Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Horn vs. Mellophone

On the heels of the DCI Finals, and with college and high school marching bands across the country firing up for another school year, we are once again faced with the yearly dilemma-- how to keep our horn students playing well on BOTH instruments at the same time.

Having marched with my single-letter 8D in high school (!), I came to mellophone rather late, as a college freshman. I struggled at first, but then came to realize some simple truths:

While horn and mellophone share some similarities (being a brass instrument, a set of partials, and some fingerings with the B-flat side of our double horn), there are enough differences (airspeed, tone, range, more fingerings in lower range & played with r.h., embouchure) to cause problems on both.

As the current private teacher of horns in a BOA Finalist band and major professor for a corps member of Spirit of Atlanta and Phantom Regiment, I have had the most success having students treat the two as ENTIRELY DIFFERENT INSTRUMENTS. Some students have more trouble with the r.h./ l.h. and fingerings issues than others, but all need the AIRSPEED and EMBOUCHURE differences brought to their attention and re-inforced.

Our horn embouchure of "2/3 upper, 1/3 lower" is less effective on the mellophone, and most students quickly adjust to a more "trumpet-like" embouchure of 50/50. Airspeed on the mello is ALL ultra-focused and fast. Having the student bring both instruments to a lesson and re-inforcing differences and correct technique is the key. If they have trouble detecting the difference, video feedback helps, as with my LHS student Shelbie in this clip. Allowed to play her horn with her "mellophone" embouchure and airspeed, the results are rather telling!

(And for all you Phans out there, SUTA! See you at Drums Across Cajun Field, where I am Tabulator)

0@/ horngodess