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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: Marty Hackleman

Starting the day off right

Andrew Hitz

This x 100!

Marty Hackleman once told me he doesn’t like to call it a warm-up. He calls it his daily routine and the byproduct of that routine is that he is warmed up, both physically and mentally.

I have encountered many students who use their warm-up to ease into the mental aspects of their musical day, but I don’t believe this is necessary if you walk into the practice room with the proper mentality in place.

This is one reason why I am an enormous proponent of doing breathing exercises before playing. I’m not a slave to them and don’t always do them, but whenever I do I make sure I am fully committed mentally to the exercise as a way of engaging my mind on a very specific task, which in turn helps my first notes of the day sound great.

This is also why I like to do things like wind patterns during my breathing exercises. “Be musical with your air” is a phrase I’ve uttered thousands of times to various concert bands and marching bands. “Playing” Jingle Bells with your air is a great way to get dynamics, phrasing, articulation, style and everything else going in the brain.

Once you activate all of those things, the physical side of playing really just comes along for the ride.

Finally, I find it can be difficult to truly concentrate on breathing exercises when I do the exact same ones in the same order ever day. That’s why I like to use sequences (like are found in The Breathing Gym Daily Workouts DVD.) There are many ways to get the air (and the brain) moving and mixing up what is done and the order they are done in is really beneficial, even for professionals.

Regardless of how you begin your day or what you do for a daily routine, a simple decision can be made that your first notes will not be of poor quality. If you make that commitment, you’ll be amazed at the results.

It's Not About You

Andrew Hitz

"Blend towards the ticket buyers, not each other."
—Marty Hackleman

I have seen countless chamber ensembles fail to grasp the vital principal behind the above quote. The audience experience is everything.

Don't sit in the easiest possible configuration for your group to interact with each other. Sit in the configuration which makes it easiest for the audience to feel like they are interacting with you.

Don't just make sure something is balanced on stage. Make sure it is balanced in the hall.

Don't lift your stand up higher than it needs to be. Put your stand at a level where the audience feels like they are a part of the experience and not just allowed to peer over your shoulder.

Don't just check for dynamic contrast on stage. Make sure that contrast is reaching the last row of paid seats.

Don't match articulations on your side of the bell. Be sure they are matching at the back of the hall.

This list could go on and on...

I couldn't believe how much left edge I had to put on notes when I first joined Boston Brass. Like, I was dumbfounded. What my colleagues were asking me to do sounded stupid on my side of the bell.

But guess what? Those comments were coming from a rehearsal technique that we frequently used. One player would go out into the hall and listen from out there (ie the only place where it matters what it sounds like!) They would then ask for adjustments until it sounded right out there.

They would ask for so much attack that I thought it sounded stupid. But I trusted them so I did it.

Then I would listen to a recording of the performance from later that evening and I'll be damned they were always right. I had to very gradually adjust what I thought it "should" sound like on my side of the bell.

I have yet to find anyone who will pay me to in an orchestra, band, quintet or as a soloist based on me sounding good on my side of the bell. No one cares.

Literally your only job is making sure it sounds (and looks) good in the audience.

Marty Hackleman: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

When I was a kid I had this poster of Marty Hackleman with the Empire Brass up in my room:

One of the great brass quintet albums of all time.

One of the great brass quintet albums of all time.

So needless to say, the first time I got to perform with Marty (in a brass quintet that also featured Jens Lindemann, Kevin Gebo and Joe Alessi!) I was over the moon excited.

This recording of Marty performing Richard Strauss's Horn Concerto No. 2 live in 1992 makes me actually laugh out loud in a few places. He is just a stunning musician.

If you haven't heard it already you can find our interview with Marty for The Brass Junkies podcast below the YouTube clip.

You can also find some incredible quotes from two different master classes that Marty did at George Mason here:

Enjoy this phenomenal performance of the Strauss Horn Concerto No. 2!

Four Words to Make Your Next Practice Session More Focused

Andrew Hitz

"Make the simple beautiful."
-Marty Hackleman, former horn player for the Canadian Brass, Empire Brass, and National Symphony Orchestra

The next time you are bored in your warm up, think of this four word quote from Marty Hackleman and I guarantee you it will get better.

While technical wizardry on any instrument can be quite engaging it is actually the simple or "easy" music that the best musicians in the world can make sound way better than the rest of us can.

Making the simple beautiful should be a goal that is at the forefront of your mind every time you pick up your instrument or baton.

The Brass Junkies: Marty Hackleman

Andrew Hitz

Listen via


We were honored to be joined by one of the best horn players in the world and a dear friend of mine, Marty Hackleman! As you will hear, the mindset that he brings to his craft is truly phenomenal. And it all stems from a decision he made when he was 16! It's an inspiring tale.

Marty also talks about the many stops along his incredible career, including winning his first professional audition at the age of 19.

He is the only person who was ever a full-time member of both the Canadian Brass and Empire Brass and discusses how it came to be that he and Dave Ohanian came to switch quintets.

