Category: For Sale

Premier Deluxe Timpani For Sale (ref# 1540)

FOR SALE £2250 

FURTHER PRICE REDUCTION

Due to storage becoming increasing problematical, this pair of Premier Deluxe timpani have been reduced in price in the hope of generating a quick sale.

Here is a pair of very old timpani that a customer wants to sell due to retirement. They have had two owners from new and these drums are rare. There are a few scratches in the bowls but no big dents, and there are a couple of T handles that need to be replaced, but I may well have some of these buried in a box of vintage spares. There is also a tie bar missing to one of the legs, but to be honest this is much easier to make than to find an original replacement. Neither of these issues poses a massive problem for me because the costs of correcting them would be a fraction of the instrument value.

As can be seen they have calf skin heads on for which the drums were designed to be used. In reality it will probably be problematical finding easily available plastic heads – any size can be made, but you will have to wait for at least three months and expect to pay at least three times the price of standard heads. But who wants plastic over calfskin anyway now?


As with all of the second hand instruments I sell, I handle all the negotiations because my customers are selling through me for precisely that reason. The drums are currently at the owners house in southern England, but I will collect the drums for viewing when there is a serious buyer.

By 1927 Premier Drums had introduced the De luxe Model Tympani. These were still “classical timpani” so had retractable legs on the basic pot, but these were the drums that saw the development of the bowl shape and the fittings. For instance by 1928 the drop handle was introduced on these drums and self aligning lugs.

Also in by 1298 Premier had developed the pedal mechanism. It is the obvious choice to put their best bowls onto their newest flagship product and called them the inspirational name, “Pedal Tympani”. It is interesting reading the catalogue description where it mentions the Premier guarantee; I have no idea what that was, but the fact that these drums are still working and sounding great nearly a hundred years later is a testament that British engineering was and will always be the best in the world.

Premier 1928 catalogue

The last time these drums were seen in the Premier catalogue was in 1951. They were almost a footnote on the same page as dampers, badges and drum keys! I think that this is more a reflection of post war austerity than anything else, but it was the end of the run because in 1966 West Ham United won the football world cup (I mean England) and Premier launched the Series One Timpani – out with tymps and in with timps!

Parsons “Super Ideal” Timpani For Sale (ref# 1773)

FOR SALE £2750

I have the pleasure of being able to sell this really nice pair of early pedal timpani made by Parsons.  These are the “Super Ideal 24” model which were top of the range at the time.  So with the Premier Deluxe Timpani, I now have for sale both both premium brand timpani made in the UK during the early 20th Century.  The Premier timpani have been on my books for a while now, this both surprising and not. At over 100 years old, they are now unusual instruments now and certainly not up to date with modern styling and those ugly oversized wheels, etc.  However, if playing timpani in classical and baroque orchestras is your thing, then why would you not want to buy drums that are actually the correct tool for the job?  The alternative are the old hand tune pots or modern versions of the same with some sort of cable tuning mechanism, or modern, out of period instruments with a more compromised shape.


The advantages of these drums over more contemporary drums are numerous: at the top of the list is the size and shape of the bowls being nice and deep and using thicker gauged copper.  Then factor in that the pedal mechanism was specifically designed for calfskin heads  which has reliably worked for 100 years without irreparably breaking.  Not only do they both look the part and sound good, they also have a historical heritage.  The downsides are few; they weigh a bit more than modern drums, but that is primarily due to the amount of copper in the bowl which was on the list of advantages; the pedal mechanisms on modern drums are smoother and quieter with the exception of the Ringer or Dresden style ratchet, and spare parts are not readily available. However, spare parts on modern drums in my view are not worth the money even if you can get them – after all things break for a reason.  Regarding the pedal mechanism, isn’t it like any percussion instrument – you’ll have to learn some technique, a small price to pay for owning fantastic timpani costing under £1500 per drum!

