During the 19th century, great pains were taken to develop a design
for a trumpet that would equal the cornets of the day as a solo instrument.
Working with Besson, Monsieur Merri Franquin came up with a basic
design that featured a tapered leadpipe and bell to facilitate the
elements of intonation, projection, clarity and ease of playing.
The Besson trumpets of that era were small bore horns, with very
narrow bell tapers.
A 1907 F.Besson trumpet in C was owned by the Chicago Symphony
Orchestra, utilized by solo trumpeters in the group performing
especially difficult passages throughout the entire 20th century.
This horn has a bore size of .445, and a very slim bell with a quick
taper to the rim.
I first saw this horn when I did a gig at Orchestra Hall back in the late
80's. I saw it again in the late 90's at the Schilke factory. It is currently
in the possession of Steve Winans, a.k.a. Dr. Valve. Playing on this horn,
on several occasions, really got me interested in the history of trpt.
design, and in trying vintage instruments. This is, by far, the easiest,
nicest playing horn I have ever played. Schilke copied this bell on his D/Eflat horns.
In my own collection, I have found several American horns which seem
to resemble this early Besson in size and design. Most notably:
1) 1920's Buescher trpts. In particular, model #9 (.445)
2) Keefer or earlier Distin trumpets (.445)
The following trumpets share most characteristics of the Besson, but have
wider bell flares, more typical of the 1920's-40's Besson design:
1) Martin "M" or "#1" bore trpts of the 1920's and 1930's. (.445)
2) Conn 22B, 12B and 24B B flat trumpets. (.438)
3) The King "Liberty" and Super20 models (.445)
In fact, when Adolph Herseth joined the Chicago Symphony, he was
playing a .438 bore 22B.
My pet theory:
The influx of German conductors in American orchestras sparked a need
for trumpets that had the broader qualities of the German rotary instruments. The sound of the "french style" trumpet fell out of favour.
Conn responded with the 2B, originally designed for the players of the
Philadelphia Orchestra. This was a .460 bore variant of the 22B, but with
an important difference- The radius of the tuning slide was made wider.
The effect of this design change gave the player a more open, round sound, and allowed for a more open feeling to the scale.
Bach, Benge and Holton had early success copying the medium bore
French trumpets, But the trend in classical sound forced them to offer
larger, broader sounding instruments. When Bach moved to Mt. Vernon,
he abandoned his Brevete copy, and began copying the Conn 2B.
Although these changes, bigger bores, leadpipes and bells, succeeded in
delivering the desired sound qualities, THE EASE OF PLAYING, INTONATION AND CLARITY WENT OUT THE WINDOW.
Incidentally, the virtuoso jazz players of this era stuck with the smaller
bore, narrower wrap horns, as the physical demands of their gigs were simply too taxing to be achieved on TANKS.
Martin's dual bore concept was introduced in the "Handcraft Imperial" line. This horn had a top slide measuring .445
and a bottom slide measuring .453. This design provides the feel/resistance of the small horn with the sound of a larger
one. Later, they did the same thing with the "Committee" model. My personal feeling, owning both cylinder and dual bore
versions of the Martin, is that a great deal of focus and control are lost with the dual bore. Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie
both played the "M" bore in the 30's, switching to dual bore Committees around 1939. Listen to the recordings of Roy's
Chicago band of 1937. HOLY COW!!! Has anyone ever played more trumpet than that? I recorded "Hypnotic Suggestion"
on the dual bore H.I. My next Delmark release was recorded on the "M" bore. It gave me much more ease, facility, clarity and range.
This begs the question; Is it worth all the added physical difficulty and mental anguish to play a big, broad horn, simply because Fritz Reiner liked his Mahler symphonies tubby? Lately, I've been practicing with the Arban book on my 1939 Keefer.
It makes everything seem eminently easy. Trumpeters of the 1800's and early 1900's were undoubtedly using similar equipment.
My concern in moving to smaller horns was that I would sound smaller or weaker in performance. I have found the
opposite to be the case! The older designs provide better clarity and projection, and my students and colleagues are all
commenting on my apparent improvement in power and range. On the Buescher #9 and the Keefer, the very tight bell
flare creates a narrower sound than I am used to making, but both horns cut through bands with greater clarity, and have NO
intonation issues. Even the low D and C# are in tune without regulating the valve slides.
Yamaha has made a nice move with the Bobby Shew "Z" model. It's a variant on the "Committee" idea. Schilke makes
a superb horn in it's "S42". I'd like to see someone copy the 1907 Besson.
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Great site by the way and super topic.
