The Martin Handcraft Standard Bb Trumpet

Posted: October 10, 2011 in Martin Horns (Non Committee)
Tags: , , ,

The Martin Standard

This horn comes from a totally different era – some 80+ years in the past and pre both WW2 and the Martin Committee as most know it.  Around the mid to 30’s the Standard and the Imperial (Handcraft) both existed.

The Standard was essentially an ‘all-brass’ version – where the Imperial had nickel slides and trim. (The exception to this is the mid 40’s models which had nickel trim also).

They were very much a pro horn at the time and were built in such a way.

One giveaway to this process to me is the fact that you find hand stamped serial numbers not only on the side of the horn – but also on the bottom caps and the side of the actual valves. (Having said that tolerances of the later Committees were better as machinery improved etc).

Buying Tip:

When considering such a horn always ask if the number stamped on the valves matches the outside number.

The top caps will also have the same number – those are common areas that are consistently swapped out over the years.

Comparison vs a Martin Committee:

  • More in tune – the mouthpipe/leadpipe contributes to this as the Committee tapers quite a bit vs, this one which looks like it’s a more ‘traditional’ style setup.
  • The valve block is in the more traditonal position vs. the Committee which is actually drawn back towards the player.
  • Mouthpiece receiver is different – the Standard has a receiver more like you would find on an oldConnof that Era.
  • Waterkeys – are the more traditional setup vs. the Martin ‘Trombone style’ side dumps (Very cool loking but almost impossible
  • to replace)
  • The Finger Ring is on the top of the valve slide – Committee is off to the left
  • Trim is different – the standard has small finger buttons vs the wider and thinner versions on the Committee
  • The braces are very different. The Committee has very light style bracing – where the Standard has decidely larger bracing.
  • Bellflare – although similar (Bell Diameter is the same) the flare is less drastic as you approach the bell on the Committee.

So how does it play?

That’s a hard one to pin down as it all depends on the player.

I will say that the Standard is easier to lock notes in – so it gives a much more defined scale – hence more in tune.

To me it also plays a little darker than the Committee – as in it has less edge but more power.

I also feel the projection is slightly better on the Standard than the Committee.

For what you will pay for one of these horns (about a third of the price at least vs. a Committee) these horns are real sleepers. Unfortunately as they didn’t hold the same prestige as the Committee there are far less examples that seem to be available. (Mind you at the time of writing there are 2 on Ebay at the moment).

It seems weird to me that so few of these are available when you can readily find a raft of Martin Dasants from 10-20 years prior to these horns coming out.

I suspect that there is a very good reason for why there are so few Standards out there – yet so many Handcraft Imperials and Committees – but that’s for another time to explain 😉

Happy hunting!

  1. […] Handcraft Standard from the late 30's vs. a Committee from the late 40's. You can check it out HERE I'd love to hear from other people who collect, appreciate and play these horns. […]

  2. Morris Crow says:

    I have a 1928 Martin Standard Handcraft Trumpet, serial 84556 in raw brass. It is an awesom playing horn. It has a smooth, dark full focused sound. I will try to send pictures. Morris Crow

  3. […] too – amongst other similarities. If anyone missed it I did a thread earlier about this one on my blog – might be worth checking out if you are considering. I'll be adding more info at a later date as I […]

