Various and Sundry

Copyright © 2015 Stephen Hawley, all rights reserved.



I had a doctor’s appointment today and I had to take Alice with me. On the way into the office, Alice was reading everything. This is great – she’s seeing her environment and taking in meaning and context.

We sat in the waiting room and I got called by one of my favorite nurses and when she lead us to the scale, Alice looked at her and said, “oh, hi Liz! My name is Alice!”


The nurse, Liz, had a tablet computer with a sticker on the back with her name on it. Alice spotted that and put 2 and 2 together. It kind of reminded me of the way that Jeff Daniels’ character in the movie Something Wild liked to address waitstaff by the name on the name tag.


Tonight I went to community band with a French horn to try it out.

I’ve played trumpet for 38 years and have had the luck of having played the following brass instruments for a decent amount of time each: trumpet, tuba, baritone, cornet, piccolo trumpet, flugelhorn, Eb trumpet, and trombone. I hadn’t really played much French horn until tonight. Interesting. If you’ve not played brass instruments before, it’s difficult to describe how they’re different. In fact, I would venture to say that many trumpet players don’t get it right when switching around between flugelhorn and cornet which are in the same key and have the same range as a trumpet.

The metaphor I think that works best here is that playing trumpet is like doing calligraphy with a moderately stiff nibbed pen.


You expect a certain range of responses from a certain range of pressures and the results are very predictable.

This is not what French horn is like. French horn is like a Japanese calligraphy brush. It functions very much the same way as a calligraphy pen in broad terms, but you can’t treat it that way – or if you do what you get is not at all in character for the instrument. From my point of view, there was a required subtlety in control to keep notes from jumping. Certain things I routinely do on a trumpet just didn’t work the same way on a horn. I have learned to naturally bend notes up or down with my lip to get notes better in tune. Can’t do that in the same way on a horn. Interesting.

Why am I doing this? My intent is to sit down with Alice two or three evenings a week for 10 minutes and work on some basic playing technique with her to get her comfortable with the instrument and see how she takes to it and to help support what is being done in school. What better way to understand the experience than to do it myself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *