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Horn Handbook

 

Some Housekeeping Tips

-It should go without saying, but arrive at your lessons, rehearsals, and performances prepared, warmed-up, as rested, nourished as possible and on time! Doing so displays respect for your teacher, your colleagues, and yourself.

- Be mindful of fatigue, both mental and physical. While it is important to improve technique and endurance, it is a fine line between pushing yourself to a new level and incurring injury. Incrementally increase practice time and repetition of musical passages.Make sure to play a few minutes of long, low pedal tones when you are finished!

-Drink plenty of water, at least 8 full glasses a day. Along with all kinds of health benefits, this will help repair your chops more quickly amidst a full day of playing.

-Sign up for and practice Alexander Technique to aid better alignment, support and breath efficiency. Exercise 3-4 times a week to maximize air support and control. Swimming,running and cycling are particularly helpful. -Look into taking a yoga class for more breathing practice and clearing the mind. Yoga and Meditation can be very helpful with performance nerves.

-Eat healthfully as possible and try to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night and more before a performance or audition. You can’t play your best if you are deprived! Always keep a granola or protein bar in your horn case in case of emergency!

-Be supportive and encouraging of your colleagues. We are all in this together and who better understands all that we do and go through than a fellow horn player?

-If there is a passage that could be better within the section or with another colleague, be mindful and considerate of how and when you approach them i.e. Are they in a bad mood? In a hurry to leave? Are they busy with someone else? These are generally not good times to say anything. A suggested approach is: “Hi [so and so]. Would you mind if we go over this passage? I feel like I’m not quite with you (or I’m not lining up with you, i.e. pitch).” Always finish by thanking the person or section for taking the time to work on it. -Be respectful to conductors.Honor requests from the podium even if you disagree with them and don't let such requests lessen your own ability. Be polite even if the conductor is incorrect.

-If there is a passage in a rehearsal or concert that you are 99.9 percent sure won’t go well due to injury, sickness, last minute personnel changes etc. , give the the conductor heads up before fact and not after. In other words , make your excuse ahead of time and your life will be much easier ! This is only a last resort option.

-Be respectful, friendly and helpful, if need be, to everyone at an audition.Healthy competition is good and play to win but gloating, arrogance and head games are not cool.Don’t be “that guy/girl” at an audition.

- The first horn player is responsible for the pitch, rhythm and overall quality of the section.Respect whom ever is on lead and you will get the same respect when it is your turn.Mutual respect is key to a great horn section.

 

Some General Playing Tips

-Acoustic Challenges: Always remember the horn is weird! The bell faces backwards, towards the ground and you put your hand in it. The sound you hear is not the sound the conductor & audience hear particularly with articulation and time. Adjust as needed depending on the acoustics of the room and always be aware that our tendency is to be late even though we really feel we are in time.

-Correct Style: We often hear "play musically" but remember Mozart, Mahler, Brahms, and Britten are all different.Sell your musical ideas with confidence and tell the story of the work in the correct style.

-Breath in Time and in Character: This is very helpful in auditions. Your breath should be planned and in time. When you breath the music has already started and the first few notes will have a better chance sounding in control.Subdividing beats is really helpful with time and accuracy.

-Practicing: Practicing non-stop is really helpful with audition preparation. Play your concerto and excerpts through without stopping no matter what happens. Don't let the audition be the first time you do this. Also, play mock auditions for anyone who will listen!

-Standing:Playing while standing can help in many ways with breathing, tension, strength, phrasing, angle of lead pipe,posture,and endurance. Standing is also great for concerto and recital performance preparation.

-Buzzing: Sometimes the easiest way to solve a problem is to buzz a passage with or without mouthpiece (free buzz) Then play it normal, slower, faster, octave down, different key, louder, softer, or various rhythmic patterns. Problems can fix themselves this way.

-Focus: Be mindful when you practice. If you are repeating a passage over and over and not improving, take a break and practice something else for a while.Practice a passage slowly with great attention to one musical or technical facet of playing such as just focusing on air spin, tongue placement, or sculpting a phrase. The eventual goal is being able to learn how to "teach yourself".

-Learn the Entire Work: When practicing excerpts, study and listen to the entire work. It puts everything into the right perspective so you really know what you are doing. A good way to practice orchestral repertoire is to play along with a recording beginning to end, including rests. This is really great for endurance and it gives you the right feel of the work in performance.

-Pace Yourself: Always be aware of what you have to play the next month,week, day, even next few minutes, and plan accordingly.You must have strength and a good sound when you really need it. Play loud and high only when you are well warmed up and warm up with care.If the low range is your friend the high range is not to be feared! HAHA I just made that up.

