Archive for July, 2011

Today’s post is going to be a bit of a brief one, but I wanted to let you all know about something kinda new from Wedge Mouthpieces – that is the new Wedge Plastics!!

Now, if you went to the latest ITG you probably would have seen these already as they were revealed there. Hopefully a lot of players got to check these out.

For my NZ friends, who most likely did not attend…..

Let me tell you that these pieces take everything that is good about the Wedge mouthpiece and translate it into a much more affordable option.

You get the same rim as you would on a metal Wedge, backbore and even the look. (Except it’s in a cool matt black plastic. Note – the white writing in the images below is chalk for photographing – the letters appear black as they are etched out of the plastic)

These are extremely comfortable to play on and give you almost the same amount of power as the metal counterparts.

In fact the only downside of these pieces is that they play a little darker than the metal version. (Not necessarily a bad thing).

Don’t let this put you off though – these will blow you away for how well they play! They are also a lot less than a metal version and allow you to get a great mouthpiece for not too much of an investment.

These are presented in a variety of standard sizes (Bach 1.5C, 3C, 10.5C, Schilke 14A4a etc…)

Well worth taking a look at!!

Greetings all,

I originally did a post about this horn back in October 2010.

Since then I have a better way to photograph horns  in the form of a studio light box, lights and better camera so I thought I would do a quick update on this post. Here’s some better images on the horn:

Also, I gave some incorrect information about point #2 on the initial post stating that the 3rd valve throw was longer than a standard committee – not in fact the case at all.  It’s the same. (Shame on me for messing that up)

Also, point #1 about the bell – was correct it’s yellow brass.

What I failed to point out though was that it’s a larger bell than a typical committee coming in at a full 5 inches.

It also has a different style flare in comparison to the standard Committee that is best illustrated in the picture below:

The mouthpiece receiver is also a modified receiver – I initially write that it was set up for Schilke mouthpiece – but after having picked up a Holton Heim #2 mouthpiece recently and testing it I am more confident that this was in fact set up with this style of mouthpiece with the tapered shank setup instead.

The last point is that the bottom valve caps are more like a Deluxe Committee version than a standard.

This horn still to me sits nicely between the tone and color spectrum of a Schilke and a normal Martin. Having found a better match in mouthpiece it has shifted more towards the Martin sound by about 10% but has a little more power with the larger bell that projects a little better.

If anyone else out there has examples of Schilke custom/modified horns I would love to hear about them!

Final Pic is of my 46 Committee in the foreground and the Schilke X Horn in the background.

Don’t read to much into the size difference – that’s just the camera giving you the illusion that there are a different size due to depth perception.

When’s the last time you thought about playing a cornet?

I first started my introduction to cornets about 15 years ago – like most in NZ I started on a trusty Yamaha 231 Bb Cornet that was owned by the school.

That thing was at least 10 years old and had seen a lot of action in it’s time.

Needless to say I didn’t last very long on it and quickly moved to trumpet as I preferred the brightness of the trumpet in Jazz Band.

In the last year or so I really started to rethink cornets and that has let me to purchase more than a few to test and see if I like the darker tone and playability of it vs. a Martin Committee trumpet sound.

As of yet I have yet to find anything that get’s me the same tone characteristics – so I am definately sticking with the Martin and Harrelson for now – but my search has turned up a few interesting finds.

One of these finds is the Classic (some would almost say legendary) Conn 80A Cornet.

This little guy has been around in various designs, names and designations for almost 100 years.

Now I could prattle on and give you a whole back history here – but to cut a story short there are 2 versions designated the Early 80A and Late 80A.

I would highly recommend checking out the Conn Loyalist Website for a complete backstory on everything Conn (Links on the Early and Late provided above) .

So what’s so great about these horns?

1) The are build solid

2) They are relatively inexpensive

3) They are very versatile in the sound department.

Now before you rush out and buy the first 80A you see – bear in mind that when shopping for a vintage instrument (especially in New Zealand) you want to get the best example you can find and go for that one.

There are plenty of horns out there – and they are cheap, but by the time you get them all fixed up you might as well have bought the one in good original condition.

