Well, I finally have my new horn. All of you who have been reading my blog from the beginning know that the new Hoyer that I purchased at the end of December 2008 played sharp. After months of aggravation I received a new tuning slide from Hoyer in August. The tuning slide solved the problem in that the pros that I took it to gave it a clean bill of health. I was still struggling playing the horn in tune and I had to decide what I wanted to do. I have to say that during these months of frustration with the Hoyer I really stopped liking the horn. Because of the intonation issue I played other horns at IHS and at the Barry Tuckwell Institute and got a feeling for what else was out there and there were definitely horns that I liked better.
I had several options:
1. Keep the Hoyer and deal with fixing my intonation problems and my general feelings about the horn.
2. Sell the Hoyer and go back to my Yamaha for a while.
3. Sell the Hoyer and my Yamaha and get a better horn.
Although keeping my Hoyer and learning to play it in tune probably would make me a better hornist I just was not enjoying playing it and that is the most important thing to me. 95% of the time I play by myself and it was just too frustrating dealing with it so about a month ago I left it with Scott Bacon, the dealer I bought it from, for him to sell it for me. I’m sure it’s a great horn for someone, just not me.
While I was going thru all this with the Hoyer I got my Yamaha 668 back into tip top shape. I spent some time playing both the Hoyer and the Yamaha and decided that I did make the right decision to buy the Hoyer. Although the intonation on the Yamaha is good, there were other things about it that made it harder than the Hoyer for me to play. So I brought the Yamaha up to Scott’s to sell before I left the Hoyer there.
When I dropped off the Yamaha Scott loaned me a gold brass Dieter Otto 180K horn to try for a few weeks. There was no question that I enjoyed playing this horn more than the Hoyer. For one thing, my intonation was pretty good. My articulation was better, notes were clean, I had fewer clams and I could play high Bb and C relatively easily. I could hardly ever get those notes on the Hoyer. Getting this Otto sounds like a no brainer but several pros cautioned me against buying it because it was gold brass, probably wouldn’t have as good a resale value as a yellow brass horn, the Otto brand wasn’t well known in the US and because the sound got harsher when the horn was really played loud.
I went back up to Scott’s three weeks later and tried a yellow brass Otto 180k and a yellow brass Otto 166. I wasn’t comfortable playing the 166 but the yellow brass Otto was very similar to the gold brass Otto. The biggest difference between the two was that the sound of the yellow brass Otto was a bit brighter. It may even have played slightly easier but not by much. I left the Hoyer at Scott’s and took both the gold and yellow brass Ottos home to try. I played both horns and liked the yellow brass Otto slightly better. During this time I thought it would be a good idea to go up to Ken Pope’s shop and try some of his horns. I didn’t ever end up going there because my mother ended up in the hospital and I just couldn’t squeeze in a trip to Boston.
I had the Ottos on loan when Scott got in a Lewis and Durk horn that I wanted to try so I headed up to Scotts again ( 3 hours one way) last Thursday and spent at least two hours trying the L & D horn and comparing it to the Ottos. I couldn’t come to a decision so I stayed in Fishkill, NY overnight and went back to Scotts in the morning and played the three of them again for another three hours. I finally decided that I really liked the Lewis and Durk horn. The intonation was flawless as was pretty much everything else. The tone was bright but had a lot of color. However it has more resistance than the Ottos and I was having some trouble centering notes. I liked the horn a lot and decided that I could deal with the learning curve so I wrote Scott a check and took my new horn home.
Saturday morning I took the horn out to practice and it was a disaster. In my music room, formerly our living room, I couldn’t get a nice tone quality from the horn even though it sounded great when I played it at Scott’s studio. My music room has great acoustics so this was very surprising and very frustrating. I clammed more notes than I got and generally had a miserable time. The same was true Saturday afternoon and Sunday. I didn’t sleep very well over the weekend. I was trying to convince myself that my chops were just dead and that it wasn’t the horn but I didn’t have another horn at home to test it against.
Monday morning I went up to Scott’s yet again and spent another three hours playing the three horns. Of course I played the L & D horn just fine up there. I also had Scott play the horns so I could hear the differences when someone who plays well played them. I was having a really hard time deciding which horn to pick when Scott asked me if I had to make an instant decision that was non-reversable what would I pick and I said an Otto immediately. Having had them as loaners for many weeks I knew how they were and there wasn’t any uncertainty about how I played on them.
The next step was to pick one of the two Ottos. I was leaning toward the yellow brass Otto when Scott put a gold brass hand hammered bell on the gold brass horn. Wow. The horn had a gorgeous rich sound even when played very loud which was one of it’s issues. One of the other issues was the resale value of the horn. I decided that I am buying a horn for my enjoyment and if I should ever decide to sell it whatever its value is will be okay with me. Now the choice between the yellow brass horn and the gold brass horn was easy so I am now the owner of a new gold brass Otto. At band last night the first hornist told me how good I sounded and that my intonation was excellent. Hallelujah.