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Step # 5 Playing the Middle Register Notes-English Horn Beginners

For the English horn beginner it is good to think of the middle register as low “G” to half-hole “D”.  Half-hole “D” is a sweet sound and is the easiest note to produce a full, rich, round English horn sound.  By contrast the next note down is middle “C” which is the thinnest note tonally on the English horn and the most difficult note to produce a full, rich, and round English horn sound.

The more fingers you depress to play a note on the English horn the easier it is to produce a beautiful sound every time.  The least number of fingers depressed to play a note on the English horn the more difficult it is to produce a beautiful sound every time.

The quality of your reed, proper breath support, your embouchure shape, rolling your lips under, and finding the “sweet spot” on your English horn reed to produce the best intonation and tone quality all combine to produce great sounds in the middle register on the English horn.

# 1

To discover the middle register on the English horn start with low “G.”  Next sound your half-hole “D.”  These are the lowest and highest notes in your middle register.  Play a chromatic scaling starting on low “G” to half-hole “D” and back to low “G.”  Do it again watching your hand position, especially on the note “Db. Be sure that only your fingers are moving,  the shape of your hands are rounded.  Half-hole “D” and “Db” are rich sounding notes.  Play your half-hole “D” and slur to middle “C”.  Using your embouchure, breath support, firm upper lip, and embouchure placement on your reed (sweet spot) your goal is to match the tone quality of the notes half-hole “D” and middle “C”.

# 2

Play half-hole “D’ and slur to “B” natural.  Again, your are striving to match the tone quality of the half-hole “D” with your “B” natural.  Repeat the same exercise by slurring half-hole “D” down  to the note “A” and finally slurring the half-hole “D” down to the note “G”.  Playing long tones slur a chromatic scale from half-hole “D” to low “G.”  Start with a whole note rhythm and follow with a half note and finally a quarter note rhythm pattern.  Close your eyes when doing these long tone patterns and by making the above-suggested adjustments with your embouchure, air, upper lip firmness, and placement of your lips on the reed try your best to produce a similar tone quality that sounds consistent on each step of the chromatic scale from half-hole “D” to low “G.”

# 3

Follow-up the above long tone slurred scale patterns suggested above by tonguing each note of the same scale patterns.  Start with quarter notes followed by eighth notes and finally sixteenth notes.  You can then play the tonguing patterns in thirds starting on low “G.”  Play “G’ to “B,” “A” to “C,” and “B” to half-hole “D.”Reverse the pattern downward.  Again, you are playing these tonguing patterns by memory listening for the consistent quality of sound and looking in the mirror at your hand position to be sure that all your fingers are close to the keys at all times and only your fingers are moving.

# 4

If you are still struggling with a consistent tone quality, especially from half-hole “D” to middle “C” you might want to clip a very, very small portion of the tip of the English horn reed.  If the English horn reed has too much vibration at the tip of the reed the sound will be too light and the middle “C” will sound to thin.  One of the major challenges of the English horn reed makers is to be sure that these two notes have a consistent tone quality.  You can also shave off some cane at the very back of the English horn reed just above the thread to help with a thicker sound on middle register notes.

# 5

Finally, adjusting your lip placement (take more or less reed in your mouth)  and adding more firmness of pressure with your upper lip on the reed can be helpful.  Supporting your middle register notes with faster air speed from your diaphragm will increase and expand the shape of your middle register notes. The bottom line is the consistency of tone quality between the notes of the middle register.  The tone of half-hole “D” is  the tone you want on all the notes in the middle register.  You will need to make small adjustments as suggested above with every reed until you achieve the desired English horn sound.  Remember that your English horn reed is changing a little every day but will last much longer than your oboe reed.

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