Archive for October, 2010

When was the last time you played a vintage horn that was 60+ years old?
Sure there have been some great modern improvements made in modern manufacturing and building technique for increased effeciency etc. but what about good old craftsmanship and beauty?
If you look at most of the modern horns today – they are a little bland looking and lack that sense of art about them.
What happened to the beautiful engravings that used to adorn the bells of some of the horns of yesteryear? I fear out it went as it was too time consuming and slowed production.
Anyhow……some great finds can be had in looking at some of the vintage horns that you will find out there for a couple of reasons:
1) If they are old and still functioning well – have they not stood the ultimate test of time for manufacturing and longevity?
2) If they are still around these days chances are players wanted them kept around (fat chance finding a purple trumpet lasting the 60+ year test)
One such great horn that I wanted to highlight to some people’s attention are the early Holton horns.
To be more specific the Frank Holton Elkhorn Era horns – say between 1922 and the early 30’s.
I picked up one of these horns recently and it’s an amazing little horn.
If you want to know some back history about Holton I suggest you check out the loyalist site here:
The only consideration you need to give to these horns is that the mouthpiece receiver is non-standard. (Make sure that you get the LP – Low Pitch version – you will find that detail on the receiver – see image below)
So you have a few options:
1) Get the mouthpieces receiver adapted
2) Get a custom mouthpiece or shank made (I got  Dr Dave at Wedge Mouthpieces to make me a  custom shank) or
3) Find one of the original mouthpieces
All 3 options are worth pursuing.
These horns are nice as you can regularly pick  them up for under US$300 (a really nice one will  set you back around $600)
I would recommend that you look at a silver plated version – I’ve tried several and they play very nice.
Also – look for ones that say Patented on the leadpipe – mine is an earlier – pre-patent and I find the post ones play a little lighter and brighter.
The second consideration is valve alignment – as most of these are old and have been sitting in someones attic or basement for a while you’ll find a lot with old and worn corks or pads.
A quick solution is a set of new pads/felts etc – if you want to really get it dialled in have a tech look at it. Don’t worry about a precision alignment – just get the quick version – most techs have a small tool that will align your valves with a simple gauge and takes about 5 mins to do so – this will be sufficient for a horn of this age – and will keep your investment $$’s down.
So why would you want one of these horns?
– The tone is very clear and focused (thanks to the smaller bell)
– It’s a very solid played in the upper register and blows very easily.
– The all come with some amazing history and prestige having been played right through the 30’s, 40’s and beyond at the absolute high of the Classical, Theatre and Jazz and Big Band era’s.

Here’s an interesting horn than I picked up from a prominent brass technician in the US recently that is bound to spark a few comments.

Apparently this horn has been played by a few heavy hitters in the US (Mr. Wallace Roney for one) and they really dug the way it played and sounded.

What we have here is suspected to be an early Schilke prototype horn that is based of a Martin Committee parts. It has the unique serial numberin the 182XXX range and an X stamped above the number.

It’s rumoured that Schilke was perhaps one of the main driver’s behind the original Martin Committee designs. Being in a Committee of people making a lot of decisions (especially creative ones) will tend to lead of course to not only a lot of ideas – but also a lot of compromises (we’ve all been there right?)

Hence he would go on to design his perfect horn – and the Schilke horn line was born.

The major differences between this horn and a standard Martin Committee that I can easily identify are:

1) Bell is a lighter weight yellow brass bell (in raw brass) and is not stamped – apparently he like it this way as the bell didn’t get stressed by any stamping

2) The 3rd valve slide throw is a lot longer than a typical Committee

3) The RH finger ring is smaller

4) The leadpipe appears to be a lighter version yellow brass and has a Schilke style mouthpiece receiver.

So what does it play like?

Well it’s kind of right in the middle between a Martin and a Schilke in my opinion.

The slots are more Martin like – as you would expect as it has a Martin valve set.

The feedback behind the bell and the projection to me sound more like a Schilke.

To test my theory I went down to the local music store, borrowed a Schilke B3 and jumped into their testing room with my Zoom recorder and did a very quick recording between the 3 horns.

This was all done ‘on the fly’ and no allowance was made for gap adjustment between receivers (Schilke’s are set up for zero – to almost zero gap).

Since this video I’ve had a custom shank made and my Committee sounds 40% better as I’ve had the valves aligned properly – but it will give you an idea.