The title “blow your OWN horn!” can be understood in different ways: as encouragement, invitation, even as a command. Regardless, confronting the problems of learning the horn demands greater self-reliance, independence, and a more pro-active attitude than is usual or comfortable. “blow your OWN horn!” is certainly no traditional Horn Method – perhaps it is more a kind of Anti-Method. Much may seem iconoclastic and it is certainly my intention to be controversial. I describe “Truths” about learning and teaching the horn which I have been forced to accept over decades, but which frequently collide with conventional or “official” thinking. One of the most important and controversial themes of my book is that true technical mastery of the horn is only achievable through musical playing. It is in fact musical playing which guarantees good technique and security, not the other way around. The reader may not be surprised therefore that for a long time my working title was: “Horn Heresies”.






5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for Brass Players and Teachers, February 15, 2015

Matthew Haislip   

Fergus McWilliam holds the enviable reputation of being one of the greatest horn playing musicians alive, with decades of performances and recordings as a member of several of the world's top performing ensembles, including the Berlin Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet. The ease with which he adapts his performing capabilities to meet the busy schedules and challenging repertoire demands of performing in chamber ensembles as well as the orchestra speaks to his incredible efficiency as a horn player. Efficiency is vital to playing a brass instrument freely and musically, and this book provides the tools for doing so. Throughout McWilliam's career, he has maintained a successful teaching studio, and his ability to facilitate student self-learning through the concepts that he writes about in this book has led to successful careers for such students as Berlin Philharmonic hornist, Sarah Willis.

Blow Your OWN Horn! not only dispels some egregious myths of brass pedagogy, but it also provides a comprehensive yet simple approach to horn playing that takes into consideration the psychology of learning, physiological awareness, musical intuition, and fundamental concepts of resonant sound. This book is required reading for my university students, and I cannot recommend it enough to all brass players and teachers. I recall loaning my copy to a trumpet teacher and performer who read the book in a matter of hours and then stated that the book had put into words the concepts that he had found to be true for efficient brass playing better than any other text he had previously read.

Thank you for the wonderful resource, Fergus!


5.0 out of 5 stars Not to be missed by the horn afflicted, July 23, 2012


If the subtitle "horn heresies" is not a strong enough indication, the publisher's description "an anti horn-method method" spells out Fergus McWilliam's ambition in this unusual contribution to horn pedagogy. His experience over years of teaching is that "the way the horn is taught is too frequently not the way the horn actually needs to be played." For the student in all of us, he reminds us that there is no alternative to taking ownership of the process of achieving mastery.

McWilliam's anti-method method uses a short essay format that enables him to keep readers on their toes with anecdotes, galleries of mental images to consider, lists of ambitions to prioritize, probing questions to ponder, physical exercises to try out. The two major chapters in the practical section - on embouchure and breathing respectively - are insightful additions to the literature. The same is true of a section on auditions and one taking on high-horn, low-horn mythology. His treatment of misconceptions about the diaphragm, the multiple kinds of inhalations possible, and "air in motion" should be required reading, even for Arnold Jacobs aficionados.


5.0 out of 5 stars These thought-provoking, and potentially amazingly performance-changing concepts have the ..., October 19, 2014 

sharman king

These thought-provoking, and potentially amazingly performance-changing concepts have the potential to inspire growth in all brass players. Mr. McWilliam is continuing the legacy of Arnold Jacobs in musical thought determining and enhancing musical performance. It's a must-read for all performers and more importantly, for all teachers of brass instruments. It's NOT just for the horn.


5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!, October 29, 2014 


I love this book! I heard about it through Sarah's Horn Hangouts. In my two, very short but very dedicated, years of playing the horn, I've always thought that there must be a better way to learning and playing the horn than grinding all day in a practice room. I even rejected some conventional ways of playing because I realized my body was a better performer and teacher of the horn than some of the rigid advice I was getting.

The first half of the book is mostly about the practice of skepticism: how teachers teach the way they do and why it's not necessarily the best way, how misconceptions about the horn are formed and debunked, how students are so eager to learn without questioning. The second half is about actual horn technique. I think this book is simply great for not just the horn, but just living life in general. It's in accordance with my own philosophy about musicianship: it's life itself, just expressed differently.

I disagree with the reviews that this book isn't for beginners. I think, actually, that it's best for beginners to dislodge themselves from misconceptions or pure adherence to a school of playing. I would still classify myself as a "beginner" who benefited a lot from this book.


5.0 out of 5 stars Music over mechanics - plus some tips as to how to do that., October 31, 2014 

Lewis T. Fitch (Clemson, SC) 

The French Horn is a notoriously difficult instrument to play, but one capable of some glorious music. Mr. McWilliam draws on his considerable experience in both orchestral and chamber music to point out that a rigidity of approach will rob the player of many of its possibilities. The book is sufficiently detailed to point out where some of the specific traps lie in Horn playing, but a number of his comments apply to other instruments as well, and certainly to music in general...


5.0 out of 5 stars Blow You Own Horn! It's a great book for many many reasons., January 9, 2015

Mr. J. Begg  (Pugwash, Scotland)

The one book all horn -players should read and own. McWilliam's book is not a method book but a book that challenges us gently and occasionally not so gently into a re-examination of what motivates us to play the way we do. Horn Heresies also asks us to look at our deeply held precepts about horn-playing and to ask ourselves if we really need to go on doing the same old same old horn-shuffle when we could be engaged in a dynamic and thrilling horn-dance with our instruments. Don't look here for horn exercises, it's not that kind of book, but it is one to engage with and ponder over thoughtfully.

Der englische Titel “Blow Your OWN Horn!” kann unterschiedlich verstanden werden: als Aufmunterung, Aufforderung, sogar als Befehl. Egal wie, die Auseinandersetzung mit den Problemen des Hornlernens fordert von Hornisten größere Selbstständigkeit, mehr Unabhängigkeit und eine proaktivere Einstellung als gewöhnlich oder sogar bequem ist. Die deutsche Ausgabe "Wie DU ins Horn bläst ..." ist gewiss kein traditionelle Hornmethode – vielleicht ist sie eher eine Anti-Methode. Vieles mag wohl bilderstürmerisch vorkommen, es ist in der Tat meine bewusste Absicht, kontrovers zu sein. Ich beschreibe „Wahrheiten“ sowohl über das Lernen wie auch das Lehren des Horns, die ich über Jahrzehnte habe akzeptieren müssen, die aber häufig mit konventionellem oder „offiziellem“ Denken kollidieren.  Es ist eine der wichtigsten und zugleich kontroversen Grundideen meines Buches, dass wahres technische Meistern des Horns schließlich nur durch musikalisches Spielen erreichbar ist. Erst musikalisches Spielen garantiert gute Technik und Sicherheit, nicht andersrum. Es wird also den Lesern vielleicht nicht wundern, dass mein Arbeitstitel längere Zeit lautete:

“Horn Häresien/Ketzerei/Irrglaube”