John Packer Cornets

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Ant W, Feb 4, 2018.

  1. Ant W

    Ant W New Member

    This reminds me of when I was a teenager studying for my grade 7. I borrowed a cornet while mine was away having a repair done and stupidly blamed the instrument for my poor performance during practice. My tutor, an elderly gentleman, took the cornet from me and made it sing. He gave it back to me and said 'they all play a little differently but none are all that bad', now play. I can't remember his name, everyone was either Sir or Miss, but I remember the lesson.
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  2. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Well I see your point Tom though I think that someone might find it a bit bald - can’t think that you’d ever intentionally give offence to David or anyone else, well Trolls excepted.

    You’re right, I wouldn’t give equal weight to the views of a Championship player and someone who plays at (ABRSM) Grade 3 level, well as far as musical matters are concerned. On the other hand do all Championship level players agree with each other on everything and how good a player do you have to be to have something useful to say? As a visitor I’ve played alongside people in a 4th section band who, not many years earlier, used to play in the Championship but moved for reasons various; are the views of those 4th section players suddenly worthless or devalued?

    Several years ago I met Dr Brett Baker (Black Dyke’s Principal Trombone), heard him play and exchanged a few emails in which he offered most helpful advice. I cannot speak too highly of the man. Besides his expertise one of the things that came across to me was the way someone with such expertise and ability chose to speak to others on equal terms. Surely that’s a skill to emulate and one that helps the world go round ......
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
  3. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member


    I was a little short of time (am now, also) so if it comes across a little short that's mostly because I lacked the time to word it more diplomatically...

    If nothing else, I simply disliked your attempt to sanitise the conversation by making something a matter of opinion which categorically isn't one
  4. julian

    julian Active Member

    I've read this thread with interest and got to agree with Tom. Over the years I've seen cornet players come and go in various bands from championship section to 4th section. Some with all the latest models, mouthpieces and accessories still can't play three notes in a row in tune, others that play on 30 year old instruments and sound like angels. We were each given two ears and one mouth. Playing in tune is not about make of instruments, it's about listening. Listening, listening and more listening. If players think that by having their conductor 'tune them up' once in a while that they can just blow into their instruments (£300 ones or £3,000 ones) and everything will sound great, then they'll never play in tune as long as they've got a hole in their ear!!
    2nd tenor likes this.
  5. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    Expert advice is of course invaluable. I wouldn't dismiss someone's advice / considerations simply because they are not an expert though. The naivety of someone learning a new skill realises new observations that an expert wouldn't necessarily see. After all, discoveries and inventions don't come from regurgitating what we already know, they come from realising new concepts.
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  6. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    There is a thermal element, Tom, which is very important in designing silencers for piston-ported two-stroke engines, which use pressure waves in resonant pipes and silencers to dramatically improve cylinder filling and prevent charge loss - and that thermal factor is even more vital in the design or turbines and combustion chambers in jet engines, because of the far higher temperatures involved. In comparison, though, even if we take the difference between a blazing hot day in July as against playing Christmas carols with the temperature at freezing point, the percentage change in temperatures - and in the speed of sound waves - is far smaller.

    As an example, at 20 degrees C, the speed of sound in air is 767.58 mph; at freezing point, it drops to 740.94 mph - a drop of 3.47%, or 26.64 mph.

    To put that in perspective; we're all familiar with the Doppler Effect - that sound being emitted by a vehicle coming towards you sounds higher in pitch than is actually the case, and sounds lower in pitch than it really is when the vehicle passes you and is moving away. So, take the case of a train approaching you at 60 mph and sounding a continual single note on its horn; after it has passed and is speeding away from you, it's easy to hear the change of pitch - but the speed has effectively changed from +60 mph to -60 mph; a speed difference of 120 mph. And that is nearly 5 times as much change in the effective speed of sound as you'd get from chilling an instrument from 20 degrees C to zero. If you were going from a comfortably warm room to a chilly one - say from 18C to 13C, the difference in the speed of sound would be 7 mph - a drop of less than 1%.

