What’s your favourite instrument and why?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by 2nd tenor, Feb 28, 2019.

  1. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    Just wondering about what’s your favourite (Brass) instrument and why it is?

    The question is a rather open to interpretation, but intentionally so as it allows responses that focus on things particularly important to any particular player. How did you decide what was your favourite? (Edit. Type of instrument in general and/or one particular instrument within a type).

    At one time my own favourite was a Besson small bore Trombone. Trombones are just so versatile, harmonic, majestic, and full of presence too when you have three of them (Bass, 2nd and Solo) working together as a team. That small bore was just so easy to play (light to hold, not too unbalanced and economical on air) so despite having ‘better’ instruments available it was always the one I reached for.

    What do you favour?
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
  2. J. Jericho

    J. Jericho New Member

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    The sound of the trumpet just resonates with me on a primal level. When I was a kid, my ears perked up whenever I heard one being played. When my junior high school band played a recruitment concert and I saw and heard that it was possible for someone like me to play the trumpet, I just had to be able to make that sound myself, so I signed up for band. The band director said he had enough trumpets and put me on euphonium. :( I learned PDQ, and excelled on the instrument, and over the Summer after the first year, the director loaned me a French horn with which to accustom myself. Well, every time I played it, I liked it less and less. I'd had enough. I persuaded my parents to buy me a trumpet, I returned the French horn, told the director that I didn't want to play French horn any more, and told him I wouldn't continue in band unless he let me play trumpet. To say he was displeased would be an understatement. He was livid! He said that I would have to start at the bottom, figuring I'd be disappointed, and I went along with him. The reality was that I WAS GOING TO BE PLAYING TRUMPET!! :) We had a challenge system whereby if you thought you could play better than the fellow ahead of you, there would be a contest to determine who was better, and it didn't take me long to move up. I also like the sounds of the cornet, flugelhorn, and trombone, so I have included them in my repertoire, but trumpet is my first love.
     
  3. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    Yes, some things do just click with some people and it’s hard to describe how or why a particular type of instrument just resonates with someone. Personally I find something appealing about each type of instrument (eg. Cornet, Trombone, Baritone, etc.) but low Brass ones’ just play better for me. Currently I play a Tuba and its cantabile voice, playing say something (easy if I can find a piece) from Bach’s Cello Suites (arranged for Brass by Clark), gives me a ‘kick’.

    I love the way that posts from the USA introduce concepts new to U.K. readers. A ‘challenge’ system isn’t something that I’ve come across here, please would someone explain to me how it works and in what circumstances it might be used. Those details might temporarily divert the thread, but I’m (obviously) happy to learn something new when the opportunity presents itself.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
  4. GER

    GER Active Member

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    Its the cornet for me, my grandad left me his when he died (I was only 8) so when I started it was obviously the instrument to learn on. Having your own instrument in the late 60's was a rare occurence. It started a lifelong love affair with the instrument. I don't know why, but even when I wasn't playing, listening to a well played cornet could, and still does, send shivers down my spine and bring tears to my eyes. I love to hear all brass instruments, but it's only the cornet that can make me feel this way. As for specific instrument, it's besson/boosey for me, but I think that's more to do with the fact that's all I've played really. Once played with a band that had bought a full set of Antoine Courtois via a lottery grant-didn't like it, ended up buying a lacquered sovereign to 'fit in'.
     
  5. J. Jericho

    J. Jericho New Member

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    2nd Tenor, I'll give you the example of how the challenge system worked in my experience as described above.

    The trumpet section was divided into Solo Cornet, which was the section leader and the best player, followed by 1st Cornet, 2nd Cornet, 3rd Cornet, and 4th Cornet. Each part had 3 - 4 players of descending ability and artistry, with 4th Cornet being the repository of those who were beginners and those who found it hard to improve. All sections in the band were arranged the same way.

    The director put me at the very last of the trumpet section, probably fourth in the fourth section. I was confident that I could play better than the fellow who was third in the fourth section, so I "challenged" him. Once a month there would be time allotted to challenges throughout the band, where each pair would play randomly called scales and arpeggios, a prepared piece, and then have to sight read a piece that neither competitor had seen before. The outcome was judged by vote of the entire band, of course with the directors prerogative to overrule a popular, rather than performance vote. The challenger would have to play better than, not merely equal to, the person who held the desired position in order for the challenger to advance. This is how I moved up, usually on a monthly basis. As I recall, in my last year, 12th grade, the outcome was determined by a jury of elected officers of the band, rather than involve the entire group.

    In College, chair was determined by audition before the director and his assistant, and one's assigned chair rarely changed, since at that point in a musician's development a player's ability was obvious. Of course, as the Senior class graduated (and this applied to the lower years of education as well), vacated chairs would be filled by those remaining, and new students would be placed, once again, by audition before the director and his assistant.

    Hopefully I won't be excoriated for continuing this thread detour, but I did want to answer the question.
     