On a side note, one of the best playing experiences I've ever had was on a 1920s Bach medium bore trumpet, using my modern 1C mouthpiece. It pretty much confirmed what I've often heard from the "old timers," which is basically this: The best combination, which provides for both agility and a large sound, is a small horn and a big mouthpiece.
All The Best!
I got in contact with smaller bore instruments when I got a 1937 King Liberty from a friend of mine, This horn has been played since the day it was born, I still play on it at least 2 or 3 times a week. I am the 3rd owner. Original it was silver plated, but that is all gone, it's now nice dark brass, so many people with shiny horns laugh at me, but I laugh inside harder than them struggling players. Than I've found a The Buesher from 1928 with a very small bell, It's nice but not so great as the king, than came into my live a Selmer from dec. 1936, this horn looks and plays like new, it's a 22B, this horn plays very well, nowadays I substitute it for the Stomvi, because this trumpet is in state of new I get no funny remarks sitting in on a section. The intonation is great. Than came into my live a Selmer balanced action made in 1962, it's a 19A K-modified, this horn I played daily for at least 2 years, it play’s different than the 1936 22B the sound is darker and the projection is a bid better, (did someone not told me that thin horns sound thin.....?) than I found my dream horn, it's a 1933 Balanced action Louis Armstrong special, this one is silver plated, I even think it's nickle plated. This is a strange horn, this horn changed my way of playing drastic, the response is so great, no effort is to be made to start a tone, the tone resonate from the first stream of air, the projection is straight forward, in the beginning I played too loud, because I had to get used to it's compact round sound, this horn can be played so round, warm and compact, but on the other hand it can scream and make the the rest of the band sick sitting in front of me. (Maybe it's my playing abilities) :-), I was learned by my teachers that small old horns sound loud, brassy, thin...... than I met a teacher who played for 36 years in one of Europa's leading symphony orchestra, he told me “play on the trumpet “you” like and use the mouthpiece “you” like, and not what the teacher's or commerce tells you to play”. And I am still blessed with this lessons. I started my trumpet live playing on a Bach 37- 43 with a Bach 1,5 C, and end with a 1933 balanced action Louis Armstrong special on a Parduba Harry James 4,5, (by the way a Giardinelli 10b sound also very well with this horn). All trough the 1962 is the same bore than the 1933, the 1962 horn is not as good as the 1933 horn, maybe it's lies in the fact that the 1962 is a bid heavier in weight and the bell is a bid bigger plus the rim of the bell is more massive. Happy playing to all of you, André Clement, the Netherlands.
After years of fighting "proper" horns, I have pretty much transitioned to vintage horns, and could not be happier. Your essay title says it all...in a lust for the tiniest bit bigger sound, we pretty much lost the art of trumpet making in exchange.
The irony is that if you wanted that huge sound, I have never owned a trumpet that would out-blow a Connstellation for sheer core of tone in mass quantity. And still from a small-bore instrument that plays more in tune than most...
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Question, when you play with Warburton mouthpieces, what backbore you recommend with these kind of trumpets?
Greetings from Amsterdam Holland.
Thanks TrumpetMac the site is great
I play a large bore Keefer for Jazz, and a Conn 2B for everything else. However, you've inspired me to pull my 22B "special" off the shelf.
I found your blog while looking for info on a BEsson 2-20 trumpet I recently acquired. Nice to see your site, and know you're doing well.
I too play a samll-bore trombone (a Conn 12-H; like the old 4H, but with the Conn "Coprion" bell).
I recently taught a jazz clinic in Odessa, Texas. I was begging the students (trumpet and trombone players) for questions; about jazz, improvising, brass playing; anything! Nada.
I talked some more, and again asekd for questions. Finally, one of the band directors raised his hand. "At last," thought. "Yes, isr?" I said. "What's your question?" He pointed to my horn, and said, "What are ya playin' that li'l pea-shooter for?"
It really pissed me off, but I didn't let it show. I explained that I primarily play in small groups, and when I play with big bands, I'm usually the lead or solo chair (nyahh, nyahh). I went on to explain that my sound tends to diffues on larger horns, and smaller bore intruments give me a more focussed, centered, "compact" sound. At least, I think they do.
Anyway, it's nice to have muy onw opinion of smaller-bore horns corroborated by a player of your stature.
Funny; I was just listening (yet again) to Roy's live broadcast recoridng of "Minor Jive" form the Three Deuces (1937), and here I read about that stuff now on your site. (I just found a fairly clean 78 of "Heckler's Hop"; pretty amazing how he played. The 78 has a presence that I don't find in LP or CD reissues; Im glad to have it).
All the best to you for the Holidays, and a bright, swinging New Year.