Instrument or player?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by BeatTheSheep, Oct 7, 2006.

  1. BeatTheSheep

    BeatTheSheep Member

    This has probably been discussed, but then hasn't everything?

    If it were a purely question of what make of instrument to get, this would be easy, but I want to ask opinions on a further point, really.

    Obviously good players are going to sound good anyway, and bad players can spend a lot on an instrument, and problems will still remain. At what point in standard does everyone think a special instrument actually is essential? Otherwise people can be persuaded into spending a lot of money for very little benefit.

    I would also be interested to know what particular makes of instrument have these strengths. I would like to buy a nice Bb/F largey bore trombone myself one day and I want it to assist above top C if it can, so I will take advice on this one.

    Personally I think you shouldnt be buying the best until you need the best, really. If you're playing the euph solo in 'a night to sing' or 'eden', you may well need that extra quality. If its just Paganinni Variations, you should be able to play that on anything!

    Keep the ideas coming
  2. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    If I'm being really honest, I suspect that only pro players and the end chairs with the top 10 or 15 bands in the country really need the absolute top class weaponry. I've known loads of very good lower championship section and 1st/2nd section players, including soloists, who were playing old, well-loved but rather tired instruments. Conversely I've met a few, erm, "negatively gifted" players who have treated themselves to the latest Yamaha or Besson in the hope that it will turn them into David Thornton or Sheona White overnight. It didn't.

    I'm not a teacher, "clinician" or even a very good player (maybe I should blame my 18 year old cornet!), but my gut feeling is that it's 95% player and 5% instrument; only at the very top will that last 5% really make a big difference. If you're good enough to have a solid attempt at the euph solo in A Night to Sing you would probably benefit from a top class euph. If you can't get near it on your existing instrument a new one won't suddenly allow to crack it out effortlessly. That won't stop loads of us (probably including me, soon:D ) shelling out for posh new kit so we can feel good about ourselves - the closest comparison is probably golf, where shops make a fortune selling world class clubs which end up digging whopping divots out of the local fairways.
  3. Vickitorious

    Vickitorious Active Member

    My Sov Horn is absolutely gorgeous and makes a really nice sound. I have tried other sovs and they're just not the same :confused: I think I was just lucky in getting a really nice instrument, because I haven't tried another the same yet!! :)
  4. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Having fairly recently shelled out for a new flugel I was amazed to find it filled with splits and wrong notes. I was going to take it back but I tried another (admittedly after a night on the beer and having not practiced for 6 months) but that was just as bad. I thought my new flugel would turn me into a player of Iwan Williams' standard overnight but it didn't. Even worse, my strongly worded letter to the manufacturer has gone unanswered...:rolleyes:

    In all seriousness I think you pretty much summed it up there. I love my flugel, but it didn't make any real differance to my playing, and nor was I expecting it too - I bought it because I wanted to, and had the opportunity to buy my own flugel, so I thought why not? Sure, IMO its a better instrument than the Strad I was playing on before, but it doesn't make up for the short comings of my own playing. More's the pity.
  5. euphfanhan

    euphfanhan Member

    Unfortunately I'd place myself into that category - whilst I can't really justify owning a prestige, my reasoning is I need all the help I can get. :oops:
    Also, I was lucky enough to get a grant towards my instrument, which meant I could afford the best...if money wasn't an issue, who could honestly say they'd opt for the cheaper instrument?? Or maybe I'm just a very shallow person!
    In answer to the original question though - I don't think the instrument makes that much difference at all, if any. I've heard friends mention buying a newer, more expensive instrument and finding that their tone has gone downhill. I suppose ultimately it's down to the individual.
  6. BeatTheSheep

    BeatTheSheep Member

    A prestige euph is worth having. How did you know not to get a yamaha, or a cortois though?
  7. euphfanhan

    euphfanhan Member

    To be honest I never gave yamaha euphs much of a chance - I tried a friends once (for all of five minutes!) and hated it, and I'd also had a bad experience of yamaha cornets. I chose Besson as I'd previously been playing a sovereign euph and hadn't been disappointed. I didn't consider a Courtois as I'd never seen, heard, or even heard of one before!
  8. BeatTheSheep

