Friday, July 1, 2016

Good News & Bad News

Where do we begin? We have good news and we have bad news.  

The end of the 15-16 season sees the departure of Uber player and founding member Mary Jo Neher.  We can’t let her go without acknowledging her hard work, talent, and other contributions to the group.  She will be missed.

But a horn quartet isn’t a quartet at all without the power of four and we are so happy to welcome Dana Sherman as the newest member of the Uber Horn Quartet.  Dana is originally from Naperville, IL, but was most recently a freelancer throughout the southwest before moving back to the Chicagoland area last year.  Prior to that, Dana spent a year playing with the Omaha Symphony.  We are pleased to welcome her to the group and look forward to making beautiful music with her.  You can read more about Dana here.

On to the music!  This season is Uber’s busiest YET! We are elated to have just announced our season on our website.  Highlights include solo engagements with the Kenosha Symphony and Dubuque Symphony on their classical subscription concerts.  Uber will also perform as soloists with the North Park Concert Band.  In addition to these performances, we will continue to present masterclasses, clinics, and recitals throughout the season.  Stay tuned for those as we will post them on our website  as they are scheduled!  Here is our 2016-17 season lineup.

The biggest news of all is that UBER will be changing its name.  Due to the booming popularity of the car service UBER, we’ve decided it is in our best interest to have a name that better represents our mission and brand, and therefore we have made the decision to change our name. We can’t tell you what it is yet, but expect that sometime before 2017.

Well, this is Uber signing off for the July 4 weekend.  We wish you and yours a Happy Independence Day and look forward to seeing you during the 2016-17 season!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

May Wrap-Up and Suggestions from YOU!

This month, Uber had the privilege of working with Lawrence University's horn studio and alumni during their studio trip to Chicago. What an amazing bunch of students! The morning began with special guest, CSO hornist Oto Carrillo sharing his experiences and wisdom. He kindly let us pick his brain about horn playing, musicianship, and practicing. We then heard from a student quartet and three soloists during our masterclass. The students sounded great and showed maturity and flexibility in taking Uber's suggestions. Uber then played a few pieces, followed by a big, beautiful horn choir with LU students, alumni, and Ubers. 20-some odd horn players make a gorgeous sound together!

As the season winds down and we enter into the summer months, we'll start rehearsing next season's program. We thought it would be fun to arrange a piece ourselves for our upcoming program. We wanted to ask you: what piece (classical, Broadway, pop, country - scratch that last one) have you thought would be fun to play in a horn ensemble but doesn't yet exist? Leave your suggestion in the comments section!

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Uber Horn Quartet Visits UW-Oshkosh

On Saturday, April 23, the Uber Horn Quartet spent the day with Bruce Atwell, the UW-Oshkosh Horn Studio and guests at HORN DAY, a day-long clinic for horn players of all ages.  The day began with a group warm-up session led by Professor Atwell, followed by a horn choir reading session. Right after that, Uber presented a masterclass on the four areas of horn challenges.  Accuracy, Dynamic/Articulations, Range, and Endurance were the four topics covered in the hour-long session.

 Anna started the conversation with a discussion and exercise on accuracy. First, Anna played a series of notes and asked the group to echo her.  She provided boundaries on which notes she would be using, but it was otherwise up to the group to figure out the tone patterns.  Once they got the hang of that, she began to play a melody (which ended up being Twinkle, Twinkle) by ear and within five minutes the whole group was playing Twinkle from memory/by ear.  Anna’s take-away on Accuracy: You have to hear the notes first or you will never have great accuracy.

Next, Mary Jo led an exercise in dynamics and articulations. Continuing with the Twinkle tune, Mary Jo pointed to one of a series of signs and the group had to play that phrase either FF, MF, or PP, overly emphasizing the dynamic changes.  The second part of that was to provide a set list of articulations, either tenuto or staccato and have the students emphatically play whichever articulation was being requested. The final exercise was to have one Uber point to a dynamic and another Uber point to an articulation, changing the selection at erratic moments throughout the song and seeing how quickly and obviously the group could change both.  It was a lot of fun for everyone! Mary Jo’s take-away: when you feel like you are exaggerating, you are probably only doing the minimum necessary amount of work.

