Brass Trio Performance Videos

Here are some videos from two of our recent brass trio performances. The first is from our recent faculty recital at ULM, and features excerpts from Gina Gillie’s Scenes from the Bayou, a work we commissioned with assistance from the International Horn Society’s Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund. It’s a great piece, full of catchy melodies and fun writing for all three parts. We’ll be performing the piece again this summer at the International Women’s Brass Conference in at Rowan University in New Jersey.

Next is our complete Contributing Artist Performance at the 2017 Mid-South Horn Workshop. We performed Diversions for Brass Trio, by Roger Jones, another composer who, like Gina Gillie, really knows how to write well for brass trio.

One interesting thing for me with this work is that I performed it as a member of the same ensemble (but with different personnel) back in 2011 at the Big 12 Trombone Conference in Lubbock, TX (you can check out the recording here). Both performances went really well, I think, and it was quite interesting for me to listen to these two recordings back to back and hear how my playing has changed in the last six years.

Conference Report: 2017 Mid-South Horn Workshop

Photo by Aaron Witek

Last week the ULM brass faculty were very busy, performing our annual faculty recital, and performing at the 2017 Mid-South Horn Workshop, hosted by Dr. Nicholas Kenney at Southeast Missouri State University. Though more brief than the International Horn Symposium, this three-day conference was packed full of performances, lectures, and exhibits. The beautiful facilities at SEMO, as well as the hard work and organization of Dr. Kenney and his students, resulted in a fantastic workshop. Bravo!

In addition to performing with our brass trio and presenting on my Solo Training for Horn book, I also ran the exhibitor table for Mountain Peak Music, who publishes both of my books. This was a new experience for me, but very enjoyable. While I wasn’t able to attend as many of the conference events as usual, the extra time to speak with both old and new acquaintances was certainly welcome. The sheet music exhibits were placed along a heavily traveled route between one of the main performance halls and the instrument exhibits, providing ample exposure. After several hours of visiting with passersby at the exhibit, here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Horn players are always hungry for duets: Visitors to the Mountain Peak exhibit were especially interested in duets for themselves and their students, with The Big Book of Sight Reading Duets and Long Tone Duets being the most popular. If you don’t know these two publications check them out, they are fantastic for teaching. I also sold a few copies of my Solo Duet Training for Horns book.
  • Horn players love routines:  Another very popular book at the MPM table was Daily Routines for Horn, and its companion Daily Routines for the Student Horn Player. Many players I spoke with were not aware of these two publications, and I enjoyed speaking with them about the various patterns and exercises found in the Daily Routines series. If you are getting tired of your regular old routine (or just looking for more teaching materials) give these some serious consideration.
  • Not enough horn players know about Mountain Peak Music: This publisher is gradually gaining more recognition in the horn world, but after my presentation and at the exhibit table I spoke with lots of people who didn’t know anything about MPM. If you are in the market for high-quality, fresh teaching materials that will energize both you and your students, consider exploring their publications. All of Mountain Peak Music’s offerings for horn can be found at this URL: http://www.mountainpeakmusic.com/horn/

Though I didn’t attend lots of performances, I was able to make a lecture-performance by the St. Louis Symphony horn section on Saturday afternoon, and the Saturday evening concert featuring Tod Bowermaster of the St. Louis Symphony and the Southeast Missouri State University Wind Symphony. I have not had the chance to hear the St. Louis Symphony live, but their horn section sounded fantastic! The presentation included performances and discussion of standard section excerpts, such as the Overture to Weber’s Der Freischütz and the Scherzo of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. The blend, balance, and overall sound of the section was quite striking, big without sounding like they were working hard. One topic that piqued my interest was Christopher Dwyer’s discussion of intonation – in his comments he mentioned the Tuneup Intonation Training System by Stephen Colley. I had heard of this book, but not much else regarding its content or effectiveness. Mr. Dwyer highly recommended it, noting that during his studies with Dale Clevenger, the entire brass section of the Chicago Symphony was working through the book. Needless to say, I will be looking into it!

