Keeping a horn "original"

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TromboneSam
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Keeping a horn "original"

Post by TromboneSam » Thu Dec 05, 2019 5:00 am

Hey guys,

I've often thought about modifying horns, but have fears about it as well. For instance, If I wanted to turn my 1970s 3B into a screw bell horn, my fear is that the sound would change so much that it could ruin the horn.

I've thought about making other mods to my horns too, like removing over-sleeves, changing out slide bows, permanently changing hand/tuning slides on non-boutique horns, or bracing mods.

Until recently, I was of the opinion that an old horn that played well was not to be messed with. What got me thinking was a comment I saw on my friend's Trombone Marketplace ad on Facebook. When someone mentioned that he should keep the original slide with its bell on a vintage horn, someone else replied something to the effect of "It's just a trombone. It'll survive."

What are your thoughts on modifying old horns?

Is there a potential to ruin the horn?

If so, do the benefits of a modifcation outweigh the risk?

Does it detract from the "unmolested," or "all original" aspect of a horn?

Does such an aspect exist?
harrisonreed
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by harrisonreed » Thu Dec 05, 2019 5:15 am

Unless they already play on Doug Elliott mouthpieces or Remingtons, people who have old Elkie 88Hs with the original leadpipes in them are missing out. That's a no brainer mod.

We wouldn't know who Larry Minick was if you couldn't fix something that wasn't broken. Brass Ark is continuing that tradition.
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BGuttman
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by BGuttman » Thu Dec 05, 2019 7:03 am

The answer to your question is "you'll never know until you do it, and by then it's too late."

Sometimes a mod makes a so-so horn better. Sometimes a mod doesn't help. Sometimes it makes little difference. And a mod done by someone incompetent can ruin a perfectly good horn.

Mods made for ergonomics are usually OK. Things like splitting triggers on a double valve bass can make it easier to play.

A screw bell mod with a suitable flat case can make air travel a lot easier since the flat case fits in overhead compartments better.

No amount of modification can make a crummy horn wonderful, whether it's an Eastern European from 60 years ago or cheap Chinese from now.
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GabeLangfur
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by GabeLangfur » Thu Dec 05, 2019 8:00 am

There's a balance. I won't change a thing to my 1940 Conn 70H. It won't do everything I need from a bass trombone, but the things it's good for it's OUTSTANDING for in ways that are not available in any modern instrument I know of.

I also have a mid-60s Bach 50B that was stock when I got it. The sound was marvelous, but the valve was hard to deal with and the pitch was too low for me. I cut the tuning slide shorter and switched out the valve for a single Rotax with an open wrap. Now the sound is even better and it's playable in pretty much any situation I would use my Shires, unless I really need two valves.

There are a lot of King 3Bs in the world. Unless yours is truly exceptional it's replaceable.
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by tbonesullivan » Thu Dec 05, 2019 8:04 am

A screw bell mod is definitely going to change how the horn plays, as you are putting a bunch of extra weight into the bell. Whether it's a good change or bad change, you won't know until you do it. However it's also not a particularly rare horn, as Gabe mentioned. Unless it has some legendary provenance or abilities, it is replaceable.

I will admit I am more on the "if it ain't broke" side of things, but sometimes things really are needed to make a horn functional. Also there are some parts of a horn that eventually can wear out.

There are TONS of LEGENDARY Tubas out there, which have been modified to heck and back, and are still legendary. IN the end instruments are tools, and if you need a horn to do something it doesn't, and the only way to get it right is with a torch, that's just how it is.
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cozzagiorgi
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by cozzagiorgi » Thu Dec 05, 2019 8:43 am

My take on this: If it's an incredibly rare horn don't touch it.
If it's a great vintage horn, but some aspects of it make it hard to play: change it. Hard decision if it's semi-rare.
If it's a mass production horn, vintage or not, do whatever you want.

