Sunday, March 23, 2014

Horn Diary

 *  I retired from the community band in December after the Christmas concert after what I think was 7 and a half years participation. It was a great run. I'll miss playing for the veterans on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, and it was the crucible in which I learned the horn well enough to play the Brahms Requiem, which was one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my musical life. 

Between realizing I'll never fully appreciate the concert band repertoire (maybe because I never knew it until my fifties and it always seemed a dialect I could never really speak) and the occasional drill sergeant approach by the music educator directors - when I realized I was over extended, moving on from the band seemed the best thing to do.

 * Over Christmas I played in a cantata, which at one point had the entire congregation singing along with the choir and instruments, and once again found playing the horn with voices an extraordinarily moving experience.

 * On my old horn, the F side didn't sound as good as the B flat side - and most of the stuff I was playing in band was very high (I think concert band arrangers think of the horn as an alto trumpet) - so I never used the F side. My new horn has a wonderful sounding F side, and it was a revelation to me that Brahms used a much lower pitch range in the Requiem than I was used to in band. So I've been working on the F side - and due to this horn having a good sound there, have come to realize what people mean when they say the F side is really the more authentic sound of the horn. However, relearning fingerings is an old dog, new tricks thing for me.


  1. Don't feel too bad about not appreciating the concert band repertoire. Concert bands haven't been round for nearly as long as orchestras, and so the bad music hasn't been winnowed out so much yet.

    From your comments, if you were in a community orchestra, I would suggest that you would be a specialist low horn player, playing 2nd or 4th horn.

    Your ideas about tone and preference for the tone of the F side mean that in my view you would be particularloy suited to that kind of playing, and leave the high register ans soolo stuff to players who enjoy that better.

    Being a good 2nd horn is an art quite separate from simply mastering the instrument. You have to have very good empathy and mimicry skills so that when playing in harmony with the principal horn, you match tone colour, tuning, articulation volume and a whole bunch of other characteristics immediately without having to be told.

    Principal horns absolutely love it when they have a solid 2nd horn beside them who takes the job of being 2nd seriously and works to make the section as a whole play together better. A good 2nd horn is worth his weight in gold!

    When a horn section plays as a quartet, the 2nd horn normally takes the tenor line (1st is treble, 3rd alto and 4th bass). I get the impression that this is your preferred line when playing.

  2. I do love the alto and tenor lines. In a recent performance went back and forth between the two. As to being a low horn specialist, part of it is I'm uncomfortable up high and I'm hoping that working on that range on my own I can get better up there. In band, constantly having to play there when I'm not ready hasn't helped.