New cornet or restoration. Your opinions wanted.

TerryC

New Member
Hello.
I wonder if you could help me with a small, pleasant dilemma?
I am trying to take cornet playing (in a Brass Band) as seriously as possible, and part of this for me involves playing the best instrument possible.
I can either:
1) Keep the instrument I already have (a 1972 Besson International). It has no major issues, and it plays fine for me, I think.
2) Keep it and get it restored to as good a condition as possible. But how good is that?
3) Buy a new pro level instrument.
I know that I don't really need a pro level instrument, but like almost everybody else, I think that it would put up the fewest obstacles to my improvement.
I think the big question here is, how much and in what ways does an instrument deteriorate with age, and can that deterioration be reversed?
More specifically, is it worth getting my cornet refurbished? What musical benefit would I be likely to see?
I'm not interested in cosmetics, just playing characteristics.
Your thoughts are welcome.
 

Tom-King

Well-Known Member
Unless there's something wrong with your current cornet, probably no dramatic gains from a full overhaul that woipdwou be seen from a full service (damned good clean, replace all felts, corks and springs).

Honestly, I think you'd much more likely see significant gains in your playing by spending on lessons with a great teacher (this isn't all teachers, nor even all teachers with decent local reputations) than by replacing or having major surgery done to your instrument.
 

GER

Active Member
I agree with Tom regarding having lessons. The Besson international was the top instrument at the time, used by players of the calibre of James Shepherd and Derek Garside,(If you haven't heard of them, check them out on you tube) so don't think it would be any obstacle to your improvement. The only thing I would say about them is they are not as easy blowing as the more modern instruments and the valves may be a little heavier, having said that I'm pretty sure that a 72 international would be a hand made instrument, not mass produced. Yes by all means have it serviced, but then IMHO stick with it, you are playing one of the finest cornets ever made.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Another vote here in line with Tom and GER’s advice.
I see that you’re from Brighton and by chance I happen to know that there are several Brass Bands down there - Brighton itself has two Third Section Bands. Join a Band, play well, improve and let them supply a better Cornet if it’s eventually needed.
For now a good wash and brush of the Cornet’s inside would be a good idea, replace the valve felts and check the valve alignment (there’s a thread on that somewhere).
By and large it’s the player rather than the instrument that makes all the difference.
 

pbirch

Active Member
one other thing to consider is the value of the instrument, and you would have to take better advice than I can give on this, if you ever decided to trade it in or sell it to get a new instrument, then a refurb might be aa good an investment as the lessons
 

TerryC

New Member
Thanks pbirch
I seriously think that my instrument's musical value is a lot more than what I paid for it (£430) would suggest.
The flexibility of tone and intonation that it has is quite something, imo. I am no way good enough to take advantage of its potential for musical expression.
I'm not sure that a refurb would increase its monetary value though, given the prices that they are sold for. I don't know if it would improve it musically.
I do like the idea of restoring it to its full glory, if such a thing were possible.
 

Hsop

Member
A Besson International cornet described as being in 'stunning condition' recently sold on Ebay for £399. Having a full restoration on your cornet could be nice but it can be expensive too. I had an old boosey&hawkes sovereign cornet re-plated due to plate wear and a few minor dents removed in 2016. The total cost was £400. Aesthetically it looked like a new cornet however it still played the same as before.

As others in this thread have already mentioned, you have a good, well made cornet that would be suitable for any level of brass band playing. Personally I feel if your cornet is mechanically sound I would leave it as it is and enjoy playing it.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
I do like the idea of restoring it to its full glory, if such a thing were possible.
Such a thing is almost certainly possible though you might have to look hard to find suitable people to do the job, back to ‘as new’ could include work on the valve set and slides too as well as re-plating. The work will doubtless cost you much more than the instrument’s resale value would support. However, if it’s important to you and you’re prepared to literally ‘write off’ say 80% of the refurbishment costs then that’s your choice. Personally I believe that HSOP has the right idea (if your cornet is mechanically sound then leave it as it is and enjoy playing it), but your tastes, logic and criteria might not be the same as ours.
 
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Queeg2000

Active Member
If you join a band and they are predominantly playing one brand of cornet, they may well prefer you to play that brand too so as to blend with the rest of the section. They would probably have a cornet of that brand anyway, so buying your own is probably not really worthwhile. If the band are happy for you to play your own cornet then no need to change it or refurb it unless you want to.
 

