Boosey & Hawkes (Besson) – The True Story

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by JessopSmythe, Feb 19, 2006.

  1. JessopSmythe

    JessopSmythe Active Member

    This article was sent to me by the author, Denis Wedgwood, who asked my to publicise it anywhere I could. Denis is an experienced player and maker of professional cornets & trumpets as well as running an instrument repair shop in Cardiff. Anyone who knows Denis will know that he's never scared to let people know what he really thinks. I think most of you will find what he has to say about Besson quite interresting. This also came with a few cartoons which are a bit big to put in this thread so I'll put them in the gallery.

    Boosey & Hawkes (Besson) – The True Story

    I was four and a half years old when my father decided to present me with his cornet. It was a Besson. He’d bought it second hand in 1935 at the Crystal Palace Exhibition, and, as he was playing Soprano Cornet with Fairys Band at the time, he didn’t need it.
    It gleamed: leather case polished, with my name engraved on the lid. My Besson Cornet, with it’s separate ‘back’ slide for ‘A’, or Low Pitch as it was called then, earned its keep in two works bands – Ferrodo & Clayton Aniline – with me as a 12 year old boy soloist at 30 [pre- Euro] shillings per week, eventually spending lots of years in the pit at the Royal Opera House grinding out Swan Lake Neapolitans & Prokofiev Nightmares – for me anyway.
    The only thing I did to my Besson Cornet was to fit a third slide lever for the Cornet duet with Mr. Dilley, the Principal, in Verdi’s Opera Don Carlos, when we recorded it with Guilini. Mr. Guilini, until he heard us, thought that the cornet was less mellow in sound than the trumpet – rather than the opposite. Oh, and Mr. Dilley used an even older Besson Cornet than mine, still with its ‘echo’ attachment.

    Generations pass, and my Besson Cornet has long ago been presented to my sons – who perhaps think of it as an heirloom. But it still works today.
    So what went wrong? What happened to the world-wide reputation of the famous British Musical Instrument Company Boosey & Hawkes [Besson]?

    It’s said that the ‘death of a company’ is when management has got rid of the ‘old gaffer’ who could remember trying something twenty years before that didn’t work.
    I used to know ‘old gaffers’ that previously worked at Boosey & Hawkes when I was a 16-year-old apprentice at Meyers & Harrison in Manchester. They must be turning in their graves.

    What’s the point in designing the main tuning slide on a tuba to be less in length than a cornet main tuning slide, the latter being 3 or 4 times higher in pitch? Even a basic knowledge of physics & acoustics is enough to know that the pitch/length of a brass instrument doesn’t start at the mouthpiece. Ignoring ‘end correction’ of the bell, and ambient temperature, the Pitch/length is always somewhere down the players throat. Were B & H thinking of cloning standardised bass players? Did the designer ever sit in a cold church waiting to play with his tuning slide fully in, knowing his or her first note is still going to be flat? Obviously not.

    There are formulae for this sort of thing, but the B & H physicist left years ago, to start his own very successful instrument company, and was not replaced.
    If tuba, euphonium & bass players, as we know, are not all the same length, weight & size & don’t all use the same types of mouthpiece or play at the same angle, why make their instruments one size? Why aren’t the mouthpipes adjustable for height & angle? It can be done. Why hasn’t it? B & H basses & euphoniums used to be part of their flagship.
    Yamaha make some of their instruments with detachable valve sections. It’s a small step, but a massive one for players and technicians.

