I played very well at band rehearsal last night and this morning I am trying to figure out why. Not that I haven’t ever played well before but last night I played especially well. Within the first 10 minutes I realized that I was having a very good day and that just added to my confidence which then kept me playing a lot better than I usually do.
There were several things that were different last night so I’ll comment on each one.
1. The horns sat in the in the more traditional formation with 1st horn the farthest left which put me on the end and I could actually hear myself play. No trumpets blaring into my ears.
2. I used the loaner yellow brass Otto horn. This horn is so easy to play it’s amazing. I didn’t miss any attacks, the intonation was excellent and I got the high Bb, a whole note, easily in one of the pieces (4th horn part no less.) We were sight reading the music so I didn’t know this note was coming until right before it and I had no time to wonder if I was going to nail it or not. I just played it, nice and clear. It wasn’t until after I played the Bb that I actually comprehended that I played a Bb. I wonder how many times amateurs miss the high notes because we worry about them too much.
3. I used my new Laskey mouthpiece. Playing well can easily be attributed to new mouthpiece euphoria so if that did it, the crash next week won’t be fun.
4. I practiced very early in the morning to put as many hours as possible between practice and rehearsal. Usually I practice around 10 am on rehearsal days. This time I practiced at 7 am. Hopefully this was not the reason I played so well because I won’t be able to practice that early in the morning on a regular basis.
5. A combination of some or all of the the above. I’ll know more when I practice today.
6. None of the above. It’s possible that I would have played equally well with my Hoyer and my other mouthpiece sitting in front of the trumpets and practicing at 10. If that’s the case, and it would be very nice if it is though I’ll never know for sure, I’m becoming a better horn player and that’s a really good thing.
I’ve been writing about my issues with my Hoyer horn for quite some time. It played sharp when I got it and it took a while to get it fixed. It is possible to play the Hoyer in tune now that it has a new tuning slide though I still have considerable trouble with the intonation. While I was waiting to get it fixed I had opportunities to play other horns many of which I liked a lot better than my Hoyer. I’ve also had a Dieter Otto 180K in Rose Brass on loan for the past month. If I didn’t have problems with the Hoyer I wouldn’t have been fiddling around with other horns and I wouldn’t have discovered that there were others in my price range that I liked better. In fact, except for the intonation problem I thought the Hoyer was a great horn.
I’ve been playing the Hoyer, the Otto, and occasionally my old Yamaha 668 and inevitably if I start with the Hoyer I switch to the Otto within half an hour. If I start with the Yamaha I’ll switch to either of the other horns pretty quickly so I know I made the right decision to get a different horn back in December and to sell the Yamaha. I find the Otto easier to play than either the Hoyer or the Yamaha and I enjoy playing it more. Several pro hornists have cautioned me about buying the Otto because it is rose brass and because it is not a well known brand in the U.S. On the other hand, several pros have told me that the Otto is a great horn.
Originally I was supposed to make a decision about the Otto horn a few weeks ago but my mom ended up in the hospital and I couldn’t make the trip up to Scott Bacon’s shop (Siegfried’s Call) until yesterday. I was also going to travel to Ken Pope’s shop in Boston and try some of the horns he has for sale and I wasn’t able to go there either. At my lesson with Scott yesterday I played the rose brass Otto for most of the time and then switched to a yellow brass unlacquered Otto 180K. Scott also switched me to a Laskey mouthpiece at the recommendation of Andrew Joy who uses Otto horns exclusively and suggested that I use a cup shaped mouthpiece with the horn. Scott listened to me play both horns and he believes that the yellow brass Otto is the better horn for me.
I went back home with both Otto’s on loan so I now have another two weeks to decide about horns. I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to keep the Hoyer. I’m getting more pleasure from playing the rose brass Otto and for me that’s most important. I haven’t had the yellow brass Otto long enough yet to know if it’s the right one and I keep wondering if there is something out there that I should try before I make a decision. That’s one big reason to try to get to Ken Pope’s shop in the next two weeks but with my mom in the hospital I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that. Scott Bacon is also getting a new Lewis and Durk geyer wrap horn in shortly and I want to try that horn before I make a final decision. That horn is expensive and really out of my affordability range but I have to try it so I don’t wonder forever if I should have picked it.
Band rehearsal –>
Boy this has been a busy week. I picked up a consulting contract with a customer I worked with before I retired so I had to go to Atlanta for the initial meeting. Despite the fact that I traveled over 3 million miles during my 25 year marketing career I prefer driving to flying so I wanted to drive to Atlanta. My husband was also heading to the meeting since he is peripherally involved with the project so I convinced him to drive by adding a mini-vacation in Virginia Beach.
