Last week I wrote three posts about my playing during the week. The first two discussed the poor quality of my playing, Today’s Practice Session 😦 and Yesterday’s Practice – Part 2, and the last one, It’s all about the air, talked about a revelation I had about air that lead to two stellar days of horn playing.
Well, yesterday was day 6 of a pretty dramatic improvement. I’ve put together two good days in the past though not very often. When I got to the third day I was pleasantly surprised but skeptical that it would continue. Day 4 was another great day followed by day 5 which was not quite as good as day 4 but pretty decent none the less. I figured that the run of great days was over but, lo and behold, day 6 was another truly stellar day.
So what do I mean by a stellar day? In the context of my capabilities, my tone is excellent, there are very few gurgles, and some missed notes but not too many. The arpeggios, slurs, and scales that I always work on are clean. 16th notes are playable at close to the correct tempo and tongued or slurred properly. The pieces that I’m practicing – Mozart 3, selected solos from the Mason Jones book and the first two movements from Strauss 1 are played well, despite the inevitable clams here and there, all the way through. I’ve been able to play individual passages decently before this but I was never able to string them together into a cohesive unit – i.e. the whole piece.
I had a lesson yesterday (day 6) and Lynn, my teacher, and I were talking about what’s changed. In addition to my discovery of using air better, two weeks ago she had me add what I call high harmonics to my warm up routine. These start at third space C on F horn and are lipped up to G, then back down. (Not fingered.) Then second valve down B up to F#, first valve down Bb to F and so on. The notes need to be evenly spaced, smooth, and clean. Last week we added Bb horn up from C# to G#, D to A, finishing with F to high C. At first I could barely do the F horn side. Now I can do them all well.
My warm up routine starts with low C slurs up to G back to C, then C to G to middle C and back and so on up to third space C which is a hit or miss affair. After that I do arpeggios starting at middle C. After these I have added the high harmonics to the warm up. Then I go back to another round of low C slurs. My complete warm up and practice routine, other than the high harmonics, is covered in A lesson and practicing.
I can’t guarantee that adding the high harmonics to my warm up made the difference but it certainly points to that. It could be that all my practicing has finally led to recognizable improvement. The good news is that it didn’t occur because of a change in equipment. It is actually me that improved. I’m cautiously optimistic that this improvement will continue and that this week hasn’t been a fluke. And yes, today, day 7, was another good day.