BUT! If you do something and don't want to loose all the value with your horn, don't give it to just anybody to do the work. Choose a well known instrument maker or one of the really well known instrument techs and keep the paperwork. That will help with an eventual resale.
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JohnL
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by JohnL » Thu Dec 05, 2019 9:15 am

TromboneSam wrote:
Thu Dec 05, 2019 5:00 am
Is there a potential to ruin the horn?
Absolutely. Obviously, if it's a bad horn to start with, you can't make it much worse - but most people are looking at modifying a horn they already like.
If so, do the benefits of a modifcation outweigh the risk?
Depends on how much you like the way the instrument plays now. If you really love it, don't mess with it. I can't tell you whether cutting the bell will improve or degrade the instrument, but I can tell you with almost perfect certainty that it will be different after the mod.

Say you've got a King 3B. They're as common as pigeons in the park, so you can always get another if the mod goes south. That said, if you've played a hundred plus 3B's and none of them are as good as yours? Yeah, maybe you might want to avoid any irreversible changes.
Does it detract from the "unmolested," or "all original" aspect of a horn?
For a collector piece, yes. I own several rare (or even unique) instruments; if they were altered, they would be almost worthless. But for an instrument that's valued primarily as a player? Not so much. One caveat to that is that if you are trying to sell it online, people can be reluctant to take the risk. As mentioned, mods can have a positive or a negative effect - and when it goes south, the first thing some people do is try to unload the instrument on eBay.
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by hyperbolica » Thu Dec 05, 2019 9:57 am

If it's going to be a daily player and it isn't unique, then replacing parts with modern equivalents in the line of maintenance is ok.

I think a horn being played is more important than a horn in a case in a closet. So functional maintenance and repair is ok. Maybe a valve has to be replaced with something similar.

Giving a Fuchs 70h a carbon fiber bell would be a crime. That guy who put dual in line thayers on an Elkhart 62h should be flogged.

If the modification is done out of curiosity or vanity, start with a less rare horn. There are enough 70s 3bs out there that I wouldn't worry about that. I wouldn't do much to a Minick 100h or a Williams 10.

On the other hand, I've considered replacing the inner slide tubes on a '20s 78h to convert a horn from an exclusive collector's piece to something you might play.
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by Doug Elliott » Thu Dec 05, 2019 11:06 am

I don't think I know anybody who regrets a screw-bell modification. I'm interested in having one too, and I've been trying to pay attention to that.

Any comments from people who had it done?
Maybe that should have its own topic.
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TromboneSam
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by TromboneSam » Thu Dec 05, 2019 11:09 am

You guys all drive really valid points. I like my loopy bell 3b better than all the others I’ve played, but there’s probably another one out there somewhere that’s just as good.

I may even be willing to mod my Elkhart 8h leadpipe, bracing, or cutting the bell. But I’d still be a little anxious, I think.

Where I would get especially nervous would be mods to my all original, probably mostly closet-kept 1936 NY Bach 6. I question myself on even the thought of swapping/modding the outer slide to make it lighter.

Doug - I’m also curious about who to go to!
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by hyperbolica » Thu Dec 05, 2019 11:29 am

I had a 3B SS that someone else had screw bell-ed and I sold it on pretty quickly. It was a great playing horn, but SOOOOOOO (front) heavy, even/especially with two counter weights in the back. Silver Sonic are heavy to begin with, and screw bell just amplifies that. The weight is the big thing. Also what it does to the response and articulation feeling more pronounced and immediate.
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Burgerbob
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by Burgerbob » Thu Dec 05, 2019 12:19 pm

TromboneSam wrote:
Thu Dec 05, 2019 5:00 am
someone else replied something to the effect of "It's just a trombone. It'll survive."
Well, that was me. So I guess you know my thoughts!

