Il Club del Corno

The Italian Horn Website

Il Club del Corno is promoting an opinion survey among professional horn players, based on a list of questions. The answers will be published on the site in English and in Italian.

Answers by Luca Benucci*

1) What where the turning points in your development as a horn player? List any factor that was important to your progression as a musician (e.g. which conservatory/music school attended, influential teacher/s, particular events).

The fundamental step was leaving Italy to begin study in Chicago. Arnold Jacobs taught me the use of air, Dale Clevenger was my model and the main source of my inspiration. Later on, I also learned from Guelfo Nalli a lot about expressivity and music-making with the horn. More recently hornist friends such as Stefan Dohr and Fergus McWilliam had a nice influence on me.

2) Do you think that your professional success could have been essentially different (either greater or lesser) if you had had other teachers?

TEACHER CAN BE CHOSEN! In Italy we must content ourselves with our limited choices: not all conservatory teachers are high level. In fact, many of them have never worked in a big orchestra, and so they lack essential experiences they should hand students. Will to improve is important: I went to Chicago one week after the Conservatory diploma, starting again from zero; it was hard, but I can say that all went well.

3) How much does the possibility of becoming a competent horn player depend on a) Facial structure, b) Inborn talent, c) Application/study?

A good mix could be: physical structure 20%, talent 60%, study and discipline 20%. However, one may also think of a 300% musician with 80% physical structure, 100% talent and 120% discipline (by 'physical structure' I intend mainly breathing capacity; however, there were physically small hornists with extraordinary technique and sound, such as Dennis Brain, Gerd Seifert, Domenico Ceccarossi, Vincent De Rosa).

4) Should a student who is having serious problems in the fundamentals, after studying the horn for some years, abandon the idea of becoming a professional at all, or could he/she be still brought to a level of competency by appropriate teaching metods (that is, by finding a new teacher)?

A student of any age should consult professional performing musicians for opinions and example.

5) What is, in your opinion, the importance and use of a) Mouthpiece buzzing, b) Handled rim (rim on a stick) buzzing, c) Free lip buzzing ?

I use and recommend a) and b), not c).

6) Do you know, use, recommend the "inspiron" and/or other breathing devices?

Yes, I know many of them; they are as necessary as gymnastics for athletes. They are supporting devices which A. Jacobs used in order to correct breathing of students and professionals, and to optimize the relations between air, blow and smoothness of phrasing.

7) Do you think that progresses in one's playing happens steadily, by constant application, or by leaps?

All is obtained by steady application, provided one has:
- right input from the teacher;
- constant and passionate study;
- absolute discipline.
Sometimes, after a long period of study, you may suddenly realize you did a leap forward; all right, this is useful for self-confidence and must give you the strenght to continue even more determined in the same direction.

8) Should a teacher give precise embouchure directions? And how precise?

This depends on individual taste; there is no absolutly right setting, since the 10 top players in the world use different settings.
Air is the most important consideration. Without a correct use of air you can't produce anything!! Everything is based on the balance among:
- PRESS, right pressure of the mouthpiece on the lips and convergence of the muscles toward the center in order to support the embouchure;

9) Are there special directions/techniques for mastering the low and high registers?

Yes, many, but focusing on these would mean building only the cellar and the roof. Instead, you start from the foundations and then you build a beautiful castle, with a high tower; namely you must always start from the low notes, and solidly connect all octaves together.

10) How was your experience in auditioning and what advice on this matter can you give to aspiring professionals?

I did several auditions (see curriculum).
You need a meticulous preparation, at least 6 months of intense study.
Technical improvement, analysis and memorization of peices, excerpts etc.


Daily practice timetable:
8.30 warm up with spirometers
9.30 practice legato, flexibility, staccato, using methods such as:
10.30 Reynolds: Virtuosity and mind freedom
11.30 Mozart or Strauss or another concerto, 1st movement (phrase by phrase with the metronome)
12.30 intermission

14.30 Mozart 2nd movement (phrase by phrase with the metronome)
15.30 Mozart 3rd movement (phrase by phrase with the metronome)
17.00 orchestrali excerpts, 3 a day, of different styles (for example Bach, Brahms, Strauss) 40 minutes for each excerpt: looking for style, knowledge of the harmonic and melodic structure.
DISCIPLINE: repeat 10 times with no mistake (if you make a mistake, you start again)
Looking for the main style of the the orchestra you'll be auditioning for.
Incitement and confirmation
Excitement and pleasure of competition
Knowing you are over the required level!!


* Luca Benucci, 1st horn, Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.