This classic, if not well known book by Getchell and Hovey can be used by students of all ages and abilities. For those who are just starting, it offers a series of musical pieces written expressly for the horn that gradually introduce new notes, key signatures, rhythms, articulation, etc. For the more advanced player, the focus of these same pieces turns to raising the level of performance. Playing at a slower but steady tempo with a full, beautiful, consistent sound, clear articulation and immaculate phrasing is much more challenging than just playing the correct fingerings and rhythms. Years ago as a senior performance major at the University of Northern Colorado I felt insulted when I was first asked to work out of this book, that is until I realized the magnitude of the assignment (and that even graduate students were known to have spent time wrestling with these studies).
Now that the demands of his band program have ended for summer vacation, Zach (who enters high school this fall) can turn his attention to the challenges of this book. He has made great progress in the last year with a more efficient way of playing, yet is still learning how to gain more control (aren’t we all?) and bring his more efficient embouchure into the middle register. Practical Studies is perfect for him, in that the music at the beginning of the book presents no counting or fingering problems (“what” he is playing), so he can turn his entire attention to “how” he is playing. The excerpt shown here has two “traps” (as we sometimes call them). Trap #1 is an ascending interval where students usually choke, tightening the throat and adding mouthpiece pressure instead of increasing airspeed. Trap #2 is a descending interval where players tend to drop off air support and lose embouchure focus. With some players these errors are less noticeable, but by ignoring the problem the player is beginning to invite the bad habits that lead to limitations in sound quality, range and endurance, not to mention missing opportunities for better music making.
In Zach’s case, by paying close attention and applying the correct techniques he was rewarded with a fuller, richer sound, and a phrase that was much more musical. By spotting the classic problems when they first occur his awareness has increased, and the solutions are far easier to implement. Also worthy of mention, during the last school year Zach was able to help out some of his band mates who he recognized were struggling with their fundamentals. Great work Zach!