For the first half of the evening concert, Tod Bowermaster performed several horn and piano works, collaborating with Kelley Ker Hackleman. These included standards –  Dukas Villanelle and Gliere Intermezzo – as well as several really nice arrangements found on Mr. Bowermaster’s CD, The Horn in Song. I really enjoyed his solo playing, very musical with a warm, vibrant sound. My favorite work on the first half was a transcription of Telemann’s Bassoon Sonata, TWV 41:f1. I’ve heard this performed on euphonium and trombone, and it also works really well on  horn! For the second half of the concert the SEMO Wind Symphony joined the soloist for Pele by Brian Balmages. This work is getting performed a lot, and it’s easy to hear why – tuneful melodies, with lots of heroic moments for both soloist and ensemble. The concert concluded with Claude T. Smith’s Eternal Father, Strong to Save. If you’ve performed this piece (or taken any military band auditions) you know that the end features a solo horn quartet playing the famous hymn. For this performance, the entire balcony was filled with horn players, who joined in for a striking surround sound effect. A great way to end the evening!

Before wrapping up this post I want to share one more anecdote from the conference. Shortly after arriving on Thursday evening, I grabbed a few minutes in a practice room to run through my Solo Training for Horn presentation materials. When I finished and went to remove my screw bell, it was stuck! This has never happened to me before, but I knew enough not to use anything more than mild force to loosen the ring. It wasn’t cross-threaded, maybe just dry from the weather in Missouri. At any rate, I was very lucky to find Mark Atkinson of Atkinson Horns setting up in the exhibit room. He was extremely generous and helped remove the bell (through a combination of elbow grease and a leather mallet). Thanks again!

I want to commend and thank Dr. Kenney for planning and hosting this terrific conference. I’m looking forward to next year’s workshop, which will be hosted by Brent Shires at the University of Central Arkansas.

 

 

Upcoming Projects, Part 2: June Recording Session

cropped-412093_10151188927572199_2111445695_o4.jpgThis is the second in a series of posts about some upcoming activities this semester and beyond. You can read the first one here. In addition to my normal performing and teaching schedule, I’m very excited to be involved in two recording projects, the first slated for June 2017, and the second for January 2018. Here’s a brief description of the first one.


Music of Eurico Carrapatoso: I’m honored to be collaborating with colleagues Claire Vangelisti and Richard Seiler on a recording featuring the music of Portuguese composer Eurico Carrapatoso. Carrapatoso is well known in his native Portugal, and is beginning to get some exposure here in the U.S.  Vangelisti and Seiler will be recording several of his works for voice and piano, and I’ll be joining them for three soprano, horn, and piano works:

  • Duas porcelanas musicais
  • Sete melodias em forma de bruma
  • Dois poemas de Miguel Torga

All three are substantial, multi-movement compositions, with fun (and challenging!) horn parts. I’m planning to write more about the details of this project in a future post, and one interesting challenge for me in the preparation of the music has been the choice of equipment. Carrapatoso’s writing for horn tends to emphasize the high range, with lots of light, lyrical passages above the staff, often in harmony or in counterpoint with the voice. Here’s an example of one from the first movement of his Dois poemas de Miguel Torga:

carrapatoso1

And another one from his Sete melodias em forma de bruma:

carrapatoso2

While certainly playable on a standard double horn, these passages and others like them fit well on a descant horn. We performed the Sete melodias em forma de bruma at the 45th IHS Symposium in Memphis, and for that performance I used a Paxman 40M descant horn, on generous loan from a colleague in the Shreveport Symphony. I’m planning to use that same instrument for our recordings in June, although I’m not entirely sold on which mouthpiece to use. My normal mouthpiece, a Houser GS12, works pretty well, although I’m considering some other options tailored more for the high horn. Updates to come!

 

 

 

Need Rotor Stop Material? Try the O-Ring Store

In this post from several years ago, I discussed the process of changing rotor stops, or “bumpers” as they are sometimes called. It’s a fairly simple, if a little time consuming, process. In the article I mentioned purchasing my rotor stop material from Osmun music. Along with Osmun, there are many other great horn shops out there who sell the material in varying diameters, hardness (duro), and materials. However, another place to check out is the O-Ring Store, a wholesale retailer based in Idaho. Their O-Ring cord stock can be purchased by the foot, in Neoprene, Silicone, Buna-N, among other materials. It is extremely economical to buy rotor stop material this way, as long as you know the diameter you need for your horn, and the type of material you want.

Musicians and Taxes

As we head into tax preparation season, I would like to share a brief personal anecdote about filing my taxes both as an educator and as a freelance musician. The following does not constitute tax advice of any kind, and to cut right to the chase, the moral of my story is to consult a tax professional. Even if you prepare and file your returns yourself, it might be beneficial to sit down with an expert to go over anything you might have missed.

