I posted this back in 2008 as a blog post, but I thought I would give it a separate home here, where it is easily searchable when I can’t remember what I own! This is a list of the tools I use in my musical endeavors. They fall into two categories – instruments I own and instruments I want.
I currently own the following instruments:
- Amati Fluegelhorn: This is an instrument that I know very little about. It was a gift from the amazing Maxwell Spikes shortly before he passed on in 2014, a fantastic trumpeter and a wonderful friend, with whom I played in the East Bay Stompers. I received this instrument in 2013, and although I do not play it much, it has a very nice tone and plays very easily. I know little about its history, but it is a very nice horn and a good choice for a student musician due to the low price and very free-blowing nature of the instrument.
- 1993 Bach Stradivarius 180-43G Trumpet: This seems to be a fairly rare make here in the United States. I purchased it in Japan in 1993, and have so far not encountered anyone who has the same horn over here. It has the distinction of being the most expensive instrument I have ever purchased. A couple of years ago I had the laquer removed and the horn is now in a raw brass state – which has mellowed the tone considerably. Please feel free to correct me if I am in error.
- 1909 Conn EEb Helicon: I know very little about the history of this instrument. It was a gift from the wonderful Dick Akright, who owns Best Music Repair and A & G Music in Oakland, California. The horn, like many instruments of the era, is silver-plated with a satin finish, and features exquisite engraving on the bell. The original bits have long since disappeared, but a pair of modern sousaphone bits seem to work quite well. The horn has a very nice tone, and works very well in traditional jazz settings. The fingerings can prove to be a challenge, however, when I am actually reading music!
- 1919 Conn Victor 80A Cornet: This instrument is my favorite cornet to play. It has the pure, mellow tone of the 1917, but a much larger (.484) bore, and the easy air flow that these horns were known for. In appearance it is lovely, having a rare, factory gold-plate finish and it is complete with a gorgeous engraving on the bell. The horn was in someone’s collection for years and plays about as close to new as one can get with a nearly century-old instrument. it has a working Bb-to-A mechanism and came complete with the original mouthpiece (also gold-plated) and mute.
- 1927 Conn Victor 80A Cornet: This is a classic early-20th Century cornet. I got it on Ebay, and it was a very good deal. The appearance is only fair, but it plays extremely well. Like the Vocal, it has a silver exterior with a gold brass interior and the bell is highly engraved. The horn has a functional quick-change mechanism to switch from Bb into A. Originally he’s horns also could be changed to play in C, but the extra slides for that are missing. I later purchased an early 1900s-era HL Clarke contoured mouthpiece for this horn and the combination is exquisite. Like the 1919, this is a big-bore horn at .484 and it blows very, very freely.
- 1917 Conn Wonder ‘Vocal’ Cornet: This is a classic early-20th Century, small-bore (.424) cornet. Like the fluegelhorn, I obtained it from my good friend and colleague, the late Maxwell Spikes. It has a silver exterior with a gold brass interior and the bell is highly engraved, as was customary for instruments of that era. The horn is interesting in that it has a rotary valve which can be used in conjunction with the extra set of tuning slides to change the horn from a Bb cornet to a C cornet. The horn came with both the original 1917 Conn Wonder mouthpiece and a more modern, trumpet-style mouthpiece that changes the traditional mellow, sweet voice of the horn to something more brassy.
- 1912 Holton Special Tenor Trombone: This is a handmade Frank Holton horn from the year 1912. It is a silver exterior with a gold wash interior, and lacks a screw joint to connect the bell to the slide. It is also lacking a slide lock, so one is required to keep hold of the slide at all times, as the alternative can be disastrous. Like the Conn helicon and cornet, this horn is highly engraved on the bell. I had the slide rebuilt when I first obtained this horn and it serves as my trad jazz horn, as it has an excellent tone for that type of music.
- 2014 Jinbao ‘Meister Hans Stauffer’ Alto Trombone: This is a copy of the Kuhnl&Hoyer ‘Slokar’ model. It is made by the Chinese company Jinbao and was imported by The Horn Guys. This horn has a gold brass bell, with a custom leadpipe made by Stauffer Brass in Los Angeles. It has a good tone and is a worthy introductory alto trombone, at a fraction of the price of the professional models.
- 2014 Jinbao ‘Wessex Tubas’ BBb Contrabass Trombone: This is a copy of the Miraphone BBb model. It is made by the Chinese company Jinbao and was imported by Wessex Tubas. This horn is in silver plate and plays very well. It is an excellent choice for a casual contrabass player, as it is a fraction of the price of the professional models. However, the double slide will prove challenging to anyone not accustomed to it!
