Playing a Brass Instrument; one of life's pleasures. You have practised, you have improved, you are now a intermediate brass player! But... you want more!!
When you first start playing, you are normally equipped with a student model instrument. It may not be new, it may be dented, the valves may not be as smooth as is required. But, and this is the key element, you have persevered and conquered those initial raspy sounds, and are now playing in bands and playing in tune(ish!). You have discovered that musical performance is fun and rewarding.
Now you have one of the nicer problems life can throw at you: upgrading your instrument from the humble beginners 'horn' to something more suited to your new and potential intermediate status. There are many step-up instrument brands that dealers and fellow musicians will try and persuade you are 'the one' to take you to the next level.
Well, as an experienced and professional Brass musician for the past 36 years, let me guide you. With this is mind there are three key brands to look at: Besson, Yamaha and Montreux.
Besson New Standard
Our customers think: "Have compared to cheaper beginner instruments and more expensive Yamaha. Balancing price and quality it comes out on top in my opinion."
Besson has been a top name in brass for a long time, renowned for it's Brass Band dominance ever since Boosey & Hawkes 'left the building'. Manufactured in high volumes, I guarantee you will find a Besson New Standard intermediate instrument in every Brass Band in the country.
Plus, they offer the full range; Cornet
, Tenor Horn
, 3-Valve Euphonium
& 4-Valve Euphonium
(both non-compensating), and Eb Tuba.
Well, historically they have served Brass Bands all over the country for many years, with a consistent tone and beautiful Silver finish. Production has moved to cut costs over the past few years, but as an inexpensive student/junior band instrument, they are a good option.
If I had to find a negative, it would be their limited sound quality on the 'new standard' intermediate range, with most of Besson's focus on their high-end Sovereign and Prestige Pro range. They certainly don't sound anywhere near as good as the Montreux (which are cheaper!). Plus, they tend to be on the expensive side for a step-up instrument. If you can cope with leaving Besson for a less well known brand, but with a better sound, you can find much better value for money.
Our customers think: "Good tone and easy to play. Nice and well balanced weight wise <...> would recommend even for beginner as rewards practice. Still using on grade 8 pieces."
Yamaha started making musical instruments in 1887, long before motorbikes! Just look at their company emblem; tuning forks. Say no more.
With this long established and experienced manufacture of musical instruments, it is only natural that their intermediate range of brass instruments is excellent and well designed. Renowned for their brighter tone and projection, the Yamaha Brass is ideally suited to Big Bands and Wind Bands; think John Williams themes. Think Yamaha!
Unlike the Besson & Montreux on offer, Yamaha does produce instruments with the option of clear lacquer finish. This allows for the resonance expected at this budget, but similar to Besson, they are not the cheapest, and better value for money can be found... later in this article you will find!
The Yamaha range has a slightly brighter tone in comparison to the Bessons and Montreux instruments, due to the use of a yellow brass alloy (less copper content). This can be a selected 'taste' for some, whereas others find the brightness doesn't blend as well within sectional 'tutti' phrases.
Similar to Besson, Yamaha offer the full range of intermediate instruments; YAH203 Tenor Horn
, YSL445GE Trombone, YCR4330 Cornet, YCR2330 Cornet
, YTR3335 Trumpet, YTR4335 Trumpet
& YEB201 Eb Tuba
Our customers think: "Unbelievable value for money and fantastic sound - I would fully recommend."
When it comes to the deep history of British Brass Bands, many names spring to mind. Black Dyke Mills, Grimethorpe, Brighouse & Rastrick, Yorkshire Imperial, Fodens and Cory Band. Musicians such as Jim Shepherd, Phil McCann, Robert & Nicholas Childs, Brett Baker, Alan Morrison and Maurice Murphy. They all produced the sweetest of sounds and techniques ever heard on a stage. All of this success is down to extremely hard work and practice, plus the availability of top quality instruments from world renown makers. Brands such as Besson and more recently Yamaha have been at the forefront of Brass Band success. But now the 'new kid on the block' is stirring the brass Band and Wind Band world!
I can honestly say, hand-on-heart, these instruments are outstanding! Brilliant and imposing sound, a tonal response to turn heads during a performance, big projection across all registers, stunning finish and attention to detail, but most importantly... simply unbelievable price. They offer you a professional standard instrument and a fraction of the cost of say a Sovereign or a Neo. Trust me on this one; you will be astounded!
Developed in conjunction with the original professional Boosey & Hawkes instrumental British Brass Band sound in mind, these pristine and beautiful instruments sound just as good as they look. Brilliant silver plate finish, precision valves and big, confident tonal projection result in a musical wonder. Those who try.....buy!
Welcome to Montreux!
Super Silver Summary
Buying an intermediate brass instrument is an investment. An investment into the future, of development up to the higher grades and performance level, and an investment financially.
We have all been there. Is it worth it, will it last forever, is the sound and tonal quality good enough for a Championship performance?
Well as a performer who has played at the highest level and on the grandest stages of the world, my honest answer is a resounding "YES", if you choose the Montreux. I know it a new brand that many might not have heard of, but trust me, as an old pro-Boosey and Besson Sovereign lover, these instruments are remarkable, in both sound, build quality and price.