-Use a Metronome, Tuner, Video, and Piano: These are the basic tools to keep everything in check.Play along with a tonic drone and play slow slurred arpeggios against the same chord on the piano. This is all great for ear training.Record yourself often.

-Balance Playing: Always balance high with low, loud with soft, fast with slow, short with long, and solo with section.Ensemble work,sectionals and chamber music are essential creative outlets that improve overall musicianship well into your career.

-Air Stream: Play with a warm, steady, and even air stream in all dynamics. Remember to relax and blow through the horn, not at the horn.

-Bad habits: Anyone can fall into bad habits.Be aware of shake, quiver, Wa-Wa,forced sound, unclear or overly heavy articulation,covered hand position, and huffing slurs just to name a few.

-Concept: Listen to many great players of all styles and develop a clear concept of how ”you” want to sound.Control and command your playing with your unique voice and musical language.

-Slurs:Make sure slurs are connected, smooth and supported and not abruptly stepped up or dropped down. What happens between the notes is the key.

-Simplify: Break down fast or technical passages into quarter,half,and whole notes to see where the phrase and line are really going. Then compose a beautiful line with the simplified version and find the true direction and intention of the passage.

-Check progress and condition: It is very helpful to have a few challenging works that you repeat often to get a quick snapshot of your overall condition . Everyone has their own “special” notes in an except , etude or solo work that can serve as a gauge to where your playing is at the moment.

-Attitude:And finally,a positive attitude and good work ethic will do more to improve your playing than countless hours in the practice room.Horn playing should never be a boring chore or feel like drudgery. Know when to take a break and put it in the case.

 


