Is bigger better?

Tell a Friend

Related articles


I see a little movement towards the smaller-bore horns ever since Roger Ingram and Malcolm McNab joined Jupiter and created some fabulous instruments. This article is by way of clarifying a little information regarding small bore horns.

Is bigger better?

First things first: small bore does not mean tight, nor does it mean tinny, small sound and I certainly is nothing to be looked down upon. A brief search through the internet will bring up a million pages of arguments and information regarding these horns, and it all follows a pattern. That of judging by numbers, some perpetuation of some old ideal that big bore = big sound and an overwhelming lack of trial!

I shall clarify through anecdote. Myself, I tried a Conn 17B director; this is a small bore, copper belled horn. It blew very tight for me, and it re-enforced the thought that bigger was better. At the time my playing was very inefficient, and I totally neglected the fact that the horn I got had been through the wars! It probably had a huge blockage somewhere. It only cost me $80.

Fast forward 5 years, and I only own small bore horns.

I have found horns which respond easily, sound as I like them, and just suit me. That is ultimately what is missing. Given the opportunity to play any of these horns, you really should. eBay is superb, as are private market places (buyer beware). Anyhow, a few thoughts on these horns.

Firstly, they seem to respond differently to large bore horns in that they seem to offer me an ideal resistance throughout all registers. Perhaps more even, perhaps not. In any case this is simple design, but it is part and parcel of the horns I own. They seem to be easier to pitch, slot and last on. Again, the overall design is more important than 1 measurement at the 2nd valve!

For instance, the Conn 22B has no gap, it has a relatively straight tapering leadpipe with an enormous venturi (relative to Bach), it proceeds to the valve block and is certainly a small bore horn (0.438 #1 bore), but it responds like a nice Bach in my opinion. I had a Blessing Masterpiece, a 0.470″ bore, and it always felt stuffy to me, no matter how much I cleaned it. The porting at the valves was very crushed (for a short throw valve) which is what I believe made the horn feel stuffy to me.

So my point?

The design as a whole is more important than bore size. How the machine works with you is paramount; find what suits! It could be a small bore horn. They sound no less powerful, no smaller. In fact in the case of the Conn 38B you might find it is substantially louder than your Bach!

Small bore horns to check out (and no, I am not going to tell you the bore, only my impressions):

Conn 38B, pre-Elkhart (pre 70s). Hugest, most powerful, darkest, richest, most projecting, horn I have ever blown. It is very mouthpiece dependant, and it is ultra versatile; listen to Brian MacDonald kill the lead part with the Airmen of Note, listen to Christophe LeLoil’s ECHOES group, listen to early Maynard, Chet Baker etc…

Conn 22B, New York Symphony (20s to 40s), Victor (pre 70s) but not the lesser Director student horn which you see about. This is one of the brightest, easiest horns to play I find. Less power than the 38B, more traditional sound, slightly more open feel, easier to pitch in the upper register and when my chops let me, the G over high C really slots! Anecdotally, Bud Herseth was said to have won his CSO spot playing on a 22B.

Yamaha 6310Z, Bobby Shew model. Step bore design, a treat to play. Projecting, great tuning… listen to Bryan Davis destroy the lead part on the Bill Chase video below:

Jupiter 1600i (Roger Ingram) & Bryan is now using the 1600i, and has posted some very favourable reviews. Listen to Roger & Malcolm really play.

B&S Malcolm McNab model (the Exquisite I believe).

Buescher Aristocrat 400 (the earlier the better). Similar to the 22B, very powerful, great valves, superb projection and perhaps one of the brightest horns I have tried!

3 Responses to “Is bigger better?”

  1. Bryan Davis says:

    Mike – thanks for the mention. A couple of errata in your article though:

    1. Malcolm McNab plays B&S, not Jupiter
    2. Brian MacDonald plays a Conn 36B, not 38B (slightly smaller bell)
    3. In the Chase tribute video, I’m playing a Yamaha 8335LA, not a 6310Z.

  2. Tony Gambaro says:

    What about the DR Valve S-42 Conversion and the Kanstul Mariachi?

Leave a Reply

Recent articles

Brass Musician welcomes Kate Wohlman aboard as chief editor and newest contributor! Brass shows its mettle Relaunch of Iconic 1950’s Jazz Catalog, Bethlehem Records, Announced by Verse Music Group & Naxos of America Jon Sass Low Brass Seminars

Our contributors

Sponsored ads