15 Ways to Practice Your Horn Without the Horn
10 Saturday Aug 2013
We don’t always have our horns with us. Even if we do, we are not always in a space or place that we can make a lot of noise (practice). Or: we’re tired and need to rest, even if we would like to continue practicing. It is sometimes frustrating that we need to rest before we play more. So let’s make a virtue of necessity, lemonade from lemons, a features of a bug, and make a list of what we can do to continue practicing, learning, and improving various aspects of our horn playing and horn knowledge when can’t play the horn for one reason or another.
1. Practice focus exercises. Learning to give our full attention in performance to what we are doing with distraction is extremely important and easier said than done, and is very difficult to do with regular practice. Put your attention on either your (slow, regular) breathing, a mellifluous word, or a visual object for one minute. Five. Ten. When the little voice in your head starts yakking, gently let it go and go back to the object of your attention.
2.Use your mouthpiece alone, or, better yet, on your B.E.R.P. (www.berp.com) to play basic technical material (finger along!): long tones, major, minor, and chromatic scales, major and minor triads and extended arpeggios, patterns (e.g. scales in thirds).
3. Play through much, most, or all of your solo on the mouthpiece or BERP.
4. Visualize every detail of the solo, etude, excerpt, or chamber music piece that you are working on. Include fingering, breathing, phrasing. Use the sheet music at first; do the visualization from memory as soon as you can.
5. Sing your solo, including not just correct pitch, but musical phrasing as well.
6. Listen to recordings of your solo by famous players. Note how they play every detail. Decide which of their interpretation you want to use and why.
7. Then listen to recordings of yourself playing your solo. Make notes on what happens: not just missed notes, but dynamics, phrasing, rhythmic accuracy, tone, pitch, and overall musical impression. Are the nuances that you think you are incorporating coming through to the listener.
8. Sight-read new pieces – mentally.
9. Transposition is really just a mental process. Transpose a stack of horn music in some, most, or all transpositions..
10.Practice breathing exercises.
11. Research the composer, composition, and style of your solo. Did the composer write the piece for any particular hornist? Research the hornist as well.
12. Translate all foreign language expression markings in your solos and orchestra parts.
13. Work on rhythm: go over any tricky rhythms in your solos and orchestral parts. Sight read rhythms in sheet music – tap them, sing them.
14. Read: biographies (books, articles, reference book entries) of horn players.
15. Look through stacks of horn music to decide what you might want to choose as future solo or chamber music repertoire.