The weekend before last I went to the Northeast Horn Workshop at the University of Delaware. Compared to the one in Ithaca a year ago where I felt totally out of place, at this one I felt quite at ease. Another year of playing really made a difference. For the most part I was able to keep up during the ensemble readings and I could really tell that I have improved a lot. I also learned a lot more from the lectures and master classes than I did the year before.
I’ve also made another mouthpiece change which, so far, has made a big change for the better with my playing. I’d been thinking about changing the stem of my mouthpiece for a while because the one I’ve been using was made fatter to try to compensate for my former Hoyer horn and it’s sharpness problem. At the workshop I chatted with Scott Bacon about this and he suggested that I try a Moosewood AW11 Megamoose. This stem is heavier and has a deeper cup than the Moosewood B12 that I was using. I was under the impression, as it turns out incorrectly, that I would play better with a smaller cup and smaller bore so I’m very surprised at how well I play with this stem. Among other things, I’m missing a whole lot fewer notes, slurs are better, my range has stayed the same and playing just seems easier. Plus my endurance is better. I didn’t change my rim so I don’t think I’m going to go through one of the new mouthpiece disasters that I have in the past.
In addition to the two bands that I’m in, I’m playing in a horn quartet this spring as well as a chamber music group. Learning the new music doesn’t seem as hard as it used to be. In the chamber music group I’ve been assigned the 1st movement of the Brahms Horn Trio. As I’m working on the music, and forcing myself to learn Eb transposition, I’ve managed to go from being completely terrified to thinking that maybe I can actually play it. I’m also starting to feel better about playing 16th notes. A couple of months ago I just couldn’t seem to get my fingers and my brain to sync up for really fast passages. I still can’t get quite up to the tempo the passages should be played at but I’m a lot closer than I used to be. In the horn quartet we are working on a Telemann piece that I’m feeling quite positive about. As recently as last week I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to play it. I think that for the first time since I started playing again I actually believe that I have gotten measurably better and it’s a nice feeling.