My challenge was fitting in practicing during the trip. It’s a 15 hour drive from Long Island to Atlanta so we headed out last Tuesday evening to avoid traffic. I practiced before we left so Tuesday was covered. Wednesday was the long haul of the drive but I still got about 45 minutes of practice in. I used my Best Brass mute for the first time. The Best Brass mute is similar to the Yamaha Silent Brass mute but it is smaller and self contained – no external amplification box. The horn sounded reasonable, much better than with just a plain practice mute. Using the mute was an interesting experience. I didn’t feel like I was giving my chops any kind of a workout. After 45 minutes I still felt fresh. I think it’s okay for practicing technical passages but not for endurance. I also had to hold the horn with my right forearm pressed against the mute to keep it from falling out of the horn.
On Thursday we got back to the hotel at a reasonable time and I asked the clerk at the front desk if there was somewhere I could play. She offered the hotel’s boardroom which was located behind the front desk but away from any rooms. I figured that anyone in the lobby was going to hear me play so I decided to just have some fun. I did do my usual warmup but I skipped scales and Kopprasch. (Great excuse.) I brought a lot of music with me so I just ran through it – Basler’s Canciones, Strauss’ Nocturno, Strauss 1, Lowell Shaw’s Just Desserts and some stuff from the Mason Jones solo book. Hopefully the inevitable clams weren’t that audible. The hotel clerk gave me a big thumbs up when I was done so I guess it wasn’t too bad.
Friday was another long haul driving day but this time I didn’t get any practicing in. By the time we got to the hotel, checked in and ate dinner – we were starving – it was late and I was exhausted. Saturday I took the horn out around 10 Am and played for a bit out on the balcony. It was oceanfront and I was hoping the noise from the ocean would drown out the horn. Well it didn’t. My husband was outside by the boardwalk and he could hear me. I decided that taking out the mute was probably a good idea. The other rooms around me didn’t really need an AM horn call.
The drive home on Sunday took forever. What should have been an eight hour drive turned into an eleven hour drive. Needless to say when I got home it was late and I was not in the mood to practice. So for a six day trip I missed two days. On the days I did practice I got somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour in. None of it was what I would call quality practice but at least I did play and kept my chops working.
With a day off on Sunday I was curious how Monday would go. I put in a solid hour of hard practice in the morning and played very well. Then I remembered that I had a two hour band rehearsal that evening. Surprisingly I didn’t have any endurance problems at the rehearsal until the very end. Yesterday I was extremely busy and only played at my other band’s rehearsal. I had lots of endurance problems and no upper register so I guess I paid for Monday on Tuesday. In the end I think I did pretty well keeping in shape. I did schedule my weekly lesson for Friday to give me some time to prepare for it.
Horn update –>
I’m traveling this week – a combo business and pleasure trip – and I’ll be back Monday. I have my horn and I’m trying to fit in as much practicing as I can. Watch for an update early next week.
In one of the community bands I play in our 1st horn player takes a lot of questionable liberties. I’m not talking about how he deals with the section members, he’s a very nice guy, but he actually changes the music! (and if you are the section leader in my band and are reading my blog, I’m sorry but you might want to think about what I’m writing about.)
Our section members and other members of the band near him have complained about this behavior but I didn’t really believe them. I thought, no this can’t really be true. I usually play 4th horn but at our last rehearsal I played 2nd and I had the opportunity to hear this guy for myself. OMG, it’s true. For one thing, he adds trills to parts that don’t have them. He adds notes to melodic lines. What he did to the theme song in Evita was something to behold. Don’t Cry for me Argentina tra la la la la la la la la la. Sometimes he just doesn’t play if the part consists of off-beats. But what takes the cake – he adds melodic lines to parts with off-beats that aren’t in his part or any of the horn parts. Sometimes up to 16 measures or so.
Now it’s possible that he only does this at rehearsals but considering the complaints I’ve heard I’m 99% sure that he does this at concerts also. The seating arrangement in this band puts me directly in front of the trumpets so I’m lucky if I can hear myself play. And until this latest rehearsal I couldn’t see his music so when I did hear him play I had no way to know what was in his part. Band arrangements can be weird.
So, you might be asking, why is this guy playing first in the band? Good question. A few weeks ago our 2nd horn spoke to the conductor about this and last week the assistant 1st horn also spoke to him. Our conductor is aware of the behavior, phew. It would be a lot worse if he wasn’t. The problem is that the 1st horn has been in the band forever and he’s a founding member of the board. (Don’t we all just love the English language – we can turn inanimate objects into people.) Nothing like politics. Our conductor is a really nice guy and I think he is at a loss about what to do. All of the horns in the section are capable of playing 1st, even me, so it’s not that he doesn’t have someone to play 1st. Our assistant 1st horn is actually the best of the bunch of us.