Greetings From Philadelphia
2008

Mason Jones recently invited the horn section of the Philadelphia Orchestra and friends to dinner at the prestigious Union League following a performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony in Verizon hall. The Union League was founded in 1862 as a patriotic society to support the policies of President Abraham Lincoln. Mason is a life member. A brief tour of the Historical Landmark included a walk through the main hall, complete with classic hunting horn sconces and the League’s impressive art and artifact collection. The evening became an informal celebration of Mason’s legendary career in the Philadelphia Orchestra, and a chance to spend time with good friends and colleagues off the stage.
Former Principal Horn Nolan Miller and his wife Marjorie attended with Randy Gardner, horn professor at the University Of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and former second horn to Mason and Nolan for 22 years respectively. John Carabella, retired second horn of the New York Philharmonic, Lee Bracegirdle, composer and Associate Principal Horn of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and Adam Lesnick, publisher and member of the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra joined the current section of Jennifer Montone, Jeff Lang, Dan Williams, Jeff Kirschen, Shelley Showers and Angela Cordell. Angela is acting fourth horn this season. Former fourth horn Adam Unsworth was also in town for a jazz gig at the World Café Live, he attended the Mahler performance but unfortunately was not able to meet for dinner. Trumpeter Roger Blackburn was accompanied by his wife Marilyn. Mason mentored Roger into the orchestra.  Dan William’s wife, Yumi Hwang also attended.
We enjoyed a fascinating and humorous look back in time as Mason recounted terrific stories about conductors and players he encountered throughout his career. Mason was born on June 16, 1919 in Hamilton New York. From 1936 to1938 he was a student of Anton Horner at the Curtis institute of Music. Mason was Principal Horn of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1939 to 1978 and he served in the Marine Band during WW II. A member of The Curtis Institute of Music faculty from 1946, he was also the Orchestra’s personnel manager until 1986. Mason retired from Curtis in 1995. Mason is a regular matinee subscriber, and we always look forward to his friendly wave on Friday afternoons. Regardless of the repertoire, the thought  “Mason is listening” is always with you.  His new passion is the violin, and he faithfully practices every day. He performed a little impromptu recital at his home last spring and also gave us a peek at his cherished hand horn. Time with Mason is time well spent, and we all look forward to his upcoming Ninetieth birthday.
In a few short years Mason went from studying in Anton Horner’s studio to playing horn on Disney’s epic movie Fantasia with Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. Mason was also greatly influenced by Marcel Tabuteau and Fritz Reiner. He passed this knowledge and experience down to his brilliant student, Nolan Miller. Mason and Nolan are such complete musicians. They played with natural unforced expression and deep musical intelligence. Mason told us he would often have another part on his stand during a performance of a Brahms symphony. The viola line may have had his attention on one particular evening and the second clarinet the next. He would often test Nolan with little ear training quizzes. Nolan never missed.  He considered a career as a concert pianist and was a double major his first year of college. Nolan won a piano competition and performed the Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto with the Reading Symphony. He recently performed the Mozart Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano K. 498.
Some noteworthy recordings of Mason are available on CD. From Sotone Historic Recordings comes a disc entitled Mason Jones-Solo Performances 1951-1954, which includes works by Mozart, Chabrier, Janacek and Brahms. A recording of the Mozart and Heiden Horn Quintets with The Philarte Quartet is available from Gasparo Records. Forms and Sounds on the RCA label is an interesting recording of the music of Ornette Coleman with the Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet. The Saint -Saens  Morceau de Concert Op. 94 and the legendary recording of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto with Eugene Ormandy, Mstislav Rostropovich and the Philadelphia Orchestra are available from SONY Classical. The Orchestra continues it’s recording tradition on the Internet and a quick look through iTunes showed some performances in which one can hear the artistry of Nolan Miller. Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, Rimsky Korsakov Scheherazade and the Beethoven Sixth Symphony with Riccardo Muti are available online. Nolan has also recorded the Schumann Andante and Variations Op. 46 for horn, two pianos, and two cellos, with Wolfgang Sawallisch, and Eugene Ormandy’s final Philadelphia recording, the Shostakovich Cello Concerto with Yo Yo Ma on Columbia Records. The most recent recordings of the Philadelphia Orchestra are on the Ondine label. These include live performances of Bartok, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Shostakovich with Christoph Eschenbach conducting. The orchestra’s web site also offers historical and live concerts available for download.
In related horn section news, Jennifer recently performed a solo recital at Carnegie’s Weill Hall. She will also be performing the Ligeti Horn Trio in Miami at the New World Symphony and the Bach First Brandenburg Concerto with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Jeff Lang performed the Gliere Concerto in October with the Delaware County Symphony and he will travel soon to Israel to perform the Mozart First Concerto and Hindemith Concerto with the Jerusalem Symphony. Shelley is performing various concerts with the Conwell Woodwind Quintet including an upcoming performance on the Orchestra’s Chamber Music series at The Kimmel Center. Dan and Randy look forward to the annual Holiday Brass concert at Glencairne. The unique arrangements of Hymns and Carols by Anton Horner date back to 1919 and are scored for brass quintet with two horns. They have been faithfully played every year at the former estate of the Pitcairn family. Our good friend Adam Unsworth has released Next Step, his second jazz recording.
The horn is alive and well in Philadelphia. Our city is also home to the Opera Company of Philadelphia, The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Ballet, and Peter Nero and the Philly Pops. All of these ensembles are thriving and each with a first class horn section. Horn students from The Curtis Institute and Temple University complete the picture of a city that is renowned for arts, culture, history, and education in America.
Three generations of principal horn players and sixty years of great horn playing in Philadelphia were represented at our table that evening. Horn tradition is rich and meaningful in virtually every country the instrument is played. This is our heritage.  When visiting Philadelphia, “the city of brotherly love”, make sure to stop by and say hello to Mason on Friday afternoons, you know where he will be.


 




Remembering Dinny
2008

The New York horn community lost a dear friend and colleague on April 11th 2008. Ranier DeIntinis' 43 year career as a member of the New York Philharmonic was legendary, and his teaching will influence horn players for generations to come. He was a great player, a musician of the highest level, and a beautiful human being. Dinny had a huge robust sound as well as a pianissimo that was beautifully focused and singing. He was all about the sound of the horn. When the Philharmonic was pulling out all of the stops, you could always hear Dinny, never blasting and always big.
I will never forget coming into lessons with the sweet smell of his pipe and the cowboy hat; they were trademarks. He would look down at his notes, and after a long pause say, "OK, give me 13 percent more sound Cheech".  I always wondered how he would come up with those seemingly random percents, but now they make sense. He insisted on solid basics and a complete low range. Pares scales with "Octave Lower" written on every one (in case you forgot), and Kopprasch were our staples. He sent me a postcard one time that merely said, "keep pumping out the middles, highs and lows!"
I will always remember Dinny and his wife Peggy coming to Finland for my wedding.  He was an honored guest in Finland, and met Holger Fransman, the father of Finnish horn playing, and members of the Finnish Horn Club. Our honeymoon was with both sets of parents and the horn teacher: All bases covered ! The trip concluded in middle Finland with a great bonfire on our family island and many trips in and out of the sauna.
The joy in Dinny's voice when I recently told him I had become a member the Philadelphia Orchestra was really from the heart. Dinny cared so much for his students.  We will all share the happy memories and cherish the brief time we had with him. The invaluable horn knowledge and the guidance he offered us are especially comforting during times when the task is difficult. He was incredibly positive, never bitter and gave the phrase "go for it" a whole new meaning.  Dinny's enthusiasm for horn playing was contagious, and above all, he truly loved music and believed in the deep message it brings. Thanks Dinny.