- 2002 Jupiter Soprano Trombone/Slide Trumpet: This was an Ebay purchase several years ago and I have really enjoyed playing with the horn. Like so many slide trumpets, the instrument has some intonation and tuning issues, although it is far superior to the Jupiter I played in Japan back in 1992. This horn is primarily a novelty instrument as the short slide makes it very difficult to get correct notes. However, I enjoy it and every once in a while I pull it out for a gig here and there.
- 1980 Mirafone 186-5U BB-flat Tuba: This horn looks like a CC tuba- most folks who see it think it IS a CC, but it plays in BB-flat. It has five valves and Miraphone confirmed that it is an early-1980s five-valve 186 model. This is a very rich-sounding instrument and when used with my Clements Eb/F mouthpiece, is able to perform well in all registers. It does especially well in the mid and low range. This is my regular instrument for playing bass lines- I no longer use the MIDI keyboard. However, it has been displaced as my main instrument for traditional jazz by the helicon – it’s simply too heavy to carry!
- 1953 Reynolds Contempora 49622 Tromhorn: This horn belonged to my good friend Tip Banks’ father. When his father passed away, Tip was kind enough to give it to me. Since Tip himself also passed away soon thereafter, this horn has a high degree of sentimental value. This is the Reynolds version of King’s famous ‘Trombonium’. In essence, it is a valve trombone, but wrapped like a baritone. It is much smaller than most American baritones, which leads many observers to think it is an alto horn. I use this horn primarily for practice and for trad jazz gigs when I want a slightly mellower sound that the trombone produces, although it has a very nice tone with a bit of bite. I also find it very useful for playing bass trumpet parts and Latin music.
- 1979 Yamaha YEP 321S Euphonium: This instrument dates all the way back to 1979 or 1980, and is the first ‘good’ horn I ever owned. I have played this in every conceivable type of music, from concert band to Dixieland bands (in place of tuba) and it is still in excellent condition. I rarely play it these days, as I do most of my playing on trombone, but it still has a special place in my collection. I recently acquired an original Yamaha fifth valve attachment that was briefly available in the late 1960s and 1970s. The attachment enables a true chromatic progression into the pedal tones, emulating a compensating euphonium.
- 1984 Yamaha YSL 646 B-flat/F Tenor Trombone: I purchased this instrument in 1983, and have played it ever since. Although it is usually not my first choice in jazz bands, it is a superior horn and produces an excellent symphony sound. A drunk fell on this instrument in 2002 or 2003, and it was subsequently rebuilt, thus it is in virtually new condition at present.
- 1991 Yamaha YBL 613G Bass Trombone: I purchased this instrument in 1991, and it is the instrument I normally use when playing in big bands, as I usually play bass trombone in such groups. It has the gold brass bell that Yamaha produced for a short period in the late 1980s and early 1990s and has a superb sound. In fact, one of the bandleaders I worked with liked it so much he preferred this horn to my Holton as a jazz horn.
- 1962 Steinway S Grand Piano: This was my mother’s piano – when she passed away I bought out my family’s interest so as to keep the instrument in the family. Although I am not myself a good piano player, I enjoy playing this instrument and my son practiced on it as well until he discovered outdoor sports.
Instruments I Want
In addition to the instruments listed above, there are some oddball instruments that I would dearly love to add to my collection. These are as follows:
- Bass Trumpet: I had the opportunity once to play a Miraphone bass trumpet and really enjoyed it. While I can’t really think of a reason why I would need a bass trumpet, it would be fun to have one and play it in place of the baritone once in a while.
- Cimbasso: A cimbasso is a valved instrument that is best described as a tuba-range valve trombone. My late friend Mike Lipschutz had a cimbasso and I played it once. Very interesting horn, with some of the same characteristics of the contrabass trombone. However, like contrabass trombones, cimbassos are VERY expensive, and since they are mostly European-made these days, it is very unlikely that I’ll ever be able to purchase one.
- H.N White Symphony Model Orchestra Bass: My late friend Elmer Tuschhoff owned one of these horns, which are more fully described on the H.N. White website. They are no longer made, as production ended in 1940, but they were a five-foot tall tuba with four rotary valves. I played Elmer’s once and it has a very rich tone. They were designed to be used in concert with a string bass and had an ingenious stand that came with them to hold the tuba while the player was using the string bass! Elmer’s horn vanished after he passed away, but I am still on the lookout, hoping that some day it might turn up. And of course, if another one of these turns up, I’m interested! However, most of the surviving models are in museums, unfortunately.