Disclaimer: Horn playing is very personal! If you or your teacher have something that really works for what you’re doing, you should probably stick to that. However, I think it’s pretty cool to try and do new things every so often, so maybe you’ll like what I have to say
For those of you who play horn, you know that most horns have two sides- an F side and a Bb side. Most of the time, you push the trigger button and the horn switches to the Bb side. I know a lot of horn players and each one has their own approach to the two sides of the horn. For me, choosing your horn side for each situation falls under two categories: Is there a problem, or is there not?
If the music is straightforward and you have the facility to hit all of the notes successfully, in tune, and with a tone you like, there’s nothing wrong with using the standard fingerings (basically, Bb side for everything above G in the staff, except for a few low notes, like low D). For most music, in my opinion, the conversation stops there.
If there are problems, this is where you might apply different thinking. In general, I think of the horn sides as two different “modes” that I apply for different reasons.
F: Smaller partials, less stable up high, darker sound
Bb: Bigger partials, very stable up high, brighter sound
Here are some situations where I might play outside the standard fingerings.
High to Low: Say I’m playing a bunch of high notes, very articulated, very quickly, and then I have to jump down to play an D on the bottom of the staff very quickly before I bounce back up. This would be pretty difficult on the F side on the horn, but the alternate fingering 12T makes the D partial large and stable, increasing accuracy!
Staying as Dark as Possible for a Slow Solo: In the brass quintet, I might be playing a solo that lives right around the line where standard fingerings would mandate using the Bb side. I might elect to stay on the F side when going above G, just to stay as dark as possible, especially if I’m trying to make a blending decision, like blending with the trombone or contrasting from the trumpets.
Afraid: Yes, sometimes we get frightened, and I tend to get emotionally overwhelmed on last notes. If you’re going to shake on a last note, it might make sense to play the Bb fingering to add some stability and give you some room.
Rips: The F side is a lot smaller! If you’re ripping between notes (say, C to high C), take the trigger off for the rip- you’ll find a lot more notes in between, ready to be ripped through.
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