1. Open your Maxime-Alphonse to the first page.
2. Play the first etude PERFECTLY three times IN A ROW. Do not miss a note. Do not even let so much as an unclean attack make its way into your performance. Follow all articulations, dynamics, phrasing and tempi.
3. If you miss a note, DO NOT STOP. Finish the etude, then start over.
4. If you mess up in your second or third repetition, you must complete the repetition and then start over again at performance #1. For example: if you miss a note in the middle of your second repetition, you must play to the end of the etude, and then start over with attempt #1.
5. You guessed it: even if you miss the very last note of your third repetition, you must start the cycle over again. You must play the etude perfectly three times IN A ROW before you can move on to the next etude.
6. Repeat this process for all 70 etudes.
Needless to say, one can easily go crazy trying to do this. Because of this, it is recommended that one spend no more than 10-15 minutes at a time on The Challenge.
For those non-horn players reading this post, the 1st book of Maxime-Alphonse is not technically challenging for a more advanced player. I know a lot of players use this book in high school or even early college, though I personally have never used this series before now. On average, these etudes are only between 3-6 lines long.
I began my journey with The Challenge yesterday. I consider myself to be a fairly accurate player. I have perfect pitch, so hearing the note before I play it is rarely an issue (hearing it perfectly in tune, especially if it is not a perfect interval, is a different story, and will probably be the subject of a later blog post). At a glance, the early pages of the book seem like they could be performed perfectly three times in a row fairly easily, especially for a player who considers herself accurate. Well...
I might be giving myself cancer.
It took me 15-20 minutes to get through the 1st etude 3 times in a row. I had no problems playing the etude once through perfectly. It was the second try when I kept making mistakes, and would have to finish out the performance and then start over at 1. After about 5 tries, I got through 2 perfect performances of the etude. At that point, I was determined not to mess it up on the 3rd time. I was successful.
Today I began my work on etude #2. As I said, I have never used this book before, so each etude is a sightread for me. In 10 minutes, I got through the etude 1 time perfectly. This was the end of my practice session, and my face was too tired for any more attempts, so etude #2 and I will face off again tomorrow.
The Challenge is predominately an exercise in concentration. I have never found myself so upset at a woman walking a cute puppy down the road outside of my window as when I was working on The Challenge. It also shows you what little flaws you may be letting yourself get away with in other performances. Though frustrating, I expect this exercise to be an educational and self-improving experience.