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Kyle Hayes, Editor

Items of interest by and for young horn players. Those interested in contributing to the HornZone should contact Kyle Hayes at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Don't Neglect Your Sight-reading!

by Kyle Hayes


Being able to sight-read is one of the most important skills in your toolbox as a musician. A lot of music instructors will say it is the most important skill. The reason is because if you can sight-read well, you are demonstrating that you have fluency in all of your key signatures, you understand all of your rhythms and are subdividing, all of those technical exercises that you’ve been drilling in your private lessons and your band classes have been mastered, and your musicality is at a level where you can read expression markings and make a phrase really come to life.

When I was in school, I never really paid that much attention to how well I was able to sight-read because we always had weeks of rehearsal before we gave a concert. I was at the top of my sections in high school and college band and orchestra, taking gigs, and was always asked to be in chamber groups. I thought I had it all figured out.  “Rehearsal is where you come to learn your part, right?” was my way of thinking. Man, I have never been more wrong. In graduate school my teacher would always impress upon us the idea that we had to sight-read with 80% accuracy if we even wanted to consider having a career as a professional musician. I can’t tell you how many times I would go home after playing duets with him and questioning whether or not I had it in me- my sight-reading was absolutely terrible. Sure, I had some church gigs where you show up an hour before the church service to have a quick rehearsal of the big choir pieces, but the hymns where played on the fly. I survived, so I didn’t really pay attention to really developing sight-reading as an actual tool.

Read more: Don't Neglect Your Sight-reading!

On Buying a New Horn

by Ashley Cumming


Around this time of year, I often have parents asking about instruments for their children, or students buying before they head off to college. I wanted to offer a few pieces of advice to get you started when considering buying a horn.

This advice is principally for students buying an instrument to get them through high school and potentially a music education/composition (non-performance) degree. If you plan on having a career in performance, you may want to consider an instrument that will be sufficient until you are close to achieving their first professional job, or for completing a masters' degree, at which time you will have developed enough so that you know what is ultimately the right fit for you and you career.  If you plan to go to college (especially for performance), you should absolutely speak to your future professor before making any big purchases.

Single vs. Double

Horns range in size, quality and features, and it is important to understand what you are looking at before buying.  First of all, I advocate buying a double horn; this is standard for students except for some of the earliest beginners.  This allows more flexibility and a beautiful sound in all ranges.

Looks can be deceiving

You do not necessarily need a brand new instrument, but do need one where the horn and valves especially are in good working order. Lacquer wear and the finish can be deceptive; some of the best horns have a few scuffs on the exterior and are dozens of years old.  Dents and their impact depend on the size of the tube where the dent is: if the lead pipe is dented 1/2 inch, you are drastically hurting the sound, while a large 1-inch gash near the bell might barely effect the sound and intonation. A detachable bell is a good option if you do a lot of traveling/walking, but if you are clumsy, it's something else that could get damaged! I often recommend buying used horns, because you can get a better instrument for a lower price.  Think of this as buying a new car - new instruments will depreciate quickly as they are worn in, and scuffs and bumps are almost inevitable in busy band rooms and students' travels.

Read more: On Buying a New Horn

Musician, Heal Thyself

An Interview with Author Dr. Kristy M. Morrellmorrell

In October 2014, Glen Lyon Books released Musician, Heal Thyself, a book by Dr. Kristy M. Morrell of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and professor at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. Tagged as a “self-help guide for hornists”, this book is written to empower the horn player, help them reevaluate the way they approach the horn, and identify potential issues holding them back. Many of us spent our college years looking for the hypothetical “golden teacher”, the one that would lead us to success, but this book affirms that you are your most important teacher and shows you how to make every practice session the best lesson you will ever have. On October 24th, I met with Dr. Morrell outside of her office on the USC campus for the following interview.

Read more: Musician, Heal Thyself

Pick up Your Horn, and Play

by Patrick Godfrey


As musicians, we are all scared of being creatively boxed in. We all strive to use our original ideas to please not only our audience, but ourselves. With today’s technology, and an audience eager to hear new things, there are many ways to improve our musical abilities. By briefly steering away from the textbooks.

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The Art of Practicing

by Ashley Cumming


With summer vacation quickly approaching and a big break before lessons resume again, I am reminding my students (and myself!) of a few ways to be our own teachers and keep learning over the summer break. We have many great resources within ourselves to find new life in our music and to improve our practicing habits– believe it or not, dancing, singing, and making up stories for our music are all great ways to break through tough spots. Try new ways to get around obstacles!


Read more: The Art of Practicing