Looking for wisdom of my elders...

At least my brass playing elders...

Through no fault of my own, I've become a tenor horn player. I'm reasonably certain that I'm the only one for a hundred miles, and I might be the only one for several hundred miles. I've played saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, and violin at various times, but I'm very, very new on tenor.

There have to be people here who know more about the horn than I do. To start with, how do you structure practice for this thing? On trumpet, one is advised to do a half-hour at a time, and on sax you basically stop when the neighbours call the cops. I'm guessing that the horn is somewhere in between, but I don't know, and I have nobody to ask, except the revered and eminent citizens of TheMouthpiece.com.

So... how do you warm up on this thing? What goes into a practice session?

I'm mostly playing brass quintet material, pretending to be a French Horn, if that makes any difference.

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
I'll give you a first reply though I am not now a Tenor Horn player.

Basically treat your practice like any other brass / lip reed instrument (ie continue doing what you did on the Trumpet).

The most expert horn player that I know of on the forum is Mello but he doesn't post much now, he might answer a polite private message to him. There are a few music teachers on the forum, Trumpet Mike comes to mind and he's given out very helpful advice in the past.

I understand from your post that you are remote from other players. It is not something that I have done myself but you might like to consider getting some tuition over the Internet (via Skype or FaceTime, etc.). There was a thread on that about a year ago, I suggest that you search it out and then consider using someone UK based to help you - let the buyer beware, etc.

Edit. The member was ds2014 and a private message to him or search of his posts might help with any over the Internet tuition questions.

Good luck, and I hope that you get some more useful responses than my starter.
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Well-Known Member
I was given a tenor horn once. It was old, battered and broken. Drilled a couple of holes in it, filled it with compost and planted nasturtiums. It looked lovely in the summer.

Pauli Walnuts

Staff member
I was given a tenor horn once. It was old, battered and broken. Drilled a couple of holes in it, filled it with compost and planted nasturtiums. It looked lovely in the summer.
This reminds me of when I was pulling together a set of fanfare trumpets. Against my better judgement, I bought one on ebay from India which when it arrived, was unplayable. I sold it back on ebay with a clear instruction it isn't a serious instrument. I received lots of responses on what to do with it and the outcome was that it is now part of a garden water feature in Ohio!
How are you getting on Bob?

Thank you for asking, Mr. Mesmerist, sir. It's an amazing experience, and looking back to answer your question gives a sudden perspective on how far I've come in four months.

I'm progressing faster on this horn, with less effort, than I did on cornet, trumpet or flugel. I've always heard that flugel was the easiest brass instrument to play, but the alto (which answers to "Pops" BTW) just seems to like me. (Unlike my cornet, which gets quite sulky if I go two days without playing.)

That said, I'm still playing flugel on a few pieces, as the high range is easier - but even there, the tenor has nearly caught up. I leafed past a part in my binder this week, and thought, "Wait a minute, wasn't I killing myself to reach that range just last month?" And it was true. Fairly reliable range is up to an A 440 (concert) and it's continuing to creep upwards.

Stamina continues to be a bit of an issue, particularly this week, when I've had a great stonking monster of a virus, but it's getting better. I have reservations about the mouthpiece (DW #1, lovely piece, but a feels a bit on the large side for someone who wanted to be a cornet player.) I also have some suspicions about leadpipe; I think the previous owner may have tried a trombone mouthpiece in it at some time, as the tenor piece rattles a bit.

As promised in the online reviews, the range is a bit stretchy: when I get above a written C, it starts to want to go very sharp. (Joke: As a lifelong chorister, I have no idea what to do in this situation, having never seen it before.) I'm debating how to deal with this. I've thought seriously about getting a tech to put a tuning trigger on the main slide. ( I know that buying a pro-range tenor with proper intonation would still be cheaper than a French Horn, but that's not a conversation I want to have with SWMBO for another year or two.)

I'm still working out the practice routine. I do at least long tones on either flugel or cornet most days, and then switch to the tenor. Long tones (rest) Irons lip slurs (rest) Clarke exercises (rest) Concone study and then repertoire. I would love to here how other tenor players structure their practice.

I'm still unsure how long I should try play at one stretch. In the back of my mind is the sax player's concept of, "You're here, the horn is here, why aren't you blowing, rest when you're dead." but that doesn't quite apply to brass, so at the moment it's all guesswork.

Wow. Sorry for the wall-o-text, but it's been really helpful to write this all out. What kind of a practice routine do you use?
Anyway, thank you for your interest,


Well-Known Member
Well, since I only started playing again on Monday evening (nearly 5 years away from Banding) I don't think I am qualified to comment much. I've got a practice mute in at the moment and am just doing long notes (sigh) and some interval slurs. The lack of clarity at the start of each note is shocking as is the thin weedy tone... at the moment only the fingers seem to remember (almost uncannily) where to go. I find reading at the same time as blowing a bit of a distraction from the boredom factor of rebuilding from scratch (with the odd typing break - I can multi task you know!).
My sympathies over the development of the tone, dude. I'm trying to keep the cornet up a bit while I'm developing the tenor, and it's really not forgiving.

I'll tell you a couple of things I've picked up. (Besides watching Netflix while I'm doing long tones...)

This is the long tone exercise I've used the most, on cornet, flugel or tenor, and it seems very useful. I've also done the Cat Anderson exercise, which is to play the G in the staff as quietly as possible for a long time. Both of these work on precision as much as on stamina.

The Michael Irons "27 exercises" or whatever it's called is my other go-to for embouchure.

Of course, the Clarke cornet studies are kind of basic. He's supposed to have referred to them as long tone exercises where you change the note, which is a useful mental image. If you google "CCM trumpet fundies" someone has nicely split them up into a three day rotation. (and they're public domain everywhere in the world, so it's cool to download them.)

I'm working on typesetting some of the Concone vocalises, which I find useful, because they completely ignore the strengths and weaknesses of the instrument, and technically push me on accuracy and flexibility. I'm going to throw them into dropbox when I'm done.

I'm also working on Bob's Little Book of Knuckle Busters, which is a compilation of really tricky passages I've encountered. At some point that will go into dropbox as well.

Now, a question: You've done banding, and played real, live, free-range, organic tenor parts. What is the expected range of a tenor player? Various sources say two and a half octaves, low f# up to C above the staff... but what sort of range does a band player really have to cope with?

Good luck with your exploration of this gorgeous instrument!


Well-Known Member
Sorry Bob, I'm not a tenor horn player although I have sat by some good ones. Your sources are mostly right about the range for most band pieces although the higher the section of the band, the more technically demanding the music becomes...(although I do remember some horn players in a 4th section band complaining bitterly about Born Free and Journey into Freedom).
I was going to replace my Arban (I burnt it as a symbolic gesture!) but instead I treated myself to Allen Vizzutti Book 1 as I quite liked his chatty insights scattered throughout the book and anyway to paraphrase Einstein, to keep playing the same thing expecting different results is madness. If you ever come to the UK be sure to go for a blow at the local brass band where I am certain you will be most welcome and will have a lot of fun. I went to Canada once and joined a band practice and it was great!

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