Back to Basics: One Month with the Standley Routine

At the beginning of September I decided to take a break from my regular warm-up and maintenance routine – Douglas Hill’s Warm-ups and Maintenance Sessions for the Horn Playerand began working on the Standley Routine. Going in, I decided to commit to it for one month before making any long term decisions. If you are not familiar with the Standley Routine, here’s a brief summary, excerpted from the previous post linked above.

From 1949 to 1957, Forrest Standley performed as Principal Horn of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and later taught for many years at what is now Carnegie-Mellon University.  Two of his former students, son Gene Standley of the Columbus Symphony, and H. Stephen Hager of Southwest Texas State University, have made available a revised and edited version of their teacher’s warm-up and daily routine.  Although the Standley Routine is fairly lengthy when compared to other daily routines – one hour and forty minutes according to the original preface – the level of thoroughness and organization is unparalleled.

Before getting to my conclusions about the routine, an explanation for the switch is in order. There were a few big reasons why I thought a change could be helpful to my playing, and here they are in no particular order.

  • Endurance: After returning from a wonderful week at the 47th International Horn Symposium, I had a difficult time getting back in shape for some upcoming solo, chamber, and orchestral performances. As anyone who has attended a large conference like the IHS Symposium (or ITG Conference or ITA Festival) can attest, the irony of these events is that you don’t really have time to practice very much. I managed to get the horn on my face every day during the symposium, with the exception of the day I departed, but resuming a full practice regimen upon returning was a challenge. I did what I normally do to build endurance, which is add five minutes of practice time to my routine every other day, but wasn’t totally satisfied with the results. Having had some prior experience with the Standley Routine, and having heard that it was good for building endurance, I decided to give it a shot.
  • Concentration: As with the first reason, this one probably has very little to do with what I was practicing, and more to do with how I was practicing it. Nevertheless, after many years of playing my regular routine on a daily basis, I began to notice my focus and attention wandering during the first hour of practice – precisely when they needed to be most present. I should state for the record that this doesn’t mean there are any shortcomings in design or content with Hill’s routine, nor does it indicate that I had mastered it so well as to be bored. Nothing could be further from the truth! Still, I thought changing routines might help me break out of this habit.
  • Consistency: One of the strengths of Hill’s routine is that it covers everything, within a reasonable amount of time. I knew that if I played the full warm-up plus routine I had touched on pretty much every technique required of modern horn players. But, over time I began to think that maybe it might be useful for me to forego some of that variety in favor of more similar patterns which emphasize the same basic techniques. For example, the Standley Routine doesn’t include any stopped horn, multiple tonguing, or lip trill patterns (Hill does), but instead presents four types of exercises (scales, arpeggios, endurance, and overtone) in every key. Is it a comprehensive routine? No, not in the sense of Hill’s Warm-Ups and Maintenance Sessions, but it is very thorough.

Ok, so what has the past month with the Standley Routine been like? On the whole, it’s been very productive, and I’ve noticed improvement in all of the above mentioned areas. It is taxing, especially the endurance exercises, but seems to be exactly what I needed at this point in my career. The entire routine takes me about 65-70 minutes to complete, although instead of performing the arpeggio exercises both slurred and tongued (as indicated), I alternate articulations each day. In addition, I use a tonic drone, and play the endurance exercises on the F horn. I would also recommend supplementing with various etudes and/or exercises to cover stopped horn, multiple tonguing, and lip trills. Recently I’ve been working through Robert Ward’s 30 Etudes for Stopped Horn, which I picked up at the IHS Symposium. It’s a fantastic collection of stopped horn studies; look for a more detailed review in the coming weeks.

I plan to continue with the Standley Routine for the immediate future, although at some point I will probably return to Hill’s Warm-Ups and Maintenance Sessions. To be clear, they are both great routines, and I am not necessarily advocating for one over the other. What I think is important, though, is that we periodically take stock of our daily routines, and consider trying other patterns and approaches.