For years I filed my own returns using the standard software. I was never audited, and usually satisfied with the result. However, I normally encountered at least a few tricky questions that weren’t easily answered by the computer. If you’ve ever used tax preparation software, you probably know what I’m talking about. If the program detects anything anomalous in your return, it won’t let you file until the problem is resolved. After several years of feeling like I was missing something in my self-prepared return, I decided to ask around and find an accountant who was comfortable working with musicians. One of my colleagues in the Shreveport Symphony recommended a CPA firm, and I set up a meeting. That was four years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. In short, having a professional prepare our tax return was a great decision for my family.

If you decide to do the same, here are a few tips that might help:

  • Ask around before choosing a CPA or other tax professional. Consult both in and out of your field, but try to find someone who has experience working with musicians. An experienced professional can help you identify deductions you weren’t aware of. For example, here is an incomplete list of possible  deductions to ask your tax professional about.
    • Travel/Lodging
    • Membership Fees for Professional Organizations
    • Conference registration fees
    • Cell Phone/Internet
    • Meals
    • Instrument Repair/Cleaning
    • Dry cleaning costs for tuxes, suits, other professional attire
    • Equipment, sheet music, recordings
    • Teaching supplies
  • Keep track of mileage and expenses. This is easier than ever now with the plethora of apps, online templates, and other tools for tracking expenses. I use Expensify to log my mileage and catalog receipts, but also keep electronic and hard copies of all my receipts. A quick search of the Apple or Android store will yield lots of options for apps.
  • Collect all of your paperwork and total up your expenses before meeting with your tax preparer. I like to keep all of my official documents – W-2s, 1099s, royalty statements, etc. – in one folder, and supporting documents like receipts and mileage logs in another. Shortly after January 1, I sit down and total up mileage and itemize my expenses from the previous year. Doing so will save you time and headache when you meet with a CPA.
  • Don’t assume that a deduction is or isn’t allowed without confirmation. When in doubt, ask!

That’s all I have to say on this topic for now, but perhaps you will find some of this information useful. For another perspective on the same subject, check out this post on the website of Erin A. Paul, an active freelance hornist in New York City.

 

Upcoming Projects, Part 1: Performances and Premieres

For various reasons, I fell so far behind on writing my customary Semester Preview post this year that I decided to forgo it entirely. In lieu of that single post, I decided to write individual “blurbs” about  my upcoming activities.

Our faculty brass trio, Black Bayou Brass, recently commissioned two  new multi-movement works, which we’ll be premiering this spring and summer. The first piece is Inventions, by Sy Brandon. Commissioned through a consortium with several other brass ensembles, this substantial five-movement work is accessible and challenging (though not prohibitively so). In the composer’s words:

The title “Inventions’ has a double meaning as a musical invention is a short contrapuntal composition that is usually based on a single theme. The second meaning is that each movement represents a significant invention.

During the composition process Dr. Brandon provided sound samples and ample descriptions of each movement, and allowed us to provide feedback as each movement took shape. Follow the links below for more information and a sound sample of each movement.

  1. The Wheel
  2. The Metronome
  3. The Periscope
  4. Morse Code
  5. The Airplane

For anyone interested in commissioning a new work, a consortium is a very effective way to generate funding. The fee for Inventions was very reasonable, and we are looking forward to performing it on our March 14 faculty recital.

In June we’ll travel to the International Women’s Brass Conference  to premiere a new work by Dr. Gina Gillie, Associate Professor of Horn at Pacific Lutheran University. Gillie has published a handful of compositions, and is quickly making a name for herself. Her music is tuneful, engaging, and very fun to play. We were fortunate to be awarded funding for this commission from the International Horn Society’s Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund.  The Meir Rimon Fund is a fantastic program, and well-worth exploring. Gillie’s new work is entitled Scenes from Black Bayou,  and was inspired by the beautiful natural scenery at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge (see image above). Black Bayou is, of course, what our trio is named after, and is located a few miles north of the ULM campus. We’ve begun rehearsing the trio, and are having a great time with it. If you’ll be attending this year’s IWBC at Rowan University in New Jersey, we’d love to see you at our performance.

New Video: Louisiana All-State Etudes, Set 2

Happy New Year to all of my readers!

For my first post of 2017 I am sharing a video recorded back in December; two Kopprasch etudes that will be used for the upcoming Louisiana Music Educators Association All-State Auditions. Although these auditions are generally held in September and October, many districts in Louisiana use them as Honor Band audition material during the spring. I last recorded these etudes about 10 years ago, so it was time for a new (and hopefully improved) version. As with the previous set of etudes in this new series, I’m working on a set of preparatory exercises to accompany them. Look for those in a future post and video recording.

