Some Practical Advice to Help You De-Stress
by Abby Kattentidt
Sometimes all it takes is a reminder. One day in a lesson, my horn professor looked at me with a hint of a smile and look of understanding and said, "Abby...remember that you PLAY the horn." I was packing up at the time and his words stopped me in my tracks. I looked at him with bewilderment at first, and then a smile crept onto my face. I nodded, thanked him, and left quietly.
He said play. Kids play at recess, they play pretend, play sports, play games. We've all done it. We've all let the stress that surrounds the horn allow us to lose sight of why we play it in the first place-because it's FUN.
I teach around twenty students in the greater Memphis area, and they all have one thing in common. STRESS. It seems to come with the instrument. Really, it comes from everywhere else, too. School, homework, tests, projects, deadlines, parents, friends...the list goes on. Why should we add "horn" to the list? Here are a few ideas to help you take some of the anxiety out of your practice and performance:
STRETCH BEFORE YOU PLAY. I cannot stress this enough! You wouldn't run a mile or swim laps without stretching first. Playing the horn is physical. Stretching will relieve tension your body has built up from a long day. Don't forget your legs! Tension anywhere in your body will show up as soon as you start to play. This can have a negative effect on your sound, not to mention cause problems later.
GET ENOUGH REST. Your body is your instrument. You are always performing, whether you are on stage, at an audition, or in a practice room. If you don't take care of your body, you can't perform to the best of your ability.
BREATHE. The horn takes a lot of air. Make sure you are taking full, deep breaths. This will help you relax and remind you to keep the air moving through your horn.
WARM UP WELL. A good warm-up will set the stage for the rest of your practice. Cover all the registers, but don't camp out in one place for too long. Take it easy and slow. This is a great time to address some basic parts of horn playing. Ask your teacher to help you find a warm-up that works for you.
LISTEN. Take the time to listen to great horn music. Sometimes it is encouraging to listen to the kind of sound you eventually want to have. Listen to great players of other instruments, too. Don't forget vocal music! You'll be surprised at what you can learn from other musicians, even if they don't play the horn. Plus, the more beauty you come into contact with, the better.
LEARN YOUR SCALES. Ahh, scales. Every middle schooler's nightmare. The longer you put them off, the harder it gets to learn them. The bad news is that they aren't going anywhere. Quite the opposite-they show up everywhere. The good news is that if you apply yourself and learn them now, it will free your time to do other things. When you are learning, try practicing just the fingerings to save your lip
WORK HARD, BUT HAVE FUN. The horn is a difficult instrument to master. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. There isn't much of it that comes easily. Take the time to delight in the small achievements. The most important thing of all is to enjoy yourself.
I hope these suggestions help you. Have fun PLAYing the horn!
Abby Kattentidt is an undergraduate horn major at the University of Memphis.