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  6. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    1,165
    I haven't had enough experience to have specific likes and dislikes on makes and models, but before I joined a band, an old friend who plays brass suggested my mouth would be more suited to a lower brass instrument, such as a baritone horn. When I joined the band, I asked to try one, got my first decent note out of it, and was SOLD! But I've also dabbled in trombone, and appreciate the sound of those, too - especially the way that, when called for, the 1st, 2nd and bass bones can really punch through with some wonderful harmonic effects. I'm also impressed with the effects that a good tenor horn section can achieve when playing counterpoint with the cornets - though the tenor is just a bit too sweet for my taste.
    Cornets . . . um; I can take them or leave them, really. I enjoy the sound as long as they don't go too high in pitch - and when I read stuff by American musicians in particular about the wonders of hitting those "screaming top notes" on trumpets, I cringe! I can vividly remember the sounds of big bands in the 1950s, which invariably had a trumpet player doing that, and to me it sounded like somebody using a chainsaw to cut up corrugated iron!
    I've no interest in playing euph at all; for my taste, though they are the perfect tool for the job in certain very lyrical passages, the sound is too woolly. Having said that, I believe the sound of them has changed quite significantly over the last 50 years. Moomin Dave put me on to this recording of Bert Sullivan playing 'Those Endearing Young Charms' with Great Unversal Stores Band in 1960. None of the notes he plays have an agressive edge to them, but his articulation is such that every note is distinct, and perfectly shaped:

    Compare that with this performance by Robert Childs playing 'Carnival of Venice' in 1985 (another link passed on to me by Moomin Dave); in my opinion ( I don't have Humble Opinions - as a child, I had them all surgically removed ;)), the whole thing is fluffy, with the notes all blurred together (35 seconds onwards):

    And a final one, this time David Childs, playing 'Those Endearing Young Charms', in 2013. Listen, in particular, to the rising run of notes at the very beginning of the piece, where they are blurred together into what I hear as a discordant screech - as compared to clear run of clearly distinct notes, when played by Bert Sullivan - and the way Childs plays the fancier bit, starting at 4 mins 12 seconds in; FLUFFY!!

    This came about as part of a conversation I had with Moomin Dave about the way instrument bore sizes had increased over the years, and the effect that they have on the overall sound, and Dave explained that though it was still possible to achieve very crisp articulation with a larger bore instrument, it was a lot more tricky to do so.
    But what struck me was that, aside from the individual instruments, the whole brass band sound has changed dramatically since I was a little lad. This was really brought home to me when I listened to the overall sound of the GUS Band in that 1960 performance; it shot me straight back to my childhood, listening to the Salvation Army Band who used to tour round the streets of Hackney and Clapton in East London on Sunday mornings - and they sounded exactly like GUS did in 1960!
    Now, if euphs these days sounded like they did back then, I'd probably have a very different view of them - but as it is . . .
    And a final one, which I've only played once, and that was only about half a dozen notes - the Eb bass. What a drop-dead gorgeous sound - like dark chocolate turned into music!

    Best regards,

    Jack

    MTA - at a bit of a tangent, there are two instruments the sound of which I utterly LOATHE - piano accordions and those horrible screechy piccolos; the latter, especially in military bands, where they always seem to aim at frequencies high enough to jam bats' sonic hunting, AND to try and fit more semi-demi-semi-demi-semi-quavers into a bar as humanly possible! :mad:
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
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  7. rootertooter

    rootertooter Member

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    Cant agree with your comments about the Bob Childs video for one second. I think your problem is the sheer amount of notes played per second and your ability to hear and recognise them.

    Keep up the hard work on Baritone and dont worry about ever having to play either piece.
     
  8. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Jack. I am, perhaps, a little biased about Trombones and Tubas but I do find something special about their sound and particularly so on the smaller bore versions. Tubas have grown in Bell size over the years, my preference is for the smaller Bells as I find the sound clearer from them.

    I will listen to the videos at some point, but I don’t normally bother seeking out opportunities to listen to experts. As they say ‘each to their own’, but I’ve never understood why Bandsmen pay good money to listen to top Bands and why some are so passionate about them too. Making music rather than listening to music is what I enjoy most ....... though listening to another (ordinary) Band playing in the Park is a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

    Edit. I’ve now listened to the two versions of Endearing Charms and yes I do prefer the older one, but that’s my taste. The two aren’t strictly comparable as they are (to my ear) different arrangements and one is played with a Band whilst the other is played with a Piano, recording quality is quite different too. For what it’s worth the original arrangement pleased my ear more but maybe one reason is my distaste for unnecessary fancy stuff - yes it does show how clever the player is but all I care about is melody. As ever others will find that YMMV applies here too.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
  9. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    @rootertooter: I don't think you've read my post properly. In the case of Bob Childs' performance, I can hear all the notes, but I think they aren't articulated clearly enough - and I grant you that's purely a personal opinion of his performance. You are free to disagree with my opinion, just as I have every right to express it.
    You also appear to have got confused between what I was saying about the performances between the two Childs; when I said:
    " . . . the rising run of notes at the very beginning of the piece, where they are blurred together into what I hear as a discordant screech . . . "
    I was referring to the piece by David Childs, not Bob Childs.
    Finally, when I want your instructions as to what I should play, I'll let you know. Don't hold your breath.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
  10. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

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    OK, you’ve made your points. Now having read the thread what about contributing an answer to the original post (please) :) .
     
