French Horn Practice
Do you want to enhance your French Horn practice?
It’s not sufficiently good to just practice longer. You will need to practice better. More proficiently. And as part of our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning The French Horn’, we are going to show you all the skills you need to practice the French Horn better.
Exactly Why Is French Horn Practice So Hard?
Practice. If you do it regularly enough, you will be excellent. Everyone knows this. So just why is practice so difficult?
Motivation is key. Without motivation, you will not thrust yourself to return to the instrument day after day. How do you get motivated?
By winning. Yes, that is correct. Winning. You’re in continuous competition with yourself, and whenever things go nicely, you are feeling like you are winning. When you’re in this mindset, it is effortless to practice. It’s the circle of life – winning a lot more gives you much more motivation, which means you practice more. Practising more means you win more, as a result, it provides you with more motivation. And that goes on and on exponentially.
If it’s that easy, how come practice still so hard?
Drum roll… The answer? Because it’s not really that easy! Just practising isn’t adequate. You could practice for ten hours per day and not progress.
Therefore if it’s not the quantity of practice that sets you on top of the circle of life, just what does?
Practising for 15 minutes a day, targeted, useful excellent practice is much more useful than four hours of unfocused, ‘auto-pilot’ practice.
So you just need good quality practice for you to jump aboard the circle of life train?
If only! Nothing is that easy. Put together quantity and quality, and you’ll finally be a first-class passenger.
Read more to discover how to buy your first-class ticket, and the ways to remain on the train so long as you want…
Structure Your French Horn Practice
Should I practice in excess of an hour?
15 to 20 minutes is an excellent place to begin, and in all likelihood not any longer than 45 minutes at the same time. After this amount of time, all of us human beings tend to zone out – and therefore the practising ends up being much less efficient. As a rule of thumb, when you experience your concentration waning, quit. Be pleased that you just showed up to your practice session, and don’t stress over how long you practice for.
How frequently should I be practicing?
This one is a simple answer – practice daily. In that way, you’ll convert your French Horn practice into a routine. A fairly short, concentrated daily practice is far more helpful than twice per week an hour or so at the same time. And try to remember, if perhaps you’re thinking “but how do I find the time to accomplish 20 mins per day? !? ” – just steal some of your energy and time from social media over to the French Horn. We do, after all, dedicate on average 142 minutes on social media on a daily basis!
When do I need to do my French Horn practice?
It will make no big difference when you practice, just simply as long as you do practice. Try setting up a preset schedule for yourself compared to simply being ad-hok. Observe which solutions are best, and follow it.
French Horn Practice Top Tips
1. Remove Possible Disruptions
Consider your practice moment as your ‘me time’. You will be hopefully enjoying the French Horn because it’s an enjoyable hobby for you; so switch off your cell phone, tablet, computer, watch, or any other gizmo that’ll distract you!
2. Make Certain You're Comfortable
As you’ll hopefully be playing for hours and years to come, it’s really crucial that you are comfy. The more comfortable you are, the better you’ll play. Stress and anxiety is definitely our opponent, and so ensure that it stays away from your practice area.
3. Goal Setting
What do you want to achieve? Try to establish a mission that you can realize as part of your practice session. Making use of goals, you’ll improve at a faster pace plus much more efficiently.
Perhaps Monday you’ll study the first twelve bars/measures. Then Tuesday you’ll study the next twelve. Wednesday can be the tricky little bit in the middle. Thursday can be reminding yourself of everything you’ve learnt so far, and Friday might be trying to play the parts without the sheet music (from memory). Whatever you need to do, set your goals and objectives in writing to make them happen. Then when you accomplish your objective, celebrate! I would suggest a pleasant bottle of red…
4. Say Howdy To Bad Habits
No one is perfect, to begin with. Consciously know that until you have repeated a section a couple of times, you will make mistakes. Become as systematic as possible dealing with these mistakes, because if you do not, you will uncover undesirable habits start to sneak in.
When you notice a terrible habit showing out from no-where, shout out a nice big HELLO to it. Then swat it similar to the most irritating fly.
The same thing goes for fixing specialized troubles with such things as posture and your technique. Although it can take longer up front, it’ll pay dividends later on and can save you a ton of time.
5. Don't Close Your Eyes
Perhaps you have driven to a place, and when you arrived, you had virtually no recollection or recall in regards to the journey. You drove completely on ‘brain auto-pilot’. The exact same thing can take place when practicing the French Horn.
If you play the very same thing, over and over, you won’t improve. You’ll become bored. Your enthusiasm will disappear. But what is the solution? Changing you practice tactics!
This may be as easy as having fun with your eyes shut. Accomplishing one hand only. Missing out every other note. Bypassing every note that your thumb plays. Playing everything really softly, or perhaps extremely noisy. The list is never-ending. Become imaginative. Plus whatever you decide to do – don’t ‘just’ play the exact same thing again, and all over again, and again…
6. You Happen To Be Most effective Coach
We have a reason most people go to school; and it’s because we learn best when we have a teacher standing over us, encouraging us to progress. But unless you happen to be Founder of Microsoft, you’re not likely to be able to find the money for a teacher 365 days of the year. Does it make any difference? Certainly not! You happen to be your own trainer – and you also come free of charge!
First of all, learn to listen closely. A lot of people forget to actively listen, yet it’s the simplest way to boost your playing.
Subsequent, along with the miracles of modern technology, it’s now incredibly easy to record your playing. So get your smartphone out, record, and critique yourself.
