4 x f = 2 x ff ?

My short answer: No. There are two reasons.
  • As you play louder, your timbre changes. A loud horn has a different tone quality. Although all the partials in the tone get louder, the higher frequencies partials increase far more.

    If you make a recording of yourself playing quietly, and play the recording back with the volume up, it does not sound like a horn played loudly.

  • When you double the number of players, but don't change anything the players are doing, then the sound pressure level goes up 3 decibels.

    I just got out my horn and watched a sound level meter while I played loudly and quietly. I found a 25 to 30 decibel difference, depending on which note I was playing. This corresponds to what you find in the research literature: see Rossing's The Science of Sound.

    If you believe that there are six distinguishable dynamic levels (pp,p,mp,mf,f,ff) then you might expect a 5 or 6 decibel difference from one level to another.

    So if there is a 5 or 6 decibel difference between forte and fortissimo, you will not get fortissimo by doubling the number of players playing forte, since that will get you only 3 decibels.

I propose that you take a sound level meter to your next rehearsal and see if you can show the players the difference.

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Are All Parts Equal?

Warning, this is not a nice message nor is it a friendly one:

What makes the difference between a principal horn player & the rest of the section ?

The principal must be used to lead a section, which requires a more dynamic personality. The principal must have a better all-round coverage of the compass of the horn plus an excellent high register. The principal must have better nerves than the rest of the section as there are far more solo passages for the first chair than for the rest of the section together. The principal must have more courage as he or she will be the target for conductor's attackes, as those "aerobic masters" say only "something is wrong with the horns" & the principal is the person who is adressed by the conductor. The principal has to take over the other solo passages (often) of weaker elements in the section. The principal has to resist some "entertaining" intermission activities (gambling, drinking etc.), which are so popular with the rest of the section. The principal has to think about the performance first when planing afternoon activities before the concert (e.g. sports), as it surely is not fun to play Tchaikowsky No.5 just coming back from the pool after sunbathing. But this is no problem for the rest of the section. The principal has to develop more of his or her own musical initiatives, while the rest of the section has to subordinate themselves, otherwise a homogenous section playing will not be possible. The principal needs more physical playing power or endurance, as he or she has to play 100% more than the rest of the section, not to talk here about the difference in dynamic, in high notes or delicate notes. If you will not respect this reality, you will clash with the principals.

And, sorry again, you seem very funny to me, if you declare, that the difference in qualification between first & the rest of the section is just minimal. This would be the typical nonsense blah-blah of a hindered first horn player, who always though he or she would be the champ, but never won such a position, the opinion of those players, who cannot understand that they are not principals of CSO or BSO or VPO or BPO. We as members of those orchestras can understand why they are not members of those groups.

Let us try an experiment: the principal horn player gets sick just minutes before Bruckner No.4. Ask the fourth (second or third also) player, you know, the one with the BIG MOUTH, to take over. You will see this ambitious player (who is ambitious only inside the dressing room) sitting on stage pale like the wall & shitless scared. Or ask him or her to take over Flying Dutchman on the first chair: his or her lips will be burned through after mid ouverture. That's real ! That's the truth !

But let us do the opposite experiment: the fourth horn get's sick just before the Choral Symphony. Oops ! That's a bad experiment, as mostly the first players do the solo. Sorry ! Very sorry !

Another experiment: second horn or fourth horn or first Basso Wagner Tuba gets sick, the alternating first horn has arrived at the theatre at the beginning of Walkuere, to practise something until he or she will replace the other first for the third act. Section players usually come just minutes before the beginning of the performance (also with exceptions) It doesn't matter which position has to be filled in this case of emergency. It is NO problem for the REAL principal player to jump in & save the performance. This is real also & the truth.

Now you come ??? Some "comedians" out there ? Section player taking over "Oberon" ouverture under a nasty conductor (you cannot impress them or excuse yourself by or for just jumping in !) ? Funny ? A vibrato that one can shot his 5 gallon hat through the waves , oooohhhiiieeeooohiiieeaaaooooHHHH.

Well, there are a few exceptions in the world of horn playing, like Klaus Wallendorf in Berlin, but he was a principal for many years & plays an excellent first horn in chamber ensembles still now, so he is a principal still now, only occupying a different chair. But this is not the rule, this is one of very, very few exceptions. Or Franz Soellner from the VPO.

Nevertheless we principals need highes qualified, competent, highest motivated, high musical section players. Without section players we could do solo only, but never play the exciting horn section parts (Wagner, Bruckner, Strauss, Mahler, movie soundtracks .....). But be so kind, lets not get carried away.

Well, Professor, why don't you just see to firing everyone who is not principal? By the tone of every single post you write, you certainly don't need them- you can cover all the parts yourself. And while you're at it, why not just get rid of all the hornists? You surely could play every part in orchestras everywhere. But let's not stop there- why not fire all the other orchestra members as well? Then you could be the sole player, and you don't have to worry about others sunbathing, playing sports, drinking and gambling, or just being alive and generally messing up your orchestra.