Thirdly, Liz led the group in a chat about range.  Liz presented an etude exercise that will help students work on developing both the upper range and the lower range.   Liz began by playing a lip slur on the F horn between third space C and D. Using C as a pedal tone, she continued to move higher by step returning to C. All of the students played the exercise together. Next she played a low C and descending, repeated the same exercise.  She pinpointed that the goal is to always keep the tone centered.

Fourth, Kelly touched on the topic of endurance.  She first discussed that endurance is a challenge to “practice” because you have to be close to the end of your practice session before you can begin to work on it.  Kelly demonstrated and then led the entire group in a Caruso exercise using perfect fourths to show them one way they can work on endurance at home.

After the Masterclass everyone needed a break so we headed upstairs to visit Heid Music and Hoyer Horns, where everyone had an opportunity to try out horns and look through sheet music, along with some other accessories available for purchase.

Once back from lunch we all met for a second horn choir rehearsal followed by a second masterclass with the Ubers.  This masterclass was a little different because the three student competition winners performed for the masterclass.  Each of the three students brought something special to their solo and it was a great opportunity to work a little more in depth with each student.

The day was punctuated with joint performances of the Uber Horn Quartet and the UW-O Horn Day Ensemble.  A big special thanks to Bruce Atwell for his organization and arranging the day and we hope to see all the participants at a future horn event!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Uber Squared

Uber Horn Quartet has an exciting announcement! We are teaming up with our dopple-namer, the Uber car service, to provide you with comprehensive ride-sharing-music-listening services. Haven’t we all been in that tough spot of having to choose between getting to where we need to go and listening to our favorite live horn quartet? You no longer have to weigh the pros and cons of making it home from the bar at 2a.m. vs. hearing a Frippery.

Uber and Uber are thrilled to bring you Uber2 – Let Us Do the Honking! This unique service lets you rock out to your favorite pre-party jams like the Bozza Quartet, or wind down after a crazy night with a soothing rendition of the Bruckner Andante. It also offers you relief from making small talk with your driver and distracts you from considering all the reasons why he has a pair of rubber gloves on the dashboard.

As an introductory offer, we’re giving new clients a 10% discount. (Please consider your moral obligation to support the arts, as well as the fact that Ubers have not bought themselves new shoes or even had a nice night out away from the kids in who knows how long, when deciding whether to accept this discount.) Click HERE or use the discount code ICHOOSEBEEROVERTHEARTS.

Choose from several packages, including:

The Ride Ride – opera hits

I’ll (literally) Take You There – your favorite oldies

We Know You Could’ve Danced All Night – sympathetic show tunes for when you’ve had one too many

The Complete Works of Haydn – will sustain you through any bumper to bumper jam

Fine Print:

*Taxes and fees: Uber2 will collect state and local taxes, as well as a Chipped Tooth Fee until Chicago fills its potholes.

*Due to the quartet’s use of 4 seats, passengers should be prepared to wedge themselves onto the center console during trip.

*Hearing protection is recommended.

*Passengers should wear galoshes so as to avoid potential water damage from the horns’ byproducts.

*And of course, Happy April Fool's!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Uber's Favorite Apps!

While we Ubers would love to stay in a world of snail mail and landline phones, the future is gently tugging us along. We haven't given up our 90’s heritage, but we have fully embraced the smartphone and all it has to offer.   There are tons of great practice tools (many FREE!) available for smartphone users that are so easy to get and use. Here are some of our favorites:



Price: Free
Platform: Android

First, the price is right: zero dollars for a metronome that isn't clunky to lug around and doesn't need AA batteries.  It gives plenty of options on meter, beat subdivisions, and beat accents. Since a metronome is indispensable for any musician, you might as well put it on the one thing you carry everywhere anyway! 


Price: 14.99
Platform:  Android & iOS

I have a whole folder full of helpful music apps on my iPhone, but by far the most practice-changing for my students and me is the Amazing Slow Downer app.  It's also the most expensive app I have ever bought, at $14.99, but it's absolutely worth it.  Here's why.