And he has some tough love for Jens!

A Call to Action by Marty Hackleman

Andrew Hitz

"You've got to start thinking outside the box. When you have a problem (with your playing) really admit it and address it. You have to be honest about it. You are only as strong as the weakest link in your playing."
-Marty Hackleman

That's how you end up playing your instrument as well as Marty Hackleman plays his.

Great Advice for Fighting Boredom

Andrew Hitz

"If you're bored, raise your standards."
-Joe Kirtley

I heard Joe share this quote during a master class at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts a couple of years ago and it has stuck with me ever since.  It also reminds me of a great tidbit from Marty Hackleman.

Marty does a set routine every morning.  (Note: He chooses to not call it a warm-up but rather a routine where the byproduct of that routine is warming up both his face and his mind.)  When addressing a class at George Mason a few years ago, Marty was asked about getting bored with doing the same thing every day on the horn.  His answer was typical Marty Hackleman and sheds light on why he has been as successful as he has been in his career:

(This was a few years ago so I am paraphrasing a little.)


"Every once in a while I sit down to do my routine and after a few minutes I'm really not that into it.  Whenever this happens I go downstairs, make a cup of coffee, and then go back and continue with the routine.  In the rare event that I still don't feel that into it I simply get over myself and insist that it somehow be a little better than it was yesterday.
Sometimes the only thing that's better than yesterday might be making it easier or more effortless.  But I insist that something be improved from the day before."
-Marty Hackleman


It is the ability of players and teachers like Joe and Marty to always raise their standards no matter what the circumstances that set them apart from the rest of the music world.

What standards do you need to raise today?

Questioning What You Are Positive Is True

Andrew Hitz

"A lot of times when you have a problem with your playing and you think you know the solution try the exact opposite.  85% of the time it will work.  And that comes from personal experience." -Marty Hackleman (former horn of the Empire Brass, Canadian Brass and National Symphony Orchestra)

This is invaluable advice for the practice room.  But it is also great advice for band directors and private teachers.  As with anyone who has been doing something for three decades, I know an awful lot about music.  Frequently though, the things which I am positive are the way I perceive them are what hold me back from having a breakthrough with a student or having one myself on the horn.

What is it that you know today that you need to "forget" for a few minutes while allowing the best possible solution to emerge?

The moon rising over the Italian Alps before a Boston Brass performance in Merano, Italy. © 2012 Andrew Hitz


Quotes from Marty Hackleman Master Class at George Mason University (Repost)

Andrew Hitz

Two years ago this week I posted the following quotes from a Marty Hackleman class at Mason.  I still use many of these quotes in my every day teaching and thought they were worth reposting.  I hope you find these as insightful as I do! -----

Last night, Professor Marty Hackleman gave an amazing master class at George Mason University.  Marty is the principal horn of the National Symphony and a former member of both the Empire Brass and the Canadian Brass.  In my opinion, he is one of the premier teachers and performers that the brass world has ever known.

I have put a few of the quotes that really spoke loudly to me in bold.  What quotes jump out at you? Please comment with your favorite quote and how it relates to your playing.

Here are the highlights from the class:

  • It's not that you work, it's how you work.
  • How simple can you make the problem?  How simple can you make the solution?
  • We don't see the causes.  We see the symptoms.
  • All that you want to do is make it slightly better than yesterday but not as good as tomorrow.  And you enjoy the chase.
  • When you do a daily routine, don't sit in front of the TV wasting your time.
  • Think of your routine as a physical brass mediation.  Enjoy the time alone.
  • The routine is a question of how you play and not what you play.
  • A lot of times when you have a problem with your playing and you think you know the solution try the exact opposite.  85% of the time it will work.  And that comes from personal experience.
  • I only breathe as much as I need when I'm warming up and I focus on quality over quantity.  But if you're playing a different instrument, like the tuba, it may be different.
  • It is more important to practice efficiently than a lot of inefficient practicing.  If you don't feel like it, stop.  Get a cup of coffee and then come back.  Then suck it up and make yourself feel like it for even 15 minutes.
  • Even if you can play your ass off, try to make it easier.
  • Make it as simple, natural and easy as you can.
  • Don't save the high notes until the end of your routine.  They shouldn't be that precious.  They should be a natural extension of everything else.
  • I failed first.  Everybody failed first.  But do you stop at failure?
  • You'll be surprised that if you ask yourself to do something regularly, you'll find a solution.
  • If tension is creeping into your playing, your routine is where you find that out, not in rehearsal or in performance.
  • Support isn't caused by air.  They are separate things.
  • You want to use your routine to make yourself better, not just make yourself functional.
  • I know (my routine) works because at almost 60 years old I believe I can play better than I've ever played in my life.  And it's not luck.  I promise you.
  • First thing is you have to make sure that your horn sounds like what's in your head.
  • You have to be more responsible about being a musician and not just a horn player.
  • We make crescendos and we don't come all the way back.  If you come all the way back you have somewhere to go again.