In the early 1980's I found myself in Chicago for a couple of weeks, so I looked up Dale's number and arranged to have a lesson. It was a fabulous experience--he was very generous with his hospitality and time. As many of you know, during the late 70's and early 80's, the CSO horn section was considered by many to be the best in the world, and it was almost universally acclaimed as one of the best. He told me something about his section which I believe was true then, and may still be true there now and certainly is true in orchestras throughout the USA.

He said that the CSO contained no section players. All of their players, including the recently hired 4th (whose name I forget), had been principal players before they came to the CSO. Clevenger claimed that since all the players were principals they all led, and there were no followers. I can remember my undergraduate horn teacher telling me there could be no followers, that to follow was to be behind. I remember hearing that great CSO section on a number of occasions, and the audacity with which they attacked the great horn parts was startling. I think Dale had a point.

I play in a much smaller-time orchestra than the CSO, but we now have one of the best horn sections in the orchestra's history, and one of the reasons is certainly that all of us are principal players. That is, every one of us was the "star" at some point previously in our educational or professional careers. The number of highly-qualified players has gotten so high that one now expects that only the very best players of high school or college have a chance at any part in a pro orchestra at any level.

This brings up my harangue about specialization (low or high). I have always believed that specialization was not wise until one had a job where one was being paid to specialize. The number of jobs is just too small. Furthermore, in my experience, students frequently use specialization, esp. low horn specialization, as an excuse to avoid stretching themselves both technically and psychologically into more challeging positions of leadership. (I've also encountered cocky high horn players who have criminally neglected their low ranges, and this is an equally short-sighted policy.)

Example after example of non-specialist great players comes to my mind. Most immediately is Duane Dugger, now Asst. Principal in the Cincinnati Symphony. He played principal in Memphis for several years, and I have been told that he is frequently serving as principal with Cinci, esp. in the pops orch. He is a phenomenal player--one of the best I have ever worked with. Yet he is also a great 4th horn player, and before he came to Memphis he had played 4th horn with no less than the San Diego Symphony. While he was in Memphis, I can remember him sitting in on the low parts when we would get together for fun to play horn octet music. His low register was amazing, even after having played exclusively high horn parts for so long. I feel confident he *still* plays a mean 4th horn.

This is my third season playing regularly on 4th horn parts. Before I became a regular member of the orch., I was a free-lancer in the area, and I was usually hired to play principal or one of the high parts. Do I think I could do a fine job sitting principal? I know I could. Nevertheless, I do not wish I had our principal's job. In the first place, I highly respect the job she does. If I didn't, I might be more inclined to wish myself in her shoes. A principal player must garner the respect of colleagues, or there will be unrest. Our principal has our respect. In the second place, the time commitment required from the principal player is quite different from that of the 4th player in our orch. I have so many other demands on my time that I simply could not play all the services that the principal player is obligated to play.

I had always avoided 4th horn parts whenever possible, until being appointed to the 4th horn seat. My experience has been that the 4th horn parts are rarely very challenging, and they are almost never as challenging as the other parts. There is little pressure. I am almost never nervous either during concerts or rehearsals. In many respects, I often feel that my talents are under-utilized. Nevertheless, playing 4th can be very rewarding. Providing a solid foundation to the section sound is a skill that requires musical sensitivity and an accute ear for intonation, and producing a clear, quality sound consistently in the fuzz register (written f1 down to c), is a technique that must be cultivated. My best rewards come because I can tell that the 3rd or 1st players are glad to see me sit down next to them. Then, I know I've done my job.

I've found all this talk about 1st vs. 4th very interesting. I agree that all the parts are very important and that 4th can be fairly difficult. In college, I took on the 4th position a couple of wind ensemble semesters to help out (I was a lead trumpet player) and to broaden my horizons. I liked the horn very much, and I found the 4th part to be extremely difficult! The smaller mouthpiece was a fairly easy adjustment, but the low, low notes on a piece that small were a formidable challenge! When I had the opportunity to read 1st or when the horns were soli in a mid- to high range, it was much, much easier.

I assumed at the time (and still do) that the majority of my problems with playing 4th was because I was not originally a horn player and trumpet parts generally don't go very low.

But switching from 1st trumpet to 4th horn was a challenge- while I had a great time playing horn, it was in many ways much harder than being principal trumpet. I'm not sure where or if this fits into the debate, but it was an interesting discovery to me.

The thread about 1,2,3,4th seems to be have missed the point.

I speak as an amature player who plays for pleasure to the highest standard that his lifestyle and ability allow.

Some sections I have played in have turned in poor performances in musical terms because of a lack of co-operation within the team, and I see and hear this in professional orchs that I hear perform.

I beleive that for a horn section to acheive results they must work as a team, like any good team this means that strengths are recognised and used; and within the context of a horn section that a very close understanding of the group is developed.

As an example, I used to play in a quartet as follows:

1st Tim, a strong player high player, an organiser, a motivating force.

2nd David, superb sense of rythm, a solid low tone quality, a wicked sense of humor

3rd Me, good high register, good at following 1st's playing, good concert nerve.

4th Richard, superb sense of pitch, good low register, brought music to life.

As individuals we did not aspire to be in the Berlin Phil but as a group with music that was within our technical grasp we played as a section, as a team, and made sheet music into a good quality living performance as good many a pro.