    I rather doubt that such a small change in the speed of sound could - in itself - affect the pitch enough to be noticed. I have been told, though, that if playing a brass instrument outdoors in very cold weather, if you have a break and then play again, the instrument will sound flat - but I wonder if a cause (or contributary cause) might be from the condensation of your breath inside it. If air contains water vapour, but is then cooled sufficiently to condense that vapour into liquid water, that will lower the density of the air inside the instrument - but how much it will lower the density by, and what effect that will have on sound waves going through the instrument, I haven't a clue.

    From what I've learnt whilst working with industrial instruments and studying the vagaries of two-stroke engines, I've come to the conclusion that fluid dynamics is as much an art as a science - and, sometimes, I think a black art!

    I think it's also worth remembering that even a half tidy blues harmonica player has no problem flattening a note by a full tone, just by altering the internal shape of his mouth - and I've heard many who can take it at least a semi-tone further down, if not more. FWIW, I suspect that players have far more influence on pitch than room temperatures.

    With best regards,

  7. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Like the case of the Wright Brothers, who realised that the important thing about aircraft engines was not the absolute power, but the power to weight ratio - and fitted the Wright Flyer with a petrol engine, rather than the steam engine which most engineers of the time thought was the only practical power unit.
  8. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I had a similar experience, Ant, when a motorbike dealer who was over 60 took my well-battered Greeves trials bike from me, after I'd made a similar complaint - and rode it without apparent effort up what looked to me like the face of a cliff!! Bringing it down, under complete control, he handed it back, and said:

    "I'd check the front shock absorbers, if I was you - but it should still get you round the course."

    He's just one of the examples who have convinced me that the sign of an expert (in any field) is that they can do what you know damn well is difficult, and make it look easy!
  9. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Absolutely, YES, 2nd tenor!

    I once met a steam loco fireman who was arguably the most famous fireman of his day - Bert Hooker, who fired to Driver Swain on 'Belgian Marine' (Merchant Navy Class loco) in the railway exchange trials in 1948, and basically knocked seven bells out of the opposition. If anyone had an excuse for putting on a bit of swank it was Bert. But did he? NO chance . . .

    At the time, I was a very novice fireman on a preserved steam railway, where trains ran at no more than 25 mph; yet, when I asked his advice, he spoke to me like Dr Baker spoke to you - as though I was his equal, which was certainly not the case! He wasn't just polite, he was courteous, charming and inspiring. Oh, and in case anyone should think that a steam loco fireman is just a 'navvy on wheels', any steam loco driver will tell you it was one of the most highly skilled and mentally demanding jobs on the railway.

    It sounds a bit of a cliche, but there are some people who it really is an honour to have met them and talked with - and the late Bert Hooker was definitely in that class.
  10. rootertooter

    rootertooter New Member

  11. Rob Dawson

    Rob Dawson New Member

    On the subject of bands having matching instruments. I remember conversations of that ilk as a teenager. From what I recall it had more to do with similar tone and therefore blend of the band rather than tuning. Without argument some makes have a brighter sound.
    My first instrument is piano. I’ve played Yamaha and bechstein in the same room and (though both were in perfect tune) the Yamaha sounded sharp and the two instruments did not sit well together.
    Obviously brass musicians have far more control over both tone and tuning but an instrument will have a “natural” tone (the sound without manipulation).
    Not being from a scientific back ground I can only speculate.....
    I have a prestige for my own playing and an American version Of a coppergate which I use for teaching. Perhaps unsurprisingly the prestige needs little attention to the tuning (beyond that which we all do) by comparison the student euph is up and down like tower bridge. It seems far more prone to temperature and general “distractions”. I could well be wrong but I believe it’s down to the thickness and quality of the materials used (being lacquer finish may be a factor?). The bell on the student euph is so thin that I can bend it with my thumb!
    The other euph in my band plays a John packer ( jp274 I think). He’s made similar comments over its thickness (though you can’t dent the bell with your thumb). He does keep it in tune but seems to work far harder than he did the round stamp he played previously.
  12. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I think the main point, as pointed out by Tom King, earlier on, is this:

    "Price doesn't have to be an indicator of quality, of course, but one of the first things to be cut when you want to build things to a budget is QC."

    In engineering terms, if I had two micrometers of top quality, one made by Moore & Wright, and the other made by Starrett, if I measured a component with either one, I'd expect to get the same reading with one as I did with the other - and I'd expect both to stay equally accurate in use. If my second micrometer, though, was one I bought in a chain store for five quid, it would be a different story!

