Hi everyone! Sorry I've been so busy with moving recently so I haven't had time to update the blog.
I hope you like the new design! I'll upgrade the site a bit in the next few days to offer more material and to make it easier to navigate. I will also put the first few lessons of the progressive method vol. 3 online in pdf format on this site in a couple of weeks. So far I don't plan to produce hard copies of this book but you can always download it for free here.
The blog will resume shortly with more posts about playing brass and enjoying music and life in general. I've updated the blog categories to include all posts in the past year.
So stay tuned!
For french horn players, with some practice, it is much better to play whole step trills using only your lips to change the notes. For half step trills, you will have to use the 2nd valve.
You can download the pdf file below and practice these exercises about 10 minutes/day to develop that technique. If you work on it every day, it should take you a few weeks/months to get decent lip trills.
A few tips:
-Play the bottom note slightly sharper to bring it closer to the upper note. It'll make it easier to move from one note to the other.
-Try to relax. It'll help you keep a good air flow.
- Don't forget to make a nice sound when you trill. Tone quality always counts. Even during lip trills!
-Trills in the high register are more difficult but practicing them will make you stronger and you'll find it easier to play the lower ones afterwards.
Playing chamber music is essential to learn basic music skills.
When you play chamber music, you are forced to develop your musical instinct and listen to your colleagues to feel the rhythm and tempo or take the lead yourself when it's appropriate. By having rehearsals without a conductor, you learn to create your own interpretation of the music and solve little problems (intonation, rhythm etc.) on your own. When you do so, it is important that you respect everyone's ideas so you don't lose your friends in the process! When you go back to your band or orchestra, you'll be able to follow the conductor without depending on him/her.
If you are in school, talk to your friends and see if they are interested in playing in a group with you. The most common formations for brass instruments are:
Brass quintet (2 trumpets, one horn, one tuba, one trombone)
Low brass ensembles
brass trios ( trumpet, horn, trombone)
You will find quite a lot of music for these formations. Some pieces can be downloaded online for free but it's worth it to spend a couple of bucks to have more choice and get a nice score.
A lot of music publishers will offer alternative parts in case you don't have all the players you need. ( ex: there can be an euphonium part as substitute for trombone or horn etc.)
Get some coaching if you can and look for opportunities to perform in a concert. It can be a student class recital or you can even play a number in the band concert.
Low brass versions of the french horn method are now available in pdf format. They use the same exercises and melodies but are transposed to fit the trombone, euphonium and tuba beginner ranges. We don't have hard copies of these books but you can download them for free on the "low brass methods" page.
I know I've written about this before but reminders are always good!
When you practice a difficult passage, you don't always need to change something to make it work. In fact most of the time, it'll correct itself without you doing anything about it after a while. Your body just need some time to develop the right reflexes. Just because something doesn't work doesn't mean that you're doing something wrong. If you try forcing things, you might get some short term results but you can also develop bad habits.
By playing a passage without trying to correct it, you let go and trust your body to make the adjustments. You stop acting physically about it and let your reflexes take over. This will work once you're beyond the stage of learning the piece and are working on polishing it. It will make your playing more fluid and relaxed.
It's a bit like when you play video games. At first you're not good at it and get defeated by the small monsters in the beginning but after a while, your reflexes adjust and you start fighting the bigger ones and beat them without having done anything special. You're just playing and having fun. You very rarely have to "change" anything to become better at a particular game. It just happens over time as long as you keep playing.
If something really won't work and you keep missing the same notes all the time, you might want to take a few steps back and practice the passage slower. If it's something high, maybe your chops aren't ready for this piece and need more time to develop some strength. Or it could be that your air, chops and fingers aren't well coordinated. In this case, letting go and playing without trying to correct the mistakes can help you as this is often the result of tensions in your body.
In any case, remember that learning a music instrument takes time and patience. There is no magic wand that will solve all problems right away! Just keep doing what you need to do day after day and you'll improve over time. The good news is that you can still have a lot of fun even if you're not the worlds greatest player!
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.