Face to Face with a Martin Committee

Posted: May 21, 2010 in Martin Committee
Tags: , ,

As some of you may already know – I recently happened upon a chance purchase of a Martin Committee Bb trumpet.

The horn was advertised as a 1950’s horn in playable condition and checked over by a tech.

What an understatement.

I received the horn early last week – the serial is in the 158,XXX range which according to various sources possibly puts it as manufactured between 1946 and 1947.  (The majority of the best ones were meant to be between say ’44 and pre RMC taking over – unless you factor the Handicrafts which are a little earlier)

The condition is not great cosmetically for sure – but it has that certain character about it that you can only get from being 60+ years old and seeing some action.

I’m sure that every bump and scrape has a story to tell, and the valve tops where someone got the cap stuck is a little damaged must have been a fun day for them too.

But if you look down the leadpipe – nothing.

Just a nice clean pipe – rare for such an old horn (usually most have red rot in some of them)

The valves have been re-plated at some stage also – and that contributes to the super valve action that is evident on this horn.

So how does this thing play I hear you ask?

All in all this is a fantastic playing horn!

The tone is like a wall of sound emerging from the relatively small bell. There’s really not edge to it at all. The sound just keeps getting bigger and rounder. It’s something that is really quite hard to describe in words.

If I could use something you could relate to in your imagination I can describe the difference between this horn and a regular Bb as like drinking a coffee vs a hot chocolate.

With coffee you know your drinking it and you just want to be done with it and get the benefits of having consumed it so it kicks you into gear. With a hot chocolate you put your hands around the cup and sip it slowly feeling content with the warmth on your hands and the subtle hint of chocolate in the air and on your palate and you take your time with it.

It’s the same with this horn – once I pick it up – I pretty much loose 20-30 mins before I put it back down again. In fact I like it so much – I’ve switched to practicing outdoors in public (parks and down by the waterfront). Due to the nature of the sound production and ability to play at softer volumes this now seems possible – and I haven’t had any complaints so far.

I can see now why these horns are so highly regarded amongst players as they really are quite special in more than a few ways.

Right now these horns will run you at least around US$1100 in fair condition (more likely to have issues with them in this price range) all the way up to US$3,500 for a nice example #2 Bore. If you are lucky enough to come across a #3 Bore – or large bore these will start at around US$3,000 at a guess.  My advice is to get a horn that has been serviced or looked over by a technician – don’t worry too much about the cosmetics – it’s the sound and blow that makes these horns so special – not if the lacquer is 100%. For a nice playing horn – that’s cosmetically rough you’d best budget US$1600-1900.

Mines definitely not for sale – that’s for sure.

More to come later as I get to terms with the new addition to my arsenal of horns.

  1. CB says:

    I wish you hadn’t written the best ones were around ’44-’49 because that’s NOT true. In fact, where did you get those numbers from? Most experts agree that it’s BEFORE the RMC models came along, which was way after ’49 but there are some good ones after RMC started(in the early stages of RMC). Everything else you wrote is pretty much spot on. Enjoy your horn.

  2. trumpetgear says:

    Thanks for your comment.
    I certainly don’t profess to being an expert on the matter – perhaps I should have used “in my opinion” – either way I stand corrected – I’ll make an edit there.
    Regards, Shawn

  3. Derek says:

    Hi Shawn,

    Wow! great to hear about your Committee. How does it compare to your Harrelson? What is the intonation and evenness of the scale like?


    • trumpetgear says:

      Hi Derek,
      The jury is still out on the differences between the two.
      As I mentioned above I bought this on an opportunity buy – I wasn’t really looking to buy at the time – but I am glad I did.
      I’d say at this stage the Committee blows a lot easier – and has a wider dynamic range than the Harrelson. I do enjoy the extra ‘feedback’ behind the bell. Intonation is very good on this horn.
      Once I get to spend a bit more time playing without a practice mute I’ll do a post on the differences/similarities between the two – and hopefully find somewhere to make a couple of sound clips also.

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