Book Review: Horn Technique by Jeffrey Agrell


Jeffrey Agrell is no stranger to the horn world. Having been a professional horn player for 25 years, his “second career” began when he became the horn professor at the University of Iowa in 2000. Since then, many of his students have gone on to illustrious performing and teaching positions. While a noted teacher and performer, Agrell has also become an author in the realm of music pedagogy. With numerous books and articles to his name, Agrell has clearly been a student of the instrument for quite some time and is now passing along his vast knowledge in his large volume work, Horn Technique: A New Approach to an Old Instrument.

While most of the topics are specific to horn playing, much of the discussion in this book can easily apply to other brass instruments. The book starts with a simple and understandable definition of what actually is a horn (length of tubing). Then Agrell lays out where the horn student should begin in learning this complex instrument. Being quite thorough, Agrell covers topics ranging from overtone series, valveless vs. valves, scales/arpeggios, and much MUCH more.

With a detailed table of contents, the book is laid out in a cohesive manner, allowing the reader to quickly go back to topics of interest at a later time.

With topics such as psychological performance, note accuracy, learning scales, proper practicing and others, the appendix section alone is worth the $19.99 in paperback ($9.99 Kindle version). What I found best in this book is that the insights given are not necessarily new; rather, they are fresh from a different set of lenses.

What keeps the reader engaged in the 400+ page book (on 8.5×11 paper!) is the conversation-like writing that Agrell offers to the reader. Much of his writing is filled with wit and humor which allows the reader to come to a conclusion that “Yea, maybe I am over-thinking this.”

If you are a non-horn player, such as myself, don’t let the technical verbiage for the instrument distract you from gleaning knowledge to key brass-playing elements. If anything, this book will allow understanding the difficulty in playing 12 lengths of tubing and be forgiving to those who DO play said instrument.

Since Agrell has written numerous other books, including The Creative Hornist, it is obvious that he gives a teaching style to writing about this complex instrument. With the likes of Farkas, Schuller, and Tuckwell, Horn Technique will be become a staple not only for the horn community but also the brass world in being a pedagogical resource for all brass musicians.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Jeffrey Agrell. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jeremy Smith

Jeremy Smith is a trombonist, brass teacher, and blogger. He studied music performance at both Grace College and Carnegie Mellon University, and currently is the bass trombonist for Orchestra Iowa and the Huntington Symphony Orchestra. In 2014, Jeremy started Last Row Music as an online resource of job postings and artist links for brass musicians around the world. When he is not performing or blogging, Jeremy is giving brass lessons to students throughout the country from his home in Centerburg, Ohio.