What I am saying is that a good section is greater than the sum of its parts, that every member of that section is crucial to this happening and that no member of the section, including the principal, can say that they are better or more important. This is music I am talking about here and not just note getting or doing gigs for money.

Every horn player should have his/her moment of glory but that can come from quartet playing such as the end of Strauss four last songs, the opening of Hansel & Grettle etc etc. I find the sound of four horns playing together like no other and it surpasses solo playing in my opinion.

It's incredibly important to understand that Orchestral chairs are TEAM positions. They are not "stepping-stones" to Ego-fulfillment; and orchestras do NOT exist to showcase "Principal" players. This at least is the intention. Over the years as a Principal I learned to audition section players for two important qualities: 1) musical proficiency and 2) willingness and ability to cooperate.

If I had to choose between two qualified applicants, I would take the person of 60% virtuosity:40% cooperativeness over the one with 90% virtuosity:10% co-operativemess. It is a little like the Dutch soccer team, some years ago, which consistently won match after match. When asked how they were so proficient, they said they worked as a "team". Unlike other more famous teams, the Dutch team didn't put much stock in hiring one or two "Prima Ballerinas" at high salaries. Instead, ALL the players were excellent, and none were "peerless".

I have played both 1st and 4th an equal amount of times.

When I play first, I tend to work harder. I think this is due to the fact that I have to lead the section. Sometimes, as in my high school band, I have to play louder to cover up/make up for the players that we don't have or the ones that don't play well. I believe it is more emotionally draining as I sometimes have to get the 234 players to not talk during rehearsal.

I love 4th part. I wouldn't give it up for all the glory of 1st. I love to play really low horn, as in Mahler 1. It's an experience. 4th horn binds the section together. It is responsible for the foundation of the section. If the fourth horn is out of tune, the section sounds bad. My Youth Symphony conductor has told me more than once that he put me at fourth not because I was the worst of the 4 horns, but because he knew I was the only one who could pick out the necessary low notes out of thin air. He believed 4th horn needed to carry the section, and if the section got off, he knew I could bring it back again. He said I was the only one he trusted to come in at the right time.

Fourth horn players are not the worst! Sometimes they are the best. Granted, they never get enough credit for their work, the audience can tell the difference between a good horn section by the bottom players, not the top! First players get a lot of credit, but need the others to make them sound good. PLaying first is not easy, but neither is playing fourth. I believe that every 1st player needs to have the opportunity to sit 4th sometimes and vice versa.

I am disturbed by something someone said recently. I hear this statement from horn players who should know better.

4th chair horns may never aspire to 1st, nor should they. I continue to believe that each chair is important in its own right. Unfortunately, it is rare to find a second or even rarer to find a 4th that really enjoys playing these positions. This is not necessarily because they don't enjoy the parts given it is because to say one is less than numero uno in anything seems to mean one just hasn't achieved greatness. However, a horn ensemble is not complete without a perfect balance of high horns/low horns. Why would any 4th or 2nd horn wish to lose that wonderful bass quality to try for 1st or 3rd? High horn is no more "better" than Soprano is "better" in a quartet. Most basses I know would certainly object to being called lesser voices.

My point is that 2/4 horns need never aspire to 1/3 positions and, in fact, if that is the goal in horn ensembles, do we put all the people who just can't play horn well in those positions? I don't think so. I think it makes much more sense to let 2nd and 4th swap parts, and 1st and 3rd exchange positions occasionally to allow high and low horns to play the repertory, but don't perpetuate the myth that a 4th horn (low horn) should always reach for the 1st horn "star."

I, for one, truly enjoyed playing low horn parts. We have here in Pittsburgh a few wonderful low horn players and they complement our equally good high horn players very well. I remember my college teacher telling me that one of the more important things for a prinicpal horn is to find a good second, then take very good care of him/her.

Why should 4th chair horns (or bucket horns as we call them here in Oklahoma) not aspire to be 1st? True, good bucket players are hard to find and even harder to find are those who enjoy it, but why should they not want to also be good at something else? Currently I sit 1st at Ok. State University in the Wind Ensemble and my friend has been 4th for the last 4 years that we've been playing together. This year, he has decided that 4th isn't good enough for him. Better, he wants to try something new. He is extremely good at bucket and everyone knows this. He wants them to know that he can play other parts too. Why not?

I love to play low horn, and I'd rather play 2nd or 4th in the orchestra (in general) than 1st or 3rd, although it's fun and satisfying to play the high parts sometimes, too.

The 1st horn player of course has to be good and has to play the solos well, etc., but, given that, I think that the 2nd horn has a lot to do with how good the section sounds. If the 2nd is not together with the first, not in tune, getting wrong notes, etc. it brings down the whole section and also makes the 1st sound bad.

It is too often the case that players who can't handle the high horn parts are shunted to low horn. Better to have someone who positively, enthusiastically approaches low horn as a worthy position and appreciates the difficulties and rewards.

