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Thread: Dealing with vintage besson intonation and response

  1. Dealing with vintage besson intonation and response

    I will be heading off to college next semester, and the only horns my school has are older bessons. I have played a New Standard before and as much as I enjoy the warm, singing sound they create, I really had trouble with its 6th partial and poor response. Any suggestions?

  2. #2

    Dealing with vintage besson intonation and response

    Other than good old fashioned practice of fundamentals (lip slurs) you should really try working on the mouthpiece.

    Mouthpiece practice in something that rarely is done enough imo. Afterall, your horn (unless it is a pig) WANTS to play the note, as long as your chops are centered on that pitch. Now I understand some horns respond better and take less effort to speak in cerrtain ranges, (as I'm discovering) but if you can nail all those notes on just the MP then your horn will do the same, afterall it's your chops producing the sound, not the instrument.

    You may try scaling back your MP as well. Big mouthpiece while giving an advantage in air, tone, and volume also create disadvantages in stability, control, and endurance. If your Horn is already a little hard to slot in the sixth partial a huge mp will only compound the problem. Which is why I personally take a lot of caution and am somewhat puzzled by this recent fad of playing on soup can sized MP for euph.

    I thought I had range and strength issues all through college as I never could last very long in the high register. I thought it was me and a lack of ability (that was a lot of it) but it was just the combo of my horn and MP weren't a good one for me personally.(King 2280 and Wick 4AL) I was having to work so hard to hit the high notes and stay in control that my chops where just wearing themselves out too quickly. After a layoff I went to smaller MP (Schilke 51D) and was quite surpirsed by the difference it made. I recently got a new horn and it made an even bigger difference, so equipment can affect things in ways I didn't fully realize.

    Hope this was in the ballpark of what you were after I do tend to ramble off on tangents.

  3. Dealing with vintage besson intonation and response

    I listen closely to the ensemble around me. I can bend the intonation of my horn very easily and know which notes have the most issues. I find that solid support will allow the horn to sing. If I relax my support intonation gets really squirrelly.

    Mouthpieces, for me, seem to have an effect (all large shank). Many years ago I played with a 6 1/2A then a 5G which matched the horn fairly well. Lately I switched to a 51D and found it had a little too much backpressure and my tone was stuffy, so I bored it out to increase the air flow and size of the air column. This helped the overall intonation quite a bit. I have tried a 3G and Lehman M, but the rim diameters conflict with my teeth and they did not work out. I also found my tone sounded like a cotton ball. Maybe some more time on a larger mouthpiece would help, but I like the way things are working, especially after boring out the 51D.

    I also had some issues with "stuffy" notes with intonation issues added in. This turned out to be valve alignment. Carefully adjusting everything evened out the intonation quite a bit.

    My high register, on my New Standard, needs solid support. When I anything higher than Eb I really have to focus on the air flow and keeping the support up. Actually, the whole range needs solid support. If you fall off your support the intonation is all over the place. When I have the room vibrating (china, duct work, windows ) my tuner says I am within a couple cents. Ensemble work can get interesting, but the New Standard is so easy to bend around you can adjust really fast to whatever is happening. I tend to place my slides so I'm a little sharp so when I fall off my support or get tired the intonation tends to drop in.

    Hope that helps.

    For what it is worth, I have heard that some New Standard's are good, others are not so much. I'm my be lucky to have a good one.

    Besson 767 New Standard, SM 4U
    Irondequoit Concert Band & Penfield Pops, Rochester NY area

    F-Alphorn, Hubert Hense maker, Alderwood
    Alphorn Society of Western NY

  4. Dealing with vintage besson intonation and response

    I played mid-late 60's vintage New Standards from 1969 - 1974 and a 1980 round-stamp Sovereign from 1981 - 2007. Are the older Bessons New Standards or are they Sovereigns? The two horns play differently.

    My experience with the 60's vintage New Standards/Imperials was that they were quite well in tune EXCEPT the 6th partial. Concert Eb, E, and F needed to be lipped down (a lot). With their medium bore leadpipe and 11" bells, I would not want to play too large of a mouthpiece on these horns. Probably a 4AM at the largest. I would think a "Willson 2900" centric mouthpiece like a Schilke 51D or Bowman BB1 would work quite nicely as well. Response in the lower range will just not be as good as modern horns. I found the upper range to be quite nice. The sound will be quite sweet and full but not as dark and rich as modern large bell horns.

    The 1980 Sovereign had more intonation issues. It was even sharper in the 6th partial and could be quite a bit out on other notes. You need to spend a LOT of time with a tuner to get used to the instrument and its peculiarities. Low range response should be better than the New Standard but not up to modern standards. The horn can also be played with more authority and will respond well to large mouthpieces (4AL and above).

