Thursday, August 13, 2009

Horndog Links

Bruce Hembd over at Horndog Blog recently did a series of three posts on horn mouthpieces. Here's the first and it will lead you to the rest. What amazes me is that nobody seems to have collected the various bits of information all in one place on the net before this. 

Handel brought the hunting horn indoors nearly 300 years ago, but there seems at this late date still no consensus as to what the best model is (various single, double and triple versions are available), or how to go about playing or teaching it. That unsettled nature of things also applies to the numerous types of mouthpieces available. With Bruce having done the work of putting all the information in one place, there's now a chance of making an informed decision.

In another recent post Bruce links to a video on the physics of the horn sound. Being on dial-up and having had bad luck with Real Player sometime back, haven't looked at the video, but a passing comment Bruce makes in this post had dramatic effect on my horn playing. Here's the passage:

>>Some students I encounter, in a vague attempt to have a clearer sound, make the mistake of not putting the hand in far enough into the bell.

Mr. Holmes gives a very logical explanation as to why the hand in the bell is required in order to make high notes easier and low notes louder. The hand, he explains, functions as an anti-node which compensates for the natural physics of the instrument.<<

This was a revelation to me because it made me realize I've been unconsciously thinking the horn was like the guitar or banjo, and that pressing even the back of my fingers against it would mute the sound. Since reading this I've put my right hand a bit further into the bell, but more importantly, doing so more firmly, not worrying about dampening the vibrations of the bell. My tone seems better and playing seems easier.

The larger lesson here is that unexamined assumptions create needless obstacles.

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