I have to agreee totally. I compare 2nd horn playing with being an offensive linemen in football. You may not get the glory of the quarterback (1st horn), but there's no way he could survive without you. Plus, it's a lot more fun to belt out the low notes that 2nd and 4th horns get to play ;) Justin Klotz

The 1st horn player of course has to be good and has to play the solos well, etc., but, given that, I think that the 2nd horn has a lot to do with how good the section sounds. If the 2nd is not together with the first, not in tune, getting wrong notes, etc. it brings down the whole section and also makes the 1st sound bad.

It is too often the case that players who can't handle the high horn parts are shunted to low horn. Better to have someone who positively, enthusiastically approaches low horn as a worthy position and appreciates the difficulties and rewards.

Well, you are right to honor the 2/4 positions however, it's takes time and courage to feel you are ready to perform the 1st or 3rd spots. I know. I would never sit in either spot until I felt I could play the part as well or better than anyone else in the section. I sat on 4th for 3 years in a Sunday morning rep orch with Otto Klemperer just to gain experience and I never moved to 1st in spite of the urging from the other horn players (all very seasoned studio players). Until I played 2nd to Alfred Brain (Dennis's uncle) both in the LA Phil. and Fox studios did I feel qualified to assume the responsibility. After that, It didn't matter where I sat unless the 1st position paid more. (and it normally does).

As a true "bucket" horn player(low horn) I just want to let everybody know that I would jump off a bridge if it would get me the opportunity to play, say, second horn in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 or fourth horn in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (in an orch. that didn't give the fourth horn solo to the first horn, like at Michigan) However, somebody would probably have to push me off that proverbial bridge if I was asked to play first on Shostakovitch Sym. No. 1. I just don't want that responsibility. I want to lay down the foundation for somebody else to glide off of--in my area of Texas, people call me to play low horn because they know that I can be trusted to play it with all the finesse, strength and artistry that must be put into this part--which is what most people don't understand--they just want to know who is in the first chair...

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3/4 Size Horns

I helped out with a mass first band lesson on Monday night this week. I actually managed to get a room full of horn players. One of them had a 3/4 size horn. I didn't have much time to look at it, so all I could tell was that it was wrapped tighter and had (I think) a slightly smaller bell. It is in F. I played a few notes on it, and was able to get a much bigger range than she will need in the first year or two. However, the tuning felt a little weird. I told the student's mother that it probably wouldn't be too much of a problem- after all, tuning doesn't really exist at this level. She is renting this horn and will be able to put the money towards a double horn later (hopefully after only 1 year). The student is very small, so the horn did appear to be more comfortable for her to hold than a normal single F horn was for a similarly sized girl in that same group.

My questions are: has anyone seen a horn like this before? Who makes them? Are they any good? Why would you choose that over a normal single F horn if you had the choice (this student actually didn't really; the demand for rental horns is very high locally this year)? Any other general comments about these instruments?

This was a terribly cute instrument, I must admit, but I'm not sure that it's something that I would recommend. She'll probably be fine, since she's planning on getting a real horn ASAP. I was just curious.

Christy Tucker
I know that Hoyer makes these kind of horns. They make both tight wrapped F and Bb horns for the very young.
Sander Gielen
I don't know who makes the particular horn you saw. There was some discussion on the list a year or two ago about smaller wrapped horns. I believe the ones discussed were European, but don't remember the make. Anyone else remember?

At the IHS workshop in Rochester, Holton had a prototypes of a single F horn with a tighter wrap. I tried them, and they were nice single horns. FWIW, I would say that they played just as well as the F side of my H281.

I would think they would be great for beginning students, especially if the student was small. I have seen all kinds of tricks used for small students -- resting the bell on the chair, using the right hand to hold the edge of the bell, etc. Maybe it would be possible for more kids to hold the horn in a more normal position. Never ran into these problems myself, because I started on cornet and didn't switch to horn until I was 13.

Guess it's probably OK if you are going to start on a single, as any kid who sticks with it will probably switch to a double anyway. This could be a good thing for elementary schools, but I would guess that by Jr. High most kids play doubles anyway.

Jonell Lindholm
This past June at the IHS workshop in Rochester, Holton displayed two new small sized horns, a single F and a single Bb.
Charles Turner
My 11 year old son played on a 3/4 sized horn vor the first four years from age 6 - 9. It was an excellent instrument, with good intonation. He is not particularly tall, and would have had problems with holding a "normal" F-Horn comfortably, to say nothing of posture (breath control!). It was good enough for him to win a big prize in a German National Music competition last year, so I guess the idea can be recommended. He changed to a "normal" F-Horn last year, and has just started with his first double horn with problems connected with the change. Hope this helps. For further InfoThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mike Duffin
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5-Valve Bb Horns

