The two French horn etudes for the 2019-20 All-State and All-District ensembles are:
- Kopprasch #34, Allegro, beginning to measure 12.
- Shoemaker #14, Andante con sentimento, beginning to measure 43. Change the last note (written G) to an Eb (major third lower).
If you don’t have copies of the etudes, or you want a better copy, you can download a PDF of these two etudes here:
#1 Kopprasch 34 Practice Tips
This is the technical etude, and its challenges are fairly obvious.
The first step when learning this etude is to take it slowly and learn it correctly. Don’t rush in to playing it at (or close to) tempo, while missing notes and the articulation pattern. Practicing small chunks (2 measure or even 2 beats) correctly will be a far more efficient way to learn this etude.
If you’re not familiar with your A minor scale and arpeggio, make sure you become comfortable with it. Most students are not as familiar with the sound of a minor scale, and so spending time with it is vital. Luckily, the fingering patterns for a A minor are easy (broadly the same as C major), so that should be too much of an issue.
As I mentioned before, the slur pattern is tricky. Take care to notice how the different slur groups either work with or against the melodic line. Sometimes the slurs fit the melody well, and sometimes they seem to work against the melody. Measure 1 and measure 3 (among others) are examples where similar notes sound surprisingly different with a different slur pattern around them.
One other consideration when learning this piece – breathing. There is only one obvious breathing spot in the piece – the rest in measure 4. Once you get it close to tempo (recommended tempo is quarter = 92) you may be able to do the whole piece with only that breath. This, of course, requires you to have good breathing mechanics and be efficient with your air. If you can’t get it up to tempo or you just need breaths, make sure to plan them out in advance! The slashes ( \ ) above the notes are possible breathing spots, but they are all very quick. If the slash is directly above a note, you can leave that note out, if it’s above a bar line it is only a quick breath.
#2 Shoemaker 14 Practice Tips
This etude is obviously a more legato, lyrical study. This should influence your approach, especially your articulations, releases, and note lengths.
Make sure you understand all the musical markings. From the words (andante con sentimento), to the articulations, dynamic markings, grace notes, etc., they are all important. It’s easy to go on autopilot in lyrical etudes and play it how you want it – make sure you play it how it is written!
Spend some time practicing your Eb major scale and arpeggio, if you’re not comfortable in that key. The fingering patterns are not difficult, but some of the intervals may sound or feel odd.
Find all the Eb, Ab, and Bb scales and arpeggios. Once you identify these, you may be surprised at how much of the etude is just a scale or arpeggio.
Don’t be scared by the written Gb and Cb. While they are not notes you see often, they are no more difficult than the C and G natural. Practicing your Eb harmonic minor scale may help you find these notes more accurately.
Practice your harmonic series to make the slurs in the upper register and slurs over a wide interval easier. Make sure that your air speed is carrying you through the intervening partials to the upper note, and avoid unnecessary squeezing or tightening of the lips and excess pressure.
For reference, here is my recording of the Shoemaker etude. This is at the recommended tempo of 80. Notice, however, that I play the last note as a written G, instead of the Eb that is requested. I made this recording before I got word that the last note changed.
If you need additional help, or want some one-on-one feedback, check out my horn lessons page.