    In all cases, spend a LOT of time with a tuner and in a fixed daily routine for the first month or so with the new horn. I HATE switching horns, but have done so twice in the last 4 years. (only once in the 25+ years prior to that). I find the process of zeroing in on intonation and mouthpiece selection with the new horn to be much quicker now that I do the same routine every day. I can make A/B comparisons more more quickly.

    By the way, I found that my Besson 2051 plays better with a Wick 4AL and my Sterling plays better with the Alliance E3. So you may find that regardless what moputhpiece you used to use, the horn may play better with a different piece than you are used to.

    Sterling Virtuoso 1052HS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  5. #5

    Dealing with vintage besson intonation and response

    When I used to play the old Besson and then later the Sovereign, I was a wimp about intonation. Rather than lip down the 6th partial, I used alternate fingerings. Instead of open, 4; instead of 2, 2&4; and instead of 1, 1&3. It brought pitch down very well, but required some getting used to because of the potential different in tone.

    Where you are now used to playing the concert F open, using 4 adds more tubing. But when you think about it, you play the F# just above using 2&3, which is almost as much tubing as 4. You are accustomed to using your air differently for the F# and it works fine. Just experiment with air so the extra tubing doesn't give you a stuffy sound.

    Different mouthpieces may help a bit, depending on what you now use.

    The other option is to have an after-market trigger put on.

    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  6. Dealing with vintage besson intonation and response

    I think that Texas Tech has at least 10 New Standards and Sovereigns, and Imperials with none of them checked out, which is a shame. How consistent was the quality of vintage British euphoniums? I have only played one vintage Besson, so I have no clue.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Dumfries, VA (Potomac Shores)

    Dealing with vintage besson intonation and response

    I'm going to second what Nuck said. Mouthpiece playing will remedy most any "bad" instrument. Also, it will strengthen the chops and, given the correct air usage, you will be able to lip the partials down fairly easily. Too many people play on those horns and without trying to find a way to play them in tune, they throw them out as being "bad" horns. I commend you on trying to find a solution!
    Brandon Jones
    The United States Air Force Band, Washington, D.C.
    Principal Euphonium, Concert Band

  8. Dealing with vintage besson intonation and response

    I am lucky to currently own and play a silver plate Boosey & Hawkes "Round/Globe Stamp" 967 Sovereign from 1975/1976. It's a fantastic horn, it's no small thing that ydave has gone back to his round stamp and that three Marine band members all have round stamp Sovereigns. Don't knock vintage horns, I even have a Conn Connstellation (thanks for the rec daruby!) that plays very very sweetly. I bring it out for Tuba Christmas'.

    When I first got the round stamp Sovereign, it sounded very good, but when I CLEANED the horn it sounded great. I think this is something that shouldn't be overlooked. If you can get the school to pay for a chem clean that'll be all well and good, but a good cleaning with mild dishwashing soap, warm water, and a snake (I use a Brass Saver with a nylon guide so as not to scratch the horn) will also work wonders for intonation problems and response of a vintage horn. Pay special attention to cleaning out the leadpipe that leads to the first valve.

    Alternate fingerings are good too. I know my horn is sharp on the above staff Eb/F in that troubled partial, so I finger 1+4 for Eb and 4 for F. Similarly I'll use 3 instead of 1+2 for certain notes. Get a tuner and experiment with the school euphoniums--find what's right for you.

    On Dave Werden's advice I also use a mouthpiece with a smaller backbore, the Denis Wick Heritage 4ABL, the mouthpiece he thought in the past which would tame the old Sovereign he used to play. I think the 4ABL gives a lot more of an "alive" and warm (more overtones?) core to the sound with the easier response of a smaller backbore. I would like to try one of the new SM Ultras though.

    Most of all, I think I can gauge myself getting better playing euphonium as the most deciding factor. I started up again after a hiatus a year and a half ago, and have been trying to think more playing problems have to do with my inexperience rather the euphonium. So practice smart and more! (I should take my advice)

    Hope this helps,


  9. #9

    Dealing with vintage besson intonation and response

    I second Neuroman's advice for the 4ABL. My son struggled for a while in his 60's New Standard. We barreled through mouthpieces until Dave's article on the Heritage 4ABL.

  10. #10

    Dealing with vintage besson intonation and response

    Something else I've found that helps in learning the intonation quirks of my new horn this weekend, is practicing the fire out of scales. Once you get the "sound" of a major scale in your head, any note that is outrageously out of tune (over 15 cents) sounds "wrong" to my ear. Then I can go back and try out alternate fingerings, or even practice the moutpiece and try to center out the note. The trick is to get the center of the note well enough in your ear with the moutpiece that when you play it in the horn it simply plays in tune without any extra thought.

    I really recommend the Arbans Major Scale studies. If you have the complete Arbans (I have the BC standard bound version) I think it's page 62? Not only will it help you figure out the horn, but practicing and knowing your scales are one of the most important and usefull things you can do to grow as a player....

    I really wish I could find my Clarke Studies book. I may have loaned it out but can;t remember!!

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