With this app (or desktop application), you start by uploading a song from your music folder or various other sources (such as Drive, iCloud, or Dropbox).  You are then able to manipulate it in a number of different ways:
- Slow down or speed up the song without changing the key.  The tone will sound a bit funny, but this is great for either practicing along with an orchestra or piano accompaniment at a slower tempo, or for figuring out the notes of a fast song by ear.
- Change the key of a song without changing the speed.  Again, it'll sound a bit off, but this is especially useful for singers who need a song pitched properly for their voice to really shine. It could be useful to a horn player, too, if you're trying to play a pop or jazz tune that's out of your range otherwise.
- The "mix" function:  parts of a song are often panned to the left, right, or center of the mix.  For instance, the melody or lead vocals might be stronger in your left speaker than your right, to give the impression of someone standing to the left playing or singing.  A great example of a group that does this a lot is the Beatles.  If you want to play along with a song but not hear the melody, this is a good way to do it (if the song was mixed that way).  If you want to hear only the melody or another specific part, that might be possible too.

You can export your edited version of the song in order to share it with others, among other additional features.  Get this app and explore what it can do!


When the topic of this month’s blog post was batted around I thought, “gee I guess this will be a short one for me” because I don't really use any apps other than a metronome and tuner app on my iPhone.  But then as I was sitting in rehearsal this past weekend I had a terrible page turn.  Instinctively I reached into my purse for my trusty iPad, opened the ForScore app and pulled up the same piece, turning to the next page I needed. Using the ForScore app is so second nature to me that it didn't even cross my mind when the topic of this months blog was brought up! I chuckled to myself as I realized I almost exclusively use this app when performing.  And when combined with my favorite scanner app, Genius Scan, and my trusty web storage, Dropbox, and my Airturn pedal, it's a powerhouse music library, organizing, display system that I can't imagine freelancing without!

Price: FREE
Platform: ALL

Most people these days have heard of cloud storage and even Dropbox. You can get a free Dropbox account and by inviting your friends to join or installing the shortcut on your computer or mobile device can earn more storage.  We have opted to pay a yearly fee of $99 for 1TB of storage, which is more space than I know what to do with.  The Uber Quartet also uses Dropbox.  We love the large storage capacity and the ability for all four of us to be able to access all our files, videos, audio, sheet music at the same time wherever we are in the world!

Price: $6.99 Full version | FREE version available as well
Platform: Android and iOS

My husband and I use this app daily.  You can scan pictures and documents and save your scanned files as jpegs and most importantly PDF’s.  You can make multiple page files, so those pieces of music that are more than a page can be scanned and combined as you scan it rather than one page at a time.  You can crop your scanned image, with perspective even! Files can be saved to your device, opened directly in other apps on your phone or saved to your cloud storage of choice, in my case, Dropbox.

Price: iPad $9.99 | iPhone $6.99
Platform: iOS

This is probably the most used/industry standard music reader for Apple products.  Unfortunately, it is not available for any other platform.  I. LOVE. THIS. APP. It basically changed the way I do a lot of my freelancing. Any music that is a PDF can be opened and viewed.  So all the times a church director sends music ahead of time, or when that show you just got hired to play sends you the link to the PDFs in an email, you can open that music in the app with a simple click and start to do work right away.  You can organize your entire library of sheet music by changing the titles, adding composer names, instrumentation, and even setting up tags so you can search your library more quickly.  For example, anything that has to do with horn quartet is tagged with UBER, so when I'm searching for a particular piece that Uber plays I can limit the search by that tag.  You can even add/attach an MP3 file to that piece of music.  Learning an excerpt? You can assign your own sound clip to the file so while practicing you can listen or even play along.  While viewing your music you can add notes, either by writing on the screen with your finger or stylus, or by using the type function.  You can add symbols which include almost every kind of musical symbol, including dynamics, articulations, fermatas, etc. The app has a built in metronome which can play sound, pulse visually or do both at the same time.  One of the best features is that you can email music to another musician directly from the app, and here's the kicker,  you can send the clean copy OR a copy with all your annotations and notes.  How cool is that? The app can display in bright white or sepia, and you can change/edit your page turns to suite your needs.  For those times when it's almost impossible to reach around and touch the screen to turn the page I find my Airtun pedal the next invaluable piece in my technological armory.  More about that below.  I've barely touched on all of the neat features of this app, but I hope I’ve peaked your interest.  It is, in my opinion, well worth the money.  While I use this app most often on my iPad, once I upgraded my 4S to my 6Plus I took advantage of the expansion and downloaded it for my phone as well.

