Conns and Coprion

Bob's personal history with Conns and Coprion

I remember when I bought my first “professional” trombone.It was 1961 and I was 16 and working a couple summer jobs at minimum wage (85¢ an hour, baby!).

That was when folks were talking about how grand it was to have a “darker” sound.Somehow, I had a brochure for Conn trombones.I can even remember the prices:The 6H was the least expensive ($240) with a yellow brass bell; the middle cost ($260) was the Conn 10H with a Coprion bell and the most expensive ($310) was the 48H Connstellation which I didn’t know at the time was a nickel-plated yellow brass bell with fancy bracing. All three had slides with a .500″ bore which means that the Conn valve section is interchangeable with all three of those bells…….and actually, a lot more than just the 6H, 10H and 48H.

Anyway, wanting that “darker sound,” I bought a Conn 10H slide bone with the valve section for $305 through the local drugstore that dabbled in selling Conn horns for a short time.I paid ½ the cost during the summer of 1961 and the store carried the balance interest free (!) until I could pay it off in the summer of 1962…..only in small town….. Try getting that deal today!

Around 1978 I had Corky overhaul my Conn 10H bell and slide.I learned how beautifully Coprion bells clean up and he made the slide better and that horn played better than ever before.

My original Conn valve section had a “WTUT” and years later I traded it for a King valve bone.In 1982, I traded the King to a guy for a 1968 Conn valve section (that, needless to say, didn’t have a “WTUT”) which I took out to Larry Minick (it was also an excuse to swing by Las Vegas and on to California to visit a buddy of mine who played electric bass with Buddy Rich for a few months in 1973).

What a great horn Larry made for me.He started with the Conn valve section, added a third valve trigger, cleaned out any imperfections inside the valve section and made the yellow-brass bell at his shop in Las Angeles.I had my Minick gold-plated in 1983.

I’ve now sold my gold-plated Minick and eventually worked a deal with the guy that still had my original Conn valve section, (“WTUT” and all) and I’d totally forgotten that it even had a “WTUT” and once again discovered how obnoxious that thing is.First thing was to have Corky take off the “WTUT” and now my original valve section is all made up nice and is for sale on this website.

I really love the sound of a Coprion bell.They do sound so sweet.I’ve been playing my “Triple C” 8 ½ “Coprion bell with our own customized valve section for about 6 years now.I love my horn and that’s why I could sell my beloved Minick.

One of the neat people on the Planet Earth is Christine Derksen of the Conn Loyalist website.She wrote a nice article about Coprion that you’ll find below reprinted with her very generous permission.Among other things, she gives us a nice and concise explanation of exactly what Coprion is.

After that, you’ll find copies of some advertising that Conn put out in the 1950’s about Coprion.Enjoy!

Bob Ramsdell

PS:Feel free to use a translator like “Googletranslate” (or whatever), if you want to.

Christine’s Article from The Conn Loyalist

In this article I would like to talk a bit about Conn’s “Coprion” bell. Quite a few Conn trumpets, cornets and some trombones came with a Coprion bell. But what is “Coprion”, and how does it affect the playing qualities of the instrument?

What is Coprion?
The process necessary for producing the Coprion bell was developed by Conn in 1938. It consists of electrolytically depositing COPper IONns (hence the name Coprion) onto a stainless steel precision form accurate to millionths of an inch (so Conn said in its 1959 catalog), creating a seamless bell. Coprion isn’t the same as a “rose brass” or “red brass” bell; these are brass bells with a higher copper content. Coprion is 100% pure copper.

In its advertising for the Coprion bell, Conn showed diagrams of the structure of “ordinary” brass bells compared to the Coprion bell. The brass bell showed an “irregular and hodge podge” crystal structure with comparatively large crystals, while the Coprion bell showed “ions of pure copper side by side in regular, close knit conformation and at right angles to the surface of the metal”.

What does Coprion do to the sound and the way the instrument plays?
It is said that on an instrument with a Coprion bell “you can’t overblow or ‘crack’ a note.” Also, according to Conn, “Coprion has a special characteristic which permits great dynamic range without change in tone color.”

It is generally accepted that high(er) copper content bells make the sound “darker” and have better projection. Jeff Stockham puts it well describing his 1959 10B Victor: “The copper bell also adds projection. This has been borne out by acoustical experiments done by Walter Lawson on french horn bells and by Cliff Blackburn on trumpet bells. Simply put, the high-copper-content bells direct a greater percentage of the energy expended by the player towards the audience, as measured in decibels. The sound of the instrument is less full behind the horn, to the player’s ear, but it is richer and louder in front of the horn — there is significantly increased directional projection. What this means to the player is this: 1) you need to exert less effort to produce a given perceived volume at any point in the performance hall, and 2) the sound remains darker and fuller without becoming shrill or breaking up at high volume levels. So with this 10B I can peel paint off the back wall of the hall if I feel like it, or blow a soaring solo line WITHOUT A MICROPHONE over the top of a screaming big band and still be heard.”

The limited experience I have myself with Coprion bell instruments confirms this: it projects like nothing else, the sound doesn’t break up or become shrill at high volumes and you can really produce a lot of sound, and the tone color stays more or less the same no matter how loud you play.

Which instruments have a Coprion bell?
Cornets: 12A Coprion, 10A Victor, 28A Connstellation (through serial number 9xx,xxx), 38A Connstellation short model (through serial number 9xx,xxx; beware that there was a 37A Connstellation short model with brass bell), 18A Director and 17A Director.

Trumpets: 12B Coprion, 10B Victor, 38B Connstellation (through serial number 9xx,xxx) 18B Director, 17B Director.

Trombones: 12H Coprion, 10H Victor, 18H Director. Probably the 48H Connstellation (through serial number 9xx,xxx).

Christine Derksen

Conn Loyalist

Reprinted by permission

Advertising that Conn put out in the 1950’s about Coprion