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Building Endurance

16 Jul 2009 00:59 #298 by Kendall Betts
Building Endurance was created by Kendall Betts

After playing the horn for 10 years, I have decided to tackle Schumann's Adagio & Allegro. As a senior performance major, I consider myself in pretty good chop shape, from regular practice and tons of rehearsal. Yet I am struggling by the second page this piece. I am having horrible endurance issues with this piece, and am looking for some new insight.

So, how do you survive Adagio & Allegro?

Jess Santiago

Kendall Betts' Answer:

Pretty good chop shape is not good enough for this, and many other,pieces. Rehearsals generally break you down, not build you up. What you need is a strict, athletic regimen in order to build your endurance beyond what you need in order to "tackle" the major repertoire as well as survive orchestral/band rehearsals and performances.

Requirements for endurance (and good playing in general) are:
  1. A fast, controlled air stream as a result of  flexible, strong abdominal muscles performing at their optimum.
  2. Perfect embouchure mechanics, especially in the  upper register.
  3. Hours of sensible practice to, but not over,  your physical limits on a daily basis over a long time.
With this in mind, analyze what you have been doing.  Keep a log  of your practice/rehearsal/performance times noting what you practiced/played  and for how long. Log your breaks as well. You might be surprised at the amount of playing you do in a typical rehearsal. I've sat through many orchestral rehearsals when my total playing time in a 2 to  3 hour service added up to 5 to 10 minutes!  And that was loud playing on a cold lip. As I said, rehearsals tend to break you down, not build you  up. What you want is a clear picture: how much playing of what and for how  long each day.  Be honest!  Once you have logged a week or two,  analyze it.  Where can you add practice time, and to what?

A typical  daily regimen for a serious student practicing 2-3 hours a day should look something like this:
  • 20-45 minutes F horn warm up such as Farkas
  • 30-60 minutes etudes, some or all on F horn, such  as Kopprasch, Kling, Gallay, Gugel, Belloli, Reynolds depending on "where you  are at" technically.
  • 20-45 minutes technical routines such as scales,  arpeggios, broken arpeggios, chordal arpeggios (for ear training), Clarke,  Arban, Singer or other technical materials.
  • 20-45 minutes long tones: pp<ff>pp;  ff>pp<ff: holding pp, holding ff. (Don't do LT's higher than you have control. Adding a half-step to your range every other week is a sensible  goal here.)
  • 30-60 minutes repertoire: solos, excerpts,  orchestral parts, etc.
If you can get to a point where you are practicing 2 hours a day  minimum and still survive your rehearsals, you will be in decent shape. Get to three hours practice by adding short segments of time, 5 minutes to one  of the above groups each or every other or every third day over a period of  weeks but DON'T OVERDO IT!!!  You also need to make adjustments using your common sense if you do have a heavy repertoire rehearsal/performance schedule. Always pace yourself and put it away for the day before you do any damage!
Amateurs and young players, start with a one hour goal by cutting the minimums listed above in half or more for starters.

I used the above criteria when I was a student at Curtis. As a pro, I was always making adjustments but tried always for a one hour minimum F horn practice segment each day. Now, semi-retired from playing, I need  about two hours a day to "stay in shape" and about one hour a day "not to lose  it." If I lay off, which I do for long periods now, I need two weeks to get it back: 10 minutes the first day, 20 the second, 30 the third, etc., adding routines and etudes every day to get back to my two hours  "in shape" lip. I also practice pretty much exclusively on the F horn to  get/stay in shape.  Once I have a "minimum" lip, I start with Kopprasch and  play through them until I get tired, noting what I did and for how long. The next day, I try to add another 5-10 minutes and so forth. Once done with Kopprasch, I go to Kling, then to Belloli, Gallay, etc. In about two  weeks, I'm practicing two hours straight and have a good lip ready for anything.

My best wishes to all for success in their careers!

Kendall Betts
The following user(s) said Thank You: Olivia Martinez

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