John Q. Ericson
Arizona has a regional IHS newsletter, Horn on the Range. The area representative recently asked area horn professors for their thoughts on the topic of longevity, as in playing the horn for many years. As this is a topic that should interest everyone I would like to offer my thoughts here as well.
As I wrote in Horn on the Range, longevity as a horn player relates to at least three areas that may need adjustment over time in relation to the aging process. While each of these items could be expanded into a full article on the topic, these three are important starting points for thought and discussion.
- Equipment. Many players, as they age, report that they need to switch to a mouthpiece with a slightly larger inner diameter. It has something to do with aging and the lips. Also it may be well worth investigating different brands and models of horns and mouthpieces, more responsive equipment will be of help as the body changes slowly over time.
- Warm-up. Many good players when they are young get into a warm-up routine that in reality is a warm-up that extends well into a practice/technical routine. There is a point where the warm-up that worked for you for years may actually be causing problems, it may expend too much energy too quickly, and the length of the routine could be too long beyond the point where you are warmed-up and ready to play. Be sure you are warmed-up well in the mid-range before you expend much energy.
- Breathing. Finally, there is certainly an aging process to breathing. The lungs are less elastic as we age; younger players can sound fine with so-so breathing but as you age you really do need to make the most of what lung capacity you have.
There are many examples of hornists who have played successfully for years and years. I am convinced that part of their success was a willingness to make gradual changes and to listen to their bodies in relation to the three topics above. A practice routine and equipment that worked well for you at age 22 may not be so ideal 25 years later or even five years later, as even then you can begin the process of working yourself into problems by being unwilling to consider change. It will increase your longevity as a hornist.