Tom-King

Well-Known Member
If you join a band and they are predominantly playing one brand of cornet, they may well prefer you to play that brand too so as to blend with the rest of the section. They would probably have a cornet of that brand anyway, so buying your own is probably not really worthwhile. If the band are happy for you to play your own cornet then no need to change it or refurb it unless you want to.
In my experience this is a really unusual view these days - it's something that individuals tend to think about, but very few bands seem to have any interest in pushing it (and even fewer have any interest in trying to enforce it)...
I've known front row sections (in all sections, right up to quite serious championship bands) where no two cornets match for brand/model and they've blended absolutely fine - the "all brand matching" idea is, to my mind, somewhat missing the wood for the trees - if you're listening and working together as a team, it'll blend well; if you're not listening and working together as a team then no amount of equipment matching (whether it be instruments, mouthpieces, etc) will make it blend.

If your the band owns instruments then they may offer to loan you one whilst you're playing with them (though if you've brought your own along then they may well not!)
 

Jack E

Well-Known Member
I've never forgotten a comment I heard from the finest pistol shooter I ever met (he was easily up to shooting at national competition level, if not international).
"I've yet to find a gun which couldn't shoot better than I can."

His point was that if one of his shots went into the 9 ring instead of the bull, it would be down to poor shooting on his part, not a failing on the part of the gun. I believe the same to be true in my playing; if I make a dud sound, it will be an error on my part, and not that of the instrument (or its maker). Having said that, if the valves are badly worn, or out of alignment, the tuning slides or water keys leak, or it is badly dented, then it's going to be difficult for even a first class player to make it sound good.

Speaking from my own (very limited experience) I've found Tom King's advice to be very sound - if you have a bit of cash to spare, invest in lessons! That was exactly what my MD suggested to me, and he and several other players commented on how much my playing had improved after those lessons - both in my technical ability and the quality of the sound I was getting - even though my baritone was a well-worn B & H Regent (their student range) and over 40 years old!
 

Tom-King

Well-Known Member
I think that analogy is true up to a point, @Jack E...

When talking about professional grade instruments (and I'm talking properly developed, reputable instruments here... Some instruments marketed as professional grade are no such thing) your gun shooters parallel holds - good instruments might have minor idiosyncrasies, but not major flaws.

Little things can be manipulated for, and good players will do this often without much conscious thought - but big intonation issues (for example) can really hamper performance, perhaps they can still shoot better than you can but at the same time the added efforts required will have negative impacts on your playing.

By way of illustration... my first cornet, a Blessing, has valves that are heavy and slow (though intonation isn't bad). I could play a slow melody on it better than many players could on professional instruments I dare say, but there's no way I could use it for band playing in anything remotely technical, it'd just be way too much of a handicap and distraction.

As far as the OP's cornet goes - that's a serious and well regarded (if slightly dated) professional instrument and will do everything the vast majority of players will and more.

Tl;Dr - good equipment helps, bad equipment hinders. Amazing equipment is nice, but not necessarily necessary.
 

Jack E

Well-Known Member
@Tom-King - I agree, that analogy only applies to instruments which are reasonably well made and which have been looked after; certainly, my current baritone, being uncompensated, will always have intonation issues which will set a limit to how far I can go with it - and would cause problems to even a top-notch player. At a certain point, I may have to upgrade it, but I know I'm a long way from running out of road with what I've got.

The main band is now First Section, and I may never reach a standard to be able to play with them - at least in contests - but only time will tell. Right now, I know I need to work on myself rather than be hankering after a better instrument, so that's what I'm doing!

With best regards,

Jack
 
The remember reading an on line article about B/H cornets that the Besson International, the one with first and third triggers was regarded as one of the best instruments of its day and superior to the 927 Sovereigns and the like which are still available today.
If it plays well I would leave it alone as quite often a set of felts and a few blemishes removed can turn a good instrument into something you want to throw in the canal. The amount of instruments ruined by over thick felts which then have to be thinned I have encountered is quite amazing. I guess the repairer couldn't actually play or if he could couldn't be bothered to test it. If you want a top quality repair I recommend Ian Brown of Secondwind Cheltenham.
 

TerryC

New Member
This thread seems to have run its course, so I would just like to say thank you to everyone who took the trouble to respond.
I am leaving my instrument as it is - my teacher sees no problem with it, and thinks it suitable for playing at any level - and I will spend the money on lessons instead.
I would like to add though, that I don't agree with the idea that a 'great' teacher will make all the difference, for me or for anyone.
Of course, an outstanding teacher is nice, but what really matters is being an outstanding learner, because a student spends far more time on their own than with a teacher. Instrumental teachers are more concerned with trying to make sure that students practice effectively than is often realised, I think.
 
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