If you’re interested in the equipment I’m playing on this video, the horn is my new Yamaha 671, and the mouthpiece is a Laskey 75G in silver plate.

Mouthpiece Comparison Chart and HornReviews.com

*This post has been updated as of January 29, 2017

Related to my two previous posts about choosing a new horn (here) and mouthpiece (here), I recently learned of some new websites aimed at helping players compare a number of horn and mouthpiece brands and models.

First is Colin Dorman’s “Mouthpiece Comparison Chart,” an interactive resource which can be found on his website,  colindorman.com. Mr. Dorman is an active freelancer and teacher in the Louisville, Kentucky area, and holds degrees from the University of Alabama and the University of Louisville. As of this writing, the database contains 658 separate entries for mouthpieces, which can easily be searched and compared with one another across a variety of categories, including: Maker, Model, 1 or 2-piece, Thread Type,  Rim Inner Diameter, Rim Shape, Rim Width, Cup Depth, Cup Shape, and Bore Size.  A PDF version of the entire list can also be downloaded for free. In one of the comments related to the list, Mr. Dorman states that he sourced most of the information for each make and model from the manufacturers’ websites, so one can presume that the measurements are accurate. Comparing mouthpieces can be tricky; while there are some standards regarding how various dimensions are measured, the numbers themselves can be difficult to decipher. Mr. Dorman has helped remove some of that mystery by converting all the bore measurements to millimeters, so that differences can be seen at a glance. One word of caution I would offer when comparing inner diameter (ID) measurements was related to me by a well-known maker of custom mouthpieces. Because of differences in where  ID is actually measured by different makers, the same measurement on one brand might not be the same on another. For example, an ID of 17.5mm on one brand might not actually be the same size as 17.5mm on another brand.

Virtually every major brand is represented here, and horn players should be grateful to Mr. Dorman for the amount of time and effort it must have taken to create such a detailed database. He also provides a very handy guide to choosing a new mouthpiece, as well as a great explanation of what the various parts of a mouthpiece do and how they are measured. I would also add that the rest of Mr. Dorman’s website contains some other useful resources, including a blog, technical and fundamental exercises, recordings of the Kentucky All-State Etudes, and more. Be sure to check it out!

The next resource is called Horn Reviews: The Horn Research Helper. This unassuming site actually contains quite a bit of information, including fairly extensive reviews of models by Alexander, Conn, Engelbert Schmid, Hans Hoyer, Holton, Jupiter, Paxman, and Yamaha. Like mega-retailers such as Amazon, Horn Reviews allows visitors to submit their own reviews and see what others have written about a particular make/model of instrument. Each model of horn is also rated on a five-point scale for Tone Quality, Playability, Construction, and Value for Money. After reading several of the reviews, I can say that they are for the most part well-informed, and give a good overview of the pros and cons for each type of horn (preferences of individual players and quirks of specific instruments notwithstanding). However, there are a few observations I would make about this site and others like them. They aren’t red flags, per se, just things that visitors should be aware of before putting too much stock in the reviews and other information found here.

  • I could not find any information on who wrote the reviews. I contacted the website creators using the online form, and am awaiting more information. The first rule of all online information is that you should be able to easily verify the author(s) and their qualifications.
  • There is no rubric given for how the five-point rating system works. The idea has some merit, and the graphics for each model look pretty slick, but for the ratings to provide anything other than personal opinion they really ought to have a detailed rubric for each category.
  • A statement on the website mentions an “Affiliate Program,” with the following information:

The owner of this site is an affiliate of e-commerce websites that sell French horns and related products. If you are interested in promoting your business on hornreviews.com via an affiliate relationship, please contact us. Recommendations, ratings and reviews are not influenced by participation in our affiliate agreements.

There isn’t anything unusual about websites like this one earning ad revenue, but the vagueness of the statement itself (What e-commerce websites?, How can you promote your business on hornreviews.com?) struck me as a little odd. Perhaps I’m being overly suspicious, but combined with the anonymity and unverifiable credentials of the authors, this was a sticking point for me. Despite these issues, Horn Reviews is worth more than just a casual visit. Perhaps the site will be developed more in the future, and will become even more useful. *I heard back from Carson Smith, the owner of hornreviews.com, and he provided some additional information about his site. Mr. Smith also kindly gave me permission to share his comments. See below.

