Coordinated by Bill VerMeulen, the Ask a Pro section offers IHS members only a chance to have their (horn related!) questions answered by leading professionals. Responses will be in the form of videos posted on the IHS YouTube channel and embedded on this page. To ask a question, send an email to: This address is for IHS members only. Either log in above or Join today

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"We often have dress rehearsals the morning of the performance even when playing works such as Mahler 6! To add insult to injury, we also rehearse the night before which means we play the program 3 times in a 27-hour period (Fri rehearsal 7-9:30pm, Saturday dress rehearsal 10am-12:30pm, and Sat performance 7:30-10pm). What do you recommend as the best way to recover to be able to successfully make it through this demanding schedule of services?"

Bill VerMeulen's Answer


I am New York state music teacher (trombone) and I judge solo festivals. I had some high level french horn solos the past few years—not many—but a few——sometimes I would suggest asking their teacher about developing vibrato—I thought it was worth exploring——however—recently I was “schooled” by a horn teacher that I should never do that——horn players avoid vibrato like the plague. I never take points off their solo—offer it as a suggestion. I guess I have missed the boat————any way Do you have any suggestions? thanks Matthew Bond

Bill VerMeulen's Answer:

While it is true that some styles of horn playing don’t endorse the use of vibrato, you will find that vibrato use varies dramatically geographically throughout the horn world. Before the digital recording age horn playing developed geographically with sounds and styles that varied greatly. Vibrato was widely used within the French, Russian, East German, Czech horn communities and more. Horn sound and vibrato use was personal and often passed on within the tradition of the region and pedagogy. Although the sound and styles of the horn have homogenized some over the years vibrato use is still a personal and effective addition to expression not dissimilar to its use on any other instrument or voice. As such, I see no harm in encouraging vibrato use done tastefully with service to the music and the tradition of sound and style which best suits your feeling of the composer’s intent. I personally have no problem with judicious use of vibrato on Ravel Pavane or Tchaikovsky 5th but am less inclined to find it effective or necessary for Brahms or Bruckner. In recital and concerto work I am more inclined to endorse vibrato which adds color to the music and sound. Vibrato should be done to add color and increase musical line. Sadly, many use vibrato to mask a lack of center to one’s tone and pitch. Of the types of vibrato; Jaw, finger, breath, lipping, I feel strongly we should emulate singers with breath vibrato. It keeps the air moving and adds to the overall musical line. While many Americans may eschew vibrato use as a matter of dogma I disagree and use quite a bit in my personal solo playing, especially in Jazz styled works and vocal transcriptions. I am glad you don’t take points off and  encourage you to champion anything you believe will best serve the music since that is our sacred trust. 

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