    At some period over the last few years Boosey & Hawkes [Besson] changed their valve material from Monel, or similar, to stainless steel. Presumably this was to make the manufacturing process cheaper. [The normal process is to start with a larger diameter valve tube to take the pressure of passage insertion, and then grind it down to size.] This crass decision of using Stainless Steel has now put a finite life on an instrument. Stainless steel is not a bearing material. Any good engineer will tell you this. So what happens? A valve, made of material as hard as the cutlery we use to eat, is in constant frictional contact with the relatively soft brass of the instrument casing. So instead of the two different bearing materials ‘mating’ together,
    i.e. Brass/Monel/German Silver etc., the stainless steel valve grinds out the valve casing itself on each depression by the player. Add a small blemish to the stainless steel and we have the perfect scourer.
    Of course, as Stainless Steel is not a bearing material, valves stick – the player takes them out, believing that oil is needed. This grinds & scores the inner casing even more when they re-insert them. In a very short time the valve casing of the instrument becomes triangular in section.
    The reason for this is: looking at a valve, it can be approximately sectioned into three vertical banks of holes with three continuous lengths of metal separating them. The latter, having more mass, grind away the casing at a different rate to the holed sections. Q.E.D. triangular casings = ruined instrument.
    Prove it yourselves. Loosen the top valve cap of your ‘Besson’ Tuba, Tenor Horn etc, lift the valve clear of the pin, then carefully rotate the valve. Does it rotate freely, or does it feel like driving on a flat tyre? If the latter – yes, you’ve very likely got Stainless Steel valves and your casings are getting nicely chewed.

    On the other hand, improvements that wouldn’t have cost any money have been ignored, thus costing players thousands of pounds over the years in repairs.
    On the ‘bottom sprung’ valves i.e. basses, euphoniums etc. there is a small area between the top of the valve itself and the valve cap in the casings that collects detritus. This quite often prevents the valve from being taken out, embedding itself between the valve and the top of the casing as the player attempts to pull it clear. The valve jams, leaving something of a dilemma. Does the player continue to try & pull the valve clear [this jams it] or just push it back, unoiled? Very often, in battle conditions, more pressure is applied to pull it clear. Valve jams solidly, lots of willing helpers then try home remedies: - end result – trip to the repairers and a very large bill.
    All this could have been prevented by a small recess bored around the top of the valve casing to allow any dirt to be pushed into it. Result: - less sticking valves, lower repair bills and peace of mind for the player – at no extra cost to the manufacturer. Has it been done……?

    As I said earlier about the ‘old gaffer’ remembering early years – triggered tuning slides on cornets!
    We used to discuss things like this when I was an apprentice.
    The Patent Office Archives are full of them, including Distins multi-belled fantasies. When a player uses combinations 1 & 3, or all three valves simultaneously, it’s the third slide, or perhaps the first valve slide in certain circumstances, that needs lengthening, not flattening the whole instrument with a trigger on the main tuning slide.
    This is what I call Finance Department Design. Improves nothing, cheap to do, and should be sold on Daytime TV. But in this case I believe that you do get a spanner with every so-called ‘top of the range’ Besson Cornet, and levers that George Stephenson would have been proud to use on his ‘Rocket’ Steam Engine.
    Players today want customisation. They want choice: interchangeable bells, mouthpipes, different metals and such – exactly like they choose their mouthpieces. Everyone’s different.
    Choice & Customisation happens in the Automotive industry. Fords are not all black now. Yet why should a firm like B & H insist on dictating to the virtuoso and the not so virtuoso brass player what tools they should use? Why should Brass Band cornet players, from the third to the principal, be persuaded to play a standardised instrument advertised by the current promotional virtuoso?
    The lower cornets of the band might want a different timbre to the principal. Make interchangeable bells – we do, because I for onewouldn’t dare to dictate my prejudices to some of the players we meet. They are too seriously good.

    It’s not easy to get good sheet brass in Britain suitable for musical instruments. Which is one of the reasons we electro-form our bells: copper, nickel, silver – even sandwiches of the same. By good sheet brass I mean a soft, high copper content, malleable material. ButI’m sure it’s possible to get if ordered in large quantities, so there’s no excuse for B & H not to have done so. Their bell material has deteriorated over the years to the constituency of a Coke Can. Their method of making them is also more akin to the drinks trade– hydraulic expansion, brazed ‘China Man’s Hat’ seams with the end result [with no alternative for the player, remember] being a work hardened product that could be used to knock nails in. And, I suspect, internal grain growth due to hydraulic expansion.