  4. John Castleman says:

    I have 2 HCI’s currently a 1937 and 1939. I also have a 1947 Committee. I have owned many different horns probably 5 HCI’s and 6 or 7 Committees. I agree with the above play test. I always seem to acquire a Committee due to the prestige but I always go back to the HCI. I to think that Martin stopped putting the love in the HCI when the Committee came out. They dropped the reverse tuning slide somewhere after 1939. That was the decline of the HCI. Prior to 1939 (ish)They were fantastic horns in their own right. After playing many of these horns since 1985 (ish). I think that on the Committee, you can really scoot around the horn. You can play things on that horn that you will find very difficult on say a ML Bach (another conversation) which can take your improvisations in very interesting directions due to being able to play what you hear. Those partials are pretty close together but you pay for it in the area of intonation. If you get an in tune Committee…keep it and play it. Don’t ever get rid of it. I have not found one yet but I suspect they are out there. I have yet to own a Committee Handcraft though. I have played Mic Gillette’s Custom Large Bore Committee. For me, it was awful but my buddy sounded incredible on it. He has an incredible range and is an amazing lead player. HE sounded like a dark, fluffy jazz player on it. The HCI is SLIGHTLY less nimble than the Committee and I mean very slightly less. The intonation however is so spot on, it’s amazing and for that you can actually use it in a section. I’ve played legit, jazz and lead on it. I noticed that the Committees seemed to play better with smaller mouthpieces, say an Al Cass or Bach 10 1/2 C but don’t seem to sound a whole lot different out front of the horn with a 3C Bach or bigger. Currently there is a guy in a band I play in that has a 1952 Committee. He has a Monette B2 and an Al Cass 4×4. Those two mouthpieces are at the opposite side of the size spectrum and he actually sounds more like Blue Mitchell on the Cass whereas the Monette just sounds unfocused. The HCI however works well with big and small mouthpieces. Again, you can actually use it in a trumpet section (currently, I am using an Al Cass 4×1 or a Mt. Vernon 10 1/2 E on the HCI horn. They blend really well with other trumpets. The Committee should stay on the trumpet stand for a solo instead of your flugelhorn while you play something that blends with the section. If you use the HCI, you only need one horn on the gig. Not that I am the expert on this but these are a few of my observations owning or playing with people on these horns.

  5. John Castleman says:

    Just picked up a ’41 HCI and yes it is an entirely different animal than the pre-committee HCI. Not better or worse but different. They spun the brass on the bell much thinner and the ballusters, braces and much more about the horn is different. The resistance is about the same. the ’41 horn is much lighter, projects farther and easier to play in the upper register. The tone is not as “dark” though. Not really better or worse just different. If you are looking for a darker jazz sound, the pre-committee would be the better way to go.

  6. trumpetgear says:

    Hi John, thanks for your insights and comments. Some really good information contained in there. I have a project underway as mentioned on the other posts – it will be interesting to see the results crossing the two.

  7. John says:

    I do some restoration work too but just for myself and friends that I don’t charge. Fortunately, I have access to a 100,00 + repair shop with state of the art tools. I usually tweak all horns that I get so that I can learn about them some I have improved and some I have killed. I probably killed a nice Blessing Artist last year trying to change the taper of the gap in the reciever. That was a mistake. On those, just put your mouthpiece in it and gt used to the weird way it plays. So far on this 40’s HCI, I have put a patch on it, scratch brushed the whole horn, rebuild the tuning slide and shortened the first slide 1/8 of an inch as well as reversed the top tube and put a thumb hook on it. I am of course killing the vintage vibe of the horn but WOW what a difference a few tweaks make. I SUSPECT that Martin made the first slide a little long to make a’s and e’s not so sharp but the d’s and f’s suffer. Having that thumb hook on it makes the world of difference. I am considering shortening the bell and re reaming the reciever a bit. The mouthpiece does not seat true in the horn. This will change the gap slightly. I’m not planning on taking a whole lot out with the morse taper reamer but just enough to make the mouthpiece seat correctly. There is actually some leakage around the shank of the mouthpiece. I believe that with SOME of these older horns, it is necessary to make these modifications to get the instrument playing right and it helps to be a player as well as a technician (like Josh Landress: he is a french horn player). Sadly, it kills the vintage vibe. When I sold a Blessing Artist, I got a fraction of what it was really worth because of the mods AND I SAVED THE HORN!! I didn’t keep it because I couldn’t deal with the intonation on it (which is a whole other story) that is unfixable (the Rudy Muck/Blessing Artist/Super Artist all share the same weird intonation quirk).

