Maller Baroque Brass Instruments David L. Maller 1243 Church Street Northbrook, IL 60062 847-509-1901
was kind enough recently to lend me for evaluation two of his new line of sackbuts—a tenor and alto.
I’ll give a fuller assessment of these instruments sometime in the future. For now, I can say that they play quite nicely. I am amazed how freely they “speak,” how easy it is to get them to sound, compared to my usual “sackbut”—an antique, small-bore, “pea-shooter” silver trombone. I am also impressed with the tenor’s intonation (I haven’t played the alto much yet), again especially compared to my usual “sackbut,” which plays several fundamental notes (F below middle C, and Bb below low C) hopelessly flat. (I now usually resort to using alternate positions to play those notes. But that’s a story for another time.)
One interesting aspect of these Maller sackbuts is their appearance. Of course, like all “true” sackbuts, they have small, conical bells (at the end, only about 3-1/2” wide!), they have flat stays, and they lack a slide lock and spit valve. But what is really striking is that they appear to be “genuine,” almost as if they were museum pieces. It appears that David has deliberately antiqued the instruments, tried to make them look as if made four or five hundred years ago. The effect is akin to early musicians performing in costume. (Both have their appeal.)
This raises some interesting questions: How prevalent is antiquing modern reproductions of early instruments? Is this done more so for brass instruments than strings and woodwinds?
One other item of interest is the mouthpieces that David supplied with the instruments. Like “true” sackbut mouthpieces (or true as far as we know), they have a very shallow cup. But the rim is absolutely flat, and has a right-angle edge on both the inside and outside. David says that others who have tried them say they are actually quite comfortable, but especially with my delicate embouchure, I am not yet so bold as to play them.
Anyway, I’ll report back in this Forum about my experiences with these sackbuts. So far, the experience has been educational and fun!
Posted by: Ray_Avery
Posted on: Feb 21st, 2004, 8:07pm
You lucky dog, getting to try out these sackbuts. I'm jealous. I'll be watching for your next report on them. For what it is worth, my bass trombone mp, though far from being shallow, does have a flat rim and with sharper edges. I find it very comfortable, more so than the more rounded Bach mp's. Are you able to divulge the prices for these two sackbuts you are trying out?
Posted by: berto
Posted on: Feb 22nd, 2004, 12:19pm
For reasons of mouthpiece-to-lead-pipe fit, I've been unable to employ my usual preferred mouthpiece. For the tenor, I have used a mp that, for reasons I can't fathom, has done harm to my embouchure in the past. For the alto, the mp I've tried (and that fits the lead pipe) is, like the instruments, copper and deliberately antiqued. Trying that for just ten minutes messed up my lip. Perhaps I have an allergic reaction or just really sensitive lip surface. Unfortunately, this is limiting my sackbut play, as I don't want to set back my forward progress on my usual sackbut/trombone. (I'm laying off all play for a few days to let my embouchure recover from the alto experience, in fact. )
So, I'm not inclined to give the angle-edged sackbut mps a try. I am inclined to use my usual mp(s), even if its (their) shiny silver surface(s) contrast visually with the sackbuts' dull, satiny copper surface.
As for the price of these instruments, David Maller himself will have to address that question.
Posted by: David L. Maller
Posted on: Feb 23rd, 2004, 1:41pm
Thank you all for your kind words. The price for the alto is $3250.00 and the tenor is $3650.00. I play on a flat trumpet mouthpiece myself, and I find that it is much more comfortable than modern mouthpieces too. Raw brass should not be a problem if well cleaned. I can make my mouthpieces plated too.
As far as the issue of antiquing the the instruments, they look like the originals because they are made the same exact way with the same type of equipment. I am a machinist as well, and enjoy working with them, however, I feel that it is more appropriate to use historical techniques instead for the sound. Even my engraving is done in the style of the earlier instruments. My instruments are also raw brass which tarnishes within a couple of days, like the original ones. The tarnish also creates a protective coating.
If anyone has any questions, please contact me.
David L. Maller
Posted by: Heinz Gries
Posted on: Jan 4th, 2006, 1:49pm
I write from germany and have a question about the maller sackbut. Where can I get information about these instruments, perhabs with picture? The web adress www.mallerbbi.com did not work.