Friends,
Here are some questions that are about 50 years late:
  1. Are notes that are open on the F horn such as written middle C, E ,G played with the F extention on the 5 Valve Bb horn, or is it just for very low notes?
  2. Also, if the F extention valve is in use are the other valves usable? I know you can push them down, but do they play any notes in tune?
  3. Are there combinations that involve the stopping valve and the F valve?
Leonard/in isolation in Laredo
1. Are notes that are open on the F horn such as written middle C, E ,G played with the F extention on the 5 Valve Bb horn, or is it just for very low notes?
They can be; but ordinarily are not. Some may be picked on the F valve for pitch, timbre, volume, or other reasons. It is almost always used to replace the 1-3 Bb horn valve combination.
2. Also, if the F extention valve is in use are the other valves usable? I know you can push them down, but do they play any notes in tune?
Yes, they can be used; but sometimes you wind up with odd combinations to get a note in tune. Such as maybe playing a low A with 2-3 valving. See next question.
3. Are there combinations that involve the stopping valve and the F valve?
Of course; why not? The stop valve is about the same length as 2nd valve slide on an F horn -- thus you have all overtone series in F and in E. Then there is 2 + stop which gives one a longer F+1st combine. Or- with an A valve slide in the 2+Stop valve is pretty near equal to an F 1st valve but sharper. (or with the stop slide pushed in all the way.)
Mansur's Answers
1. Are notes that are open on the F horn such as written middle C, E ,G played with the F extention on the 5 Valve Bb horn, or is it just for very low notes?
The added tubing make the horn the same length as as the open F horn.
2. Also, if the F extention valve is in use are the other valves usable? I know you can push them down, but do they play any notes in tune?
Quite right, the valve slides are to short for the longer tube, but there are combinations that work, the F valve and the 1st valve make a good "horn in E" length for instance
3. Are there combinations that involve the stopping valve and the F valve?
Yes, quite a few since the A valve in a length part way between the 1st & 2nd valves it can be used to make some combinations more in tune.

Good resourcs for these fingerings are the front of the Sansone Method books, Southern Music pub. Since Sansone was a bit proponent of the 5-valve Bb horns.

Brad
Hi Leonard,

I used a single B flat with stopping valve & F loop on occasions, and found it quite a useful system, particularly for chamber music. The fingerings I found good for pedal notes were F loop for pedal C, then F - St for B, F - 1&2 for B flat, F - 1&2&St for A, F - 1&2&3 for A flat, and then press down everything (and pray!) for pedal G. F sharp had to be faked, but then it is only a B flat horn! The F loop is also very useful in the middle register for alternates. The old Sansone method is a good reference.

I also have a descant horn (Paxman) which is F alto with an F loop added to the B flat side. This is very useful to improve the choices in the middle register, and also allows reasonable fingerings for the odd pedal note.

Cheers,

Graeme Evans
First I would like to thank everyone that wrote in about how to use the 5 valve Bb horn. I would like to share the results in case there are any other horn players who have not been exposed to this instrument.

I asked.. is the F valve only used for the low notes or is it also used on other open F~horn notes.

Most answers were that the F valve was used to replace the 1-3 combination on the Bb horn. Most saved the F slide for low notes but did, on occation, use it on middle C and E and G for intonation and tone reasons. It is also needed for a few notes that the Bb horn can not reach.

I asked if the "regular" Bb keys could be used when the F slide was in use.

Several players told me no, the valves could not be used because they were too sharp, but most answers said that they were useful. The most common advice was to finger 1/2 step lower with the F valve. That is, to play an A while using the F valve finger it like an Ab. Almost everyone said the intonation had to be played with to make this work.

I asked if the stopping valve was ever used with the F valve.

I was given countless fingerings using the stopping valve. Some included the F valve also. If you have not seen a stopping valve it lies in length between the first valve and the second valve. The stopped Bb horn is sharp, this valve brings it down.

I knew the 5 valve Bb was in use in Europe but I was surprised by the number of replys I got from this side of the ocean. I learned a lot about the instrument. I always thought the stopping valve was only for stopped notes and the F valve was only for low Cs and such that would be open on the F horn.

Leonard
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A Day in the Life

I'm wondering if many of you especially you pros out there could shed a little light on just what I can expect in the future.
If you want to know [some of a zillion!] possible scenarios for hornists, I offer these from real life examples:
Disclaimer: Don't think you have to fit the mold of any scenario that I anyone tell you. You are asking someone to [decide] or [foretell] your future. This is impossible.

Scenario 1.

Young talented horn player, practices hard, loves the instrument, has lots of money to fly and take auditions; takes enough auditions and does well enough that he gets noticed by some important folks and eventually hired, first as a sub, then into a permanent position (perhaps as 3rd horn) in a major gig. He or she eventually progresses to become principal horn in that gig; then branches out, taking any audition and winning a few here and there; having his pick of the orchestras.

Scenario 2.

Young amazingly talented horn player, has every possibility for success; however suffers a tragic accident that permanently disables him/her from ever performing on the horn again. Tries hard to get back with therapy; fails, and eventually becomes a systems analyst.

Scenario 3.


Young talented horn player, has every possibility for success; however is recruited into a scientology cult that forces him/her to give up ALL possessions, including the horn. This person disappears from the face of the earth.

Scenario 4.

Young, medium-talent horn player, is so friendly to everyone that folks like to hire him/her to help out in section. Eventually, in a small town, this player's name becomes a household word and he/she gets gigs at the drop of a hat. However, this person does not make enough money on gigs to earn a living; therefore, must take a day gig and work 8 hours a day, practicing when they can. Eventually, this person marries, has kids, and settles into a peaceful life of day gig and regular gigging-about-town.

