Recommended solos for beginning/young horn players

Are you searching for solo literature that is appropriate for your beginning/young players?
In my experience, there are many advanced solos available for more experienced players, but it
is often hard to choose a first or second solo for the young player.
After teaching horn lessons in Texas for the past 35 years, I have some suggestions that might
help you in your solo selections. I have included a few of my favorites, as well as comments
about each one. I’m sure there are many more outstanding solos available; my list is just based
on my teaching experience and the guidance of the Texas PML (Prescribed Music List).
Because there are different edition choices for many of these entries, I will only include the title
and composer, not the specific edition.

Beginning Level:

“Minuet” by Bach/Houghton:
This piece features a fairly familiar melody. It is in the key of C Major and the range is low G – third space C, so it is usually accessible for most students during their first year of playing. There are some interval skips of a fifth and sixth in the middle section, but this lends an opportunity for the teacher to demonstrate efficient use of embouchure and air for success in this area. (to be published soon)

“Musette” by Bach/Dishinger:
This solo begins on third space C, rather than the more widely-used mid/lower notes, which requires the student to practice air control and ear-training in order to begin on the correct note. It is in the key of F Major and introduces chromatics and accidentals, staccato and tenuto, as well as dynamics and repeats. This melody is also fairly familiar and the piece is fun to play.

“Gavotte” by Boyce/Vedeski:
In this solo, the melody contains a few skips, followed by simple scale patterns. It utilizes quarter notes and eighth notes and is in the key of F Major. The style is bouncy and fun to perform.

“The Hunt” by Ployhar:
This fantastic solo is a veritable “rite of passage” for every young horn player! It is very fun to play, written in the traditional 6/8 time of a “hunt”. The highest note is fourth line D and the piece has a few accidentals, but the melody is fairly easy to play and has always been a favorite among my beginning students.

“Gavotte and Hornpipe” by Purcell/Dishinger:
This piece provides a great introduction to cut-time and 3/2 time. The range is middle C to fourth space E, so it goes a bit higher than the previous solos on this list. But with the right teaching and preparation, this solo can be very fun and rewarding. It utilizes different articulations and requires dynamic contrasts, all of which are possible for the eager young student.

“Andromeda” by Beethoven/Poole:
For the advancing player, this solo has a beautiful lyrical opening and some wide interval skips, but is relatively easy to hear. There are interesting melodic trade-offs between the horn and piano, highlighting the value of beginning ensemble playing. There are challenging sixteenth note scale runs, but it is a great choice for a second or third year player.

“Concerto #3, mvt 2”, by Mozart:
In the key of Eb Major, this second movement from the famous Mozart Concerto is a very lyrical, melodic solo. There are slurred 16 notes toward the top of the staff, but they present a wonderful opportunity for learning to blow a steady, supported air stream in the upper register. This is a great solo for introducing the style of Mozart and for learning how to musically shape a phrase. The range is two octaves, low F to top line F, so it would be best for a player with this range capability.

There are many more great solos for young players, but hopefully this list will be of some help for those of you who are unfamiliar with the beginning horn solo literature.

— Karen Houghton