1958 Conn 6H trombone

Highly esteemed among brass musicians are the horns Conn made in Elkhart, Indiana before the company walked away from the community and craftsmen assembled there. Among the hand-made, professional-grade trombones handcrafted in that period are the highly regarded 6Hs, which were a little bit larger in bore than was the norm at that time. They proved to be a great design with a sweet tone in all ranges and tremendous penetration for solo and jazz work.

I have read much of these and wished time, place and finances would give me the opportunity to play a few of them and take the ultimate jazz/lead horn home if they grabbed me as they do others. That has not yet happened, and in fact seems highly unlikely.

For some research or curiosity, I found myself looking at a 6H on ebay offered by the Austin, Texas Salvation Army. It was cheap enough to get me to toss my hat in the ring. When it crested my initial high-bid I had to do some soul-searching before I put in what turned out to be the winning bid on an unseen, untested horn… but with a Salvation Army money-back guarantee.

Their photos were good enough to clearly show a lot of the lacquer was long gone and tarnished brass was plentiful. The important things non-trombonists could not tell me were 1. How does it play? and 2. Is the slide action good?

Happily, the answer to both are “well” and “yes”. Cosmetics can wait. I now have a 6H to play with.

Interestingly, my other “little” horn is a Yamaha YSL 354 that, somewhat like the Elkhart Conns, was made by Japanese craftsmen before Yamaha moved the production of that product line to a factory in China, leaving the Japanese craftsmen to focus on professional-grade horns. This is a very well-made horn with great sound and versatility. Like the Conn 6H, many jazz and lead musicians swear by some copies of the YSL 354.

In chatting online during my 6H purchase, I discover that the 354 was modeled after the 6H. Much like so many other good products that came out of Japan, they pick the best and copy it (BMW 1600 – Datsun 510 / Jaguar XKE – Datsun 240Z).

Thus I now have a 1958 Conn 6H and a 1974 Yamaha copy of it. Both as competing companions to my larger, mellower, throatier 2006 Conn 88HCL which has no competition to my ear except when I want more zip and sparkle for stylistic variety.

This is inspiring me to play around with my horns quite a bit more. I am now challenged to discover the differences; to find their sweet spots – to find out what I like in me and them. It is very good for me. Without a band to play in at the moment, I need something to keep me playing trombone and having fun with them.