Scenario 5.

Young, amazingly talented horn player, gets scholarship, has the world at his feet, and is killed in an auto accident before he or she can begin this career.

Scenario 6.

Young talented horn player, gets scholarship to local college, however, due to long-standing prejudice within the township he or she grew up in, is refused every gig that comes along, although this person is perfectly capable of handling any assignment. Said person tries every means to communicate with those in power without success; eventually has a nervous breakdown and quits the horn for a time. Later, this person recovers, picks up the horn and decides to play in community orchestras for pleasure, rather than begging others for a gig. To support this habit, the hornist must take a day gig. Later, the hornist auditions for, and wins, a major league job.

or

Scenario 6.5

The hornist never auditions for any gig, due to a long-standing fear of failure.

Scenario 7.

Completely mediocre level horn player is friends with all, and not considered a threat to the job security of his or her currently-gigging counterparts. As a result, this person is ALWAYS hired to sub for his/her friends, since they know that the person will NEVER attract the attention of the conductor, and, perhaps, take their job away.

Scenario 8.

Very talented horn player is never hired for local gigs in township orchestra because the mediocre players who do these gigs are insecure with their own positions and do not want the conductor, or the orchestra committee to know that there is someone BETTER than they are in town...

Scenario 9.

Amazingly talented hornist, gets a scholarship, goes away to study with famous teacher; famous teacher CHANGES the player's embouchure, plus some other things, totally ruining the player. This person quits the horn out of frustration after a year or two; and is too embarrassed to talk about it.

Scenario 10 to (whatever)

This is your scenario. Do what you want with it.

The important thing is not to play the horn JUST to make a living. When playing the horn becomes too much like [work] like it was for me in Mexico, then it is time to step back and decide if you are really playing this gig because you love your instrument, rather than the money you make. When you play because you love to play, this projects to your audience and makes you an even better player than you realize.

I wish you the best of luck in your career!

Whew, what a broad topic! The horn list has been lacking a little in substance lately, so here are my thoughts on a few of your questions, even at the risk of going into my lengthy life story! Since graduating with a BM in Performance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (where I studied with Doug Hill), I have played what could be called 'professionally' for the past 3 years in the New World Symphony in Miami, FL. It's kind of an odd situation- the NWS is designed as a place where the top recent graduates of colleges and conservatories around the world can get orchestral experience. It's actually considered a kind of graduate fellowship, but the experience is very much like that of a "real" orchestra. We have to win an audition to get in, we get a paycheck every 2 weeks, we play at a extremely high professional level and about 90% of us end up getting good orchestral jobs eventually, so for all practical purposes I think I'm qualified to answer your questions.

In a typical week we rehearse twice a day (5 hrs total) on Tuesday and Wednesday, a dress rehearsal (3 hrs long) and concert on Thursday, the day off (or sometimes a concert) on Friday, and concerts on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Monday is another day off. Then we go through the whole cycle again with a different program the next week for the entire season (September-May), with an occasional run-out to a neighboring community or an international tour (FUN!!).

I think I have a unique perspective on this whole situation in fact, because I'm a young (25) hornist who's been playing in a fine orchestra, but has been making the semifinals and finals in US auditions and hasn't won anything yet, and is still trying. I can tell you how difficult it can be today to win an orchestral job, even for the finest players. It's extremely tough to win an orchestral audition for a fine orchestra. It's even difficult to get accepted INTO auditions sometimes if your resume isn't "good enough". It's not unusual for 80 people to show up to audition for a so called "secondary" orchestra like Colorado or San Antonio and 150 for a "big 5" or "10" orchestra. It's also not unusual for committees to subsequently not hire anyone for the job, and this has been happening more and more lately. And it's not unusual for a musician to take literally dozens of auditions before they win something. You know what Farkas says in his book about 3 hrs/day of practice for an aspiring professional? I think that in these times 4-5 hrs./day may be more reasonable if one wants to become good enough to win an audition for a full-time professional orchestra.

Since I'm still on the "audition warpath," I'm still practicing a lot even though I'm not in school- I think more than most professionals probably- and taking any audition that interests me. In school I practiced 4-5 hours a day (not including rehearsals), although I have to say that some of that practice time was not as efficient as it could've been. While at NWS I practiced a good 3-4 1/2 hours a day, depending on the amount of rehearsals and concerts that day. Now during the summer I'm still practicing 4 1/2 hrs. a day (interspersed throughout the day, of course). This does not include rehearsals or mental practice like listening to recordings or studying scores. And even after all of this, I've decided to leave the NWS and go back to school next year (I'm getting an Artist Diploma at McGill University in Montreal, Canada- studying with John Zirbel) because I'm taking responsibility for the fact that I don't have a full-time orchestral job yet, and there's some stylistic things that I'd like to improve in my playing by working further with a teacher before I can win a good job! It's what I feel I need to do.

