yykimA few simple suggestions to help you play better, yet easy to forget

Left fingers flying on the keys
While teaching the horn for many years, I have met quite a few students who play the horn with “flying fingers”. They often have great tension in their left hand and in their whole body as well. As they play, often there is no cooperation with tongue and fingers. They also have difficulties mastering a fast passage safely.

I ask students who have a flying fingers problem to play a scale slowly while slurring. They should concentrate on the finger position of the left hand over the keys until they feel comfortable. Once the left hand fingers are on the keys like a pianist would play on the piano keys correctly, the students usually become much more relaxed and their breathing is enhanced.

While I was a student of Verne Reynolds, I did not recognize my left fingers flying once. Mr. Reynolds suggested to me to practice my scale slowly with left fingers taped to the keys until I felt comfortable playing scale without flying fingers. I still remember how that helped me a lot to relax and breath well when I played the horn.

The Sound You Need to Hear May Surprise You
Many horn teachers tell their students to open their right hand when they play the horn. I think the most charming attraction of the horn is the beautiful tone. Most horn students are enjoying their wonderful tone by themselves; they close their right hand too much. They mistakenly close their right hand to produce the sound that they as the listener would hear in the concert hall. It is not a harsh sound, but a refined sound at the player’s bell. Students must recognize that if they play an open sound and make a harsh sound to their ear; the listener will hear the beautiful opened horn sound. A beautiful sound at the player’s bell will produce a muffled sound to the listener in the concert hall.

Practice With Your Metronome and Record Your Playing
I believe the best teacher overall is the tape recorder and the metronome.

As a student, I often faced difficulties when I would start to learn a new piece and would struggle for many hours. As I began to use my metronome and practice slowly, I would finally see the piece come together successfully. We forget the helpful devices, like a metronome, that older musicians have used to succeed. Likewise, when we record ourselves before a performance, we are able to hear problems with our intonation and tempo. We can recognize our problems and make corrections. Once, when I took a lesson with Mr. Yancici at Eastman, he told me “Young-Yul, buy a tape recorder with the lesson fee, it will give you a great lesson all year long”.

I wish all students of the horn and lovers of the horn will enjoy playing our wonderful instrument- the HORN~!!

Young-Yul Kim, DMA
Professor, Seoul National University College of Music, Korea