Warm-up Tips I Learned from Across the Country

By Kathryn Peterson

During the summer of 2007, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study horn in several states across this great nation of ours.  I learned many new playing strategies and techniques during my summer adventures to Interlochen's Horn Institute in Michigan, University of Texas Longhorn Band Camp in Austin, the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival on the Big Island, and the American Horn Quartet Summer Workshop in Daytona Beach, Florida. However, the most important of these things was the warm-up.   Before attending these camps, I had no idea how important warming up was.  I took different parts from each warm-up and created my own which I use in my daily practice.

At Interlochen, we had a different warm-up with a different person each day so we were exposed to several different methods.  Each one of the instructors stressed the idea of non-harmonic tones, which I was not very familiar with at the time.  Non-harmonic tones are tones that sound with the same fingerings. Julie Schlief, the current horn teacher at Interlochen, also pointed out that warming up on the mouthpiece only was very beneficial.  I had done this before, but had never done it quite this much!  By the time I left Interlochen, I was doing non-harmonic tones on the mouthpiece everyday and I already was seeing an improvement.   

Next, I attended the Longhorn Band Camp at the University of Texas at Austin.  I had been playing strictly classical music with an orchestra for the past year, so this was a bit of a change.  We were expected to warm up on our own, so I used what I had learned at my school last year and added the new Interlochen techniques. When it was time to begin rehearsal, we did group scales and built chords.  This was very beneficial to me because it allowed me to use my ear to hear the different instruments and try to fit into the sound of the band as a whole.  This process also helped me become more aware of my tuning.

After band camp, I attended the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival for two and a half weeks.  While studying with James Thatcher, the horn professor at USC, scales and long tones were enforced.  Mr. Thatcher wanted two octave scales, playing them in a circle form, and only taking a breath when needed, preferably in the middle of the scale somewhere.  This was a new concept for me.  Playing in a circle form means to begin a scale on the tonic, and continue playing it up and down without stopping.  I practiced the two-octave scale, along with the things I took from Interlochen, for two weeks and began to notice an definite increase in my range and lung capacity.   

Finally, I went to the American Horn Quartet Workshop in Daytona Beach, Florida.  Yes, it was a very hot, but also a very beneficial experience.  Each member of the Quartet had different strategies when it came to warming up.  They all emphasized the importance of lip trills and double/triple tonguing, so I added this to my warm-up.  Another thing I took from David Johnson's warm-up was the ascending, beginning on the pedal A to the pedal Bb, note patterns using the same fingering until you reach two octaves above.  This exercise should begin on the pedal note, continue a 5th higher, then the octave higher, then the non-harmonic tones up to the next octave.  This warm-up technique, out of everything, I feel is the most useful and helpful thing I learned all summer.  If I only have 10 minutes to warm-up, this is what I do.  This exercise increases endurance and definitely increases range.   

So, as you can tell, I had fantastic summer playing the French horn.  I learned many new things, met some really amazing French horn players, and made a lot of great friends along the way.  These experiences underlined my belief that the horn is one of the most beautiful, interesting, and CHALLENGING instruments around.  The warm-up tips I learned last summer have improved my playing significantly.  I hope that you will find some of these helpful to you as well.

Kathryn Peterson is from Lamesa, Texas and is currently a junior at Idyllwild Arts Academy in California.  She studies privately with Kurt Snyder of Los Angeles.
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