Tenor Horn Club

For more information contact info@englishbrassacademy.co.uk
The Tenor Horn Club offers an innovative and creative approach to brass group teaching and ensemble playing.
Learning a brass instrument should be fun and rewarding, but bad habits at an early stage can often mean problems for the future.

What age should my child begin to learn a brass instrument?
This is a common question asked of many brass teachers but perhaps a more important question is:
What type of brass instrument should my child learn to play?

Choose the wrong instrument and it is possible young players can develop problems right at the beginning of their performing lives.
Many teachers have students who struggle to produce a full sound with precise articulation. Ease in the upper register and fluency throughout the range of the instrument can also be elusive to many young players. Rectifying these issues takes time, patience and can often be frustrating.
Often parents and students opt for the ‘easiest’ option which is to start with the trumpet.
    • It is portable
    • You can find low-priced instruments
    • It has a very distinctive sound
    • it is just very cool!

The trombone is possibly the next favourite as it shares similar characteristics to the trumpet
    • It is portable
    • Reasonably priced
    • It also has a distinctive sound
    • It's very cool
    • The trombone has the ‘fun’ sounding glissando effect

Plastic versions now allow young players to hold the instrument much more comfortably.
The French horn perhaps comes third as, although it is capable of producing what arguably is the most beautiful and evocative sound of all the brass instruments, it can often be perceived as expensive, difficult to play and just a little complicated!
The euphonium and tuba are substantial instruments and can be expensive so very few children play them. The euphonium, in spite of its beautiful, sonorous tone, is well established in concert and brass bands but has limited impact in an orchestral setting.
The tuba is a mighty instrument, heavy and expensive and is rarely the first, second or even third choice of parents or children.

Ironically, the first choice for parents - the trumpet - is not the best instrument to begin the journey as a brass player, especially if the player is an early starter (between 5-9 years).
The reasons are:
    • Most trumpets are made for adult hands
    • The valve block is heavy
    • The trumpet bell is long and encourages the child to play ‘downstream’ potentially causing embouchure problems
    • It is very difficult for a young child to maintain good posture whilst playing the instrument
    • The mouthpiece is relatively small so positioning on the lips has to be just about perfect to ensure the full range of the instrument can be utilised.
    • A small mouthpiece and cylindrical bore instrument usually means plenty of resistance so trumpets are not easy to play.
    • Young players tend to ‘work’ too hard on the instrument often producing a bright, nasal and often piercing sound.
    • Bad habits developed at an early stage often mean remedial teaching is required during teenage years.
    • The upper register is difficult for young players and can often take years to build the muscle, stamina and technique to achieve security with higher notes

There is an answer to this and it comes in the shape of an instrument not mentioned here and rarely used outside brass band circles. However, as a ‘starter’ instrument to help establish good technique, sound and posture it is second to none.
Introducing the Tenor Horn....

The Tenor Horn is similar in shape to a baritone horn or euphonium but much smaller in size. It comes with a deep, cornet-like mouthpiece and has a conical bore. It is also known as an alto horn in the USA and the althorn in Germany. The tenor horn was developed by the Belgian inventor Adolphe Sax in the 1840s and it is plays an important role in British-style brass bands, acting as a link between the higher pitched cornets and the more sonorous baritones and euphoniums.
The Tenor Horn is an Eb transposing instrument and although the solo repertoire is generally limited it comes to prominence in Paul Hindemith's Sonata for Alto Horn and Piano. There are compositions for the Tenor Horn as a solo instrument within the brass band repertoire with many virtuoso players particularly in the north of England and Norway.
Why the Tenor Horn?
The tenor horn is a hands-down winner as a starter instrument for the following reasons:
    • It’s shape - the tenor horn is a baby tuba and cradles comfortably in a child’s arms
    • The instrument is held (almost) upright so it encourages good posture
    • The mouthpiece is wider and deeper than a trumpet mouthpiece so easier to position correctly
    • The instrument is pitched lower than a trumpet so the sound is much rounder and encourages ‘warmth’ in the sound.
    • The longer, conical tuning of the tenor horn encourages good breathing with full tone.
    • The upper register has less resistance than a trumpet so is achieved much earlier during the learning process. A correctly positioned embouchure also assists this enormously.
    • The instrument is portable and relatively cheap. Student model instruments can be bought for under £200. A small investment by a school can ensure good, technically secure brass playing for a generation.
    • The tenor horn can be taught by any brass teacher.
    • The key principles are the same for all brass instruments

Once the basic principles of brass playing are secure and the player has become fluent to approx Grade 4-5 it is much easier to move to another brass instrument if necessary.
The Pathway
For the development of any brass player it is important to have in place a pathway that allows any child to achieve the highest possible level. Aspiration and goal-orientated practice is a key part of the process. Therefore, it is important to define the pathway so that all young musicians are clear about what lies ahead for them. This incentivises young musicians and gives clarity as to why individual practice is so important
Stage 1
• Group lessons in the Tenor Horn Club
for two terms.
• Can be taught by a non-specialist.
• Works towards a 7 to 12 note range.
Stage 2
• Individual lessons (approx. 30 minutes) to Grade 5 level.
• Use either ABRSM or Trinity College syllabus as a practice structure.
• Continue ensemble playing in tenor horn club or other ensembles.
Stage 3
• Individual lessons (approx. 45 minutes) from Grade 6.
• Use either ABRSM or Trinity College syllabus.
• Continue ensemble playing in tenor horn
club or other ensembles.
• Option to move to another brass instrument.
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