    BeatTheSheep Member

    yam euphs don't suit my playing, although that 'custom' one at ybs is fantastic. Think I had to adapt my playing to the circumstance!
  9. Kiz7

    Kiz7 Member

    okay, don't want to hijack the thread or go off topic but, how much of our instrument choice when purchasing our own is down to wanting to have the best and how much is down to trying hte latest/best version of the make that you have been playing on. i was given a Yamaha cornet to play on when I was 15 and joined a 1st section band that I fell in love with (I had my own Bach Strad but it was too bright) and when I moved to my next band and was given a sovereign I hated it. When I had enough money to upgrade i bouth a Yamaha Maestro that I still play and love. I still hate Sovereigns!
  10. davidwalton

    davidwalton Member

    Well, there is always one, and it is usually me :)

    I personally think that a dedicated player should get the best instrument they can afford.

    No, it doesn't make you a better player. It will make learning a little easier though because:-

    1. Professional instruments are better made, or should be.
    2. Valves are likely to be much better, except Sovs.
    3. Tuning of the instrument with it's self should not be an issue.
    4. I need a large bore. Without it, I would have a fight on my hands. Sort of ties you to a professional model generally.

    Give a practising player a student medium bore instrument, and that is as far as the instrument is designed to go. Yes, if you are a great player, you will sound great on most instruments, including a badly made student model. The rest of us do need all the assistance we can get though, hence I will always get the best I can afford.

    Lets also not forget that most professional model instruments sound is different to the student models. Not the sound the player makes, but the sound of the instrument.

    It is the player by a huge margin, not the instrument, that makes the player. The instrument is a tool to assist you. I just want the best tool for the job, and one that can take me as far as I can go, not just as far as it will.
  11. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    I suppose the other argument for spending a lot of money would be that if you buy a "high-end" instrument it should last you a long time - I'd refer to the example of my 928 Sovereign cornet which is at least 18 years old and despite cosmetic blemishes, plays as well as ever and has more than repaid the investment made in it. So you could treat it as a long term investment, like buying a hand-made suit.

    Arguably this is an issue with even the best instruments, because brass instrument tuning is neccesarily a compromise, especially with cornets and tenor horns which are too small to have compensating tubing. A mediocre player is going to have intonation issues on any instrument. The trick is knowing where the intonation issues are going to kick in. My cornet is sharp on the 4th harmonic and flat on the fifth, so fourth line Ds/fifth space Es are sharp, while Fs and Gs tend to be a bit bright. I've noticed that Courtois cornets tend to be sharp on 1st space Fs. If I've got my brain in gear I listen out and try to compensate for this. Good players can do this automatically on every note without having to think about it, regardless of their instrument.
  12. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - 'adapt' is the most important term in this thread for me. For years people have made comments on how certain players can create a good sound from almost any quality of instrument they play. They develop an internal model of their ideal sound and use the instrument just as a vehicle to meet that demand, adapting maybe subconsciously the physical support needed to recreate it. It's only when the internal design of the instrument (e.g. bore-size) exceeds their adaptive strengths when difficulties may happen. I suppose this is why there are many bore sizes available that players can buy a better model that doesn't stretch their adaptive limitations too much.
  13. davidwalton

    davidwalton Member

    OK, I should of said less of an issue. Yes, it is about learning YOUR instrument and adapting to it as well.

    I sit in front of a tuner to go through every note, playing naturally. I can then see where I need to adapt to ensure I can tune in on any given note where needed.

    So many Cornet players throw out their 3rd trigger for anything at the bottom, and usually far too much.

    I do see buying an instrument as a long term thing, so cost is not really the issue. I would rather have an instrument I can aspire to getting the most out of, rather than one that I may always have to work hard to get what I want.
  14. thecapoots

    thecapoots New Member

    I read this thread yesterday, and I have to say that it sparked a pretty interesting conversation between my wife and me (well, interesting if you're a brass dork like the two of us, anyway). Honestly, this is one of those topics that really gets both of us thinking about pedagogy and teaching and that sort of thing.