    The Germans, Americans and the Japanese to a large extent use good brass, why couldn’t Boosey & Hawkes? The answer is, production managed by the Accounts Department. Never mind the instruments primary purpose, its sound, lets just try & make it look nice & shiny & flog it as quickly as possible. Competitors, Bach & Yamaha for example, realise that no company can stand still and have eaten into our UK home market with their instruments. They’ve succeeded by not falling into those traps.

    The only thing the UK can produce & sell in these times is quality.
    Doesn’t matter what the product is; it has to be the absolute top of the range. Britain cannot compete with countries whose labour costs are a fortieth of ours. Which means that we either abandon our manufacturing capacity entirely, or design & make things that low labour costs countries cannot (yet). This obviously includes scientific research. Research & Development is a priority: if we don’t keep this up our lead erodes. I’m not talking about Accounts Department R & D “can we make it cheaper” to shove the balance sheet up this year. [For example, “lets save 2p per cornet and put a Pop rivet in a trigger rather than a neat locking screw”]. I’m talking about quality R & D to keep ahead of the competition. In the case of Boosey & Hawkes, their idea of R & D has been one of the contributory factors in their demise as we’ve seen above.
    For any firm, it only needs just one dissatisfied customer to undo years of goodwill. We all know the speed of bad news.
    Where quality control is non-existent, no amount of self-publicity will help, andBoosey & Hawkes has always had an excellent publicity department.
    I’ve lost count of the hundreds of players who’ve come to our workshops with Sovereign Triggers that won’t trig, water keys that won’t water, pistons that won’t ………enough of that! And we are only one tiny Welsh Firm.

    It’s not very easy explaining to a player, who has just spent well over a £1000 on a cornet, that the reason their third slide trigger will never work is because the tubes aren’t parallel and the instrument needs a complete rebuild, rather than sending it back to the factory for the third time to have even more ground off the slide legs so they rattle & leak. The same applies to valves. Can’t get the water out? Well, it helps if there was a hole drilled into the tube under the water key first.Yes, it’s happened more than once.

    An interesting exercise in reverse quality control. A ‘D’ stock Boosey & Hawkes [Besson] instrument can sometimes be identified by a tiny letter stamped in an obscure place. And sometimes not. This means it is sold as an inferior standard instrument (without rights) to Dealers, who are only shown a ‘slight lacquer blemish’ or tiny transit dent, and buy them in good faith. As such, the dealer passes it on to their customer at a good discount. The dealer’s being honest. He doesn’t know that, apart from that ‘little blemish’ there’s a hidden minefield of manufacturing & assembly disaster: pipes sawn off too short & butted together, ill-fitting valves, and sometimes mouthpipe angles that would suit a giraffe or penguin. Things are so bad that one well known & honourable British Retailer only sells Boosey & Hawkes instruments as seconds – even when they are new – as they cannot guarantee them.
    I had one in recently for silverplate from a lacquer finish: it fell to pieces. Quite frankly, the person who thought up this method of disposing of substandard instruments should be………………………………………….

    This space is reserved for your own comments.

    A friend of mine who used to own a very large freight company had his own method of quality control. A rather untidy character, jeans, anorak, Backpack, walks unannounced into one of his freight companies world-wide offices. After testing the counter service, with a parcel, he tells the manager who he is & asks to see the books. Just imagine the consternation, especially if the counter service had been a bit offhand. That’s before he’s seen the books. And to add the cream he tells the manager not to book him a hotel, he’ll sleep on the office floor. This was his method of overseeing his business. Just calling in his offices worldwide unannounced.
    Now that’s quality control.

