Instrument snobbery?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by 3rdcornetsolo, Apr 27, 2015.

  1. 3rdcornetsolo

    3rdcornetsolo Member

    Reading the various posts on here I wondered what peoples thoughts are/if someone could explain to me the inherent snobbery towards various instrument manufacturers there seems to be within British banding.

    All the current popular manufacturers have had ups and downs with their various ranges and yet some brands seem to avoid the stick - but how come?

    People seem very quick to jump on some brands - Geneva, JP, Yamaha to an extent - and yet will often defend brands that they haven't even tried - Eclipse, Getzen, Smith-Watkins. Besson seem to be Teflon despite the lottery years.

    Is this based on price point? Artists who play them? Availability? A movement that prefers to reject the new?

  2. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Very good posting with some great questions.

    I am not sure that people on tMP 'jump' on some brands...for example, I don't recall seeing anyone discussing JP recently, but maybe you can point me to the thread. Personally, I mentioned Geneva recently, but I didn't denigrate their instruments...merely wondered about the need for a line of instruments pitched between the student and professional ranges. I also mentioned Yamaha yesterday, but merely because I discovered that five-sixths of the valve alignments on my Yamaha cornet were out, which matched that discovered by another member (and Yamaha owner) who contributed to the thread.

    Regarding Eclipse, I have never tried one, but anyone who has seems to rave about them. Smith-Watkins have hardly made inroads in the brass band market, but I don't recall people either rubbishing or praising them. Getzen are a brand I'd love to try due to people raving about their valves, but, again, they have not made inroads in brass bands and I've heard a few at the top end of banding say that Getzen instruments don't blend very well with the more common Bessons and Yamahas (personally, I'm just happy if the right note comes out). As regards Besson...they're hardly Teflon: they practically went bust due to their rubbish quality control in the 90s, were bought over, forcibly moved out of the country, and regained the their reputation through hard work and producing instruments that people actually liked.

    There is no doubt that the devil-you-know is usually preferred to the one you don't, and Yamaha and Besson have earned their stripes by developing quality instruments that stand up to abuse, are reasonably priced, and are available everywhere. Geneva are earning their stripes by supporting banding on the ground through sponsorships and also by getting off their bums and having a stand at almost every Areas contest.
  3. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    I suspect it comes mostly down to tradition and sticking with the tried & tested.
    I'm not sure whether "snobbery" cuts it so much as suspicion - there are people that have played a Sovereign with a Denis Wick jammed in the end for decades and view anything different as unknown and unproven (whether it may work better for the individual or not).

    Interestingly, my soprano is an Eclipse, my Bb is a SmithWatkins K2... My old Sop and Bb were both Yamaha's (Xeno and Maestro) and I have an old Getzen long-sop here too... so I suppose I can defend those brands from a certain amount of experience...
    To me, each is what it is regardless of the badge - the Eclipse is by far the best soprano cornet I've had the pleasure of playing, I prefer the Xeno to the Schilke's but neither are a patch on the Eclipse to me; the Smith-Watkins has a brighter tone than a Sovereign, I can see why some people wouldn't like that, but it doesn't present a problem for me personally. The Yamaha's are solid, they're damned good instruments but don't have the sparkle that the Eclipse and SW do (for my playing and taste); Getzen valves are unbeatable, the old sop has its intonation issues but plays pretty well.

    In some cases, availability may come into it - there aren't a whole lot of Eclipse cornets around (and very few sop's), I played a Bb briefly on a tradestand and thought it excellent.
    Smith-Watkins cornets are out there and you'll find them in bands, usually in the hands of people who've bought their own though (atleast in my experience).
    It'd be interesting to know the percentages of band-owned instruments by brand relative to player-owned instruments by brand... I'd imagine Yamaha and Besson would have a stronger hold on the band-owned market than the player-owned one.

    This is all so personal really though...

    What do you like most?
    What are you recommended to buy and how strongly?
    How motivated are you to try as many different brands and models as possible before buying?
  4. hobgoblin

    hobgoblin Member

    B&H / Besson are idiots for letting their stranglehold of the band market go due to shoddy products in the '90's. Who could have imagined their would be any other real choice than an imperial or 'sov' 30 or 40 years ago? Still, they are built by Germans now so should be much better and they still have a huge roster of endorsees who are prepared to declare them 'best' once again so normal service resumed. I'll be waiting to see how the new incarnation of Besson fares before replacing my beloved round stamp horn - I worry about investing my hard earned in a fly by night set up that historically seems to go bust with no warning. I'm tempted to give Yamaha or Geneva a try as I'm hearing good things about their products, and neither look like going the way of the besson bankruptcy.
  5. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    Some of the brands that avoid the stick do so by not having produced instruments that are below standard (Besson are definitely not in this category - there are many Besson instruments that should have ended up in the bin - and many that did)