I personally try and hold to this philosophy as much as possible when purchasing vintage instruments to ensure that I am getting a good example of what is a horn that has been well maintained and cared for over the decades that it has been around.

So how does it play?

Well, that really depends on your preference of mouthpiece selection.

I would say a lot more than usual as these horns are very, very mouthpiece sensitive. Put in a deep cup and you get a beautiful warm and rich sound ideal for Jazz Solo, Combo work and even Brass or Concert Band.

If you switch to something shallower you get a horn that is great for Dixie, Jazz and can almost hold it’s own in a section against some of the trumpets.

Because of this mouthpiece sensitivity you get a greater range of tonal colours than most instruments – this is what makes it a great option to own in the ‘tool kit’.

Valve action on these is good and smooth if the instrument has been well cared for and you look after basic maintenance (oiling and regular cleaning).

So what era is the best?

I have not played enough version to answer this – but off a general comment I like to find vintage instruments ranging between 1945 – 1954 where possible. I am just starting to dabble into the pre-war phase with a few late 30’s instruments so this may change – but in general I find the quality of workmanship, engravings and styling to be appealing.

So in summary:

If you are looking for a good value cornet that has a variety of tonal colors, is reliable,  has an abundance of parts still available (they made a ton of these horns over the years) and will last you your lifetime then you might want to check out the Conn 80A and get one in your gig bag.

If you’re anything like me – you probably have a number of horns sitting in your closet/cupboard at any one time. Lately the collection has been explanding though as I keep discovering a number of great instruments from the past that are build solid, and sound great.

A couple of horns have always been on my ‘want to play’ list since I started listening to jazz trumpet players about 10-15 years ago.

Namely the Blessing Artist series trumpets that were made famous by their association with Clifford Brown back in the 50’s.

(Blessing Super Artist Cornet from the late 1940’s pictured below)

Being in Canada these days certainly has it’s advantages as I have access to a who plethora of instruments from across the border – so when I spied a couple of these horns for a reasonable price I just had to get them for a test run.

Of course to do the ultimate test I required as standard series Artist and the Super Artist.

Luckliy enough I happened upon both within the space of a week and bought both for ‘comparative purposes’

Both the horns I got – were bought for a fraction of what they should go for – it seems that everyone is after the trumpet versions today (especially Committee trumpets) and has forgotten what an absolute bargain some of these horns can be had for if you look around and do your research (and due diligence of several days of sifting over endless internet pages)

These horns are both great – and great value to boot.

Now, just to be clear I am talking about the pre 50’s versions of these instruments – they are easily spotted by the mico-tuner ring at the bottom of the main tuning slide.

Most have the underslung 3rd valve ring also. If you are looking to pick up one of these horns – these are the ones to go for!! Be wary of this as there are a lot of much later produced horns under the same name that are IMO no where near as good as these older versions.

The major difference between the two at surface value is the addition of the Nickel Plated slides on the Super Artist vs. the all Brass of the Artist.

What the nickel slides seem to do from a playing perspective is to allow for a more solid tone and core to the sound – and the notes slot noticeably easier on the Super for me. The sound is also a lot fuller on the Super and the projection seems to be better.

Having said that, if it’s smokey and intimate you are after with a noticeable warm edge to the sound then the Artist is a great choice.

A lot of people love the all brass versions of these horns, and I can see why. One top of the advantages in price (usually at least half the price of the Super) you get a whole lot of horn for your investment.

Both of these horns seem to be some-what mouthpiece sensitive – so be prepared to spend some tiem dialing in the sound with a properly matched mouthpiece shank (far too many people write off good horns without looking at this area and the valve alignments)

So that puts it totally down to personal preference about what you are looking for out of these horns. If it’s a more all-round horn you are looking for perhaps the Super Artist is the way to go. If it’s jazz and Dixie style horn you are after see if you can track down an original Artist.

Better yet – save up a few pennies and get both! – It will probably cost you less than a new intermediate horn from a major manufacturer and give you years of service, and when you are done you might even get more than what you paid for it back.