clevenger 190Why did you choose to play the horn? I ask every new student this question. Invariably, the answer is ALWAYS the same…because they like the sound. It’s the reason that I play the horn. The tone quality of our instrument is without a doubt Unique, Special, Wondrous, and “Golden”.

Therefore the initial emphasis in my thinking, teaching, and playing is always about a Beautiful, Lovely, Refined, Diverse, Magical, Adjustable, Convincing, Compelling SOUND QUALITY!  Our tone should attract and hold the attention of the listener. The horn player’s ability to accomplish this is dependent on two very important and obvious concepts in musical performance, expressed in the  following terms for clarity in understanding my pedagogy.

(What the player does  what the listener hears) 
ATHLETICS (technical abilities) ARTISTRY

We must consider also a player’s personality, schooling, goals, habits, abilities, skills, gifts, motivation, and traditions. Therefore there is an incredibly multifaceted variety of musicians who play the horn. Our “HORN WORLD” is so amazing, interesting, fascinating and diverse!

With this background of the broad concepts listed above, I will be more specific and list many (but surely not all) of the items which we must practice, study, and work on daily to try to arrive at the highest artistic level possible and necessary to be able to perform professionally.


In lessons I teach and stress Beautiful Tone Quality, Legato, Dynamic Contrast, Articulation (musically), Phrasing (Planning), Style (Period, Composer, and Type of Music), Ear Training (Knowing at all times the key or tonality in which we are playing and the degree of the chord. THIS IS A MUST, NO DISCUSSION!!), I am stressing more and more the concept of improvisation, in all genres, including JAZZ, yes…JAZZ!


Scales, Arpeggios, Intervals, (Slow, Fast, High, Low, Loud, Soft, (Tongued, non Tongued and Slurred), Quality Tones (commonly called Long Tones, but if they are not with quality, they do not count!!), Equal ability on F and Bb (and F alto), (we are in the 21st century!!!), Tuning the instrument (many students tune their horns incorrectly…the Bb horn is often flat to the F horn (this CAN NOT BE!); hand position (I see many different hand positions, few are correct for tuning, especially if the horn is out of tune with itself); mouthpiece placement and practice (yes, there is great value in practicing on the mouthpiece, no discussion!); Articulation (in the technical sense, where should the tongue touch the teeth? Answer…on the bottom of the upper teeth works for ALL articulations!!!); Posture (stand while practicing solos or concertos, sit for practicing excerpts, we sit while we play in the orchestra); method books…while there are dozens of good ones, I use mainly Kopprasch, Gallay, Concone, and Singer “Embouchure Building”. Lastly, I try to be innovative, inspirational, creative, and open-minded in my teaching and help my students to think and do the same.

Dale Clevenger
Prof of Practice, Jacobs School to Music, Indiana University
Former Solo Horn Chicago Symphony Orchestra