Hi James,

Apologies for this delayed response to your submission via hornreviews.com last month. Going back through the user submissions I discovered your message. Happy to answer any questions you have about the website.
I’m author of the reviews, having personally played the models reviewed at horn events, owned them or taken them out on trial. Some years ago I bought and sold quite a few horns online and realized by notes could be beneficial.
Every player does have personal bias and horns vary in quality, so I do aim to write the review with a consensus tone, corroborating my take with second, third opinions – and inviting other players to contribute. A more rigorous and scientific testing process (think what DPReview.com does with cameras) is where I hope to go with the site eventually. Hope to find some partners who are interested in building this out with me.
Having just launched 20 months ago, the website’s grown organically without any promotion on my part, reaching several thousand horn players monthly. It earns a small income via Amazon.com and eBay affiliate links that pay when a user buys something.
My day job is running a consumer advice & rankings website for a media company. Horn playing is a hobby/obsession.
 -Carson

 

Equipment Update Part 2: Mouthpieces

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From left to right: Houghton H1, Balu/Maelstrom Le Mezzo Meow, Houser GS12

[This is a continually evolving post, which has been edited at least three times. The Mouthpiece Wheel of Doom continues to turn!] In part two of this equipment update (see Part 1 here), I’ll share some information about trying different mouthpieces on a new horn. In Part 1, I discussed my switch to a Yamaha 671 double from an Engelbert Schmid double. For many years I’ve used a Houser GS12 mouthpiece in silver plate with a Houser E rim in H Kote. For more information on what all of that means, you can check out the Houser website, but in  short it is a very middle of the road mouthpiece, with a slightly smaller-than-average size cup and bore. The rim has a 17.5mm inner diameter, with a fairly rounded profile (similar to a Laskey rim). It worked very well on the Schmid, and I have been quite happy with it overall. However, after a month or so with the Yamaha, I decided it was time to try out some different mouthpieces to see how they worked with the new horn. Though not an extreme mouthpiece collector (I own less than a hundred) my stable of mouthpieces is representative of many of the most common brands today. One of the main reasons for maintaining a robust collection is so that both I and my students can readily try out different rim and cup combinations. Plus, sometimes it’s just fun to try out a new mouthpiece for a while to see what happens! I usually end up coming right back to where I started, but in some cases a switch turns out to be the right move.

What am I looking for in a mouthpiece? Here’s my short list:

  • A comfortable rim – I tend to prefer rounded rims, with not too much “bite” on the inside edge
  • 17.5 mm Inner Diameter (Not interested in trying a wider ID at this point)
  • Enough room in the cup to allow my embouchure to function properly, but not so big that endurance and range become difficult
  • A clear, distinct front to articulations
  • Compatible with my personal sound concept and style of playing

Of course I realize that a mouthpiece alone will not solve all of one’s playing issues. There are very few, if any, magic bullets, but sometimes it’s worth trying new equipment, even if you end up right back where you started. As of this update I have narrowed my choices down from four options, all of which I’ve played on previously with my Schmid: My current Houser Mouthpiece (described above); a Balumusik/Malestrom Le Mezzo Meow cup in stainless steel with my Houser E Rim, a Laskey 75G in Silver Plate, and a Houghton Horns/Houser H1 one-piece stainless with a 17.5mm rim. All four mouthpieces are  high quality models, and can be easily found online. The Balu mouthpiece was very easy to play on, with great intonation and crisp, distinct articulations. However, there was just a little too much edge or sizzle in the sound for my taste. More promising was the Houghton H1, which had the same nice articulations and other characteristics as the Balu, but with a rounder, mellower sound overall, similar to the Houser.  One drawback to the Houghton that wasn’t immediately noticeable at first but became more apparent after a week or so was the stickier feel of the polished stainless steel rim. Perhaps I’ve just gotten very attached to my H-Kote rim, but for whatever reason the Houghton didn’t settle in and start to feel good. The Houghton rim also has a more defined inner edge, which got great articulations, but wasn’t helpful for endurance. After two weeks on the Houghton, I decided to try something else. Right now I am liking the Laskey 75G the best in terms of sound, response, and overall feel on the Yamaha. It might also be worth mentioning that the Laskey worked very well on my previous Yamaha, a 667V. Perhaps after some time I will give the Houghton, Balu, or Houser another try, but for right now the Laskey seems to be the best option.