As for 62Hs with Thayers, I also don't care a whole lot. I have played a world-beater 62H that was totally stock, but I've also played 2 other stock 62s that were not good at all. Not every example of a vintage "halo" instrument is amazing. If modifying it means it gets played, then great.
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by hyperbolica » Thu Dec 05, 2019 12:54 pm

Burgerbob wrote:
Thu Dec 05, 2019 12:19 pm
As for 62Hs with Thayers, I also don't care a whole lot. I have played a world-beater 62H that was totally stock, but I've also played 2 other stock 62s that were not good at all. Not every example of a vintage "halo" instrument is amazing. If modifying it means it gets played, then great.
If an Elkhart 62h honestly sucks, it should be repaired, not mutilated. The design is proven, if there's something wrong with a particular horn, it's a maintenance/repair issue. Splitting triggers is an example of a modification that adds value. I know some folks like the saxophone-style side-by-side levers, but fundamentally changing the design of the instrument - where the resistance of the valves is part of the design - is a mistake. If you don't like the way a 62h plays, go get a different horn. Modifying horns like that is in most cases more expensive than just buying a more appropriate instrument to begin with anyway.

Not to say I haven't done some modifications myself. I added Duo Gravis valve section to an Olds single valve small bass. The DG valves had already been ripped out, so I wasn't facilitating anything untoward, and the original valve on the Olds (S-20) is nothing to cry about losing. The S-20 isn't exactly a revered classic. I wound up with a nice inexpensive small bass that can be used in many situations where I wouldn't use my Kanstul.

I changed the left hand grip and cork barrel assembly on my Elkhart 88h. The old one was trashed from too much sweat over the course of 45 years, and the new one gave me screw-in leadpipes. It's a horn that gets played all the time.

I put a wide glide crook on a 6h slide. 6h are plentiful enough, and if you wanted to, you could put that back the way it was. No cutting was involved. That was an ergonomics mod that had a nice effect on sound.

I took a 79h with a damaged bell and put a 78h bell on it. So I resurrected a somewhat rare instrument with a more common but very similar replacement part. That's my daily player horn.

So yes, I've done some modifications to older horns that I think in each case improved the instrument for my own use. I've still got 3 of those, the 6h slide was sold with a 10h bell last year.

But for the OP, the screw bell mod on a 3b isn't the kind of thing you're going to get criticized for, unless it was JJ's personal horn or something.
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Burgerbob
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by Burgerbob » Thu Dec 05, 2019 1:05 pm

Again... it's just a trombone. Might be a rarer example, but it's just an object. The world will continue to revolve.
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by paulyg » Thu Dec 05, 2019 1:58 pm

There's the same issue at play here as the old car scene. Lots of old farts hate to see a "classic" car modified for drive-ability or comfort (or even safety).

It's just a car.

It's just a trombone.

If someone else's modifications vex or anger you, then that's your problem.
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by Schlitz » Thu Dec 05, 2019 2:18 pm

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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by Schlitz » Thu Dec 05, 2019 2:25 pm

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Backbone
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by Backbone » Thu Dec 05, 2019 11:05 pm

Doug Elliott wrote:
Thu Dec 05, 2019 11:06 am
I don't think I know anybody who regrets a screw-bell modification. I'm interested in having one too, and I've been trying to pay attention to that.

Any comments from people who had it done?
Maybe that should have its own topic.
Nothing but praises for the screw-bell. Actually like it better after the mod even though I did it for portability.
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Re: Keeping a horn "original"

Post by elmsandr » Fri Dec 06, 2019 9:52 am

I've probably done as many modifications to rare and ancient horns as anybody around... They are just tools.

That said, I do try to make all of my mods reversible. I made a NY45 interchangeable with Thayers. That was OK, but didn't work great, so I then make it work with Trubores. Great! I put some thayers on a 60H. I made them dependent so that I didn't have to cut into the neckpipe J-Bend. Cool! That horn was FUN. Wish I could remember who I sold it to, because that was a fun project and a great way to restore a horn that was somewhat destroyed with parts that I had.

I am currently sitting on a Fuchs. I have parts. This would require me cutting some tube and replacing the valve. I don't think I want to do that... But then I need to have the valve re-done. That's a lot different plan. Reminds me that I need to call M&W to get an estimate and see about getting it in the queue.

Take a horn and make it usable. Eventually, I am going to fit a drop in valve to a NY50B. That will require at least a small mod to the valve section that will not be 100% reversible. Oh well. If I could use that horn every day that would be better than only 2/3rds of gigs, right?

Cheers,
Andy
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