The progressive method vol.3 is finally here! You can listen to a few numbers and download the free sample if you'd like before purchasing it on the French horn method page. Hope you enjoy it!
It's been ages since I posted something on this blog. Apologies! I've spent the past few months working on the new improved volume 3 of the progressive method. Since we've covered most of the very basics in the first two books, I thought it would not be necessary to have an exercise page before the etude any more. The new vol. 3 has 30 numbers which would take about a year to complete for a student in his 2nd-3rd year of horn playing.
It has 4 scales and arpeggios numbers, 3 pieces from the public domain and 23 new original etudes.
I hope you enjoy the book. I will upoad it here this summer. I'll also record a few numbers for you to hear so you can have an idea before purchasing it.
You can now listen to some of the pieces featured in the progressive method volume 1 and 2 by downloading the audio files on the french horn method page. Check it out !
If you need to change your embouchure position, you'll have to give your chops time to ease into the new position by playing very easy music in the beginning. If you just try to play the same music as before, it most likely won't work and you'll end up very frustrated and you might even hurt yourself.
Many people are unsuccessful at changing their embouchure position because they are too eager to play high, fast and loud immediately. The fact is that your chops need time to adapt and they won't adapt well if you rush them. Take time to play even beginner exercises for the first few days and gradually increase the difficulty level over the next few weeks. The change should be much smoother this way.
You can greatly improve your lip trills by practicing them on your mouthpiece. Instead of playing a major second, buzz a major 3rd. So to play a trill from G to A on the horn, practice a "trill" from F sharp to B flat on the mouthpiece. Do 16th notes with metronome slowly in the beginning and speed up gradually. Make sure you play a major third when you buzz; it tends to become a minor third when you speed up!
Once you've done this for a few minutes, put your mouthpiece back on your horn and try a real lip trill. You should an improvement instantly.
I traveled to Japan and Canada during the orchestra break and couldn't really bring the horn with me with all the baby stuff in the plane (I never thought there would be so much!)
So I decided to try just the mouthpiece for three weeks to see if it really makes a difference and the verdict is: it works!
I played about 30 minutes/day of Kopprasch with the mouthpiece only almost every day. It's not easy to play all the notes in tune but a did my best to play the etudes as accurately as possible.
When I started to play on the horn again after three weeks, the sound wasn't quite there but I had almost as much strength and endurance as if I hadn't stopped playing. The sound came back after a few days of practice.
Normally, it takes me one day of practice per day off to get back in shape. So I would have needed a couple of weeks to be in concert shape this time but with 30 minutes of mouthpiece practice almost every day, I was ready to play a decent performance after 4-5 days.
So yes, buzzing your mouthpiece on days off can help keeping your chops fit while you're away from your instrument but you need to be motivated and consistent. Also plan a few days to work on your tone and flexibility with your horn before your first gig.
You sometimes see some great jazz trumpet players frowning like their face is about to explode while playing. And yet they manage to get some dynamite music out of their horn!
It might work for some people but I would advise you not to emulate them. Facial tension will spread through your body and eventually affect your air flow and your tone. While some truly great artists with strong personalities and creativity will succeed this way and even make it their trade mark sometimes, it won't work for the vast majority of people who will end up with a mediocre tone and less endurance as a result of too much frowning.
You need to know which muscles are actually needed to play your horn and leave the rest as relax as possible. Forcing with your forehead might give you some short term results but will hurt you in the long run. Have the patience to learn to play in a relaxed manner and you'll eventually gain strength and endurance to play without unnecessary facial tension.
When you change from one note to another, changing fingering is not enough. You need to accompany this change with your lips as if you where playing on the mouthpiece alone. How big will the movement be will depend on the range and interval. The key to a nice smooth legato is a good coordination between your fingers, lips and air.
You can practice this coordination by playing legato exercises while being aware of the sensation in your embouchure at the same time. You'll then feel where the notes are in your mouthpiece. Practice slow at first and then speed up the tempo until you get a nice, clear and smooth change.
With time, it'll become natural and you won't have to think about it anymore.
Although it is okay to get inspiration from recordings and live performances of great players, you also need to come up with your own musical ideas.
Before you play, close your eyes and take some time to create a great interpretation in your head and then make it the goal of your practicing. Try to reproduce the great performance that you came up with in your head. This require a great deal of imagination and creativity and by creating your own musical ideas, you truly become an artist no matter at what level you are and it will make your performance authentic.
At the end, it's impossible to please everybody but you can be sure that you'll be respected for trying something and having the guts to perform it in front of an audience. Some people will love it, some people will hate it and the truth will be somewhere in the middle. Someone once told me "I don't like what you did but I respect the fact that you did something". Trying is always a risk but you'll never get anywhere if you don't try anything.
Instead of copying other people, why don't you become the one that people want to copy?
Many brass players spend several minutes per day playing their mouthpiece in unison with a piano or keyboard. It is a great way to practice your buzzing as well as your intonation.
All you need is to sit at the keyboard and play yourself scales, arpeggios and simple tunes while buzzing along. It's not always easy to tune to a piano because the sound it so different. Buzzing along with the keyboard will help you play more in tune with the piano and with yourself.
I am associate principal horn of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and the author of the progressive methods. I'm happy to share my experience as a horn player and teacher with you.