    So what does a Managing Director do if he doesn’t understand his core business and is consequently losing money?
    One standard ploy he usesis Management by Acquisition – which is natural really, if you don’t know a micrometer from a milkchurn.
    Let’s buy someone else’s successful business.
    Buffet Woodwind, Keilworth Saxophones, Rico and lots more.
    They’ll look great on our balance sheet. We’ll borrow the money. Never mind the core business. And/or – one can almost hear the Board Room coffee cups clinking – “Let’s get a franchise on a ‘Third World’ factory so we can compete at the cheap end of the market.” “What about India!?” “Everyone else is going to China & the Far East.” So what happens? As the Managing Director still doesn’t know what he’s doing - or, more to the point, what he wants, the same shoddy unsupervised instruments start to come out of their newest acquisition; the only difference being it is now stamped with ‘Made for’ Boosey & Hawkes.
    “My valves make a funny knocking sound,” said the little kid, looking at me and expecting miracles, “and my teacher said to bring it to you & you’ll fix it.” Hmm. How many of us have had to tell parents that they’ve just wasted their money buying their offspring a ‘Made for’ Boosey & Hawkes [Besson] instrument? In this case the damn fool who designed the valve finger tops made them too large a diameter, so they hit the brass sides of the caps instead of the felt cushion when the valves are depressed. How about the ‘Made for’ cornets with no bell rim wire, making repair virtually impossible. Try telling parents that.
    Don’t blame the ‘Third World’ workers. Take a good look at the British Manager who gave them their brief.

    It’s not a pure co-incidence that an Arbiter Tenor Saxophone crook perfectly fits into a top of the range Selmer Tenor Sax body. Its rather more to do with a very astute guy stipulating and getting the quality and design he wanted from the ‘Far East’ factory years ago.
    It’s not, of course, co-incidence that the ‘Elkhart’ Student cornet [Vincent Bach/Taiwan I believe] is good enough to be played professionally. It’s more to do with another very astute bloke, who incidentally now manages a Beaconsfield Instrument Company, also stipulating and getting exactly what he wants.
    There are many more examples like these. So don’t blame the poor guys sweating away for a bowl of rice.

    As many readers of this article will have realised, by now, the debaclian demise of Britain’s largest musical instrument manufacturers can be traced directly to management. If the extant MD doesn’t know the mechanics of a Tenor Horn from a Tea Pot - let alone the intricacies of Mr. Blaikley’s compensatory valve system, what chance is there of his factory producing quality products? They knew their job in the 70s/80s and before. E.g. two generations of the Gillard family, spanning 50 years or more.

    The later ones – well: X whose claim to fame was installing an automatic radiator welding line in his previous job. Y used to be something in the perfume industry, Z a promoted salesman – at least he sold musical instruments.

    Years ago I was wined & dined by one of these managers in Surrey [free lunch?], invited to the factory, told by him that if that if I didn’t sell them one of my cornets to copy, they’d do it anyway. He ‘left’ three weeks later. How can these characters even know who to hire to do jobs they know nothing about?

    It’s strange how odd vignettes surface from encounters of this kind. I was once invited to have dinner in the Boosey & Hawkes canteen. Great, let’s talk to some of the people who really know the business on the shop floor. Not exactly, as it happened. The Boosey & Hawkes canteen – restaurant if you like – was subdivided. A curtained off area had plush chairs, tablecloths and waitresses with frilly black aprons. This was reserved for Management. Same food! But I didn’t get to meet anyone on the other side of the curtain. Nothing like segregation!

    Some time ago I went into a medium size factory with some work we needed doing. “Is the boss around?” “Yeah, he’s on the shop floor somewhere.” “Thanks, I’ll find him.” After wandering round the busy machine shop, still no boss, I saw a pair of legs sticking out from under a C.N.C. Then a voice attached itself to the legs & said “What the **** do you want?” This bloke knew his business, his clients and his machines. We became friends from that day.

    Another management ploy – usually after a disaster, or bad publicity is ‘the name change’.
    “Mr. Chairman, we’re not getting good publicity from all the returned Boosey & Hawkes Instruments, especially after our Lottery Windfalls. May I suggest that we change our name back to Besson, as in the past. We used to make good ones then.”

    I was 17 the first time I was taken to the Boosey & Hawkes Factory in Edgware. It was a day trip from Meyers & Harrison in Manchester, the ‘Higham’ brand of instrument makers, and repairers. We made a lot of cornets & bugles for other firms and the Army. This trip was with my foreman and works manager. My brief was to look around the Boosey & Hawkes factory while my bosses were in meetings, and see it they were doing things differently to us. From a seventeen years olds view, the factory was humming. Production lines of Basses, Cornets, Euphoniums & Tenor Horns etc. – bell making department emanating anvilian chimes that would have inspired Verdi & Wagner.

    I was er – 59 the last time an MD invited me to Edgware: not too long ago
    “Hi, my name’s Wedgwood, I’ve been invited here by your Managing Director.” The sneer of the gateman should have warned me! Looking at my old BMW he said “Motor Bikes go round the back: you can’t leave that there.”

    Ah well, the disease has finally spread to the factory gate. It’s amusing to think what my freight company friend would have done. But the real tragedy of this story goes deeper. More lost skills, more lost jobs, and the wilful destruction of what was once a proud British name.
    Will we ever learn?

    Denis Wedgwood, Llys Pres/Saturn Water Keys/Wedgwood Cornets & Trumpets

    Article is dedicated to Robert Fisk, Journalist, who searches out & exposes Global Truths
    Dayv and Euphonium Lite like this.
  2. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    An excellent, and I believe very truthful bit of writing.

    I think the Lottery also has something to do with the decline in quality of instruments, and not just Besson's either. 10 years ago it was as if they handed out £50k sums or so for instruments almost on a weekly basis, with all these orders going in it's no wonder the quality suffered as instruments were rushed out to meet demand (I remember one band not that far from me had to send their new basses back 5 times before they got a decent set - and they weren't Bessons!). Maybe this made the companies lazy, they didn't have to work for their sales and could gouge out as big a profit margin as possible?
    However this isn't an excuse now, it's a lot, lot harder to get a Lottery grant these days.

    There is one way round the "new instruments aren't as good as the old ones" problem. If your 20 year old Sovereign's getting a bit tired, send it to one of the instrument repairers and have it completely overhauled (full clean, replate, valves regulated, etc). Result, a good quality, virtually "as new" instrument, and at less cost, too.
    I certainly won't give up my 15 year old Sovereign (with proper Monel valves that are still the best I've ever had and very rarely need oiling) for a new one.
  3. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    I spent a day testing new BBb's at Besson about 10-12 years ago. Only one was "acceptable" out of 6 I tried, with 2 being unplayable. I took this one with me.
    After a month it became obvious it was nowhere near as good as my own older Sovereign, so I complained. A lot.
    I was invited down to see there senior technician, Paul Lance (sp?) to say what I thought. I did, and he agreed! He modified mine to my spec basically, agreeing with every suggestion I made. The band still has that instrument, and after a gap of 7 years I'm back there and back on it. It's a still good instrument now, better than any newer one I've tried before or since. The changes included a different leadpipe, altering a lot of tuning slides, and changing the height of the leadpipe. Basically like an older Concert model 992! Progress eh?
    As an example, Paul had developed tubas of his own design, made them and letting players try them. Good players, Pat Sheridan etc. They were good instruments, and all sat in a corner as Besson had no interest in them. Fairly typical I was told. He retired several years ago I think, but he knew his stuff inside out and probably wasn't replaced.
  4. dickyg

    dickyg Member

    If this wasn't so sad it would be scandalous. Definately a story of quality losing out to quality. I can remember my band getting Lottery instruments from B+H in the '90's and the same probelms as have been told here - dodgy valves, silver plate peeling, strange tuning problems etc.

    Bit like a school's PFI project I experienced!
  5. carlwoodman

    carlwoodman Member

    I had a similar experience to the one Andy reported above.
    About 7 years ago, the EEbs needed replacing and I was sent to Edgware to choose 2 in silver-plate. (I wanted 981s partly as my view of 982s had been somewhat clouded by the truly awful 982 I inherited when I joined that band.) I was given the choice of 6 but after a couple of hours I decided that only one of those was even barely acceptable. After some weeks, we were asked to return to Edgware and my band colleague and I went along on the Friday morning before the Nationals. We were met by the then Sales Director and the technician who Andy mentioned who was called Paul Lawrence. (Pat Sheridan was there also as he was due to play with BBBC at the RAH the following day.)
    We were given two 981s to try and told that Steve Sykes had played them both and decided one was good and one was not. Unfortunately, we were not told which was which (!) so I plucked up some courage (to play my first ever note in front of Pat Sheridan) and blew a few notes. I can only describe that instrument as terrible, and said so, while hoping that this one was in fact the bad one! The other instrument was indeed better but nowhere near as good as it should have been.
    My colleague was taken down to the store to try some others and returned empty handed. I stayed and chatted to Pat Sheridan who, despite being a (paid?) Besson clinician, encouraged me to give my honest views to Besson.
    After much frank discussion, Besson finally came clean and said that they had heard some comments from the marketplace that the current 981s were not great. They admitted that some of the leadpipe tooling could have worn over time and not been noticed.
    Besson came up with a solution and decided to keep four silver 981s aside for us and Mr Lawrence began tinkering around with them. After several return visits, we settled on two instruments. All four, at some stage in this process, had new leadpipes fitted and the one I finally settled on had had a lot of work done on any tubing associated with the fourth valve. (I presume that this was due to me insisting that all Bessons I had played became stuffy when the fourth valve came into play. I must have struck a cord when I asked why Besson couldn't sort it when Yamaha had managed to with their recently released Maestro!)
    Mr Lawrence had endless patience and tried a number of things to make these instruments work for us. At one stage, he tried a couple of different tuning slides but I confessed that I wasn't a good enough player to tell the difference even though he told me Patrick Harrild could!
    Mr Lawrence was due to retire a couple of years after our dealings and I have nothing but admiration for his attempts to make the instruments work for us and was, in the end, delighted with my 981. I felt sorry for him because he seemed to be 'swimming against the tide' in the Edgware environment at that time. I sincerely hope he has a long and happy retirement.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2006
  6. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    Sounds like the story of engineering in the UK, run by accountants and 'engineers' straight out of university who don't know one end of a spanner from the other.
  7. alks

    alks Member

    I think the main article refers to the demise of the boosey&hawks group in the mid to late 90's (up to 2001) than the recent demise of beeson (the music group) which was formed after 2001. People say that quality has improved up until the sale in janurary. I know players that are very satisfied with there prestige cornets etc, and all of our bands besson instruments are fine. However the brand damage was already done in the 90s and with difficult manufacturing conditions in the uk, caused by high overheads and red tape and a lack of goverment interest in mfg, the outlook was never going to be good.
  8. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    They certainly do sound stuffy! There's no excuse for it either, when the old imperial and New Standard Basses I played on in my old band had none of the awful tuning problems, or fourth valve stuffiness of the sov I play today.

    When companies become run by bean-counters and accountants, motivated more by short-term profit than long-term quality and brand stability, they are always on a hiding to nothing.

    Has anyone considered the damage that this has done to the long term future of brass music? Kid asks for cornet/horn etc for christmas, parents buy besson, instrument then proceeds to fail at every asking, parents and child sicken of the financial outlay, frustration and waste of over £1000 on something that has never done the job it was meant for.

    Parents then complain to other parents of the waste of money, (as parents usually do) so when little Jimmy/Judy up the street wants to learn to play, the parents have heard the horror stories aren't willing to waste their money, and the movement possibly loses the next Roger Webster.

    Nobody minds paying high prices for quality in any walk of life. That's why honda motorcycles cost more than other brands. You put the key in, turn it, and they start. End of story. I'd pay over the odds for that, and have done in the past. Quality is worth the extra.

    I learned to play on a 3-valve BB which was so old it was just Boosey, not boosey and hawkes! I had a blow on it again when I went to my old tutor's house the other day, and yet I never did play an instrument that made such a lovely sound. The valves were sweet, and much as the whole instrument was battered by age, it'll still be going strong in 20 years time.

    Can that be said of today's old iron?
  9. its been obvious to all of us that Booseys have been churning out really poor stuff for some time now, I think it really reached a peak during the lottery boom when quite frankly they couldn't throw them out fast enough. That being said, I visited edgware in 1990 and wasn't very impressed with the quality control, particulary with respect to tuning.

