Which Flugel Horn Is The Best?

While trying to complete my coverage of the flugel horn, I decided to see what typical trumpet/flugel horn players say about the many instruments available on the market today. I have included only the material found on one site in a span of two weeks-

“The Yamaha Flugels are great all around flugels”.

…”the Adams line. I truly believe they are making hands down the best flugelhorns and also the most diverse flugelhorns in the world”.

“I play quite a bit of flugel and I sold my Couesnon when I got the V1 (Conn). I also played as many other flugels as I could when I made my choice, including the Kanstul copper bell and Chicago. The horn that came close to the V1 was a Callichio, but I chose the V1 and became an endorsing artist for Conn- Selmer”.

“The Conn V1 is a great horn. Most cats that have them agree, but there is occasionally a used one that pops up”.

“I am still happy with my Kanstul 1525, but the Adams is really good as well”.

“While I didn’t play every flugelhorn at the convention, I did play a lot and found the Adams flugelhorns in my opinion to be the best”.

“I can concur about the Getzen. I’ve been playing one of these, and while the sound can be impressive (i’ve gotten a lot of compliments)… the intonation takes a lot of work”.

“The Bach sounded great, decent facility, but the pitch was way spread out, low register flat and upper register sharp. The Schilke is good at all three, sound, pitch and facility”.

“I tried a Schilke Flugelhorn at Dillon’s recently. Great manufacture, okay sound, good intonation. Guess I am keeping my Yamaha”.

“I have a Yamaha with excellent intonation, but I notice intonation issues mentioned quite a bit with flugels. I know that Schilke trumpets have great intonation”.

“This horn is THE TRIUMPHONIC Class A # 29069 made by Salvationist Publishing & Supplies Ltd.Judd St. London*L*P* It blows how I’d like a flugel to blow. not too muddy. the notes above G on top the staff are there and not flat or dull or nonexistent. My friend described it as a LEAD FLUGEL!!! ROFL!!! i think that is how it plays too”.

“I shouldn’t be looking for a horn right now, but does anyone know anyone who might have a Callet Jazz flugelhorn for sale? NOT the Callet New York flugel. The Callet JAZZ flugel”.

“I have a Yamaha with excellent intonation, but I notice intonation issues mentioned quite a bit with flugels. I know that Schilke trumpets have great intonation”.

“I have a Monique brand flugel on sale now on TPIN. It refers to France as it’s point of origin but I’ll bet is was made somewhere else”.

“It plays very well and is very well built too! A fine horn for the $250.00 I’m asking and a good bargain for a doubler or a student. Probably “all” Chinese or India horns are not as good, but this one fits the bill in every regard”!

“I bought a cheap flugel – Jupiter copy of the Yamaha 731. I didn’t buy it on Ebay, but it is just fine for my needs. It cost me $500 and plays every bit as well as the Yamaha”.

“Anyone have any actual experience with these budget-priced flugels found on ebay”?

And if that has not totally confused you about which flugel horn is the best, this should-

“The discussion about flugels reminded me to share this experience. A few years ago I replaced my Yamaha 231 flugel with a pristine condition Courtois built in the 1970’s that I found on eBay. It came with a French taper leadpipe and a LeBlanc mouthpiece (I don’t remember the # right now). Like we all tend to do, I started dinking with it and trying to find a mouthpieceI liked better. The French taper severely limits the mouthpiece choices, so I had a custom leadpipe made by Melk Brass in WI that was dimensionally the same as the original, but with a standard taper. I tried many fine mouthpieces, and I found that I could tune it to a Bb concert pitch, or any other pitch, and then the other notes in the scale were all over the place as far as intonation. Also, the notes above G above the staff were kind of dead. I put the original leadpipe and that LeBlanc mpc back in and everything popped–pretty good intonation throughout the scale plus more lively sound in the right kind of way for a flugel. I’ve never played any other horn–trumpet or flugel–that was so touchy. As long as I use it this way it’s just great. Anybody else had similar experiences with these French flugels”?