And even when the world’s wealthiest people wanted to hire my own tutor, they couldn’t afford it!
7. Don't Start out At The Start
It feels right to start a piece at the beginning. The catch is should you do that every session, the first few notes will sound awesome, but still end up being disproportionately practised compared to the remainder of the piece. Mix it up. Start outright at the end! Or in the middle! Or close your eyes and randomly choose a part. Just don’t always start right from the start!
8. Don't Just Play The Easy Parts
It can feel wonderful to play sections we know perfectly well. Nevertheless, if that’s all that you ever play, you’ll have half of the piece to a great standard, and the more difficult half will be a catastrophe. And yes, you’ll naturally become fascinated with the easy bits, which usually results in the difficult bit out in the cold. All alone. Shivering for some comfort and love.
Now think about this logically. Should you consciously decide on what needs much more practice, it would be the difficult part. Right? That needs far more love and focus. The easy part looks after by itself.
Go on then! Discover those tricky elements…
9. Check out Something New
Sight-reading is a wonderful exercise to round off your practice with. There is no pressure to perfect the piece, and it can be a great deal of fun too! It also means that you can test your French Horn playing skills out on a completely different piece – or even a different style of music.
10. Use The Clock, Tick Tock
The metronome is there as your close friend, not foe. So use it and get to like it.
For faster, challenging sections, fix your tempo at half of the ‘final’ speed. Practice the part every day, and every day increase the speed by 5 beats (BPM). You’ll have so gradually increased the speed, that in no time, you’ll be at full speed.
And here is a bonus strategy – always attempt to overshoot by ten percent. If you want to be at 150BPM, ensure you can play it at 165bpm – that way 150bpm will appear easily manageable!
11. Establish Incentives For Yourself
Recall in number 3 I mentioned a nice bottle of red? I thought it was critical enough to mention it twice!
French Horn Exercises
Exercises are really time-consuming. We have to do them in sports to warm-up and loosen up, and playing the French Horn is absolutely a sport for your fingers (and mind). There are many different exercises that strengthen your fingers, but the main ones are:
Playing the horn is best done little and often. At first, if you can do ten minutes a day, that’s great. Then gradually you might turn that into twenty or thirty (as you get passionate about it and if you have the time!).
But the most important thing for the development of the lip muscles is doing it often. So ten minutes a day is much better than three big sessions a week. It is also often easier to keep a habit by doing it every day – at the same time even, if you can manage it.
A cute idea for children is a sponsored practice for charity – I did one for a few weeks when I was learning, along with the whole of Harrow Music Service! I think I got 10p or 20p a day from most people but it helped get the habit going and I was very proud of my 9-year-old self…
Make it easier
Don’t just play through the pieces! This is the number one mistake people make. It might feel like you’ve done your practice but it doesn’t work that well and can lead to getting frustrated with progress because you’re not solving the bits you can’t do.
Instead, play through once, then pick a little segment that was tricky and think about how to make it easier. If you have a good teacher they’ll have suggested what you might need to do. But here are some examples to get you thinking of practice ideas:
- You might need to practise playing higher notes (and work out what helps you do so – look back in the How to Play the French Horn section for ideas!)
- You might need to slow everything down to work out a rhythm or just so your fingers, lips and brain can keep up!
- You might need to check the notes so you can play them more confidently
Don’t be afraid to write little reminders on your music either if there are things you keep missing – writing something down means you don’t have to keep it in your brain along with everything else, so it can help.
If you're finding it hard to get going...
Set things up just how you like them. Pencil at the ready, choose the room in the house where things sound best, make yourself a nice coffee.
Things go quicker and are more productive if you get rid of distractions. My favourite trick is if I find myself on my phone I (gently!) throw it across the room so I can’t reach it anymore.
Make a list of what you need to do and think of lots of fun ways to do it. I do this sometimes and normally by the time I’ve thought of a few ways to practise things I’m a) no longer stuck on what to do and b) actually quite excited about getting going!
French Horn Practice Bonus Tips
1. Tree Branches
Whenever you are doing something totally new, your brain learns something about it and helps to create a neuron. This neuron is like a branch of a tree, and the more instances you perform repeatedly the neuron process, you develop it. To put it differently, the branch of the tree gets much stronger and much stronger. This only transpires though should you do the EXACT same thing, repeatedly.
Alternatively, every time you alter a little something, a new branch is produced. In the event, you play the same passage of music 4 times, and every time you use a different fingering or are not completely consistent, you’re building four tree branches.
So is that a concern? Of course! A branch is a choice. Any time you come to a performance and reach the relevant segment if your brain has a choice of various different neurons to choose from, it could pick the completely wrong one. It can choose the one that includes a mistake within it. For once, the choice isn’t a good thing. When you have only one neuron that is correct, the human brain offers no preference – it provides just one solution – the correct one.
So don’t leave things to chance. Stay consistent. Learn things slowly and effectively. And try to play things properly time and again.
2. Recommended Reading
Here are some great books that really helped me when I was starting out and I regularly recommend them to students to this day.
Music Practice: The Musician’s Guide to Practicing and Mastering your Instrument like a professional
I also highly recommend you include How to Read Music in 30 Days in your must-read list. If haven’t already read our guide on How To Read French Horn Sheet Music, then do check that out as well.
French Horn Practice - Summary
If you have discovered one important thing from this webpage, it ought to be:
Do not leave practice to chance. Structure it. Become conscious and do not go on ‘auto-pilot’. Shorter is completely sweeter. Print off this list and read it at the start of a week. And more importantly, have that corkscrew ready…
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