  11. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    Me, too!
    I agree; it doesn't matter how rotten a day I've had, going along to the band room and playing with our development group on Friday evenings always gives me a real boost, every time! And playing with like-minded people, all working on improving our teamwork, and hearing the progress we're making together (with a HELL of a lot of help from our instructors, God bless 'em!), is precisely why I started with the band in the first place. I mean, where I live, there are a shedload of bands, including some very good ones, within 25 miles, so if just listening to bands was good enough for me, I could probably go to a local performance twice a week - but the buzz that I get when I crack a tricky phrase, or get the accent or dynamics just right, is priceless.
    At my age, I've already had to give up things that I used to able to do very well, such as riding fast horses cross country, and working as a steam loco fireman - so having discovered that I can make music has been a sanity saver for me, and I'll keep at it for as long as I possibly can.
    Re. the development group; the first one was started by our MD quite a few years ago. He became concerned about the fact that some learners reached a standard where they were good enough to play, say, 3rd cornet in the main band - but five years later, they were still only good enough to play 3rd. The problem was, as he saw it, that those improvers needed concentrated coaching on an array of essential foundation skills - yet he didn't have time in a main band rehearsal to give it to them. So he started a development group, as a way of being able to work through various aspects of playing in the sort of depth that those improvers needed to reach their full potential - and, boy, has it paid off! One girl, for example, who is still at school, was playing back row cornet when the band was 4th section; now the band is first section, and she's playing first horn!
    But there's a problem; the players in the original development group (all of whom are now playing in the main band) have reached a standard which is too high for improvers in the junior band! So we now have what you might call a junior development group, so there are two stepping stones between the junior band and the main band, making it much easier to progress. It seems quite possible, in view of the numbers of learners we have now, that we'll end up with a 'B' band capable of performing in public, or in contests, in its own right.
    But that's the pay-off from a lot of hard work on the part of our tutors (who play in the main band), led by our MD, and backed up by the full support of the main band and the committee. There's a reason why the band is still going strong after 158 years after it was founded - and a big part of that is that the band is still committed to one of its founding principles; to teach people to play.

    With best regards,

    Jack
     
  12. Slider1

    Slider1 Active Member

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    Why pick on Piano Accordians when there's Stringed Instruments a plenty starting with One string Fiddles - right up to Electric Guitars:(:(:(
     
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  13. rootertooter

    rootertooter Member

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    Nowt nicer than a Euph player with a big sound.
     
  14. rootertooter

    rootertooter Member

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    No confusion at all, and dont take everything to heart as we are all different.
     
  15. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    @Slider1: Because I enjoy a well-played fiddle! There's a trio local to where I live, the Barber Sisters, who play traditional Celtic music as well as original compositions; Isobel and Lydia on violin, and Ellie on viola or violin - and they are wonderful to listen to (as well as being charming people to meet)!
    As for electric guitars - bring 'em on!! Eric Clapton, Steve Howe, Taj Mahal, Keith Richards, Walter Becker, John McVie - all of them capable of drawing superb music out of a plank of wood and some wires :cool: !

    With best regards to you,
    Jack
     
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  16. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

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    We're way off topic eh?
    Okay, I'll go back to the OP.

    This soprano cornet is my favourite.

    Why?

    Several reasons. For starters it's a soprano cornet, the most fun seat in the band.

    This particular one is a bit unusual, though.
    No other sop out there has this combination of lacquer tones (yet?), it also has some custom special-request touches like the flower buttons, the tapered finger rings (wider at the base than the top).

    On top of the physical "special" nature of the instrument, it's special to me because I was involved with the prototyping of it (this particular one is the 6th or 7th different model I've had) and after much driving to and from Luton it's nice to know that I had a hand in the emergence of one of the best sops (and therefore best instruments full stop ;) ) that money can buy.

    I don't always use this one (I have two, the only difference being slightly different bells and different finishes)... But this one is the special one of the two.

    FB_IMG_1540395132801.jpg FB_IMG_1547411352651.jpg
     
  17. Slider1

    Slider1 Active Member

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    Fair do's
    In Ireland, the definition of a Gentleman is "a person who can play a Piano accordion, but doesn't".
    but I'm not Irish!
    Cheers.
     
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  18. J. Jericho

    J. Jericho New Member

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    Maybe this will change your mind:

     
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  19. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

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    On the contrary - that clip has only reinforced my feelings.
     
  20. J. Jericho

    J. Jericho New Member

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    It adds new meaning to the term "hot licks", doesn't it? :D
     
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