Voicing ones opinion on the best flugel is like trying to discuss politics or religion. Some things are best left to the individual. But if you would like to know my opinion on the issue, here it is-

Currently I am playing a Conn Vintage 1 and have played most of the horns commented on in the above material. Recently one of my good friends let me play on his new Kanstul flugel and if I had the money, that would be my next flugel. I found it to be the sweetest sounding, easy blowing and average in the intonation department.

If you are contemplating the purchase of a new flugel horn, you will have to do the shopping and playing on your own for just like the fact I like Toyota cars, you might be driving a Buick.

How To Play A Flugel Horn

Most trumpet players approach the flugel in the same way they approach their trumpet- put it to your face and blow! Although this works, it might not be the best way to get the most out of your instrument. As I covered in my last post, the two instruments are constructed differently and their use and even playing style are different.

Both the trumpet and the flugel horn are played basically the same. Both also play the same range of notes with the same fingerings. The difference between the two lies in the application and playing style of the player. The flugel lends itself to the ballads and the trumpet works well on the up tempo “shower of spit” type of playing. For those of you who are now saying to yourself, “I can play just as fast on the flugel as I can on the trumpet”, so can I but I choose not to do so for the fast notes on a flugel tend to get blurred and lack the clarity that the trumpet exhibits. I have the same thinking about fast notes played on a tenor sax as apposed to fast notes played on a tenor sax. Most people would agree that Charlie Parker “Bird” would have sounded great on either sax but the alto fit his tremendous speed which would have been lost if he had performed the same notes on a tenor. Even though I’m sure many may disagree with me on this last comparison, I feel very strongly that the flugel is best suited to the ballads and the trumpet to the more speedy passages.

The range of the trumpet and flugel as I have previously stated is the same but I will add that I can play higher on my flugel than I can on my trumpets. This is also true when I play high notes on my cornet. The cylindrical instruments seem to play easier in the high register. I can also play higher on a euphonium than I can on a trombone even though they are the same length. One problem I also find when playing in the upper range of the flugel, the notes are easier to play but are also harder to play in tune. Moving from one high note to the next seems to be easier but I also find that those same notes have less center to them. Another problem with playing high notes on a flugel is the fact that the flugel’s highest notes start to sound like a trumpet and if you want that sound you should be playing on a trumpet.

Intonation on flugels is the most often complaint we hear. Advancement in flugel horn design has improved very slowly as I stated in my previous post and intonation is at the top of the list for most complaints. One solution would be to purchase a flugel horn with four valves. The fourth valve will allow you an alternate set of fingerings which could improve your odds at getting your notes in tune. One disadvantage of the additional valve is the additional weight to the instrument. I have owned four valve flugels and along with the additional fingerings, the added fourth valve will also allow you to increase the number of notes at the bottom. The extra length of tubing will give you several additional low notes which is handy, especially if the arrangement extends below the traditional low F# on the three valve instruments. Whether you choose the three or the four valve instruments should be bases on the improved intonation, added weight and added cost. After owning and playing both styles and I most often prefer the three valves and use the slides to help with the pitch problems.

When playing your first note on a flugel, you will probably be amazed at how easily it speaks. The reason for this is that the flugel mouthpiece has a different cup design than the trumpet mouthpiece. Trumpet mouthpieces have a rounded bottom in the cup and a flugel horn mouthpiece is shaped more like a funnel; more similar to the inside of a French horn mouthpiece. The air tends to flow through a flugel horn mouthpiece more easily than a trumpet mouthpiece. In many ways the flugel horn is closer to a French horn than it is to a trumpet.

Your decision as to how to hold a flugel is something you will have to determine. Some hold it like a trumpet and others play them with the most unusual hand positions. Your final decision as to how to hold your flugel will come with time. One thing you should consider when deciding is how easy is it to move the valve slides if they are equipped with levers to extend the slides. Most flugel horns have a spring loaded mechanical addition to extend the third slide. This is something you should definitely have on your instrument. My current flugel is a Conn Vintage 1 and the low D is not a major problem to lower but the C#, as with most three valve instruments, requires that the third slide be extended all the way out in order for the instrument to play in tune.

