Shopping for an 8D
- Philip Myers
- Topic Author
I am a horn student, who is in his junior year of high school, and I find myself in the need of my own horn, however the selection is quite daunting. I have always loved the sound of the Conn 8D, and I have played on some and they seem to be agreeable to me and my horn teacher as being something that will work... but we cannot come to an assessment on which years to buy, seeing as the modern horns lack the same quality associated with the Elkhart built horns. At the same time my teacher told me that Paxman was out of the question because the valves tend to stick in the most awkward situations.
On the other extreme are the Engelbert Schmid horns... but I do not have $15,000-$20,000 laying around for spare change... So, my question is, what type of Conn 8D (what years or types) are better than others, and are there any other good horns that would satisfy my need like a Conn 8D?
Phil Myers' answer:
Me too, especially James Chambers, Myron Bloom, John Cerminaro, and Jerome Ashby
I have always loved the sound of the Conn 8D,
OK, I grew up in Elkhart and had a lot of access to those horns, just even through what the School City of Elkhart owned. My father was a band director in that system and therefore, I could pretty much get my hands on any horn that was in the system. When my main college teacher, Forrest Standley, to whom I had been sent by Clevenger with whom I was studying in high school, told me that I must acquire a Conn I went home and they were in the "M" series, this being 1968-69. I picked one out at the factory and at that time paid $ 350 for a brand new horn. I liked the horn because it had a very soft quality sound. I have always felt that the challenge for any horn is to provide ring at a soft volume and not be to brassy at a loud volume. The "M" seemed to work that way for me. But I would say that about any horn. Even now, that is what I am looking for. I suppose I am very influenced by what I grew up hearing. In my mind, if I had to choose what Myron Bloom, James Chambers, Philip Farkas and Dennis Brain all have in common is not what they were doing on the loud end of things but rather the soft end of things. They all demanded of themselves a certain kind of ring that helped carry the phase.
and I have played on some and they seem to be agreeable to me and my horn teacher as being something that will work... but we cannot come to an assessment on which years to buy, seeing as the modern horns lack the same quality associated with the Elkhart built horns.
Sooooooo, I would really demand that whatever brand horn that I would be considering, that I ask of it that it have ring on the soft end, especially in the middle register, and still manage to hold together on the loud end without too much manipulation from me. During the entire time that I played a Conn (25 years) and now the Schmid (13 years), I have never suggested to anyone what horn they should play.
I have four students right now. I am not sure while I am writing this what horns they play. Doesn't matter to me. I can tell you though how they articulate, how they slur, how they phrase and whether or not they are music program computer literate. This matters to me, the horn, not so much.
I have only owned one Paxman, a deskant, and did not have that experience. My feeling is that each individuals chemistry (saliva and such) reacts with different brands of oils different ways. For instance, one oil that works very well for many players in the New York Philharmonic does not work for me. I think it is just my individual chemistry. So I found an oil that works for me and I have never suggested it to anyone because they must find what works for them, not me.
At the same time my teacher told me that Paxman was out of the question because the valves tend to stick in the most awkward situations.
Only you and your teacher can decide whether the cost of an Engelbert Schmid is cost effective for you or not. I will tell you that in my opinion, if I were to go into an audition, behind a screen or not, I feel that Phil Myers on a triple horn would beat Phil Myers on a double horn, not so much on the day of the month that I am playing my best but rather the other 29 days of the month. And those orchestras just refused to have their auditions on the best day of my month back when I was auditioning. (By the way, I am embarrassed when I see these ads for orchestras who are going to have their auditions behind a screen but write in their ads (mainly Europe) that they do not allow triples. Hey, if triples are so objectionable, they shouldn't worry about their own ability to pick out the triple players from behind a screen, in my opinion. If it is so objectionable, one should be able to hear it, not have to see it.)
On the other extreme are the Engelbert Schmid horns…but I do not have $15,000-$20,000 laying around for spare change...
The thing that led me to the Schmid was the eveness between the Bb and high F side.
Listen, when I was a very, very single minded guy about the 8D for myself, not others, and Dale Clevenger (with whom I had studied and I consider a friend to this day, helped me a lot in lessons and by listening to his records) would say to me, "the people in my section don't always know whether I am playing the deskant or my regular horn (Schmidt at the time I was studying with him), I found it hard to believe. And you know, I never gave the horn section of the New York Philharmonic the same chance at comparison. I brought the Schmid in one day after Christmas vacation just to try it and never went back. I was just enjoying playing it so much that I really didn't care what anyone thought. So I never really asked anybody in the section how they felt about it. I just couldn't go back.
And within a few months, with absolutely no coercion from me, most of them switched to Schmid. I did not consider this necessary. Had I thought the Schmid incompatible with the Conn in the same section I never would have entertained bringing it into the Philharmonic.
But here is the deal:
If there is a "loud end" ethic in the New York Philharmonic that all of the brass players pretty much agree on it is this; we don't want our soft end to automatically have less intensity and our loud end automatically to have more intensity. So I had to know before I went into the orchestra with the Schmid that I go maximum volume without having the horn inflict too much intensity (or brassiness) on me. I wanted to be in control of this, not the horn. I feel I got this with the Schmid.
OK, all of the above is Phil Myers talking about what works for Phil Myers. This doesn't necessarily apply to you or anyone else. But the idea of having ring on the soft end and not too much brassiness on the loud end I think is probably a noble goal. And you have the right to demand that whatever horn you choose allow you the choice of these things, not inflict it upon you.
In general, I liked the M's amd N's. But you know, tonight on the way home I was listening to George Szell conduct the New York Philharmonic in Beethoven 7th (a couple of years before Chambers came here) and man, I just wanted to buy that second horn player's horn. I really, really, really liked the sound he was getting. I don't know who he was or even who was playing first horn.
So, my question is, what type of Conn 8D (what years or types) are better than others,
If you are talking about Conns, then I would say this. I killed myself looking for old Conns. I bought metal working tools to try to fix what I thought I needed to fix on old Conns. There was a time (1983-85) when if I was having trouble playing at work, I didn't come home and practice, I came home and put a different part on my horn. It was weird. And you know what? It never worked, not one time.
and are there any other good horns that would satisfy my need like a Conn 8D?
The best it got was when I put together a setup that really had the sound I wanted, but it was so unstable I couldn't play from middle C to third spaced C without missing three notes. They weren't buying that at work. So, after all, I would say, when you pick up a horn and play it, it either works or it does not. Period. Don't let any repairman tell you otherwise. Also, the most technically perfect horn doesn't mean that it is going to work for me or for you. It really is individual horn based, no matter what brand.
So, trust yourself. Don't worry about brand. When you find that right horn for you, you will think about how happy you are when you put your head on the pillow that night. Trust that feeling.