Perhaps the most important
goal of any horn student should be the development and maintenance
of a good, characteristic tone quality. Three primary factors
are involved in the process of creating a sound; they are concept,
breathing and active listening.
Where does the process of creating
a sound actually begin? Is it the embouchure, the respiratory
system or does sound begin at the mouthpiece? In reality, creation
of the sound actually begins in the "mind's ear" with a mental
concept of a sound to be produced.
Horn players are constantly
advised to "hear the pitch before you play." Why not
take it one step farther and challenge the horn player to "hear
the sound (tone/tone color) before you play."
Aural imagery, mental concept
and active imagination are indispensable when developing a great sound. The
initial step in establishing aural imagery is to compile a list of
simple descriptors of the components of a good sound. Here are
- Size: There
can be but one answer and that is large. Do not confuse
this descriptor with loud. You will want the student to produce
a "big" sound at any dynamic level.
- Shape: Round is
the most appropriate descriptor here. Can there really be
any other shape to describe the ideal horn sound?
- Temperature: The
idea here is warm. One of the most appealing characteristics
of a good horn tone is the inherent warmth in the tone.
- Color: This
descriptor is likely the most individual and personal of the components.
Think of a color that relates to a warm, round sound. Choices
may range from golden to purple. Try to avoid colors from
extreme ends of the spectrum such as black or bright red!
- Energy: The
sound must be energetic and full of life. Choose adjectives
like resonant or ringing for this component.
Once the student has chosen
the descriptors for the components of a great horn tone, challenge
them to "hear" such a sound in their mind. Students
usually have a very active imagination and it should prove easy to
form this aural image in the mind's ear.
Now that the aural image of
a characteristic sound has been created, the student must breathe to
create such a sound. Airflow is the life support system for tone production. Without
sufficient airflow a strong sound cannot exist.
Simplicity is the key when
relating breathing to tone production. Reduce the breathing process
to the lowest common denominator; take large quantities of air into
the body and return an energetic, constant airflow out of the body. Avoid
excessive physical instructions when discussing respiration. These
often lead to confusion and can result in restricting the breathing
cycle rather than enhancing it. Strive to relate all instructions
to sound. What better way is there to create a round sound than
inhaling with a round vowel? Simply inhale with an "o" sound,
then blow the "o" through the horn! Remembering the
aural imagery of a large, round, warm, resonant sound, simply have
the student "hear" that sound and breathe to create it. It
is impossible to produce a large sound without inhaling a great quantity
of air. Similarly, it is not possible to get a large, round sound
without a fast, energetic air stream.
Maintaining a great sound depends
on active listening. The student must be eternally vigilant to
be aware that every note has the same quality and tone color no matter
the range or dynamic. Encourage the student to produce note in
the middle register with a large, round, warm, golden (insert your
own choice) resonant sound. Once this is achieved, match other
notes to this magic sound.
Producing a great, characteristic
noble sound on the horn should not be a mysterious procedure. It
is actually quite simple: conceive ("hear") the sound,
then inhale and blow to create it!