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Thread: Do I need a compensating horn?

  1. #1
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    Do I need a compensating horn?

    Long time lurker here but first time caller.

    I have a 20 year old Willson non-comp model 2704. The horn is in great shape. The valves are great - the sound is great - intonation is good - the lacquer is still at about 99.5%. There is nothing wrong with the horn. Except that recently I guess I have developed a case of what you might call compensation envy. I had a chance to go to the Tuba Exchange last week and played a few compensating horns. I spend some time on their stencil horn and also the JP 374. I really liked the 374. It has a bit bigger sound than my Willson. However, it is also quite a bit heavier.

    So would I be nuts to swap a Willson for a Packer? I am mostly a trombone player, but I play euph in a community band and a local college band that uses some outside help. In 20 years of playing wind band music on euph, the only parts I have seen that go below the bass clef low E are about 4 bars in one of the Holst suites. I can fake that or take it up an octave if needed.

    Is there any advantage to a compensating horn for 99% of the music that euphoniums are asked to play? I know that some of the solo literature delves into the low range, but the chances of me being asked to play one of those pieces is pretty low.

    Thanks for any input.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Welcome to the forum... or to posting and not just lurking.

    It’s just my opinion but I’d say stick with the Willson 2704.
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (on long-term loan to grandson)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank


    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    When the Saints Go Marching In (arr. Mashima) at ACB Conference Ft. Lauderdale
    Cell phone video of : El Cumbanchero:

  3. #3
    contrary to popular belief, there is some small benefit to intonation in having compensation for notes in the staff - concert B natural and E natural are both very slightly lowered by the short (perhaps 1") 2nd valve loop. But this is pretty minor and easy to handle without it.

    As you observed, the extended register is not seen all that often if you are just playing concert band music. Solo repertoire, especially the more modern, will often use this register. Also, if you are borrowing cello or bassoon literature, or tuba literature. Perhaps subbing for a tuba player in a quintet or something.

    The main reason most serious players use a compensating instrument isn't because the compensating system is absolutely necessary, but the vast majority of high quality instruments are compensating instruments. I think the Willson 2704 is an exception to that rule, as it's a .591 bore and 12" bell (same as many compensating instruments) and is of high quality manufacture.

    I also think there's a dexterity advantage to be had in a 3+1 setup, but if you're happy with 4 in-line valves then that alone isn't a reason to switch.

    By all means, if you find a compensating instrument that makes you happy, go for it! But I would not replace your willson JUST because it's non-compensating given the use cases you've described.
    --
    Barry

  4. #4
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    I do have a hard time sometimes with the pinky fingering, especially in faster passages. So I often use 123 instead of 2-4 on those, even though the intonation is a bit off. But I don't know if that is a big reason to switch horns. The thing I really noticed with the Packer is that it just to have a bigger sound. I don't know if it was a better sound, but definitely bigger.

  5. If you like it, I'd say keep it. You can always lip things down, and for the most part unless you play down low, the compensating system doesn't really add much, except for the C and B Natural.

    Right now, I think Wilson is actually making new THREE valve compensating euphoniums, and those overall may arguably have better intonation within and above the staff than a 4 valve compensating horn.
    Sterling / Perantucci 1065HGS Euphonium, Yamaha YBB-631S BBb Tuba, and a bunch of trombones.

  6. #6
    I'd be hard-pressed to want to sell a Willson to buy a John Packer under any circumstances, just given the reputations of the manufacturers.

    With that said, if I were in your shoes, I would be spending the time working on dialing in the intonation on my very nice instrument. Compensating euphoniums have their own intonation quirks, so it's not like tuning magically becomes a non-issue with the compensating system. Just ask any player of a Besson who's had to wrangle the sharp 6th partial about that one.

    One other thing to think about is that non-compensating euphoniums are often the preferred instruments for professional trombonists called to double on euphonium occasionally. Less twisty tubing means a more open and direct blow that's more comfortable when coming from a trombone, plus the instruments are usually just lighter and easier to handle.
    Adrian L. Quince
    Composer, Conductor, Euphoniumist
    www.adrianquince.com

    Kanstul 976 - SM4U

  7. #7
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    Good advice. I think I will stick with Willson for now. Like they say - if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

  8. #8
    As for 4th valve issues, I always just use my left index finger on non-comp horns too. It just feels better than using my right pinky, even if it looks weird.
    Sean Kissane
    Development Director - International Tuba-Euphonium Association
    Geneva Oldroyd Cardinal Custom Euphonium
    Adams E1 Custom (.6 Gold Brass, Brushed Lacquer, Sterling Silver Leadpipe)
    Giddings DHWA-S Mouthpiece

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by spkissane View Post
    As for 4th valve issues, I always just use my left index finger on non-comp horns too. It just feels better than using my right pinky, even if it looks weird.
    I was going to suggest that too. My grandson played a Yamaha 321 in H.S. and had my Yamaha 641 at home to practice. I suggested he use his left index finger playing the 321 so hed be familiar and comfortable with the fingering of both horns. But then I remembered the Willson 2704s 4th valve is further back and may be harder to reach with left index finger.

    Last edited by RickF; 11-06-2019 at 04:41 PM.
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (on long-term loan to grandson)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank


    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    When the Saints Go Marching In (arr. Mashima) at ACB Conference Ft. Lauderdale
    Cell phone video of : El Cumbanchero:

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    Spartanburg, SC
    Posts
    10
    I bet if Tom Hanks played a euph it would be a Willson.

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