Monday, July 12, 2010

Horn Diary

All things considered, I'm pleased with where I am with the horn right now. I'm guessing there was a quicker way to have gotten here, but I'll never know. At any rate, I got through this past community band concert without any egregious errors, and what errors there were, were more of omission than commission. 

My strategy was to play for sure only the parts where I wasn't doubling the trumpets or trombones, as there are full sections of each of them and only me for a horn section. I tried to convey this intent to the conductor early on, but it didn't register, so I fingered all the notes when he wanted to drill something in rehearsal with me and the trumpets and/or trombones, but put very little lip into it. He usually got so caught up in correcting errors with the other instruments, my not playing didn't seem to register.

On the plus side of the ledger, the times here and there where there was a horn solo or integral harmony part, I was there, and to my ear in the concert, at least at times, adding something to the overall sound of the band. Having heard Clara M and the C'ville horns at the spring concert really digging into the articulations was a revelation that gave me something to shoot for this time.

With great joy I dropped the band music immediately after the concert and have been working on some hunting songs from old Europe, along with a couple of hymns we'll be doing in churches this summer, and the little Renaissance Tunes arrangement and the Trumpet Tunes arrangement I did for the Kenwood Players.

For quite some time now I start every session with a lot of F horn. I remain convinced that there is something about the F horn that gives the player easier access to the heart of the horn sound. The music I'm playing is right in the middle of the horn range and built around the harmonic series, so the intervals just seem to naturally pop out. I also find playing an entire melody or harmony part far more comprehensible than all the little snips and snatches you get in band music that make very little musical sense on their own.

Last Friday only Crawford, who has symphonic experience and has exceptional tone on his E flat tuba, was to only one to come to Friday rehearsal. We just played through all our  music as duets and had a fine time. There's a chance I have achieved baseline adequacy with the horn. 


  1. It sounds like you've really learned the art of pacing yourself and prioritising the exposed bits for the concert - well done! This is really exceptionally important, especially as you were the only horn.

    And yes, articulations do need to be somewhat overdone in order that they are distinguishable from the back of the hall. The same applies to crescendos and diminuendos - always make a bit more of them than you imagine is strictly necessary.

  2. Jonathan - about the pacing . . . what I forgot to mention was the whole dynamic of my refusing to play first horn any more back last winter, as I felt trying to play music beyond my skill level was permanently stifling my progress. Then for the spring concert we had the C'ville horns, but for the July concert they were too busy with their own band to help out.

    I had no problems playing all the 1st horn parts (except for a high A) over the course of a day. Doing it all in the span of a concert was a different matter altogether. Just playing the 1st horn off beats on the marches one after the other wore down my lip.

    What really pleased me was finding a middle ground of getting all the necessary 1st horn stuff while not over playing to the detriment of my overall progress. I'm now no longer conflicted about staying in the band, especially as it'll probably be another year before I have to play 1st horn parts again.