Not hitting the high notes

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by Elwood, Jan 17, 2016.

  1. Elwood

    Elwood New Member

    As a tenor horn player I am trying to extend my upper register having moved from 2nd to 1st horn. I find, that when practicing at home, I can play top As and Bs with relative ease, but when playing pieces at band rehearsals in a large hall, those notes seem to be quite elusive. It seems to be a strange phenomenon and wonder if any of you experienced players have an answer, reason and/or solution?
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  3. second_horn

    second_horn Member

    Hi Elwood. I too have been promoted from 2nd to 1st horn and struggle to hit these notes sometimes, but I find it depends where they fall in the music! If I have to start on a top A, no chance, but if I can get a 'run up' to it, then it's easier! My struggle is with very fast what I call ' twiddly bits'. There seem to be a lot more of these on 1st horn! I follow advice of starting slowly and trying to get faster, but there comes a point when my fingers and brain just can't keep up! Any tips?
  4. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Repetition is key - patterning the 'muscle memory'.
    Play it with a dotted rhythm - longer note first - (not necessarily at speed) and then turn the dotted rhythm round. This exercise will pattern the piches, without you being distracted by the rhythm.
    There will come a point when you wonder why you had a problem with it. Just persevere.
    If the twiddly bits are scalic runs, do some scale practice on that scale - forwards and backwards.
    There are many other exercises you can do as well. Be inventive!
  5. second_horn

    second_horn Member

    Thanks Mike, I know I should practice more, and when I get time to practice I am desperately trying to cram in all the tricky bits instead of going about it in a methodical way! I keep blaming the fact that I'm too old to learn to play the 'twiddly bits' ( returned to playing last year after a 25 year break) but maybe there is hope for me yet!
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  6. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    There's ALWAYS hope. :)
    Euphonium Lite likes this.
  7. Mesmerist

    Mesmerist Well-Known Member

    If it is easy at home when you are relaxed but not at band then is it a touch of performance anxiety? I don't have a solution. I'm not advising it to anyone but I have used Beta-blockers for contests and some concerts. They worked for me although once I got double slight vision. Much better if you can develop confidence in yourself and your playing. Best of luck.
  8. Martin G

    Martin G New Member

    Hi all,
    I am a cornet player, hitting practising hard after 20 years of doing almost nothing! Shifts and children blah blah! I was pretty good once (principle champ sec) but am amazed at how hard some of the parts I used to play easily are now. Two months of daily practice, 30 mins to 1hr 15 mins are really paying off, in my view nothing betters time put in, repetition, attention to detail and being tuff on yourself when practising. Avoid practising what you can play, and a my preference has always been to work on a piece of music, phrase by phrase but start from the end of the piece and work backwards only adding each phrase once mastered. Also air and variations make great practising tools, get these going well and your band work will seem much more manageable.
    Good luck
  9. Elwood

    Elwood New Member

    Some very good advice here. I'm curious to know, however, why you work backwards with phrases?
  10. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    My guess would be because many conductors pretty much always work in order from start to finish! I know I have had to put some bits towards the end of a piece at the start of a practice session if I ever want to look at them with fresh brain/lips.
  11. Martin G

    Martin G New Member

    Its related to my view of not practising what you can play. Your essentially working on a phrase, then flowing onto what you have previously done. Its just a silly tip really to make practising different.
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  13. Mesmerist

    Mesmerist Well-Known Member

    I've heard of this before although I can't remember the conductor that suggested it. I have a feeling it was Steve Sykes so I'll give him the credit.
  14. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    I think Claude Gordon, way back in the day, recommended starting from the end of a piece or difficult phrase and working backwards. The logic, I think, is that you are not constantly running into sections you can't play, like running into a brick wall all the time. Instead, you add the bit you can't play onto the front of the bit that you can, and that way you constantly flow into your confident zone, rather than constantly being jolted out of it. Also, it discourages you from over-practicing the bits you can play (how many of us can play the opening of a tough part really well, and then get gradually less confident as we move on...probably because when we started practicing it we worked really hard on the opening, but then eventually gave up?) I've lost count of the times I've heard some fool pretending to trial an instrument at the trade stands outside of a competition and they play the opening of the Carnival of Venice, or some such, but then peter away as they hit the bit they can't play.
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  15. Tim skelper

    Tim skelper New Member

    I suppose the reason solo horns can play "up there" is because they spend most of their playing time "up there". They've developed their breathing, embrouchure and tongue position to suit their playing needs. So you have to develop your high register (slowly) by strengthening these areas with lots of long notes. Go to the highest note your most comfortable with and then try 1 semitone higher. Keep doing this until the semitone above becomes your most comfortable high note. Don't go any higher until you've achieved this. It's not an overnight fix and you'll need to do it every day if you want to get results, but remember a solo horn was once a second horn player... Even Owen Farr!
  16. Martin G

    Martin G New Member

    Great explaination of why I like this method. Thanks
  17. David Broad

    David Broad New Member

    If the performer can hit the "high" notes in individual practice but not within the ensemble my suspicion is that the tuning is out on the performer's horn relative to one or more of the other instruments. The player is probably playing in tune with the ensemble by bending the notes, and as we all should know when you have to bend a note the tone quality changes and it becomes harder to actually pick out and hit a note. I would suggest pulling the tuning slide in or out 5 mm or so and see if it makes a difference ie tune up and then pull out or in 5 mm. It may mean lipping some other notes but you need the tuning to allow the high notes to be bang on, and not bang on the diatonic scale, bang on the harmony. Perfect thirds etc.
  18. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    Just as a thought, you don't mention posture - are you standing at home for example and then (presumably) seated in band? It may well be that you can support with your diaphragm better in one position than when you're sitting down. If you're seated at home, it could be the chair as well
    Other than that it may well be a mental side - for some people it can be an issue.....they pull back slightly when theyre playing in band, but can give it full effort at home

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