Conn 88H Review

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Conn 88H Reviews

This page contains reviews on the Conn 88H series of tenor trombones. Please take a few moments to read my copyright notice and disclaimer if you haven't done so already.

Review 1: The Conn 88H Series

A positive review (adapted from an e-mail sent to the Trombone List) by Dr Tom Gibson, Brass Department Coordinator, Georgia State University.

"Some of you may know that I'm playing exclusively Conn's nowadays. I was born and raised with that gorgeous sound in my head, but when quality fell off some time in the 80's, I went to a Bach. I like my Bach quite a lot. I also was handed an Edwards when I joined the Navy Band and have a Shires horn, too. So I've played quite a few different set-ups and I know what I like. Since leaving the band, I was free to play any horn I wanted. (The band didn't actually require me to play a certain horn, but for the sake of blend I played what all the fellas played....which happened to be Bach as we all grew to favor them over all others).

Now I do all kinds of playing: trios, quintets, solo recitals, orchestral work, studio work, jazz, big band. I play 6 different styles a week these days, so it's tough to stay on one set-up. Conn has delivered to me 3 bells and 7 slides (and umpteen leadpipes). I am not forced to play them, I'm not paid to play them, I CHOOSE to play them. The quality issues of the 80's are gone. These are very, very well built horns. The tone is the beautiful resonance I remember from my youth. The feel is just like the famed Elkhart Conns. In fact, a dear friend has a 1964 8H and 88H. For kicks, we did a blind test with all my new Conns and his old ones. It's very difficult to hear a difference (we were about 60% accurate with our guesses). And for the player, if the Conn "feel" is what you like, these new ones are a welcome throwback to the good old days:-) They do indeed blow differently than a Bach. They certainly feel different than an Edwards or Shires. All brands have a certain resistance, tone quality, response, etc. that we like or dislike as players. I simply encourage my students to find the horn that feels best to them. Find the set-up that makes the ideal trombone sound to YOUR ears. This will allow you to make YOUR music, and expand YOUR creativity, and reach YOUR highest musical potential by developing YOUR voice.

For me, the ideal feel and sound is on this Conn 88CL. The valve is simply outstanding, no 2 ways about it. Time will tell whether the plastic rotor holds up, but I think many folks are seeing that the Thayer valve in it's 10, 12, 15th year shows some serious signs of wear. That may happen with this one,too. The option of 4 different slide set-ups is terrific. This week I'll play bass bone with the Alabama Symphony using the bass bone slide on the 88 bell. Not a demanding bass part this week, so no need for 2 triggers and the tone is spectacular. It blows like a bass bone. And I'll use the bass mouthpiece. Then, in a couple of weeks, I'll use the same bell with the "normal" tenor slide in the Atlanta Symphony on 2nd bone. In the meantime, I'll play a solo recital (probably Sulek, Serocki, and Tomasi) on the dual-bore "medium-to-large-bore" tenor slide and the normal set-up. I happen to like a variance of timbre on certain pieces that don't call for slide-euphonium type sound. I'm glad the bigger is bigger is better is better days are waning. I hear all kinds of great trombone sounds wherever I go, and they're not all woofy and uncentered anymore. Kudos to us for surviving that era.

But I digress, back to my point: That's 3 set-ups in a couple of weeks and all I do is swap slides. It's a terrific concept and works quite well with this bell (88CL). I also have been playing quite a bit on the open-wrap rotor 88H and for the money I've never played a nicer trombone. The middle-schoolers and high-schoolers that call inquiring about "step-up" trombones all get to try this one out. Why buy a mid-grade horn when you can get this professional beauty for a few hundred dollars more. "Step-up" horns are a stupid idea, sorry. If it's the air needed for a big-bore horn that has you worried about the leap from your King Cleveland, try the 88 with the "Medium-large" dual bore slide. Then, in a few years, buy the large-bore tenor slide and you'll have 2 horns in one! They are great horns at any price and for the price you'll pay they can't be beat. I play them by choice and I love em. They feel right to me. They make a gorgeous sound that makes me smile."

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Tom Gibson received his initial instruction from Robert Hamrick of the Pittsburgh Symphony. He then obtained a degree in music from the University of Michigan, where he was taught by H Dennis Smith, and subsequently a Masters from the University of Colorado in 1993, where he studied with Buddy Baker. This was followed by a six-year spell playing with the US Navy Band in Washington, DC. In 1999, he left the Navy Band to take up a teaching career, giving lessons at three universities, presenting master classes and running clinics around the Washington, DC. In addition to teaching, Tom freelanced as a trombonist and euphoniumist and wrote articles for the International Trombone Journal and the Online Trombone Journal. In May of 2002, with help from Jim Kraft and Milt Stevens of the National Symphony Orchestra, Tom was awarded a Doctorate of Musical Arts by the Catholic University in Washington, DC. Dr Gibson then moved to his current post (Brass Department Coordinator, Georgia State University) in Atlanta, Georgia, where he can also be found performing with the Alabama Symphony, the Georgia Brass Band and other organisations. You can find out more about Dr Gibson at his website (cited as an example of excellence in web-based pedagogy by the US Department of Education), www.trombonelessons.com. If you wish to contact him directly, his e-mail adddress is TboneGib@aol.com.

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