    FWIW, I think that if a section is equipped with instruments, of any brand, which are all of professional quality, I can't see any reason why they should keep drifting out of tune with each other - though I can well believe that there might be a difference in the overall sound between the different brands.

    Even slight differences in dimensions and materials will affect the harmonics and sub-harmonics which are present in every note, in every instrument (which is why the same pitch of note played on a tenor trombone sounds so different from the same note played on a euph, let alone the same pitched note played on a clarinet!), so I would be very surprised if a pro quality instrument did not sound subtly different to a similar quality instrument from a different maker - but I'd expect to hear a different in the character of the sound, rather than the pitch.

    For example, listen to these two euphs, and note how different the sound to each other; first up is Bert Sullivan, playing with GUS in 1960:

    Now compare the sound of Mr Sullivan's euph with that of Bob Childs, recorded 25 years later:

    Even a novice like me can hear the difference in the sound character between the two, but I can see no reason why the two shouldn't be able to play in tune in the same section, and to stay in tune with each other.
  13. GER

    GER Active Member

    Because people blow into them-sorry not being facetious but people 'lip' differently, dont have full control over their register etc etc
  14. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Sure, GER - but if the player is not in full control of his embouchure, and is not listening to what he's playing, and not heeding how it fits in with the rest of his section, you're going to get those problems regardless of what brand or quality of instrument, aren't you?
  15. GER

    GER Active Member

    That was my point, most of a band's tuning issues are because of the players, not the instruments
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  16. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Sorry, GER - I misunderstood you on that post.
    GER likes this.
  17. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    Actually Tom, there was a train of thought in the 1980s that instruments HAD to be all of one make and model in each section, and in some cases the whole band. I was based in the NW at the time and most of the local top section bands - including the likes of Swinton (definitely) and Fodens (I think) as well as several others - replaced their entire stock of instruments with new Bessons, Yamahas etc. - often off the back of sponsorship money. Appreciate that youre probably too young to remember this though

    I was on cornet at the time and had a very nice Besson 928 of my own - however for one band I played for, I wasnt allowed to use MY cornet - and had to use an early Yamaha Maestro, which is what they'd signed up to. Hated it - compared to my 928 the intonation was shocking, it sounded thin and was hard to blow. But I had to use it in that band.

    Wouldnt happen today, at least to the same extent, but I think thats been enforced to an extent by the lack of sponsorship deals that are available now. Bands are happy for people to use their own instruments as it saves their own stock from wear and tear. Even at Championship level.

    But at the very very VERY top I think there is still an element of buying as a section (although not necessarily kitting out the whole band with x make) - which is why you'll occasionally see 4 Bars rest running an advert for Band Supplies announcing they have 10 cornets from Reg Vardy, or 2 Euphs from Dyke or similar. However I think its more to do with blending the "character" rather than intonation. As also mentioned elsewhere there is NO substitute for listening, listening and more listening
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  18. 4th Cornet

    4th Cornet Active Member

    I too remember those times, but I'm pretty sure that the mandate to use the same instruments was purely commercial and not for any musical reason.
  19. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    Possibly. It was certainly "sold" to us as being sound/tuning integration. Reality was probably a bit of both - bands were certainly under pressure to SPEND all of their sponsorship money and buying 20-odd Maestros would probably have had some sort of kickback which the band (or individuals....? Just throwing that thought out there) could bank. But as on my original post above there are still bands that do it, and I dont think its ALWAYS as a commercial thing

    The Lottery then threw an extra can of worms into the whole thing, but it seems to have gone the other way now for most bands
  20. David Broad

    David Broad Member

    I think those two playing in the same section together would drive me crazy. Its not tuning but the stressing for a given dynamic is completely different and the part is written for two similar instruments otherwise they would have given it to 1 Euph and 1st Baritone or Trom. Almost the difference between Baritone and Euphonium. Then again I can't stand it when someone thinks they can play the 1st Baritone part on a Euph. All the right notes, all the right dynamics, completely wrong sound. The older Euph cuts through much better than the later one and to me is the better tool for the job, a big Saxhorn sound not a small Tuba.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2018