session can be constructed out of several different tunes. Rose French has done an excellent job tailoring the materials specifically for horn players, and there is enough variety to challenge a wide spectrum of ability levels. As with everything else I’ve seen from this publisher, Range Songs for Horn is a quality product and is highly recommended. I’ve already started using it in lessons this semester, and  am eager to see how students respond to it.
  • Yamaha Synthetic Valve Oil: I discovered this valve oil by accident, as it was in a promotional sample bag being distributed at the annual Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago. I tossed it in my case as an emergency bottle, but after off and on use over the last several months I’ve decided to make it my regular rotor oil. Yamaha makes three different weights of this oil, vintage (valves with large tolerances), regular (valves with regular tolerances), and light (valves with close tolerances). However, I’ve used both the vintage and the light on my horn, which has close tolerances, and I can’t really tell much of a difference. This oil is very fast, which I like, but doesn’t seem to dissipate as quickly as other light oils I’ve used. Although it is designated as piston oil, it works just fine for rotors. I’m still using Hetman bearing and linkage oil, and it seems to work well with the Yamaha oil.
%d bloggers like this: