Brand snobbery?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Brass Band Drummer, Feb 19, 2014.

  1. I have the privilege of playing with a most amazing brass player with from time to time. Actually, I play with several, but I’m thinking of only one of them at the moment. He has played with top orchestras in his time, and he has also been to the very top in his day-profession. Just recently, I noticed that he was playing an intermediate-level cornet. He produces the most wonderful sounds you’ll hear anywhere, I promise you. A few days ago he came brandishing a nearly-new instrument that had been offered to him. He wanted to know if band members thought it was any good, and whether it was as good as his existing cornet. It was a Far-eastern cheapo, although marketed by a leading maker. Of course, it sounded superb in his hands.

    What gets me is that the guy has no knowledge of, or interest in, brands and models. I am probably as guilty as anyone. Like so many brass players that hanker after a Prestige or Stradivarius, I like my top-end Gretsch or Ludwig, Zildjian or Bosphorus. But I wonder just how important brand and range really are, beyond the image. I also wonder how many more there are out there like my friend, who just don't think about such matters.
  2. Backrowdiva

    Backrowdiva Member

    In the right hands an "average" instrument will sound wonderful and a "superb" instrument can sound terrible, different strokes for different folks, go with what works for you doesn't matter what it cost! The same with mouthpieces
  3. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    Wise words.

    ~ Mr Wilx
  4. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    Its not just about the sound, its also about the workmanship, longevity, the chance of getting spares and of course resale value if you want to move on.
  5. thepublican

    thepublican New Member

    Brands can be fashion items too. As a French horn player I play an German make almost unknown in the UK but all the rage in the US and love it. My tenor horn is a discontinued French brand with very 'flexible' intonation but I love the noise it makes. I've tried quite a few other tenor horns over the years and have yet to find a horn of the seemingly best brand that I like the sound of. You find an instrument you like and play it, doesn't matter what's etched on the bell!
  6. simonium

    simonium Member

    Some very good points here. I have been guilty of badge snobbery in my lives as a drummer and as a euphonium player. As a drummer I think naff cymbals are naff so no amount of inverse snobbery will make up for cheap metal (Dream cymbals may sound beautiful but are incredibly soft and prone to the sort of splitting and keyholing that a Zildjian Kerope wouldn't be), drums I'm not so sure, as technology has improved production no end. As for brass instruments I have played some brilliant student instruments - the Besson 1000 4 valve non-compensating euphonium is excellent. As a rule I personally believe that the manufacture of brass instruments isn't as good as it has previously been (I had numerous German Prestige euphoniums all with serious failings that led me to giving up on new and going to the used instruments).

    On an anecdotal level one of my pupils has a CB Fusion kit with decent heads on and it sounds phenomenal. The little 20" bass drum is a thing of beauty. I have spent more on a single bass drum pedal than he spend on his entire kit.

    I was once told by a certain Mr L Baglin when I was complaining about my Imperial euphonium that "it's only an amplifier" and it does what it's told.... And therein lies the difference between drums and brass.... Still I see the parallels and agree by and large.
  7. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    It's not the instrument that makes the player it's the player that makes the instrument. A lot depends on the quality of what goes in the mouthpiece end !

    ~ Mr Wilx
  8. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    For what it's worth, my thinking on it is that, up to quite a developed level of ability (and this varies a lot from player to player - temperament has a lot to do with how satisfied a player is with their instrument, too), all you need is an instrument that is not so bad that it gets in the way. Pretty much anything half-decent will do.

    Later on, if you spend a lot of time playing and thinking about how you are playing, you can gain a better feel for what attributes of the instrument are helping to make it easy to make the noises you want/need to make, and what attributes are hindering that. Then it may make sense to consider other options and buy something that suits better. But it takes a long while to feel as comfortable on a new instrument as you were on the old one.

    Manufacturers, even the best and most honest ones, do not quite have the same motivation as their customers. They aim to make money by selling instruments while we aim to follow the above process. Although it's obviously a good idea to try to be as rational as possible about it, picking a good instrument is as much art as science, and many of the descriptions that manufacturers provide are more about marketing than actual verifiable fact. Fashion has a lot to say, as well - for example, I have heard a lot of bile directed at Chinese-made trombones in recent history online (not here, I hasten to add), with no basis to it other than that the emerging market of Chinese trombones has historically produced a lot of shoddy instruments - but things are improving rapidly, and fashion has not yet noticed this. For another example, Rath trombones are lovely (I play one myself), but dedicated adherents (and some salespeople) will try to tell you that they are capable of emulating any trombone sound you like using just Rath equipment on a particular model, which simply isn't true - they make great trombones, and each model comes with an enviable range of options, but the end result is distinctively 'Rathy' - and successfully emulating something like a King Duo Gravis using a Rath R9 basis would require development time at the factory.