Price: $99 and up
There are several options, but I love my pedal.  I have the base model and have had zero issues.  I sync it to my iPad, my iPhone and my husband has been known to take it to use with ForScore Mini for some of his gigs.  Highly recommend and it's made in the USA which is always a big selling point in our family.  


Price: Free
Platform: Android

The app I use most for my own practicing is called “Soundcorset.” I love Soundcorset for many reasons.  It is free.  It is a tuner/metronome/recording app all in one.  I love that I can turn on the metronome and press record to get some quick feedback on my rhythm.  Once I close the app, it deletes all the recording files, so it doesn’t take up space on my memory.  I like the way the clicking sounds.


Price: Free

Platform: iOS

A student introduced me to this app as her favorite practicing app. Aside from that I am always looking for fun ways to get my students to practice, and this is a very engaging app.   The “Play Along French Horn” allows students to play along to an online song while reading the music one note at a time.  It won’t let you move on until you play the correct pitch, and it unlocks new songs as you successfully perform the easier levels.

Price: Free
Platform: iOS

The other app, which is the most popular among my students is the “French Horn Racer” app.  This is a really cool concept.  Each time they complete a “round” of four sets of accurate notes (within a certain time frame) their race car goes faster, and after so many round of that they get a better car. It’s cute, and a fun way for a young player to put a lot of face time in to the horn. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

WARM-UP with These Uber Ideas!

Winters in Chicago can be brutal, but we have some tasty ideas on how to warm up your chops...and your belly, too! With a dash of long tones here and a pinch of lip slurs there, your embouchure will easily survive these cold months.  Your warm up routine is a savory aspect of your daily ritual, and a lot of care should be taken when cooking up what should be included. Read below for Kelly and Mary Jo’s individual warm up routines, and our favorite winter recipes too!!


Growing up in Alaska you would think that I would take a warm up seriously! But as most high school band kids I had zero time to devote to what is one of the most important tasks of playing a brass instrument.  Once in college I began to understand not only how important a real warm up was but how beneficial it was to my playing in general.  I still to this day warm up with the same routine given/suggested to me by my second horn teacher at Boston University, Rick Menaul (Seth Orgel being my first) .  I remember Rick explaining to me how he liked it because he could take his time if he was feeling tight or sluggish, stretching the warm up out for a good 30 minutes or so…but he could also get through it quickly if he was crunched for time and still feel nice and fresh.  I’ve tried other warm ups over the years but never for long.  As soon as I start this routine my face knows it’s time to work and that’s what a warm up is all about right? Now I have the whole thing memorized but it can all be found in “The Art of French Horn Playing” by Philip Farkas (aka the hornist bible). My copy is from the early seventies so some of the page numbers may have changed but the titles of the exercises should still be the same.

*NOTE* For all the “legato exercises” I find on really stiff days it helpful to start with the lowest pitch, fingered 23, instead of the open set first and work my way up, instead of down.  Just something to try if you find that the higher pitches are not speaking or your lips are not relaxed enough first thing in the day to get them out smoothly and with a good sound. You can find a copy of the book on Amazon by clicking HERE.

MJ’s Daily Warm Up Routine:
  • Mouthpiece buzzing
  • Farkas, Pre-Warm Up, starting on low C instead of the printed G (Pg.32)
  • Farkas, Legato Warm Up, EXERCISE #2 (Pg. 34)
  • Farkas, Legato Warm Up, EXERCISE #3 (Pg. 35)
  • Farkas, Legato Warm Up, EXERCISE #4 (Pg.36)
  • Major Scales, all octaves, slurred or tongued, played in the order of the circle of 5ths

One of my favorite things as a kid was chili, but we didn’t make it we always bought “Nalley” brand chili.  When I moved out east for school and subsequently to the third coast (Chicago) permanently I realized that that brand is a west coast thing and couldn’t find my beloved treat.  My husband and I began working on a simple chili recipe that might fill that void for us! We’ve perfected it to our taste (but it’s a great base for those who want to make it hot) and made it really easy to remember.