    Personally, I have tried pretty much everything out there so if I am commenting on a articular brand/model it is a personal opinion based on the experience of playing them. Of the list you give:
    JP - cheap range is cheap for a reason (can't stand their lowest level of student instruments - quality has gone up since they first started, but is still well below some others). Their intermediate range (the JP Smith-Watkins cornet or the JP-Rath leadpipe trombone) are perfectly reasonable instruments.
    Geneva - wouldn't touch with a bargepole. Much as some of them play ok I have seen far too many where things have gone wrong within a short amount of time. The build quality has been simply terrible and they are (in my opinion) over-priced for what you receive.
    Yamaha - the early Yamaha brass instruments were not as good as the brands they were taking on, but the more recent ones (from the Maestro series onwards) have been excellent and are possibly the most reliable brand out there. You don't find the same level of quality control anywhere else - one Xeno will play like another Xeno. Personally, Yamaha are always at the top of my recommendation list for students - they are superb instruments (and the student range cannot be beaten - slightly more expensive than many others but they are excellent instruments).

    Eclipse - I play Eclipse Bb trumpet, flugel and piccolo trumpet. If I played cornet more often I would have one of their cornets. If I played soprano more often I would have their soprano (simply beyond anything else I have ever tried). I am waiting for their Eb trumpet to be finished and then will be adding to my collection (assuming it works, with ME on the end). They are superb instruments FOR ME and do what I want them to do. Not for everybody, but they seem to have been designed with me in mind (my piccolo pretty much was - I think it is still the only one like it, with certain customisation :) )
    Getzen - not as popular over here but very popular in the US. Personally I have found that I couldn't get the tone I was looking for from the Getzen range, but they are a rock-solid, dependable brand with valves to die for.
    Smith-Watkins - I have tried these a number of times and never got on with them. I know many people who use them and make them sound fantastic, but they are just not for me. I couldn't get the sound I was looking for and I didn't get on with the valves at all.
    See above comments

    Personally, I choose an instrument on how it works FOR ME, with ME on the end. I don't care who else plays on what (I have a number of friends who are "artists" for various companies - they sound awesome on what they play but it wouldn't make me play those brands).

    When I recommend instruments for students (or other players) to try I tend to give them a list of brands/models and encourage them to try as many of them as possible. I would never tell anyone to purchase/play one specific brand - we are all different people and we will all get on with different brands.
    Does it sound like you want it to sound, with YOU on the end?
    Does it play in tune, with YOU on the end?
    Does it play like you want it to play, with YOU on the end?
    Do other people like the sound YOU make on it?
  6. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Active Member

    Snobbery is far from confined to instruments. Many people would (still) ‘not be seen dead’ in a Skoda despite the fact that the brand has been managed for decades now by VW and its products are (IMHO) very good.

    Amongst other reasons I believe people snobbishly choose ‘respected’ brands for reasons associated with social credibility. If you turn up for rehearsal with an expensive brand then folk think that you must be a good player to have that instrument, and if you fluff the odd note then it’s often easily forgiven as (the other players will typically feel) every good player has the occasional upset. However, we all know that, if the same player turned up with something of less snob value then folk would think that the player was likely to be weak and when the odd not came out wrong their view would be confirmed .... many bands don't want any weak/weaker players, 'the doors over there'.

    Personally I almost always reject snobbery and buy with both initial value and the spread between purchase and resale prices in mind. When I judge other players it’s with my ears and the players I respect most are those who consistently produce high quality music on ‘intermediate’ instruments – the players who can and do get their ABRSM grade 8’s with distinction on the likes of an old Regent Cornet or some modern day equivalent.
  7. Bbmad

    Bbmad Active Member

    As always, very wise words from Mrs Tenor. I also have a 1983 Skoda (picture attached) that has reliably got me to and from band rehearsals for the last 25 years.

    This is true. When I turned up a while ago with my brand new Pink Pbone (recommended by contributors to this very forum) I detected quite a bit of sniggering. I can't help but think that this would not have been the case had I chosen instead to invest in a Rath or one of the "decent" instruments.
  8. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Active Member

    Well, the amount of sniggering depends on whether you can play the trombone reasonably well or not. It might be that some people in your band don't like you much too but I struggle to understand why that might be the case - perhaps they are jealous in some way. I suggest that you practice really hard (to become good, expert even) and gain the respect of others in your band that way.