This may sound frightening, but I'm enjoying every minute of it!! I'm having the time of my life. I'm young, this is what I love doing, so I need to do this right now. You have to truly love music, be a perfectionist, take personal responsibility for your successes and failures, and have the persistence and stamina to keep practicing it if you want an orchestral job. But it's not difficult at all if you truly love what you're doing. So PLEASE be sure this is definitely what you want.

So I think it's time for me to shut up now- sorry for the length! Can any of you "real" professionals (ha ha!!) please add anything to what I've said? I think it's very important for young musicians to know what they're getting themselves into. Thanks for listening, y'all!

Addition to the above article......
.....I won the audition for the 3rd/Associate Principal Horn opening in the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in July, so I'm not in school and I have a gig. Maybe you could add that at the end as a footnote, to maybe show people what it takes?

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A "Smashing" Piano Recital...

HUMID RECITAL STIRS BANGKOK (This review by Kenneth Langbell appeared in the English Language Bangkok Post. It was made available by Martin Bernheimer of the Los Angeles Times.)

THE RECITAL, last evening in the chamber music room of the Erawan Hotel by US Pianist Myron Kropp, the first appearance of Mr. Kropp in Bangkok, can only be described by this reviewer and those who witnessed
Mr. Kropp's performance as one of the most interesting experiences in a very long time.

A hush fell over the room as Mr. Kropp appeared from the right of the stage, attired in black formal evening-wear with a small white poppy in his lapel. With sparse, sandy hair, a sallow complexion and a deceptively frail looking frame, the man who has repopularized Johann Sebastian Bach approached the Baldwin Concert Grand, bowed to the audience and placed himself upon the stool.

It might be appropriate to insert at this juncture that many pianists, including Mr. Kropp, prefer a bench, maintaining that on a screw-type stool they sometimes find themselves turning sideways during a particularly expressive strain. There was a slight delay, in fact, as Mr Kropp left the stage briefly, apparently in search of a bench, but returned when informed that there was none.

AS I HAVE mentioned on several other occasions, the Baldwin Concert Grand, while basically a fine instrument, needs constant attention, particularly in a climate such as Bangkok. This is even more true when the instrument is as old as the one provided in the chamber music room of the Erawan Hotel.

In this humidity the felts which separate the white keys from the black tend to swell, causing an occasional key to stick, which apparently was the case last evening with the D in the second octave.

During the "raging storm" section of the D-Minor Toccata and Fugue, Mr. Kropp must be complimented for putting up with the awkward D. However, by the time the "storm" was past and he had gotten into the Prelude and Fugue in D Major, in which the second octave D plays a major role, Mr. Kropp's patience was wearing thin.

Some who attended the performance later questioned whether the awkward key justified some of the language which was heard coming from the stage during softer passages of the fugue. However, one member of the audience, who had sent his children out of the room by the midway point of the fugue, had a valid point when he commented over the music and extemporaneous remarks of Mr. Kropp that the workman who had greased the stool might have done better to use some of the grease on the second octave D. Indeed, Mr. Kropp's stool had more than enough grease and during one passage in which the music and lyrics were both particularly violent, Mr. Kropp was turned completely around.

Whereas before his remarks had been aimed largely at the piano and were therefore somewhat muted, to his surprise and that of those in the chamber music room he found himself addressing himself directly to the audience.

BUT SUCH THINGS do happen, and the person who began to laugh deserves to be severely reprimanded for this undignified behavior. Unfortunately, laughter is contagious, and by the time it had subsided and the audience had regained its composure Mr. Kropp appeared somewhat shaken. Nevertheless, he swiveled himself back into position facing the piano and, leaving the D Major Fugue unfinished, commenced on the Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor.

Why the concert grand piano's G key in the third octave chose that particular time to begin sticking I hesitate to guess. However, it is certainly safe to say that Mr. Kropp himself did nothing to help matters when he began using his feet to kick the lower portion of the piano instead of operating the pedals as is generally done.

Possibly it was this jarring or the un-Bach-like hammering to which the sticking keyboard was being subjected. Something caused the right front leg of the piano to buckle slightly inward, leaving the entire instrument listing at approximately a 35-degree angle from that which is normal. A gasp went up from the audience, for if the piano had actually fallen several of Mr. Kropp's toes if not both his feet, would surely have been broken.

It was with a sigh of relief therefore, that the audience saw Mr. Kropp slowly rise from his stool and leave the stage. A few men in the back of the room began clapping and when Mr. Kropp reappeared a moment later it seemed he was responding to the ovation.

Apparently, however, he had left to get a red-handled fire ax which was hung back stage in case of fire, for that was what was in his hand.

MY FIRST REACTION at seeing Mr. Kropp begin to chop at the left leg of the grand piano was that he was attempting to make it tilt at the same angle as the right leg and thereby correct the list. However, when the weakened legs finally collapsed altogether with a great crash and Mr. Kropp continued to chop, it became obvious to all that he had no intention of going on with the concert.

The ushers, who had heard the snapping of piano wires and splintering of sounding board from the dining room, came rushing in and, with the help of the hotel manager, two Indian watchmen and a passing police corporal, finally succeeded in disarming Mr. Kropp and dragging him off the stage.

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ABRSM Grades

"....having already passed Grade 8 and played a Mozart Concerto with...."