 

Playing Horn in the Big Apple
1998



New York City is home to some of the finest orchestral, operatic, chamber, solo, studio, jazz and natural horn players. The Musicians Local 802 American Federation of Musicians membership directory lists approximately 120 professional horn players currently working in the city and the numbers seem to increase every month. Most are freelancers, but the full-time members of the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera sections take outside work as well. At this time there are 16 Broadway shows running, with a total of 33 full-time horn chairs. In meeting horn players over the years from all around the USA and the world, I am often asked, "What is it like to play in New York City?" or "How does the freelance scene really work?" I studied in the city, then after seven years as a member of the Israel Philharmonic, I returned to freelancing in 1991. I will attempt to unravel some of the mysteries of the Broadway horn scene, based on my experiences, and explain the system that keeps New York horn players running from gig to gig.

The centerpieces of musical life in New York are, of course, the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and the world famous orchestras and soloists appearing regularly at Carnegie Hall. The other major musical organizations here, the New York City Ballet and New York City Opera, perform six-month seasons at the New York State Theater. The American Ballet Theater performs at the Metropolitan Opera House for two months in the spring, and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra is across the river in their fabulous new hall, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. With these six major ensembles alone there is always a generous amount of extra work offered to freelance horn players. Each orchestra has an organized substitute list and players get onto the list by either past audition record, merit, experience, availability, or most likely a combination of the above.

There are, however, several other excellent ensembles in the metropolitan area that perform, record and tour regularly. This is all union work and the personnel in these groups come from the vast pool of New York freelance musicians. There are attendance requirements in all these orchestras for core members and also specific substitute lists. Some of the major freelance orchestras in town are the American Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Long Island Philharmonic, Orchestra of St. Luke's and the New York Pops. Chamber Orchestras include the Mostly Mozart Orchestra, New York Chamber Symphony and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, American Brass Quintet and the New York Woodwind Quintet are a few of the many chamber groups based in New York. These lists could go on and on, but one thing is sure, a call for a record date, jingle, or movie session is cause for anyone to juggle one's date book and accept the work. It's nice to collect TV re-use payments while the horn is in the case. The days of making a living on studio work alone are long gone, and the pool of studio musicians is large. Recording sessions are often booked at the last minute and it may take several calls to fill out a section. Despite the fact that there is so much orchestral work available to horn players as well as an active but unpredictable recording industry, the single largest employer for us is Broadway.

Years ago, subbing out your Broadway chair in order to take outside horn work was very difficult due to a show policy that did not allow frequent substitutes. As a result, a person was generally committed to being a show player, a studio player, or a classical player. Today, thanks to the fifty-percent takeoff policy in the current Broadway contract, musicians are able to keep up attendance requirements in their orchestra jobs, perform with major ensembles, play chamber music, accept solo engagements, take studio dates, go on vacations, raise kids, and even make a good living.

When a new show comes to Broadway, the producers hire a contractor to put together an orchestra for the production. Calls go out, sections are set, and soon you are sitting in the first rehearsal at the main rehearsal venue in New York City, Carroll Studios. Hopefully the show will get great reviews, win some Tony awards, make a lot of money, and run forever. Of course some become instant hits, but many go down within months or even weeks of opening. A Chorus Line ran for fiifteen years and Cats is in its sixteenth season, but the great masterpiece Carrie (a nice horn book!) ran for only five performances. Hopefully, the show you get called for will run ad infiniturn, even though veterans often joke, "The two happiest days in your life are when you get the call, and when the show closes!" Sometimes the greatest challenge of a long-running show is staying awake while you are playing. With new shows opening all the time and tourism in Times Square at an all-time high, Broadway is alive and well in 1999.