    So, a very serious question now though. We are all right for cornet and trombone alternatives, but what do i buy if I want a really good BBb bass, or even an EEb or or a Euph come to that?:confused: don't tell me to get a Coutois euph, they may be good but they are so bleeding huge that your average 3rd section player has no chance with one!
  10. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    You should encourage the author to submit this article to a formal journal, such as the Brass Herald, Brass Band World or the British Bandsman - or possibly even - that, I think, is its rightful place.
  11. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - :) ... I think it it's rightful starting place is here, since feedback from real bandspeople can be offered as soon as it's posted rather than just an editorial view!
  12. Darth_Tuba

    Darth_Tuba Active Member

    Yamaha Maestro are excellent for Eb and euphs in my opinion.
  13. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    Well, for starters, Hirsbrunner, Willson, Yamaha, Miraphone all make excellent Euphs and Tubas. In the right set up for a band I think (3+1 valves). Mr Tuba in Wales also makes a good line of Tubas.

    All are very highly regarded, and many play a lot better than a Besson anyway.

    I think the band movement (especially in Tuba terms) can see this as a chance to play on quality instruments without being frowned on at last ;-)
  14. carlwoodman

    carlwoodman Member

    As far as EEbs go, I'd say take a 19" bell Imperial to Mark Carter (Mr.Tuba) and get him to put a different leadpipe on it (plus whatever else he does to them). I tried a 25 year old one a few weeks ago (which was incidentally only 4 serial numbers apart from the Imperial I sold 4 years ago) which he had worked on and it was very good indeed.
  15. ju-el

    ju-el New Member

    Dear Jim,
    Thanks for your comment. I should tell you that I have sent this article to the people you mention. They won't print it, but I think people should know the truth.
    Do pass it on. Hopefully it will do a bit of good in the Brass Band world.
    Best wishes
    Denis Wedgwood
  16. tomskibabes

    tomskibabes Member

    I have just purchased a second hand Besson soprano cornet which plays beautifully :D and compared to the Bb prestiges my band uses there is no comparison, The valves are amazing on the sop but very sluggish on the Bb.

    Quality of instruments did appear to be affected by the influx of lottery funding in the 1990's but the cornets purchased with our lottery grant are still being used even if only by the learner band but they do play well and these are neither sovereigns / yamahas or any name i can recall, I think they are Krun and hoyer or some thing (Spelt wrong I admit).

    At present we have a full set of Prestiges which many of the cornet section not play (personal preference).

    I would personally play my old soprano any time.
  17. andyh

    andyh Supporting Member

    Very interesting take on stainless steel valves - are they really that bad? My cornet has a German "Beidersteiner" (I think) valve set which is stainless steel and very good quality. Should I be worried that the valves will wear like the Besson ones?

  18. Daisy Duck

    Daisy Duck Member

    I used to play on a Besson Sovereign which belonged to my ex. He needed it back to sell it to buy an engagement ring for his new girlfriend so I bought a second hand bottom of the range Jupiter cornet.
    To be honest, I can't tell the difference. But on my Sovereign i was just playing rep in a band and not really going anywhere with my playing. Changed to the Jupiter, joined a new band and almost instantly became principal cornet.
  19. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Stainless steel is a pretty poor bearing material, but I have to say the (stainless steel) valves on my early model soveriegn cornet are the best I've ever played on - even better than my Kanstul flugel, with its fancy hand lapped monel valves. Its all down to the engineering and detail design - something which Boosey & Hawkes (as it was when my cornet was made) did very well and then lost completely in the latter years of the Besson brand. But build quality was in a totally different league in the 70's and 80's - from the way the stays were made right through to the plating and quality of the polishing. In fairness though they did manage to maintain the sound and playability - in essence the instruments were a good design it was just the application of that design that was pants. Something countless British engineering companies suffer with....British Leyland anyone?? ;)
  20. andyh

    andyh Supporting Member

    Concur. I've just been playing the band's round-stamp Sov and that's quite elderly. Pretty heavy and quite a bit smaller than I'm used to but the valves are fine. I guess the real test of whether stainless steel valves are any good will be in the quality of the valve casing material. If that's too soft then I expect that's when triangulation occurs.