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Brass

Jim Thatcher Part 2 & 3

In part 2 of my interview with horn player Jim Thatcher, we dive in and talk about the range of techniques available to the horn and the wide variety of tonal colors it can produce and more importantly, how they are produced. In addition, Jim explains just what those horn players are doing with their hands up inside their bells. In Part 3 we talk about stopping and mutes. These videos are a great companion to my post about the horn, where you…
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Jim Thatcher Part 1

Jim Thatcher is the most-recorded horn player working in Hollywood today. He has been the principal horn on virtually every session I've conducted in Los Angeles. In part one of our interview, we'll talk about how Jim first became a serious horn player and what led him to the studios of Los Angeles. We'll also talk about some of his experiences as a session player over the years. Check back soon, as I'll be posting more of our conversation where we talk about how…
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The Wagner Tuba

Like the cimbasso, the Wagner tuba is a mystery to a lot of orchestrators. Wagner tubas are also often referred to as tuben. This is just the plural of tuba in German. First of all, some quick history; but as that is not my strong point, I will let someone else explain it. Here is studio legend Jim Thatcher talking about the instrument. Wagner Tuba vs the Horn The main physical difference, and the reason for the sonic difference between the two, is the bell.…
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The French Horn

From longing, to sinister, to epic, the sounds of the horn are incredibly diverse. There are so many different colors that the horn is capable of, but not many people understand the physics of the instrument and what the player does to make all those cool sounds. The texts have not done a great job of explaining it. There are links to my chat with Jim Thatcher throughout, however the whole video is posted at the bottom of the page. The Instrument Size matters There…
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It’s Staggering

A common device that I see a lot of is 'stagger breathing', and I have some problems with it! Not the concept itself, just the way it is carried out. I often see a stream of notes in a woodwind part, perhaps copied and pasted from the violin part, and the words, 'stagger breathe' or 'breathe when necessary'. The latter I find particularly humorous, as they really have no choice. Even the world's most intelligent flute players have no way of knowing the best way…
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Tremolo and the abstract truth

Tremolo is a great effect that can be used to add tension and weight or a shimmering texture. Tremolo is a fast oscillation of the bow, unmeasured by default. Tremolo, like harmonics and pizzicato, is a technique where the use of samples in composition has given composers a false sense of reality. For some reason, just like sampled timpani rolls, sampled tremolo is performed way faster than I have ever heard it in the real world. In reality, the speed is related to the dynamic,…
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