I’m new to this band as of last January so it’s not my place to say something but I will urge our 3rd horn to speak up. I think that if we can present some solution to the conductor that lets the 1st horn save face that might work. Coming up with a solution is the kicker. Anyone have any ideas?
Travel with horn –>
The time is rapidly approaching for me to make a decision about changing horns. My new Hoyer has been sharp since I bought it and several weeks ago Hoyer sent a new tuning slide which has helped but not eliminated the problem. I have confirmed that a pro can play the Hoyer in tune and with time I will most likely be able to do so. However, I don’t play it in tune now.
My dealer has loaned me a Dieter Otto 180K Rose Brass horn to try and I have had it for a few weeks. I am enjoying playing it but, as I’m sure is true for any horn, there are things that the Hoyer does better. From what I understand about different wraps the differences between the two horns are consistent with the differences one would find with the two wraps.
I think I play the Otto a bit better than the Hoyer though I’ve played both horns horribly and both horns ok. My family says the Otto sounds brighter than the Hoyer but they say they like this. I doubt I will ever play in a situation where the type of sound my horn has matters to the point where I would have to use a different horn though I could be wrong. At the very least, if that did happen, it would be quite some time from now.
I have both horns sitting open in my living room and I’ve been going back and forth between them but what is interesting is that inevitably I will put the Hoyer down and switch to the Otto to finishing practicing. I have not been playing the Otto and feeling the need to switch back to the Hoyer. The other thing that is quite funny is that last night I dreamed that I threw the Hoyer out in pieces into one of those big commercial trash containers.
So all this leads me to believe that I really don’t like the Hoyer and I do like the Otto. What concerns me is that there may be some other horn out there that I would like even better than the Otto. However, now is when I have the opportunity to get the Otto at a significantly discounted price because my dealer is being very nice to me since I’ve had this never ending problem with the Hoyer and I think he’s had this particular Otto horn around for a while.
I can keep the Hoyer and sell it eventually and go horn shopping but if I do that the Hoyer loses some value as time goes on, I won’t get a discount on another horn from a different dealer, and I will have to deal with the intonation problems that I have with the Hoyer.
When I drive up to my dealer on Monday I will play every horn he has and maybe it will become obvious that the Otto is the right choice. On the other hand, there may be a horn, or more than one horn, that I like at least at the first try. Then I’d have to try it for a week or two, maybe or maybe not get a discount depending on the horn, and risk him selling the Otto though that is probably a pretty low risk. Oy. There is so much to think about. Monday will be an interesting day.
This is a follow up to several non-related posts.
My endurance had gotten somewhat worse over the summer, especially after my attendance at the Barry Tuckwell Institute (BTI). In May I posted that I was experimenting with playing for an hour in the morning and then another hour in the afternoon without taking 20 minute breaks during each hour. I was also hoping to add some more practice time pushing the 2 hours slowly towards 3 hours.
This really didn’t work. On top of that, it has taken me quite a while to fully recover from the huge amount of playing I did at BTI. About three weeks ago I went back to my schedule of playing for 20 minutes followed by a 20 minute rest with a minimum 3 hour break between morning and afternoon practice sessions. This has helped a lot and I think I have finally gotten back to where I was before BTI. Now I am going to try to add some time very slowly.
I have been playing the Dieter Otto horn I have on loan for the past ten days and I like it a lot. I think I have been playing better in general and I am definitely playing with better intonation. In fact, I have recently learned what some of the differences are between a kruspe wrap (the Hoyer) and a geyer wrap horn (the Otto) and my experience with these two horns are consistent with this. For example, I can gliss much better on the Hoyer but staccato is better on the Otto. The register below middle C is much better on the Hoyer but I can hit the high Bb and C on the Otto consistently and almost never on the Hoyer. I can play, occasionally, really ‘well’ on the Otto and sometimes I will play passages that surprise me with how much better I play them. In addition, I think that playing the Otto instead of the Hoyer is also contributing to my improved endurance since I was constantly trying to lip notes into tune. I am leaning toward cutting my losses and going with another horn, possibly this Otto.
In my post about pain I commented about some stomach pain right under my sternum that I have been plagued with for the past several months. I have endured numerous medical tests including having to eat radioactive oatmeal where, I kid you not, I was told not to get too close to people for 24 hours (what about me?). The tests have all come back negative which is a good thing except that I don’t know why I have this pain. Fortunately it seems to be abating and my doc said it was definitely not horn related. Phew.
In my post about age I mentioned that I had developed an annoying vibrato that I attributed to the medication I was taking for the stomach pain. Since the pain was going away I did stop taking this medication a few days ago and the vibrato is gone. What a relief. That vibrato was really awful.
Hoyer yes or no? –>