A Horn Player's Study Guide

Intro | One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six


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"Playing the horn is easy.  If you're having to work at it, you're doing something wrong." 

-- Barry Tuckwell
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A Horn Player's Study Guide

by Thomas Bacon

Level 1

At whatever age one begins study of the horn, the development of tone is of utmost importance. Proper breathing technique, posture and hand position, as well as the player's physical attributes all play an important part in development of tone. As a beginner we develop habits, good and bad, which determine how far we will be able to progress on the instrument, so it is important to build good habits right from the start.

Basic technical studies should include tone building, scales, intervals, tonguing and slurs. As we progress through Level 1 we also develop an understanding for very basic theoretical aspects: reading notes in the treble clef, key signatures, meters, rhythms, and dynamics - the basic building blocks of music.

For most beginners, daily practice sessions should probably be fifteen or twenty minutes. Soon however, as the player progresses, two practice sessions of fifteen minutes (or more) should be attempted each day.

Though basic technical studies are certainly important in developing good habits, practice should not be limited solely to long tones and scale exercises. Even at the first lesson students can be introduced to playing simple melodies. Soon, simple duets with the teacher should be attempted, and work should begin on basic solos.

During Level 1, the player should:

1) develop range to at least 1 1/2 octaves, and know chromatic fingerings throughout that range;

2) play major scales and arpeggios in C, F, G, B flat, and D in eighth notes at 60 beats per minute;

3) be able to read: treble clef and ledger lines; key signatures; basic time signatures; rhythms including whole, half, quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes, dotted rhythms and triplets, all terms and indications used in music at this level;

4) work towards obtaining a full warm sound in all dynamics from piano to forte.


  • Getchell, Robert W. -- First Book of Practical Studies
  • Robinson, William C. -- Illustrated Method for French Horn
  • Skornicka, J.E. -- Rubank Elementary Method

There are many beginning method books for Horn. They can be used in conjunction with each other to provide balance and interest for the student.


Irons, Earl D. -- Horn Exercises with Solos and Duets. Contains scale and arpeggio exercises in various keys, rhythmic and intervalic exercises, beginning duets, and solos that progress from Level 1 to Level 5.


Caldara, Antonio -- Sebben Crudele (from *Selected Songs, Vol. 1, Thomas Bacon, editor)
*The other pieces in this volume will probably be too difficult for a Level 1 player. It is a collection that will serve the student for years and provide pieces for all occasions.

Schwartz, George -- International Folk Suite

Telemann/Stouffer -- Menuett

Wilder, Alec -- Four Easy Pieces


Levels: Intro | One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six

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