Placement - For the horn the standard placement is centered under the
nose, with about 2/3 of the mouthpiece on the upper lip, and 1/3 on the
lower lip. For most people this means that the lower edge of the
mouthpiece is either in the red part of the lower lip, or right on the
edge. This will vary by individual according to size and thickness of
lips. It is the percentage that is important, not where that puts the
lower edge on the lip.
2. Lip Setting -
This should be very natural. Don't try to roll either lip in or out.
(One very common bad habit is rolling the lower lip in, watch for this
if you're starting a beginner.) Set you lips as they are when your mouth
is closed and you are at rest, and tighten up the muscles at the very
corners of your mouth. Two good ways to get the feeling of which muscles
you should be using are to whistle, or to hold a light pen or pencil
just by the lips (no teeth allowed) and keep it parallel to the ground.
(lead-pipe) angle - If you look at any horn player from the side the
lead-pipe should not come out at exactly 90° to their face. It should
instead be angled slightly downward , allowing the upper lip to vibrate
4. Jaw / Mouth
Position - Relaxed and open are the operative words. I often use 2
different descriptions of this with students, as each description
works well about half the time. 1. Say the word paw, as is cat's paw.
Feel what your jaw and tongue are doing. They are both moving slightly
down and forward. This is actually more motion than you want from
either, but it is in the right direction. 2. Think of pointing you chin
towards the ground. Don't allow the chin to "bunch-up" as you
would for bassoon.
5. Relax - This
is actually the big trick. Can you do all those things at once without
tensing up. Make it feel like the most relaxed and natural thing you do.
No, it may not feel that way at first, but anything that you do
repetitively will begin to feel natural, so try to repeat a good
technique as early as possible. If you start off allowing yourself to do
something that feels a little easier the first day, your first day will
be easier, but every day after that will be much harder than if you'd
focused on doing it correctly from the beginning.
For those of
you who are converting from trumpet, pay special attention to #1 and #3.
Also check out the clinic on right hand position. If you will start doing
these things as soon as you start on horn they will pay dividends in time,
even if they cost you a little of your range at the beginning. Range is
easy to get back with practice, but poor intonation and an ugly sound will
last a lifetime.