Hey Everyone, just wanted to let you know about something I’m doing in a few days:
Hey everyone, hope you are all ‘sheltering in place’ successfully and staying healthy! Now, to continue with my thoughts regarding Jazz Horn Excerpts:
Here’s just one example: from Alexi David’s (http://www.alexidavid.com/html/) brilliant transcription of “Peggy’s Blue Skylight”. To hear this arrangement live, you’d want to come to FatCat in NYC to hear Alexi’s Octet. That is, when we finally defeat this virus….
Meanwhile, you can hear a great version of the tune here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgkhazlOt9Q
So, what I’m saying is that it would be really helpful to you to study and practice this, just in case you get a last minute call to go sub at FatCat……!
Eventually I’d like to make available a lot of excerpts from various bands I’ve played with, such as Gil Evans, McCoy Tyner, Carla Bley, Kuumba Frank Lacy…. Do you have some excerpt you’d like to share with the class?!?! Perhaps something you’re working on and need help with, or just something you’d like me to include?
There are so many sources for orchestral excerpts for Horn. To prepare for an audtion, there’s virtually no piece of music that might appear in your audition, that you couldn’t prepare for by accessing the written music and several recordings. But what if you should happen to be a jazz student wanting to prepare for the many challenges of big band playing? Trust me when I say that there are many, many Horn parts in well-known jazz arrangements, that are not totally easy to sight read! Even in my own recent experience, mainly with the Mingus Orchestra and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, I see parts that I wouldn’t want to ask a sub to just come in and sight read….
This brings me to my next project. What if there were a volume of jazz excerpts for Horn, complete with audio examples? Would this be something of value? Can you think of any specific pieces, or recordings, or composers or arrangers that you’d want to see in this volume? I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject!
A couple of weeks ago, I had the great fortune to meet with Runar Tajford of the Brazz Brothers, in NYC. We had a great time! I was able to comp Runar to a concert with Quinsin Nachoff‘s group, (which actually is very close to the Brazz Brothers in orchestration – Brass Quintet/Tenor/Drums) and he attended a recording session with Andy Jaffe‘s “Arc” band. I learned quite a bit about life in Norway and the activities of the Brothers – of particular interest to me, is their recording “Sketches of Africa”, with the Odense (Denmark) Symphony Orchestra. To create this music, Runar transcribed music brought to Norway by refugees, and arranged it for the Brothers and the Orchestra. Check it out!
As I progress with formatting this new volume, some decisions will need to be made. Should there even be a hard copy version, or should it only be available as a .pdf? Since there will be several audio and video examples, should there be an accompanying DVD, or only links to online files? I tend to lean towards everything just being online, since it seems that streaming is the way of the future…. also, suppose I want to update it from time to time? If it’s online, I wouldn’t need to re-print it! On the other hand, libraries and Horn studios might like to have a hard copy, and folks do like to put something up on the music stand from time to time….would love to hear YOUR ideas and thoughts….
For a few years now, I’ve been putting together some new exercises, new ideas, and new approaches to practicing the exercises. I’d also like to have a chance to explain in more detail how to practice them. The book isn’t formatted yet, so here’s your opportunity to have some input regarding what goes into the book and how it’s presented!
Just as a small bonus, here’s an example of something I’ve been using and will probably include in the book: I got this from awesome bari saxophonist Ken Hitchcock.
I’ve been practicing this over two octaves, (starting way down, 2 octaves below what’s written here, transposing up by half-steps) but you don’t have to! You could practice only what’s written here! There’s no “should” or “must” about this kind of practice. That said, I recommend at least transposing it into one or two other keys; say “Horn in G” or “Horn in C”. My usual approach is to transpose it up a half-step, then another half-step and so on. I do highly recommend using a metronome, just so you can keep track of your improvement. It’s a really good idea to occasionally practice it very slowly.
Something that’s important to understand, when you’re deciding how to practice is this: no one can play exercises like this as fast in the extreme low register, as they can in the mid-to-high register! It’s also important to realize that when improvising a jazz solo, you probably won’t be using pedal notes all that much except maybe at the beginning or end of a phrase. So, you may decide for instance, to only practice the exercise in the range you’d be likely to use when improvising, i.e. maybe only a range of an octave and a half. My personal preference is to cover as much of my range as possible, “just because”….it gives me more of a feeling that I’m in control of my Horn….
Here’s a video of the exercise number 4.1 from “Exercises for Jazz French Horn”
I have a plan to make some more and better quality videos showing other exercises and playing actual musical phrases. I won’t go into teaching how to do it, because there is plenty of information available on the internet to help you with that.
A good thing to understand is that whenever you take that breath through your nose and puff air out with your cheeks, it affects the sound you’re producing, whether it be intonation or actual sound quality. It’s very, very difficult to take a circular breath without any noticeable change in sound, but we try to minimize it. So that’s the disadvantage. The advantage is, if you’re improvising a long phrase and run out of air, you don’t have to stop! You make these instantaneous decisions on whether it’s more important to maintain your sound quality, or finish your idea.
Here are 4 blogs I highly recommend. Do you know of some others I’ve missed? I’d love to know about them! Enjoy!
Abe Mamet’s blog documenting his research into Julius Watkins and more; this includes links to some fantastic videos and other information:
John Ericson’s very popular blog covering many different topics:
Jeff Agrell’s great blog, also covering various topics; of interest especially to classically oriented players wanting to improvise:
Tina Barkan’s blog for those returning to playing after a long absence:
A major concern of all Horn (French Horn) players who are operating in the non-classical realm is how to be heard when there is a loud rhythm section, or even a loud group of brass, woodwinds or whatever! The bell pointing ‘backwards’ and the hand in the bell are hindrances, but they’re part of our instrument, so what to do? For me, keeping the bell elevated off the leg and hand position are important, but that’s not enough in some circumstances. When I need to amplify myself, I use the AMT wireless. http://www.appliedmicrophone.com/. If there’s no sound system, and I need to provide my own amplification, I bring my lunchbox amp. https://www.ztamplifiers.com/products.html It’s not super-powerful but if you locate it behind you, you can hear yourself!