  8. Joe says:

    Where does the Standard (non handcraft) model come into the picture here. I recently saw one that had the fitting for a lyre instead of /in lieu of a fiting for the third valve slide. A 1940 model with the big U S on its bell…picture of a hand holding a baton above. Whats with this horn?

    • trumpetgear says:

      Hi Joe,
      Interesting question – I did notice that horn also. I think in my travels I have seen 2 of these and they were both in Silver plate. The big U.S. is perhaps a military issue horn – I would check for further inventory # markings on the horn somewhere. Anything else I would tell you would be purely speculative as I honestly am learning about the little difference myself. Perhaps Trumpetherald might be a great place to ask that question? Sorry I cannot be of further assistance.

    • John Castleman says:

      It is a handcraft imperial standard (brass slide collars not nickle) made for the military (silver plate some beadblasted) with a marching lyre. If its in good shape it will be a great player. I use a tweaked 1941 imperial for lead and it just zings. I thinned out the bell like the old benge claude gordon the thing with the standards is that there is no lion engraving with either the 37 or m in its paws so you don’t know if its the committee bell or the bach 37 copy. It could be either. The intonation on all of these is weird so don’t judge the horn by that. You can always unsolder slides and move them or cut them down. That often saves the horn. If it has a good sound then you have something. You can’t fix a bad sound.

      • trumpetgear says:

        Thanks for the info John – I learned something there also.
        I have a couple of HC Imperials coming next month – one is with the 37 and the other I am hoping is without so I can compare the two.
        I’ve only come across one of these horns with a bad sound – but it was a botched repair job by someone.

      • John Castleman says:

        My horn has the “M” (Committee) bell. It is bright when pushed and dark when played “easy.” Not as bright as a Schilke.

      • Donald Brown/Jane Bauer says:

        We also have Martin Standard that was a military instrument. It is silver plated as was mentioned in the previous comment. It’s serial # 142XXX and I would like to know the year of its’ manufacture. It is also equipped to hold a lyre. The same serial # appears on all 3 valves. The only visible issue is with a dent in the curved pipe on the end opposite from the bell. I can send pics to anyone if it might help gather info on this horn. We are trying to acsertain an approximate value of this instrument so we can sell it to make repair money for the Music Club of Greenville(SC) Instrument Project. The MCoG has instruments repaired for the local middle and high schools to help keep music alive in our schools. This year they had 50 instruments repaired and placed in the schools.
        Thank you for any info and any valuation info that you might provide to us.

      • trumpetgear says:

        My apologies for the delayed response. Value would be dependent on condition more that anything. Please feel free to send me some pics at and I would be happy to take a look.
        Kind Rgds, Shawn

  9. Don Pisegna says:

    I have recently acquired a 1947 Martin Committee (medium bore) and 1938 Handcraft Standard (medium bore) and after playing both the Handcraft is the better horn for me. I play it in churches and the intonation is much better and the sound is centered and dark. I can not get the Committee to play in tune.Maybe me, but the Standard is much easier to play in tune in all ranges. Conclusion: The Handcraft Standard is one of my trumpets of choice. I paid under $500 for it.

  10. Rex Kimball says:

    Great analysis! Thank you!

  11. John says:

    I’ve picked up a dansant 1925 M bore and played a Symphony locally as well as bought another 41 HCI carcass donor horn. The HCI will get a bach strad bell (it currently has the 38 bell) and leadpipe/tuning slide after I take the donor parts off to keep my current ’41 HCI alive and running.. I’m curious if I can make a Bach/Martin. Also both 20’s Martins play amazing. The M bore Dansant plays great with duct tape over the tuning slide leak. I bet it will sound great with a patch on it. I play professionally and could afford top of the line horns but I prefer the old Martin horns for every style (except in a legit trumpet section). Other than that, they are all amazing.

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