Seasonal Creativity: Halloween-themed Warm-Ups

A lot of things in your daily life can be sparks of creativity in your daily horn life. Here’s one: let’s call it “Seasonal Creativity”, by which I mean: what’s happening on the calendar.

Right now (in spite of the Xmas decorations already up for sale at big stores), it’s Halloween. So this week I’ve started doing “Halloween warm-ups” (aka Weird Warm-Ups) at lessons. Anything out of the ordinary counts, but weirder is better, and a lot of fun.

Some ideas for your HWU: Our warm-ups are almost entirely done slurred on the overtone series, so the first thing we do to weird it up is to do parallel patterns on different horns. E.g. you do 8-9-8-9 10-9-10-9 on C horn (F:13) and I do the same, but on Db horn (F:23). Or do 4 5 4 5 6 5 6 5, one on F horn, one on E horn. Try all kinds of combinations of keys and horns.

One could do (e.g.) the M shape (8 10 9 10) on the A horn (T:2) while the other does the M shape (4 6 5 6) on the Eb horn (F:1).

Ok, we’re just getting started. Now: free choice of any pattern/shape (see Expeditious Warm-ups, Chapter 22 in Horn Technique) in any horn (fingering combination). Next: Free choice of horn and free improv.

Next: add effects: flutter tongue. Stopped horn whenever. Multi phonics (including screams, wild laughter, etc.). Bend notes with the right hand. Extravagant glisses. Extreme ranges. Half valve (everything so far without valves!).

As usual, make the duet more interesting by stealing a lot from yourself (repeat stuff) and the other guy (echo, imitate, copy).

Extra idea: think of horror movie soundtracks – what do they do there to make you shiver? How about starting a normal, calm warm-up suddenly punctuated with the wild and crazy stuff? Brrr!

You could also take the Halloween idea and move beyond warm-ups and move into technique development and add valves – now make up weird stuff using scales, arpeggios, all manner of extended techniques (including mouth noises, air sounds, and body percussion (foot stomps, lap slaps, etc).

Ever try to make up an atonal melody? Now’s the time. It’s trickier than you think (since our fingers and ears are programmed for tonal stuff). Atonal helpers:

1) play in keys, but never more than 3 notes in a key before you switch to a new key, preferably a distant one, like C to F#

2) use a variety of note values, and don’t neglect long notes and dynamics – you can be very scary with just a long note and a frightening and extreme crescendo

3) make your melody jump around using odd intervals, like M7, m7, b9, #4, m2, M2, staying away from triads, M3, P5.

You can decide your halloween warm-up or workout should be over a pulse or just free. Personally, although we are going for weird here, I think you H-solo or duet is more interesting/fun/coherent if you do it over a steady beat/pulse. You can play tennis without a net, but most of the time, the game is more interesting with it.

Have fun! Don’t hurt yourself or scare small children. But see if you can make dogs bark…

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