Pip Eastop, Horn player, Photographer, Trumpet player

Horn player, Photographer, Trumpet player

Pip Eastop, hornplayer, teacher, horn, trumpet, jazz, sessions, London, soloist, orchestral, improvisation etc....

Posts tagged “handstopping

My horn broke

I went with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, to Budapest to play a New Year’s Day concert of Haydn’s Creation. 

My horn went ahead of me in the orchestra’s truck, in a nice big padded crate, along with the basses, timps etc. When I got my horn out for the rehearsal – this was New Year’s Eve – I found that the linkage to the 2nd valve had broken. 

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It was pretty obvious to me that it couldn’t be fixed and that I had to decide whether to try to find a horn to borrow or play the Creation using handstopping. I went for the handstopping option. I really hate playing other people’s horns. 

In the end it went pretty well, I think, although it was quite nerve-wracking. For E horn and A horn I had to remember to turn the 2nd valve around, by hand, to the correct setting. I had to leave the 2nd valve cap off and use the notches on the top of the valve spindle to line it up. Then, crucially, I had to remember to rotate the valve back for A horn, F horn, Eb horn, D horn (third f-side valve), C horn and Bb basso horn. 

Also, it felt quite weird playing an eight-valved modern instrument using classical handstopping technique. Something like rowing a speedboat…


The “EaseStop”

The “EaseStop”Good news for horn players with small hands!
This invention came to me while trying to help a female student of mine improve her handstopping.Women tend to have smaller hands than men and since most horn players in the past have been male the bell throat dimensions of horns have evolved to work best with the average male-sized right hand. Handstopping can be a nightmare for any player, but it is even worse if you have small hands.
Obviously, the smaller the hand, the further into the bell will be found a good stopping position.I imagined it would be helpful to have a device which would widen the right hand so that in its fully handstopped position it would be a little further out of the bell. This, I hoped, would sort out the intonation problems experienced by those with small hands.
After a few experiments and with the help of my student, Kelly Griffiths Hughes (who has tiny hands), I settled on the idea of a specially shaped block which sits between the thumb and the index finger.
To our delight, Kelly and I found that not only was the intonation corrected to perfection, but that the actual timbre of the stopped was much better – louder and fuller. All stopped notes over the entire range were made considerably more secure.
I made the first “Ease-Stop” out of FIMO (which I stole from my kids’ art box). FIMO is brilliant stuff. It’s a PVC based modelling material, made by Eberhard Faber, which can be molded into any shape by hand and then hardened in a domestic oven (at a maximum temperature of 130C or 265F – not very hot).FIMO is not expensive, and you can get it in almost any colour from almost any art shop. You can even mix colours to get swirly effects. Another student of mine, Helena Giammarco, made a flesh coloured one and had the nerve to use it in her final recital at the Royal Academy of Music, to great effect.
To find out more about FIMO:

Click here

Since the “EaseStop” is mostly used by female players, and since female horn players are generally discriminated against in the music business, I have decided to “shareware” this idea, rather than patent it and make a fortune.

“Shareware”, means that the idea is free for you to use.
In return please observe the following:

  1. If you make an “EaseStop” using my instructions, and if it helps your handstopping and if you use it in your playing I would love to hear from you.
  2. Please also let me know if you come up with any improvements to the basic design.
  3. Please call it an “EaseStop”. This won’t make me rich or famous, but that’s okay because I’m already rich and I don’t want to be famous. (You might not like the name but what would you have called it if it was your idea and you were called Eastop?). You could even inscribe “EaseStop”, or www.eastop.net on the FIMO before baking it…
Instructions 
How to make your own “EaseStop”
Start of with a nicely softened
sphere of FIMO, about this size.
Bear in mind that the hand
in the photo is a big one.
Squidge it around and make it soft with
the heat of your hand. Then make it fill up
the space between your thumb and index finger,
as in the photos. The photo on the left shows the
concave inner face which forms a hard reflective
surface after baking. In this photo you can
see that the underside is roughly triangular.
The edge joining the bottom two points
of the triangle forms a large
comfortable hook which
helps the “EaseStop”
stay in your hand
so you don’t
have to
grip it.
Spend at least ten minutes pressing and prodding it to make sure it fits exactly the contours of your hand where it touches.Its flattish upper side (photo to the right) must continue the shape of your hand and not bulge up too much. It spreads out across this widest part, anvil shaped, to help form perfectly fitting grooves for the thumb and the index finger. As it is molded to your hand it will fit perfectly.If, while you are shaping it, you discover you have too much FIMO, simply break off a bit and continue molding. Similarly, you can always add a bit more. Don’t worry, your first one isn’t going to be perfect. Expect to make a few before you get it right.
You may have realised by now that the “EaseStop” is not much more than a cast of the exact shape of the space between your thumb and index finger.The two points, which look a bit like a slug’s eyestalks, form the “hook” which helps it to stay in your hand without you having to grip it.

This animation might give you some idea of the shape.
My thanks to Jon Farley for creating it.