Many horn players shy away from experimenting with equipment, and prefer to stay on the same trusted horns and/or mouthpieces they’ve been using for years. I understand and respect this approach, but if you’re curious about other equipment you shouldn’t feel stuck. Now more than ever there are so many great options out there that it really can be worth trying out some different gear from time to time. Most mouthpiece makers will allow you to order several models on trial, so you need not spend big bucks building a mouthpiece collection unless you want to.

 

Equipment Update Part 1: A New Horn

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Yamaha 671 Double Horn, with Custom Work by Houghton Horns

In an earlier post, I briefly mentioned an upcoming review about a new horn. After several weeks of playing it, I have some thoughts on my new double horn, a Yamaha YHR 671. Earlier this year at IHS 48  I did some preliminary testing on both the 671 and the higher end 871 Custom, with the following reaction.

I spent a few minutes in the exhibit rooms this afternoon, and tried out a few of Yamaha’s new horns, the 671 and 871. My initial impressions were quite good. Both horns are very well balanced and even across the range. I have to say though that based on the two horns I tried, my preference was for the less expensive 671. Of course, more thorough playing on both models would be necessary to come to any firm conclusions. If you have the opportunity, try out both horns for yourself.

Stepping back a little, here is a short list of reasons why I was even looking for a new horn in the first place.

  • I’ve played an Engelbert Schmid ES1 double horn for the last five years, and overall was very pleased with it. Schmid’s horns are incredibly light, well balanced, and built to the highest mechanical and artistic standards. I was comfortable performing on it as a soloist, and in orchestra and chamber music. But…
  • I was not 100% satisfied with my sound, especially in my university’s recital hall, where I do the majority of my solo and chamber music performances, and where I plan to record my second solo CD. Both my colleagues and I noticed a tendency for the sound to “break up” at higher dynamics. I’m sure this is due to more than just the lightness of the horn, and I definitely don’t want to take anything away from Schmid’s very fine horns. However, after trying various mouthpiece and bell options (over the course of a few years) without obtaining the desired result, I thought it might be worth looking at some different instruments.
  • In addition to looking for a slightly different sound, I was also curious about Yamaha’s new models. While I’ve played a Schmid for the last five years, I played Yamahas for the previous fourteen years before that. In many ways, returning to a Yamaha horn felt like coming home.

Ok, now for a bit more about the new horn. First, it isn’t a stock Yamaha 671. Houghton Horns, who sold me the instrument, did some custom work on it, including installing a Schmid bell ring and removing the lacquer. Out of the box the horn played great! As mentioned above, returning to a Yamaha even after so many years I felt like all the notes were in the right places. With the Schmid I always seemed to be fighting something, especially in the high range. Like the YHR 667V I played all through graduate school, this one has a great high B-flat. In addition, the horn has more “core” to the sound, and I’m able to keep that core at loud dynamics. After rehearsals with the faculty brass trio, my colleagues agreed that the sound was preferable to the Schmid. As mentioned earlier, Schmid horns are fantastic instruments, but at this point in my career the right choice for me was the Yamaha. However, in the interest of fairness and full disclosure, there are some noticeable differences with the Yamaha.

First, the horn is a little heavier than the Schmid, which I had to adjust to. For the first several days I needed to take frequent breaks while playing to rest my left arm. You wouldn’t think that a difference of a few ounces would matter, but it does. Second, and most significantly, in my opinion is the valves. I suppose I’d gotten spoiled by Schmid valves, which are more or less perfect, but the Yamaha valves are definitely slower. On top of that, they became so sluggish after a few days (despite repeated oiling) that I ended up sending the horn back to Houghton Horns to have them check it out. Houghton provided excellent service at no charge, and got the valves back in working order. I’m not exactly sure what was wrong, but Dennis (Houghton) said that spinning the valves in oil got them going again. He also sent back a bottle of Hetman piston valve oil to use for a while. As of this writing I haven’t had any major issues with the valves. The third and final difference – though not a drawback – is that both sides of the horn settle at a slightly lower pitch than the Schmid. I had to be very mindful to keep the pitch low enough on the Schmid, but it isn’t quite as much of a struggle with the Yamaha.

In summary, though it isn’t a perfect horn (none are), the Yamaha 671 is a very well made instrument, and I’m really enjoying playing on it. I’ll post some audio and video recordings of it in action very soon.

Stay tuned for part two of this series: testing mouthpieces on the new horn.