This is one of my biggest problems, often I can't play a piece through without missing at least one note, it's really bugging me, what do I do? I know everyone misses notes, but perfection is necessary in front of audiences etc.... Anyone got any ways to improve accuracy? Thanx!!!
I think many of the hornlisters are misunderstanding my problem- it's not an isolated section of a piece, it's just any piece in general. I often can't play a piece through without missing a few notes at random, not in a certain spot.

In my experience, accuracy problems can be attributed to two things: excessive movement within the embouchure, and mental focus.

Regarding excessive embouchure movement:

The way, especially for a young player, to improve accuracy is to spend a little bit of time every day playing simple scales, slurs, arpeggios, etc., while observing the movement of the embouchure in a mirror. (All the while maintaining a very relaxed and steady airstream). As you move from note to note, if you notice jerky motions, you probably aren't using your embouchure efficiently. If this is the case, the way to fix it is to slur, beginning with very small intervals, from a midrange note (middle g) to higher and lower notes in the range, while concentrating on eliminating unnecessary facial movement. All of the great players I've observed have very small and fluid embouchure movements as the play throughout the range of their instrument.

As you apply this to playing a piece, you'll notice that the distance between intervals seems much smaller, and the amount of physical movement required to, say, play the opening of Strauss 2 is minimal, thus reducing the probability of cacking. This practice, in my experience, will improve accuracy.

Regarding mental focus: good luck.

Come on, get real! Remember what instrument we play. If this is your biggest problem, I'd say you don't have much to worry about. If you're only missing one note in a piece, you're in good company; if you're missing more than that, you have LOTS of company! Seriously, focus and concentration, a good steady supply of air and a positive attitude will serve you well. So will regularly scheduled practice sessions and "hearing" the pitch before you play it. I'm sure all this is very obvious, but it's just good common sense. If you do miss a note, don't waste your time obsessing about it. That will only trip you up worse. All this isn't to make excuses for flubbing notes; we just don't want to become neurotic about missing them. People in major orchestras aren't perfect either, but many times they sound that way because of modern technology. I had a teacher tell me once when I was being my own worst critic, "Remember, you only play the horn; it's not life and it's not any reflection of who you are inside." Of course, I realize that if you want to win auditions you will want to make the fewest mistakes possible, but if you're able to go in with a positive, relaxed mental state, that will free you up to play more musically instead of obsessing about hitting clinkers. Respectfully yours,

"Accuracy problems? What accuracy problems?"

-Chief Inspector Clouseau

"..I was put into a horn quartet in my freshman year of college with three other players that could play rings around me."

From my own experience, it seems that being thrown in amongst '...players that [can] play rings around [you]..' is the best way to learn to improve almost anything about your horn playing. (It might also be the most stressful way to learn, but there's nothing like perceiving yourself to be the 'weak link' in an ensemble to make you work and learn at your peak potential.)

Try taking piano lessons. Although I don't myself (but should) I've heard and been told if you have problems of any sort (intervals, be it hearing them or naming them in your case) a good knowledge of the piano can help.

A number of things, John. One of the most prescribed is to take it phrase by phrase. Play the phrase 10 times perfectly. If you miss it on the 9th time, you start over. From a practical standpoint, analyze why you are missing. Did you know that 4th line D is the most missed note on the horn? Why? what can you do about it? Did you know that people rarely miss a high note: it is always the note after the high note. Why? what can you do about it.

Do you practice scales that begin and end on other than the key note? How about arpeggios such as C,E,G,Db?? There can be a thousand variations on this approach. How about singing the phrase before you play it? how about playing it at pitch on the mouthpiece (with or without a "BERP")exactly as it should be played on the horn, followed by actual playing upon the horn. How about playing it on the wrong side of the horn, i.e. F horn in the upper register, Bb horn in the lower. How about playing it all with alternate fingerings? If it is something from the classical era, how about playing it all on the open F horn (with 1st valve for Eb transposition) altering pitches as necessary with the hand?

How about playing it in several different transpositions (don't neglect G and A horn)

Have you done all that? Invent some more. Then do the same thing for the second phrase.

Here's an old trick. Sing it! If you can't sing it, you certainly can't play it. Then you'll hear it in your head and be able to aim for it.

The method of playing it 10 times in a row works IF you note your tendencies. For example do you miss a particular note each time do you you hit that note sharp or flat what happens with your face etc.. Repetitive practice is only helpful if you fix the problems because you understand them.

Just another thought adding to the excellent previous ideas for improving accuracy. It seems to me that an excess of stale air in my lungs greatly degrades my accuracy. Breathe out and get a fresh lung full of air whenever you can.
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