Once you've made it in the school of your choice, you'll most likely get to play in the school's orchestra. Most conservatories will have placement auditions to determine who plays what. For this type of audition, you will have to perform one piece of your choice (usually they stop you after the exposition) and a short list of standard excerpts. In that case, since not everyone is at the same level, it's usually the most advanced students who get the big parts because the jury will be looking for someone who can deliver the parts.
At this stage, you are still developing your skills. This a good chance for you to learn the standard orchestral repertoire. The excerpts you are learning now will come back many times in the future and you will be practicing them for the next few years. Learn them well and try to play them a bit better each time you have to perform them.
When you practice, pay attention to all the little details in the parts. Practice with metronome and record yourself if you can. You can also play for your friends in a little mock audition. Write yourself pointers in your music as much as you want. It'll help you focus on the music once in the audition room. Make sure you don't over practice on the day of the audition so you can perform with fresh chops.
Once the results are out, don't complain about your part assignment. It's no use and you'll only get in trouble. Keep working hard and always do your best on the parts you've been assigned. Don't worry about not getting the parts you want. You turn will come!
The french horn can be a problematic instrument for band teachers and band method publishers because it is in F and most of the other instruments are in C or B flat.
This means that a C on a B flat trumpet will be an F on a horn. So C-D-E on the trumpet is F-G-A on the horn which is slightly too high for a french horn beginner and can be quite discouraging in the beginning. Unfortunately, some band teachers give up and only offer the opportunity to play horn to students who already played another instrument before. This isn't necessary in my opinion. I think that with the right method, some coaching and a bit of patience, kids can learn to play the french horn just as well as any other instrument.
When I teach beginners, I make them learn C-D-E (concert F-G-A) on the first week and gradually expand their range up to A in 4-5 weeks and up to C in 8-12 weeks which is enough since most beginner band horn parts don't go higher than C or sometimes D.
Band methods usually have a "just for horns" line for each exercise but that doesn't help when they have to play with the whole band. In my opinion, the best thing to do is to tell the horn students not to worry too much about reaching the notes in the beginning and focus on playing the right rhythm and fingerings. If they work on it on individually with the help of a competent teacher, they should catch up with the rest of the band in a few weeks. Also using a method that is more adapted to the needs of the instrument will help them develop the strength and basic technique to play in the band and avoid frustration and discouragement. You can always download the french horn method here if you are looking for one.
I've uploaded my cadenzas for Mozart 3 and 4 on the "Cadenzas for Mozart concertos" page. If you're playing one of these concertos but don't have a good cadenza, you can try them and tweak them to fit your own playing.
We now have a funbrass facebook page! There are commented pictures and news about upcoming articles and events on the page. Feel free to write something if you want. I'm always happy to read from you all!
You can click on the link below to have a look and like the page.
If you goal is to be a professional musician, you will have to perform several auditions of all kinds in the next few years. The goals and preparation will be slightly different depending on the audition you are taking. It can be an entrance examination for a school, a placement audition for the school orchestra, a summer program audition or a full time job. We will cover all of these one by one in this mini-series about auditioning. For some auditions, you can send an audio or video recording. This is another subject to be covered later. We will focus on live auditions for now.
Let's start with the entrance examination for a conservatory
For this kind of audition, you will normally have to play scales, one or two contrasting solo pieces and etudes. Some schools also ask for orchestral passages.
This is your chance to demonstrate your potential. Teachers will choose students depending on whether they think they can do something with you or not and how many places they have available in the class. It's not about being perfect and the most advanced students aren't always the ones getting the spots.
Teachers are looking for students who are not only talented but also confident, smart, well organized, hard working, dedicated and serious. You need to give the panel the impression that you have these qualities when you present yourself. They must not only like your playing, they must also like you. Play musically and take some risks, if something doesn't go well, ask if you can play it again, they want to hear what you can do so they'll give you another chance most of the time. Dress in a smart casual way without overdoing it! Answer all questions confidently without sounding arrogant. In other words, be polite and be yourself. That way, you should leave a good impression and maximize your chances to be accepted in the school.
It's a good idea to take a lesson or two with the teacher before the audition so you can see if you think you can learn something from him/her. Also, if the teacher already knows you and likes you, this will increase your chances.
After that,If you don't like the teacher, you better not waste your time auditioning for him/her!
The duration and frequency of your practice sessions depends on your level, goals and available time. Beginners can't play as long as conservatory students and someone who wants to become a professional musician will practice more than someone who just wants to play in the band for fun.
So here are a few guide lines for students, parents and teachers. These are for individual practice and don't include band rehearsals.
Beginners: I recommend students who are just starting to do 30 minutes of individual practice 5 times/week on top of the school band. It should be enough to gradually build some chops and learn the basics. If you played another brass instrument before, you already have some chops and should be able to play longer.
2-3 years of playing: Once you have the very basics covered and have developed some chops, you can start increasing the duration of your practicing sessions to 45 minutes depending on what you are playing. You should be doing a mix of scales, etudes, solo pieces and your band parts at this point. You should still be doing about 5 sessions/week but that depends on how much time and motivation you have. It's not always easy to find 5 slots in a weekly schedule when you have home works, school projects, football practice etc. on top of your band rehearsals but if you really love music, you'll find time for it. Make yourself a realistic weekly schedule with all your activities and include practicing sessions in it. You'll probably have to practice a bit less if you have important exams and need to study more on a certain week but you can always catch up later.
4-5 years of playing : If you have been practicing well in your first 3 years, you should have enough chops and technique to do a decent job in your school band by now so your practicing time will depend on your goals. If you just wish to play for fun and aren't playing a high part in the band, the rehearsals will probably be enough to keep your chops going. You might have to put an hour or two per week sometimes to make sure you know your parts well and aren't a drag for the rest of the group though.
If you wish to challenge yourself to take your playing at a higher level, you'll have to play about 60 minutes per day 6 days/week. You can split this in two sessions and do a bit more. Keep doing your scales, etudes and solo pieces to improve your technique and learn the basic repertoire of your instrument.
Conservatory students: At this level, you will have many different things to practice and you'll have to do them well. You need to organize your practicing sessions in a way that allows you to work thoroughly on each and every assignment that you have. So on top of your instrument lesson, chamber music and orchestra rehearsals and other classes, you should be practicing about 2-3 hours per day for horn and trumpet players. Low brass players can do more.
Don't do it all in one session. Ideally, you can do one session in the morning with a break in the middle and another session in the evening. As brass players, we can't play as long as string or piano players so we need to practice efficiently and not waste our strengths. An hour of good and efficient practice is worth more then 5 hours of sloppy and botched work. Right down on a piece of paper everything you do (scales, etudes, daily routine, chops building, trills etc.) and for how long. That way you can keep track of your work and adjust your schedule if needed.
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.