As noted earlier this year, I have a backlog of new publications, recordings, and other items that I’m slowly working through in my review series. This week we’ll look at three electronic publications related to teaching the horn, I Like to Practice Scales, by Ricardo Matosinhos, Introducing the Horn, 2nd ed., by John Ericson, and A Mello Catechism, 2nd ed., also by John Ericson. All three are geared towards younger students and their teachers, but can also be quite useful for other levels as well.
Portuguese hornist Ricardo Matosinhos is extremely active as a performer, educator, composer, and author, and is probably best known for his series of jazz-inspired etudes published through Phoenix Music Editions. In I Like to Practice Scales, he presents a logical, systematic way for students to progress through all the major and minor scales, with arpeggios. There are many other methods which seek to achieve the same goal, but what sets this one apart is the manner in which those scales are presented. Rather than assigning individual scales in their entirety – which can be quite a lot of material to digest for the younger student – he begins with exercises based on only the first note of each scale, moving through a circle of fourths progression. Two note exercises follow, then three notes, and so on, with each series following the same tonal language. Detailed theoretical discussions are omitted by design – the subtitle of the book is “First comes the practice, then the theory…” – with the emphasis placed on developing fluency first. I really like this approach, as I think it mimics the way we learn our native language(s) as children. Imagine explaining the intricacies of grammar to a child (or adult) who only spoke a few words of a language – the conversation would break down once the limits of their vocabulary had been reached. Yet how often do we try to explain key signatures, major and minor keys, and other theoretical concepts to beginning musicians, who have the same limited vocabulary? As in spoken languages, theory is of course important, but makes much more sense once the student reaches a certain degree of fluency. The first several exercises make great material for newer students, and the later ones will provide a nice challenge for the advancing player, particularly in the low register. I Like to Practice Scales is available from the International Horn Society’s Online Music Sales page.
First published in 2007, John Ericson‘s Introducing the Horn provides a concise, effective way to give beginning horn players a great start on the instrument. The newly revised edition, available in both hardcopy and E-Book formats, takes into account the increasingly fast pace of college level brass methods courses. The reality today is that there simply will not be enough time to cover all of the potential difficulties and pitfalls of each brass instrument in a one or two semester course, and the best that many instructors can hope to do is provide an overview and a list of resources for future study. There are lots of comprehensive methods covering all of the brass instruments, but it is also recommended that brass methods instructors supplement their main text with handouts and specialist publications like Introducing the Horn. The layout and progression of topics is very practical, and all of the important points are covered. The “Suggestions and Tips for Music Educators” and “Horn Maintenance Tips” included in the appendix are by themselves worth the very reasonable price of the E-Book version. Every band director, veteran or rookie, should own a copy of this book! Download it today from the Horn Notes Edition website.
A Mello Catechism (1st ed. 2007, 2nd ed. 2013) is another book which should be on the shelves of every horn teacher and band director. Though the instrument is often met with resistance and even downright hatred from horn players and their teachers, many high school and even college players spend a significant amount of time performing on it. To my knowledge, Ericson is one of only a few high level horn teachers to devote any time to the instrument, and his book holds an important place in the pedagogical literature. It covers a little bit of everything, from history and nomenclature to tips for band directors and arrangers. On a personal note, I found the book an invaluable resource during my first few years of full time college teaching. Early in the fall semester I spent (and still spend) time working with local band students, who are feverishly preparing their marching shows for the upcoming football season. While I certainly knew about the mellophone, it had been several years since I actually played one myself, and I turned to A Mello Catechism for guidance, advice, and exercises to use when working with the students. I have also taught a number of private lessons on the mellophone, which can be quite a different animal entirely from the horn. Regardless of your personal opinions about the mellophone, if you teach the horn at an level chances are you will encounter it at some point along the way. I think it is much more productive to be prepared and helpful to your students, rather than dismissing the instrument entirely. A Mello Catechism is available from the Horn Notes Edition website.