Each show performs eight times a week, fiifty-two weeks a year, for a total of four hundred and sixteen performances per year. The exceptions to this are seasonal long-running shows such as the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, A Christmas Carol, and The Wizard of Oz. These shows perform more than eight times a week, sometimes four or five a day. However, they receive special consideration because they don't run all year and are less than two hours long. In a normal run, the regular contracted player(s) must play at least fifty percent of the shows in each thirteen-week cycle, a minimum of fifty-two shows per quarter. At the beginning of a new production, there is a "lock-in" period in which no taking off is allowed. A typical lock-in period may last four to eight weeks. After the lock-in period, taking off is allowed and subbing commences. There are also twenty-four vacation shows that must be taken every year. These shows count as a show played, so we can in fact play less than fifty percent of the shows. Now if, after taking your mandatory vacation days, you cannot reach your quarterly fifty percent, you may request a leave of absence. Leaves are granted by the music director, approved by the union, and rarely denied. A leave may be for a few days or for several months. While on a leave of absence, you are not permitted to play the show and conductors prefer that one sub covers the leave. If all else fails and you still cannot make your fifty percent minimum, you can take a sick day. Sound confusing? Well, at times it is. But meeting your quota is not difficult, it just takes some planning, and it all adds up to a lot of loyal and busy subs.

Being a sub in a show is in many ways more difficult then being a regular contracted player. First, the sub comes in to watch the book, and can record the show if he or she wants. A date is set and the sub plays their first show, hopefully to rave reviews from the conductor and the other players. This is usually the case, but some Broadway conductors can be quite difficult and some subs can be unprepared. The outcome of the latter can result in not being approved to play the show. A player might find that during the first show they are just trying to make page turns without dropping the mute, while sitting next to someone playing and reading the latest model train magazine! Unfortunately, a missed note here and there from a sub is often met with scowls from the podium, whereas a similar miss from a regular is rarely noticed. On the other hand, the regular players take the responsibility for the overall quality of the section and are accountable if a sub doesn't come to work. An empty seat in the horn section is akin to the crashing of the Hindenburg! E-mail is also starting to play an important role in contracting orchestra jobs and hiring Broadway subs. On any given day in New York City the date books of every horn player fiit together, the puzzle is complete, and all of the seats are miraculously fiilled. I have played in the city many years and it still amazes me that the system works with few mishaps.

As far as equipment is concerned, the Conn 8D is still the most common professional hom in New York City. However, many players have recently switched to other makers, or play the Conn in addition to some other type of horn. The Met section is predominantly a Conn 8D section, and most players in the New York Philharmonic now play on Engelbert Schmid instruments. The new generation of excellent triple horns has also made a big impact on New York players. Many players who used to bring a high hom and a double hom to a recording session or a contemporary music rehearsal now take a triple horn. I use a Yamaha triple hom and a Conn 8D.

We work in a melting pot of musical styles, schooling, and approaches to horn playing here in New York City, and sections of different players and equipment are thrown together to great results daily. Sometimes the variety of music played in one day is not only challenging but also cause to sit back and really laugh. I remember sitting in my show, Beauty and the Beast, after a sleepless night with our newborn son Markus. Hundreds of children were laughing and screaming in the theater, and I thought back to an ASO rehearsal of Sinfonia Domestica and a Huggies TM diaper jingle I had earlier in the day. After the panic of kids and diapers subsided, I got the message!

My advice to players just getting into the freelance business in New York, or any other city, is as follows. First, join the union, then get acquainted with as many working horn players as possible. Most work comes from recommendations from other hom players, so you should try to be aware of the subtle difference between communicating your availability and annoying established players for work. Next, always be prepared to play your best and try not to underestimate the high quality necessary to make a good impression on your colleagues. A new player is always listened to closely despite the fact that everyone may be joking around and having a great time. And finally, showing up on time and getting along with the other players, regardless of circumstances, is essential to being hired again. Of course, there are some darker sides to freelancing, e.g., politics, competition, unfairness, etc., which are realities that players have to learn for themselves. My own experience has been, however, that it is rewarding 99% of the time.

I hope I have shed a little light on our horn scene here, so that the next time you take a musical tour of our city you may want to stop by the Met and hear Howard Howard and Julie Landsman sing the Ring Cycle, or walk across the plaza and hear Phil Myers paste Ein Heldenleben. If you like the ballet, go over to the New York State Theater and hear the artistry of Paul Ingraham or check out Dave Jolley peeling off a concerto nearby. Next, you may want to witness R.J. Kelley and his natural horn unearth some gem from the eighteenth century. Want more opera? Stewart Rose is waiting for you over at the New York City Opera. If you still have time, stop by a recording session and see Bob Carlisle lay down some horn lines for a major motion picture, then definitely head down to the Village to see John Clark testify in some jazz club. But before you leave, be sure to stop by the orchestra pit of Beauty and the Beast and say hello to me. I should be there, well, at least fiifty percent of the time.