    Sometimes, indeed perhaps often, the most consistent players are those who never get around to distracting themselves with trying out new hardware. They get hold of a decent enough instrument early on, and learn that one piece of kit inside out. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are also players who think that buying fancy equipment provides them with a short cut to quality playing. Good on them, I say - they keep the fancy manufacturers in business for all of us...
  9. I agree. I am making that very point to my insurers right now. I have lost a bag of cymbals. Contrary to belief in some quarters, the idea that "a cymbal is a cymbal is a cymbal" applies much less than with almost any other instrument. It has taking some time to explain why just ordering like for like on the internet wouldn't do, even if current similarly-named cymbals were as they were in the 1960s when the lost ones were made. I can see some hard work ahead!

    By the way, I say again that what I really marvel at with my colleague is his complete and genuine brand-indifference.
  10. simonium

    simonium Member

    The peculiar thing is, I am indifferent to drum brands, but I just can't do the same for cymbals!
  11. ... I meant that it has "taken some time". Dementia must be setting in faster that I thought.
  12. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    Where IS that "Like" button? :)

    ~ Mr Wilx
  13. Oh dear, I did again. I meant ... "than I thought" Help!

    That is very much how it is with drumkit too, so I imagine that it applies with any instrument. What you say about consistent players sticking to what they know is also borne out, not only with what equipment they use, but also with how much they try new methods and skills.

    I myself am very satisfied with my gigging kit (1980s Remo Mastertouch), so I'm not one for spending big bucks at the expense of eating and a roof over my head (of course, I exaggerate, but I know some...). However, if I suddenly came into a fortune, my brand and range knowledge would definitely be put to good use. Thus, I can't call myself brand-indifferent.
  14. cockaigne

    cockaigne Member

    This sums it up very neatly, well done Dave! :clap:

    There is a good deal of personal preference involved, of course. I have quite a few instruments, but without duplication in terms of trombones, or their ideal purpose. My main workhorse is an off-the-shelf Conn 88H from about 1998 - not an Elkhart, but around the time that the 2nd-generation instruments were being well-made. Something about it (maybe the special way I accidentally dropped it one time :confused: ) just makes it respond and sing better than a number of bespoke trombones, or vintage 88s from the Elkhart era - but that could just be down to familiarity.

    A conductor and trombonist I know plays a Bach 42b, and refers to Conn trombones as "tin cans" - my opinion of Bach tenors is much the same - but again, that's personal preference. The Lyndon Baglin quote is true in essence; the 'plumbing' is essentially an amplifier (and, for the record, one of the best euphoniums I've ever played was an old Imperial...)
  15. Bbmad

    Bbmad Active Member

    Sorry to any brass players who feel they are being hijacked by shed builders, but I couldn't agree more with the above.

    When in comes to drums, a reasonable intermediate kit can be made to sound amazing with some good heads and more importantly a drummer who knows what they are doing sat behind it. But yes, a brilliant drummer will sound more brilliant on a top of the line kit than an intermediate kit. A poor drummer would sound poor on a Pearl Export or a £5000 Top of the line Tama kit.

    That said, there is simply no comprimise whatsoever for cymbals or hi hats. Cheapy alloy cymbals will sound like dustbin lids even if you brough Buddy Rich back from beyond the grave to play them.

    As for brass, haven't got the foggiest, but I would be willing to bet that a lesser standard player would not become Championship Section material based on the instrument they play, in the same way that whether I choose Nike, Reebok or Primark trainers this summer, I am still not going to win Wimbledon.
  16. Ianroberts

    Ianroberts Well-Known Member

    Drums is drums surely, you wait ages for them to be set up, the bloke comes on, knocks 7 bells out of them, then you carry them off again. :rolleyes::rolleyes:
  17. ... didn't know band porters posted on here. My bands can't afford them.
  18. VegasGeorge

    VegasGeorge Member

    My thought on this is that a player such as you describe ought to be able to judge the quality of an instrument for himself, independent of any advertising or reputation of the manufacturer. As far as I'm concerned the only time (and it's an important time!) that brand name should be a controlling consideration is when unknowledgeable parents of beginning students, or inexperienced adult beginners are buying a first instrument. Then, the only good advice is for them to buy a student model of a recognized and well established brand. Otherwise, too many students will be handicapped with poor instruments that will impede their learning.
  19. Ianroberts

    Ianroberts Well-Known Member

    Bi Posters is innocent ! Practice a little bit more, get a gig in a better band and you never know. Or maybe people in your bands just think **** him, he can carry his own.

    Last edited: Feb 22, 2014
  20. Eh?

    It's "practise", old boy. ;) Perhaps I'll never be good enough for another (or my) band, but I keep trying.

    That is distinctly possible with some. Some blowers just don't realise that carrying bags give them a good reason to turn up to band. Others are helpful enough.

Share This Page