High pitch/Low pitch dates

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by ABERDEEN LOON, Apr 6, 2009.



    Quick question for all you boffins out there. Do you know approximately when the transition between high pitch and low pitch was made by besson?

    My reason for asking this is I hahve just bought a 1977 besson single Bb bass so that I can practice at work (I have my own office and a practice mute :oops:) and it occurred to me after I bought it that it may be in high pitch!

    Thanks for any observaitons.

  2. Tam O Shanter

    Tam O Shanter Member

    I don't know for certain, but I think it was the 60s. I'm fairly sure you're safe if it's from the 70s.
  3. MrsDoyle

    MrsDoyle Supporting Member

    Yes, I think it was around the 60s or early 70s.
  4. Tam O Shanter

    Tam O Shanter Member

    More investigation on google gives rise to an article by Roy Newsome where he states:

    "Boosey's then announced that they were to cease production of high-pitch instruments after 31 March 1965".

    So I reckon you are OK.
  5. Frontman

    Frontman Member

    You are quite correct. However it was in May 1966 that Boosey & Hawkes started selling pipe extensions which bands could purchase in order that they could change from high to low pitch without having to buy new instruments. Something that would not happen these days I feel.
  6. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    How gradual was the change? A friend tells me that he knew players in his youth who'd been playing American trombones (so obviously low pitch instruments) in Swindon brass bands since the 1950s - so presumably there were bands playing at low pitch well before 1966?

    Is that right? Was it the case that B&H stopped making high pitch instruments only when not many bands wanted to buy them anymore? Or did they push every band into changing when they dropped the high pitch line?

    ROBTHEDOG Member

    Yep - Mid 60's Mod's to instruments were new Main slide and pull others - in fact I still have my old (high pitch) Euphonium main slide for old Imperial Euph - Needed both as the Youth band still played in High pitch and our band went low.
  8. Tam O Shanter

    Tam O Shanter Member

    The change started in the late 30s I think, but although orchestras moved onto it brass bands resisted for a long time. B&H definitely "pushed" the change as it cost them more to manufacture instruments just for Brass Bands.
  9. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I know the orchestral world adapted to it a long time before bands did - I just found a reference online that gives 1895 as a landmark date. Military bands moved to low pitch in 1927, according to the same source.
    What I'm asking is whether there were civilian brass bands that moved to low pitch prior to 1966, and, assuming there were, as seems likely, how widespread that was.
  10. jackocorn

    jackocorn Member

    Wouldn't it be fun to get a whole set of HP instruments and enter a set-piece contest to see if the adjudicators noticed the difference?

    Or maybe not.


    I dock my cap to you all! You've come up trumps again! Will be interesting to see how in tune it is. I normally play a mick finn 2 bucket which I imagine will fit in about 1cm if it goes in at all! may need to look into having the leadpipe adapted if it is wildly out of tune. :rolleyes:
  12. Al

    Al Member

    The British Brass Band movement should return to C=256
  13. TubaGeek

    TubaGeek Member

    ...I'm going to humiliate myself (as usual) now, but what do you mean by "High pitch" and "low pitch"? Or is it exactly what I think it is!?


    It would be a far better brighter sound and the judge would notice the G trombone sound as well !:eek:
  15. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    I seem to recall that a few bands at the British Open in 1963 (Life Divine) played in low pitch.
    There was great controversy at the time as to whether the high pitch bands had a brighter sound.
    Faireys won it under Leonard Lamb, but I can't remember if they were "High" or "Low"
    Also, (this is very boring) when I joined Leeds Model Band in 1960 (as an infant of course) they had just bought a set of instruments from a band called Butterfields Tank Works Band (honest !) which had gone bust.
    The instruments were nearly new and came with a full set of "Low Pitch"
    slides which could be inserted when performing with choirs and orchestras.
    Going even further back (even more boring), when at school, we had terrible trouble getting the high pitch brass in tune with the strings and woodwind in the School Orchestra, especially as we didn't know anything about the high/low pitch difference.
    Also at 11 years old, I never understood why I had to play an F# (Tenor Horn) to tune up with the strings playing "A"
    Very frustrating !

    - Wilkie
    If only someone had bothered to tell us !!
  16. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    So was it standard for high pitch instruments to be supplied with low pitch slides long before 1966?

    I'm getting the impression that the general practice prior to this date had been for bands to play in high pitch, but tune down to low when required. Is that an accurate impression?

    I found a reference by a respected banding historian online on Google books, which gives a few interesting facts - such as citing a concert by a particular band in low pitch in the late 40s; but a cursory examination of the text turned up a number of obvious factual errors, rather disappointingly.
  17. euphymike

    euphymike Member

    I my first band, Rowntrees works band, in the mid/late sixties I had a old leaky Hawkes four valve DIKTOR euphonium. it was high pitch and I had what everyone referred to a 'Flat pitch slides' in it. This instrument was a nightmare because
    1 the flat pich slides meant the actual tuning slides sat just below the bottom bow and everytime i put it down on the bow I pushed the slides in. thus requiring retuning of the bugle!
    2 the overall tuning was affected by the extra length and made the top three valves out with each other. In fact i had to play 3rd instead of 1 and 2 most of the time for A C# etc. that took a lot of retraining later on as well!
    3 the four valve on the bugle played C# and not D. so a lot of re educating was required when i started palying again years later.
    And I thought they made good instruments in those days??????

    However now blissfully happy wealding a 4 valve 956 sov baritone
    and Willson 2950 euphonium
  18. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

  19. euphymike

    euphymike Member

    Argh! A young lad in an old ******s brass band in Yorkshire in the sixties? I was there too! No one told you anything and they expected you to blindly follow. I played second euph all the time but when there was contest I was shunted down to 2nd Foghorn (sorry baritone). After about four years I went in one day and they gave me a cornet and said play this because we are short of back row cornets. Not would you like to or anything.
    That was the final straw for me and I quit them. However, we moved and I enjoyed playing with a training band with Hammonds for a few months until we moved to London and I left it all for thirty years.
    The younger ones in the bands i play with now certainly would take the c**p we used to from the old boys then!
  20. TuTuKu

    TuTuKu Active Member

    We have a whole Brass Band's worth of high pitch instruments in the Reid Museum in Edinburgh (used to belong to the City of Edinburgh Brass Band) info here, which, as they live in the same building as we rehearse, we might be able get permission to use... but I've been told in the past that they're incompatible with our more modern ones. If it's still possible to source the extra pipes/slides to 'convert' them, would the odd one or two (say Bb Bass and a Bari or two) sound ok mixed with the rest of the band? Or would they stick out like sore thumbs?

    Would it be possible to use the BBb shown in the link without extra piping, just by pulling out the slides? We could really do with a BBb, and there aren't so many people that own their own!