    The question is, instrument or player? The answer, overwhelmingly, is player. Definitely.

    An instrument, a mouthpiece, those things are tools. They get you as close as possible to the sound that exists in your head-- your "perfect" sound. It doesn't matter what gets you there, it just matters that you get there. If a 4-valve, non-compensating Yamaha gets you a big sound, a sound that blends and that you can manipulate to your satisfaction, then why would you want to change? But if you pick up that Prestige, or that Yamaha Custom and you sound immediately better-- better to YOU, better as compared to the sound in YOUR head-- then why in God's name wouldn't you want to do that, given the appropriate amount of funds?

    So it seems that it's the player... with a significant amount of help from the instrument.

    On another note-- what's with the Yamaha hate? I play a Custom, and it's a gorgeous instrument that I can make sound like anything I want it to sound like. I'm not saying it's for everyone, but let's recognise that the choice of instrument (and mouthpiece, for that matter) is something that's very personal, and that there're no right or wrong answers.
  15. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I think it's also that because of the harmonic series that we constantly have to adjust intonation to keep in tune with other players during performance (and that includes woodwind, strings, tuned perc. and keyboards) that our ears become the most important tool for adaptation to occur. Tuning devices are only good if you have serious problems in relation to pitch rather than performance itself. Acoustics have a role to play as well as we can further change our setup to make the best of our potential.
  16. Daisy Duck

    Daisy Duck Member

    I agree with most of what's been said already... it's mainly down to the player, however a good instrument will help a bit. A good instrument won't turn you into a pro player overnight though. It will make things a bit easier though.

    My parents are professional musicians and I'm lucky enough to know quite a few pro brass players. A couple of years ago, John Wallace played on my Holton T602 trumpet, which is basically a good quality beginner trumpet that I bought for 40 pounds. He made it sound great (compared to the noise that comes out of the end when I play it...) but obviously he's not going to be trading his regular trumpet in for one. I've just started playing a Schilke B5 trumpet - it's fab, top quality and has made things easier... but I 'm never going to sound as good as a pro.

    Too many people blame their playing problems on their instrument or their mouthpiece. Basically, it comes down to how good a player you are and how much practice you put in. I'm not that good and I should definitely do more practice so every problem I have with my playing is my own fault, not the fault of my instrument!
  17. davidwalton

    davidwalton Member

    With the exception of fixed tuned instruments like Piano and Tuned Perc, if everyone sorted out their tuning to be correct against a tuning device, there would be very few problems.

    Yes, temp and where you play can and does change things, and differently for each instrument. Having everyone starting from the same page must be a huge step though? The rest is listening to what everyone else is doing.

    I have never had a serious tuning problem. However, as a bench mark, I find it extremely useful to understand the natural tuning of the instrument I am playing.

    I also find it useful to check my tuning at an end of a practise session. How many people have a tendancy to go sharp, especially towards then end of a long session and still having to play high? Ideally the player can adjust, even if to pull out the tuning slide, but often this doesn't happen.
  18. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - I may have to disagree with you a little on this one because I have found that the melodic structures and keys of music lends to players naturally sharpening or flattening notes to enhance the musical execution of phrases. This is done as much as players vary timbre and vibrato as well as timing of notes using rubato. Music is a fluid, not mechanically precise, artform.
  19. davidwalton

    davidwalton Member

    Yes, but this is something in addition. I would expect a soloist to pull things about, but not the whole Band as a general rule.

    Mind you, if a Band can't be in tune, there is little point in attempting to add colour through pitch change. I am not looking for the exception in this, just the rule. General tuning is paramount, and without colour additions. Once sorted, then add colour.

    The basics come first, and some of that is mechanical.
  20. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - that's what maybe differentiates good from less than good sounding bands ... the skill levels of the very top bands intuitively invite players to think alike and perform using those techniques I have mentioned before. But that is just my own opinion.

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