It's an absurdly obvious fact that as the difficulty of repertoire increases, instrument parts cover a wider range of pitch registers. I'm curious what the standards are for horn parts.
In a first-year band or orchestra, how high and low would the horn section be expected to play by the beginning of spring (i.e. March and April)? And how does this range change as difficulty increases? Concert band repertoire is rated by number, with 1 being beginning band and 6 being professional or upper-level college. (Most low-key high school bands or the better middle-school bands play around level 3, while the best HS ensembles get to level 4 or 4.5. Honor bands often get up to 5.)
To avoid confusion, I'm talking about nominal (written) pitch, not concert pitch.
The grading scale is very general and do not specify pitches.
Grade one is for beginners seldom uses note values faster than quarter notes, range is less than an octave and basic dynamics.
Grade two is for low-intermediate level, uses 8th notes, a wider range and more dynamic requirements, it also includes accents and staccato markings.
Grade three is the average for many community bands, and typical middle school bands, average intermediate band level.
Grade four gets into trickier rhythmic and technical requirements; using more accidentals, complex time signatures (7/8, 12/8, 5/4), a larger range of dynamics and techniques (Sfz, Fp, more divided parts within sections of the band, more solos within various sections.
Grade five requires fairly advanced technique and musicality from all the players, not just the 1st parts. Independant parts so you can't just follow the palyer next to you.
Grade six is what they call 'professional' level. They expect years of theory and history study, years of practice and a full knowledge of everything musical, so the music can be played technically, rhythmically and musically correct.
I can tell you what I expect from my students and what I think the average should be.
Bb(1 ledger line below trebel clef)- C(3rd space treble clef)
Bb(4 lines down into bass clef) - C(2 ledger lines above treble clef)
Ability to read new and old notation bass clef.
Not Rated, Real World -
E(1st ledger line below bass clef) - F(above the 3rd ledger line treble clef)
Ability to transpose all keys at sight.
Ability to play 'echo' horn.
Ability to play any passage on either side of a double horn.
Ability yo read additional clefs (alto, tenor, baritone, alto treble)
I notice that in your system, the horns don't get to the second partial notes until grades 5 and 6. My question is: what would you do about all the classical repertoire that uses the really low notes? Would all such pieces automatically be classified as grade 6?
I say this because I played horn in a community orchestra for three years. The first parts occasionally went all the way up to high C, and second parts saw the really low second partials at least once in a typical concert. Yet I'm pretty sure that most of the horn players that came and went were nowhere near grade 6 proficiency; most were likely grade 4. And the very hardest music I ever encountered was in honor band, not orchestra.
Good questions. In my experience over the years I have seldom seen the less advanced music go low enough to be in the bass clef. As you mentioned I have seen less advanced music go up to high C also. I find both these issues a result of poor editing on the publishers part and poor voicing on the composers part. I have seen quite a few modern pieces where some parts are written in bass clef and shouldn't be, because the composers is writtin in old notation instead of new notation.
Would all the classical repertoire classified grade 6?
No. 1)I think even though my system puts off the lowest notes there will often be players that can hit the low notes when needed. And when they can't there is nothing wrong with taking things up an octave. 2) I think a few of those really low notes are actually old notation.
Again, I wouldn't expect it in a grade 4 piece. If some players can do it, great. Again, as mentioned earlier I think it is poor editiing and composing. I also think conductors/directors sometimes pick pieces too advanced for their groups just becasue they want to play certain literature.
As a disclaimer; if I didn't mention it earlier, the standards are very general and not even senior editors within the same company agree on the standards. I have several friends at Kjos whom I spoke with and they all had different answers.
For Frederick - - echo horn. Echo horn is basically the opposite of stopped horn. Close your hand until just before the pitch jumps up for stopped horn. Instead of transposing down a half step, you will need to transpose up a half step. When you have it down correctly it is a very ethereal, off in the mist sound.
Would all the classical repertoire classified grade 6?
No. 1)I think even though my system puts off the lowest notes there will often be players that can hit the low notes when needed. And when they can't there is nothing wrong with taking things up an octave.
But if classical orchestral horn parts can go extremely low without earning a grade 6 rating, why couldn't band music or contemporary compositions do the same? Sounds like a pure double standard to me.
2) I think a few of those really low notes are actually old notation.
When I was playing in the orchestra, I played the third part most often. But I did play some second parts, and in several cases those parts went down to the second-partial register. Yes, many of them were in old notation, but that doesn't change the fact that the notes were very low.
The fact that I'm currently stuck with a single F horn means that when it comes to pitch, the "center of gravity" during practice sessions has been quite low, lower than I played on the old Farkas double. I don't even try to play anything higher than G except when I'm goofing around, and usually keep it to E. At least for me at this point, anything above the 10th partial starts to feel unstable and the tone quality suffers.
But I make liberal use of the low register, because it's far more solid sounding than the Holton ever was. I spend almost as much time below middle C as I do above! I could definitely see myself gravitating in the direction of second chair when I do join a band or orchestra.