I have been asked many times, “How much time should I practice on my flugel horn”? When you first purchase you new flugel (or used), you need to spend some time on it in order to get used to the change in resistance, intonation and response. After you have become good friends with the instrument, set it aside and keep the valves oiled until it is needed. Seldom do I hear of any trumpet players that spend a lot of time practicing on their flugel. If you have an upcoming recital or an important recording session, then you get it out a few days before and reintroduce your self but you needn’t practice it as much as you do your trumpet.

This concludes my post on how to play the flugel and in my next post I will discuss some of the top flugels on the market today.

Remembering Don Jacoby

Jake is gone but not forgotten by many of us in the trumpet world who were fortunate enough to have known him. If you are interested in his background and accomplishments, I highly recommend Clint “Pops” Mc Laughlin’s site . If you are interested in what Jake was really like, I can share two stories which might give you some insight into the real Don Jacoby.

When first locating yourself in a new area, it is to your advantage to make contact with one of the more active players in order for them to help you get work. This is what I did when starting my education at the then, North Texas State. The first person I became friends with was Larry Ford, then lead trumpet with the One O’clock Lab band in Denton, Texas. Through a friend, I was able to meet and become friends with Larry and through Larry, I was able to schedule lessons with Jake in neighboring Dallas, Texas.

Before I go any further, let me describe the flamboyant gentleman to you so that you understand what lessons and an eventual friendship was like with Jake. Jake was unique. His height did not match his warm, friendly, loud, outspoken, sometimes edgy character. When he entered the room, he owned the room. When he spoke, everyone listened. Don was not a wall flower and his opinions and views on everything was the only view. His laughter was seasoned with the raspyness of years spent in smoke filled clubs. His grip was confident and as sure as his attitude towards his instrument. I am not saying that Jake was arrogant for there was never a more kind and considerate person in the world. As most trumpet players know, there is a certain confidence that goes with the instrument and Jake had that certainty.

A typical lesson with Jake usually took the whole afternoon, followed by an invitation to share dinner with him and his wonderful wife Dori, followed by an invitation to join him at the club where his band was currently performing. That’s how Jake was. He was there to help young trumpet players and for that the trumpet world was made better. During my first lesson the phone range, which was common, and from the one sided conversation, I could tell it was someone from a local recording studio. Eventually Jake turned to me and asked, “Can you sing”? That was not a question I was prepared to answer but I finally assured him I could sing. The telephone conversation continued, then I was asked, “what’s your range?’ It was then that I realized that Jake was trying to get me on a recording session as a singer! I love that story and let me assure you, I didn’t get that job. I did get others through Jake and eventually move into Dallas and worked full time in the area, both playing and teaching.

Another life experience with Jake happened one evening when he called and asked if I would sub for him at the Club Village in Dallas. I had set in for him on a couple of occasions (extremely out gunned by the other members of his band- which members included, Lou Marini , Phil Kelly, Banks Diamond and Wayne Harrison who replaced Bobby Burgess after “Butter” relocated in Europe. On the few occasions when I did lower the standards of the band, I was petrified and could not understand why I was ever asked back. On one such occasion, I entered the club to take my place on the band stand and noticed another trumpet player on stage visiting with Lou Marini. At first the figure did not register but as I got closer, I realized that the trumpet player was Garry Grant, at that time the current lead player for the one o’clock. Louie saw me and explained that Jake had asked him also to find a replacement. What should I do, what should I do? My decision took all of one second and I bowed to the superior musician. It wasn’t until recently that Garry’s name came up and I was floored to think that we were both hired for the same gig.

For those who own Jake’s last LP Jake Brings the House Down, notice the white dust coming from behind the mound of rubble where Jake is standing. The day they took the cover shot, they hired some neighborhood kids to throw sacks of baking powder in the air to simulate building dust. I thought you might find that interesting. I was in Jake’s condo the week the record came out and he told me the story.

In closing, I would like to thank Don not only for what he did for me and my family, but also for the hundreds and possibly thousands of young trumpet players around the world. His playing and teaching were inspirations to us all. We who were blessed to have shared time with him will never forget his love and never ending excitement for the art of music.

Personal message to Jake- “Every time I put a shake on a note, I think of you and how you influenced my life”.