New Toy – 1919 Conn Victor 80A

February 5, 2015

I’ve been raving about the characteristics of the early-20th century Conn cornets ever since I got my 1917 New Wonder ‘Vocal’, and I’ve especially been impressed by the big-bore 80A Victors since I purchased my 1926 a few months ago. However, my 1926 did not have the accessories that originally came with these instruments – specifically it is missing the extra tuning slides that change the horn from the modern frequency of A=440 to the older ‘high-pitch’ frequency of A=452. If you are interested in learning more about ‘high-pitch’ versus ‘low-pitch’, you can see the relevant Wikipedia article on concert pitch or consult a reference such as the authoritative New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

I have been looking for a horn that does have all the original accessories and I recently ran across a near-pristine 1919 example in the very rare burnished gold plate finish with everything – the extra high-pitch tuning slides, the quick-change Bb-A mechanism, the original mute and the original Conn mouthpiece. The horn was being sold on Ebay by Wichita Band Instruments and while it was not cheap, I jumped at the chance to get one of these wonderful horns in such excellent condition (and with all the original accessories as well!) and the horn is now on the way. When I receive it, I will post a full review, but I’m really looking forward to playing this new horn. The 80As are wonderful instruments, but mine does have some wear on the first valve – it is making a clicking sound, which is somewhat worrying, though so far it does not affect the playability of the horn at all. Regardless, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to get one of these horns that is in near-mint condition. If this horn plays up to my expectations, I intend that it will quickly supplant the 1926 as my main instrument for those occasions when I play cornet.

Below are two pictures of the new horn in its case – note the elaborate engraving on the bell.
1919 Conn 80A Victor cornet in burnished gold plate
1919 Conn 80A Victor cornet in burnished gold plate

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Cornetting – Updates

October 2, 2013

Back in 2012, I posted about my struggles preparing for a weekend leading a jam set at a local jazz society while playing mainly cornet. Since that time, I have continued to practice – albeit somewhat infrequently – and in December of 2012 I was invited to join the Mission Gold Jazz band as the second cornet. This came as a rather large shock, since I am not what anyone would call a good cornetist. However, I tentatively said yes and commenced to work on my cornet chops.

Ten months later, I am still not sure I will ever be able to build the stamina necessary to play a three-hour gig on cornet. But my tone, my range, and my stamina have all definitely improved, and I am no longer afraid of embarrassing myself on the instrument. I am finding the band a challenge due to the instrument, but it is a challenge I am enjoying, and it seems I have been doing acceptably, so I will probably try to continue with the band if at all possible.