For the benefit of our collegues across the pond, this is not a school year - it is an ABRSM exam. You start at Grade 1 then all the way up to Grade 8, and then on to Advanced Certificate.

To give a quick idea of the standard, Grade 8 pieces include the Poulenc Elegie and the Vinter Hunters Moon

Whenever English people start mentioning 'grades' with reference to instruments, we will almost always be referring to these ABRSM exams. When referring to school age it'd be something like "..in the third year at school.." or something obvious like that :)

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Accuracy

This is one of my biggest problems, often I can't play a piece through without missing at least one note, it's really bugging me, what do I do? I know everyone misses notes, but perfection is necessary in front of audiences etc.... Anyone got any ways to improve accuracy? Thanx!!!
I think many of the hornlisters are misunderstanding my problem- it's not an isolated section of a piece, it's just any piece in general. I often can't play a piece through without missing a few notes at random, not in a certain spot.

In my experience, accuracy problems can be attributed to two things: excessive movement within the embouchure, and mental focus.

Regarding excessive embouchure movement:

The way, especially for a young player, to improve accuracy is to spend a little bit of time every day playing simple scales, slurs, arpeggios, etc., while observing the movement of the embouchure in a mirror. (All the while maintaining a very relaxed and steady airstream). As you move from note to note, if you notice jerky motions, you probably aren't using your embouchure efficiently. If this is the case, the way to fix it is to slur, beginning with very small intervals, from a midrange note (middle g) to higher and lower notes in the range, while concentrating on eliminating unnecessary facial movement. All of the great players I've observed have very small and fluid embouchure movements as the play throughout the range of their instrument.

As you apply this to playing a piece, you'll notice that the distance between intervals seems much smaller, and the amount of physical movement required to, say, play the opening of Strauss 2 is minimal, thus reducing the probability of cacking. This practice, in my experience, will improve accuracy.

Regarding mental focus: good luck.

Come on, get real! Remember what instrument we play. If this is your biggest problem, I'd say you don't have much to worry about. If you're only missing one note in a piece, you're in good company; if you're missing more than that, you have LOTS of company! Seriously, focus and concentration, a good steady supply of air and a positive attitude will serve you well. So will regularly scheduled practice sessions and "hearing" the pitch before you play it. I'm sure all this is very obvious, but it's just good common sense. If you do miss a note, don't waste your time obsessing about it. That will only trip you up worse. All this isn't to make excuses for flubbing notes; we just don't want to become neurotic about missing them. People in major orchestras aren't perfect either, but many times they sound that way because of modern technology. I had a teacher tell me once when I was being my own worst critic, "Remember, you only play the horn; it's not life and it's not any reflection of who you are inside." Of course, I realize that if you want to win auditions you will want to make the fewest mistakes possible, but if you're able to go in with a positive, relaxed mental state, that will free you up to play more musically instead of obsessing about hitting clinkers. Respectfully yours,

"Accuracy problems? What accuracy problems?"

-Chief Inspector Clouseau

"..I was put into a horn quartet in my freshman year of college with three other players that could play rings around me."

From my own experience, it seems that being thrown in amongst '...players that [can] play rings around [you]..' is the best way to learn to improve almost anything about your horn playing. (It might also be the most stressful way to learn, but there's nothing like perceiving yourself to be the 'weak link' in an ensemble to make you work and learn at your peak potential.)

Try taking piano lessons. Although I don't myself (but should) I've heard and been told if you have problems of any sort (intervals, be it hearing them or naming them in your case) a good knowledge of the piano can help.

A number of things, John. One of the most prescribed is to take it phrase by phrase. Play the phrase 10 times perfectly. If you miss it on the 9th time, you start over. From a practical standpoint, analyze why you are missing. Did you know that 4th line D is the most missed note on the horn? Why? what can you do about it? Did you know that people rarely miss a high note: it is always the note after the high note. Why? what can you do about it.

Do you practice scales that begin and end on other than the key note? How about arpeggios such as C,E,G,Db?? There can be a thousand variations on this approach. How about singing the phrase before you play it? how about playing it at pitch on the mouthpiece (with or without a "BERP")exactly as it should be played on the horn, followed by actual playing upon the horn. How about playing it on the wrong side of the horn, i.e. F horn in the upper register, Bb horn in the lower. How about playing it all with alternate fingerings? If it is something from the classical era, how about playing it all on the open F horn (with 1st valve for Eb transposition) altering pitches as necessary with the hand?

How about playing it in several different transpositions (don't neglect G and A horn)

Have you done all that? Invent some more. Then do the same thing for the second phrase.

Here's an old trick. Sing it! If you can't sing it, you certainly can't play it. Then you'll hear it in your head and be able to aim for it.

The method of playing it 10 times in a row works IF you note your tendencies. For example do you miss a particular note each time do you you hit that note sharp or flat what happens with your face etc.. Repetitive practice is only helpful if you fix the problems because you understand them.

Just another thought adding to the excellent previous ideas for improving accuracy. It seems to me that an excess of stale air in my lungs greatly degrades my accuracy. Breathe out and get a fresh lung full of air whenever you can.
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