Laymaneers’ 3-2-1 Crockpot Chili Recipe

Throw all the below ingredients into the crock pot and cook on high for a few hours! (Feel free to add whatever floats your boat, this is a great base recipe!) We often serve ours over a baked potato with cheese and sour cream or substitute reindeer sausage for the ground beef during the holidays. Rudolph is yummy ;)
  • 1 pound ground beef, browned and drained (can add onion if desired)
  • 3 (28.5 oz) cans beans  (1 red, 1 pink & 1 black)
  • 2 (14.5oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 (6oz) can tomato paste
  • 3 TBSP Chili Powder
  • 2 TBSP Cumin
  • 1 TBSP Salt

Your daily warm-up routine should be in two forms: short form & long form, depending on how much playing you have that day and how much time you have. Regardless of which form you choose for that day, you need to ensure that the warm-up covers the "AXIS of HORN."

Axis of Horn? Yeah, that's a things I just made up. But think of it like this: consider that your RANGE is your X axis, and your articulation is your Y axis, and that you would want to cover every note in your range and at every length (from no tongue to staccatissimo).

Below is a warm-up I wrote several years ago called the Triple Threat Warm up (the triple being that it was the first time I wrote a warm up that warmed me up by register.) The exercises methodically warms up the middle register first, then low, and then high, and this seems to work best for me. 

A few notes about the warm-up:  
1. In the first four measures of this exercise, the player is to internally voice positive affirmations like, "I like the way my instrument sounds", or "I enjoy playing the horn".

From there, the next two exercises focus on the legato-ness lip slurs: I compare this to swinging, let there be some bend off of the upper note to ensure the player is truly moving air through the slurs.

The next exercise is to warm up the low range, again focusing on the legato-ness of the slurs.

Finally we get to the high range, where we again use lip slurs and begin playing on the Bb side to complete the warm up into the highest notes of one's register.  Please observe the glisses, and that these are to be very sloppy and with as much emphasis placed on the notes between the destinations as on the journey itself!

Once you've completed these exercises, I'd encourage you to play your favorite Kopprasch etude to get that tongue moving.

Kelly's Easy Peasy Pulled Pork

Set crockpot to low.
Add 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup oil.
Add Pork Loin with fatty side up.
Cook for 8-12 hours.
An hour before dinner add 1/2 a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce.  (We like Sweet Baby Rays Original.)

Enjoy on a brioche bun with onion or with garlic mashed potatoes. Top with more BBQ sauce.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Welcome 2016!

As we say goodbye to 2015, the Ubers are taking a moment to reflect on the great year we had and optimistically anticipate 2016.
2015 brought both farewells and welcomes for the Ubers.  We said goodbye to one of our founding members, Jeremiah Frederick, and we officially welcomed Anna Jacobson and Liz Deitemyer as regular members.   Even though we are officially now just four members- the Uber Horn Quartet is still definitely “more than a quartet!”

2015 was our first year blogging as a quartet. We have really enjoyed putting together our videos and written content and we hope you have been enjoying our material.   We are already planning some creative posts for 2016.

We spent our past summer working on a new program and were thrilled to present it at Ball State’s Horn Day in September.

Gene Berger was such a generous host (he even bought us all prime rib) and we had a wonderful experience working with his attendees and presenting a recital of our own at BSU. Their facilities are magnificent and we hope to be back there again!

In December we played several holiday programs around Chicago, which included a few arrangements by our own Anna Jacobson and Liz Deitemyer.   We hope that in some way, somehow, you will be able to hear these excellent arrangements for yourself, perhaps by next holiday season, but I digress…

2016 will be our busiest year yet! January takes us down south to Central Arkansas University (and hopefully warmer temperatures) for a horn day with host Brent Shires.  That same week we will also be the featured artists at the Illinois Wesleyan University “Winter Horn Fest” where we will present a masterclass and recital.  In April we will visit University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with Bruce Atwell, in coordination with Don Krause of Horns-A-Plenty, to present a day of horn there.  We anticipate spending the hottest weeks of the summer indoors (like in a sound-proofed room with air-conditioning & microphones).

We have many other projects on the table, so stay tuned for more updates and announcements. Thank you for your support and we hope to see you in 2016, friends!