    I wouldn't laugh at an expert with a pbone - whatever the colour - but I would laugh at a poser (looks good but can't produce anything near 'the goods') with a Rath or other expensive 'top brand'. All the best 2T.
  9. Feel My Rath

    Feel My Rath Member

    I've been playing for 21 years and I'm on my 3rd trombone. I started on a cheap Arbiter, before buying a Yamaha 356 at the age of 14. Despite it being marketed as a student instrument, it took me to grade 8 and beyond, and only in October last year did I upgrade to my Rath. Did my old Yamaha hold me back in anything I've done? Nope. I think people saw a well-looked after Bb/F trombone that made a decent (I think) sound. Do I get any advantage to having that "R" on my tuning slide now? Yes. It's clearly a better instrument that responds much more easily and is much easier to colour my sound on. Is it snobbery on my part? Hopefully not. I test played several other instruments before the Rath and picked what was right for me.

    Oh, I've also got a Pbone which I'm very happy with. I've even played it in rehersal instead of the Rath, as well as the standard Christmas busking. No-one laughed at me. Perhaps they were sniggering at something else, Bbmad?
  10. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Active Member

    Well done and much respect due for what you achieved on the YSL356 :clap:. Supports the point I made in an earlier post too.

    I'm sorry to be or seem unkind but you really might have a point there. Perhaps BbMad needs to practice a lot at home first before coming back to the bandroom with his Pink Pbone, perhaps a box of chocolates shared around the bandroom might make him more loved too. Maybe he could have saved money - I can't remember who made the suggestion originally - by getting a rusty trombone (one that needs a polish?) instead of a new Pbone.

    We try to help, but really we should not divert the thread further.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2015
  11. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    Not in my experience. My lack of ability at sight reading is legendary and I can assure you I got worse abuse when I was playing Monette instruments than I have ever got on Bach or Yamaha.
  12. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Whenever I see someone playing with a lack of skill on an extremely expensive instrument, I think "Good on you for doing your bit to keep them in business for all of us". Instrument manufacturers would all be out of business if they only sold to people who could do their work justice.
  13. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Active Member

    :) To me the (higher range) Bach and Yamaha's are the posh instruments - and such posh ones are the right ones for your ('front row'?) skill level too - but the Monette goes a step or too higher again. I suspect your friends are 'ribbing you' 'cause they feel that anyone who plays such a top class instrument (as a Monette) should have professional skills to match. I'm unlikely to ever buy a Rath R4F for fear of being shot down in flames as a 'poser' and 'cause such quality would be money wasted at my playing level. Whatever, experiences will vary.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2015
  14. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Active Member

    Maybe, or some (manufactures) who make the intermediate models (say Jupiter?) would have a really great trade. Perhaps more people would play if instruments were cheaper too, give those intermediate manufacturers more trade and perhaps they could drop their prices? I do see your point but ........ well, things that appear logical don't always turn out the way one would have thought made most sense.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2015
  15. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    The volume of (say) Raths sold new would not, I suspect, make much of a difference to the finances of a company (such as the Taiwanese Jupiter) that specialises in selling lots of cheaper instruments?

    There's also an international angle - what instrument manufacturing we have left in the West tends to specialise in high end stuff because it can't compete with the low cost of e.g. Chinese labour. Losing brands like Rath would imply losing pretty much the whole sector in this part of the world, which would be a major pity.
  16. Feel My Rath

    Feel My Rath Member

    That's such a typically British inverted snobbery view. If you want and can afford a top level instrument, buy one and play it to the best of your abilities and feel good about yourself. Stuff everyone else. Likewise, if you want to play on a bashed-up old B&H, do that.
  17. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Active Member

    I tend to broadly agree with you on this. My response was to the statement "Instrument manufacturers would all be out of business if they only sold to people who could do their work justice" which I don't believe to be true. However, I do think it very likely that instrument manufacturers, who only sold expensive instruments of very high quality, would all be out of business if they only sold to people who could do their work justice.

    Perhaps the point become confused by a few implied but missing words here and there.
  18. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I suspect you're right... Brain moving faster than the fingers. Or is it the other way round?
  19. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Active Member

    Great response. Interesting angle on inverted snobbery and I hope others take it up in this thread. "Stuff everyone else" mostly works for me though I find it wise to soften that stance at times.
  20. Feel My Rath

    Feel My Rath Member

    In the danger of talking solely of Trombones, what would your initial opinion of someone with a Rath 00 series trombone be, 2T? It's still obviously a Rath, and to the untrained eye would look exactly like the more expensive custom series, yet they are made in China, under supervision from Rath, and sell for a much cheaper price. For example the large bore R400 sells for roughly the same price point as a mid-range Yamaha. Would the R on the tuning slide still set off your "poser" alarm?

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