Thursday, May 23, 2024

Alphorn Beginner’s Circle is a lesson in listening


LEAVENWORTH – On Mar. 23, participants of all ages can attend the Alphorn Beginner’s Circle, sponsored by the Leavenworth Alphorn Association. Beginners will learn and practice the basics of the alphorn, hear alpine lore, and hear a demonstration by experienced players.

A background in brass instruments is helpful, but no musical experience is required to learn. Like modern brass instruments, alphorns rely on the same buzzing produced by blowing between the lips into a mouthpiece.

“If you have basic buzzing skills, then we can go from there. It's just all about buzz, and then that beautiful instrument just amplifies the sound. So in a way, they're a really good beginner instrument,” said Janet Mano, of Leavenworth Alphorn Association.

Participants will not only learn buzzing skills, but will also receive a lesson in listening carefully. While modern brass instruments rely on valves to change notes, the alphorn solely relies on changing the airflow and lip tension, which musicians have to recognize by ear. Alphorn players must listen carefully in order to get it right, but they must also learn to stop and listen to the reverberations to fully appreciate the instrument.

“It's an outdoor instrument and so you play, hopefully, beautiful melodies and you stop and listen to the sound. When you hike with them, you hear the echo. On quiet water, like on the shore of Lake Wenatchee, the sound just explodes, and you hear the echo two miles away. It's the weirdest feeling, it's so cool,” said Mano.

The event is for anyone who is interested in the alphorn, but Mano sees it as an excellent way to get younger generations involved. For younger kids, Mano will have them put their hand on the alphorn as she plays it to hear the vibration, as a way to introduce sound. For older kids, it lays a solid music foundation that they can build upon with additional instruments.

“With this beginner circle, you never know who's going to come out of the woodwork. It could spark an interest in a kid. I love to think that our kids…they'll arrive at high school ready for band, because they've played by ear, this wonderful horn,” said Mano.

The Alphorn Beginner’s Circle will be held at Icicle Village Resort at 2 p.m. on Mar. 23. The event is free, but reservations are required. Those interested can email Mano at More information about Leavenworth Alphorn Association can be found at

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or


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