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More Warm-Ups and Routines for Horn

Earlier this year I posted a series on warm-ups and routines for the horn, which in turn was based on an article I was working on for The Horn Call. To continue with that series I thought I’d go ahead and post the full list of the twenty-two routines I looked at for the article (which should hopefully be appearing in the May, 2011 issue of  The Horn Call). I’ve included links for these publications, where available.  The list is by no means comprehensive, but I think it does give a good representation of the kind of materials available.  Please feel free to comment with other routines you have found useful for yourself or students, even if they are not currently in print.

Carmine Caruso, Musical Calisthenics for Brass, Almo/Irving Music, 1979. See also http://www.carminecaruso.net/

Richard Deane, The Efficient Approach: Accelerated Development on the Horn, Atlanta Brass Society Press, 2009.

James Decker, The Master Class Series for Horn, Interactive Video Audition Systems International, 1990.

Louis Dufrasne, Dufrasne Routine edited by Thomas Bacon, Southern Music Company, 2005.

Eli Epstein, Power Warm-up for Horn, Self-Published, 1999.

John Ericson, Introducing the Horn: Essentials for New Hornists and their Teachers, Horn Notes Edition, 2007.

Philip Farkas, The Art of French Horn Playing, Summy-Birchard, 1956.

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

Michael Hoeltzel, Mastery of the French Horn: Technique and Musical Expression, Schott, 2006.

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, LLC, 2007.

Max. P. Pottag, Daily Exercises for French Horn, Belwin Mills, 1941, 1969.

Verne Reynolds, The Horn Handbook, Amadeus Press, 1997. [out of print, try Amazon for a used copy]

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

Gunther Schuller, Horn Technique, Oxford University Press, 1962, 1992.

Joseph Singer, Embouchure Building for French Horn compiled and edited by Richard E. Ballou,
Belwin, 1956.

James Stamp, Warm-ups and Studies: Trumpet and Other Brass Instruments, Editions Bim, 1978, 1981, 1998, 2005.

Forrest Standley, Standley Routine for Horn in F edited by Gene Standley and H. Stephen Hager, Southern Music Company, 2002.

David B. Thompson, Daily Warm-up and Workout for Horn, Thompson Edition, 1994.

Barry Tuckwell, Playing the Horn: A Practical Guide, Oxford University Press, 1978. [out of print, try Amazon for a used copy]

Frøydis Ree Wekre, Thoughts on Playing the Horn Well, Norhornpress, 1994.

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

Warm-ups and Routines You May Not Know – Part III – Standley Routine

We’ll conclude this series on lesser-known warm-ups and routines with the Standley Routine.  From 1949 to 1957, Forrest Standley performed as Principal Horn of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and later taught for many years at what is now Carnegie-Mellon University.  Two of his former students, son Gene Standley of the Columbus Symphony, and H. Stephen Hager of Southwest Texas State University, have made available a revised and edited version of their teacher’s warm-up and daily routine.  Although the Standley Routine is fairly lengthy when compared to other daily routines – one hour and forty minutes according to the original preface – the level of thoroughness and organization is unparalleled.  After a brief long tone/articulation exercise, the routine is divided into six sections covering all the major and minor keys.  Each section contains four scale studies in two major and minor keys, four arpeggio exercises in two major keys, one endurance study in a major key, and two overtone series patterns in two major keys.  Though each section contains essentially the same basic patterns, the key changes provide variety, and the arpeggio and overtone exercises can be practiced with varying articulations.  For an even more complete session, players could also include their own favorite stopped horn and lip trill exercises at the end.  Gene Standley’s excellent suggestions provide further explanations on how to use the routine.  Having spent several weeks working with this routine I can say that it is great for flexibility and also for building a solid traditional technique.  The scale patterns are particularly good, as they “revolve” through all the modes in a given key.  For example, a scale exercise in the key of C major would begin first with c to c, then continue from d to d, e to e, etc.

If you found this series interesting, be sure to check out the complete article, which should be appearing in the October 2010 issue of The Horn Call. [Updated  January 10, 2011 – the article is now scheduled to appear in the May, 2011 issue of The Horn Call]

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