From what I know, which is limited indeed, E. & A. Parsons Ltd were based in Birmingham here in the UK at the beginning of the 20th century. Birmingham is the UK’s second largest city and the heart of the black country, a colloquialism for that whole section of England, which describes the filth of industry at the height of the industrial revolution. Birmingham was therefore well known as an epicentre for all sorts of industries including more creative crafts and artisan skills (and I’m not talking about coffee houses or bakers!)  Still to this day it has a thriving jewellery quarter. Although big, Birmingham is not London, so for musical instrument makers the market place would have been much smaller and therefore the business would have been smaller than other companies around during that period. However, from my personal experience, when businesses grow too large the owners become more interested in profit and care less about quality, and it is quality that becomes known and recognised.  This recognition put Parsons right up there as a leading percussion instrument manufacturer globally and they were strong competition for the Leedy Drum Co in the US as well as Premier over here.  As instruments moved around the globe a lot of the same ideas or developments were being rapidly copied from one manufacturer to the next.

Ernest A. Parsons senior as well as his two sons Ernest A Junior and Albert were all established percussionists, indeed Ernest Junior was the principal timpanist for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for a period of 45 years, from the orchestras inception in 1920 right up until the mid-1960’s.  It was his brother Albert who actually built these timpani giving them the Super Ideal moniker to denote that they are the top of the range instruments produced by the firm.  I don’t know what the 24 refers to, certainly not the size, but it is very evident that the overall build quality is excellent.

I have come across Parsons instruments a good few times during my career and all of those instruments exuded quality and sounded brilliant. I guess that it is just a fact of life that if you want percussion instruments to sound good, they generally need to be made using thicker material somewhere along the line, so consequently they always weigh more than the modern equivalent. From my perspective it is because of this diminution of tonal quality in the majority of modern instruments, that this is one area that I am looking into. However like everything, this work require time and money and as a poor but busy instrument maker both are in short supply (especially now in pandemic world).  This means that everything takes me much longer to achieve because they have to be fit in and around the work that I need to do to pay the bills.

Anyway, enough of that. These timpani essentially hybridised the old pots and added an internal tuning mechanism which could then be attached to a pedal system. This means that the pedals can still be removed in order to create hand tuned timps which was pretty standard practice at that time and makes the drums considerable easier to transport. It just goes to show that nowadays there is nothing revolutionary about having a detachable bowl on a timpani, rather it is a massive step back to an old technology that ultimately became obsolete. Whereas back then, the pedal mechanism on these drums actually represented something that was new in the world of percussion and a huge leap forward.

There are some repairs on the 25 base casting; nuts and bolts have replaced the original rivets which often become loose as the alloy of the leg castings become worn.  The wooden boards that the drums sit on are a good inclusion, because these style of legs are susceptible to damage – they are only aluminium castings so can easily be broken which is seen a lot in the Ludwig universals which shares the same design. This was also probably when the colour of that base frame changed.  This was probably done when the drums were last fully refurbished, work done by the late Arthur Soothill.  Arthur was widely regarded as the leading proponent of my profession in his day and is incomparable to some even now. Although I would dispute that claim, I can say that his work was generally of a high standard and still stands up when compared to the standards achieved today.

The clutch mechanisms are ratchet and pawl style and both are in very good condition, holding their notes very well.  This is a testament to the techniques of the players who have owned these instruments.  If the pawls are allowed to scrape over the ratchet, they grind away at the teeth.  Although the levers are designed to cope with this to some extent, over time and constant misuse they do wear out and would represent a large repair bill.  So the new owner will need to hone their pedalling skills and maybe they will last another few decades!

These drums were originally owned and extensively used by Alan Taylor who was the principal timpanist at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden London for many years as well as the Brighton Philharmonic, English National Opera and the BBC players, right up to the late 80s.  Consequently they have very nice Kalfo heads which are calfskin and produced in Ireland.  It rains a lot in Ireland, even more than the UK, so the grass is very lush resulting in cows that are sadly much healthier than the norm.  Combining this super diet with the lack of barbed wire fences, the skin of the cow becomes nice and supple which makes them perfect for vellum drum heads.  The company who produce the heads also have a secret method of skiving the skins to an incredibly thin and consistent thickness, but since I have always been refused entry to any percussion manufacturer’s factories (even asked to leave trade stalls!) I can only deduce how they do it from what I can see on the skin.  They use a triple drum sanding machine or similar, the sort of thing they use in most wood furniture factories to abrade surfaces to very fine tolerances.  Another example of mysticism and protectionism surrounding the percussion industry, what they forget is that some of us actually know our trade and can read materials like a book.  You don’t acquire these skills from sitting at a desk running a factory, so perhaps they don’t know that their manufacturing techniques cannot be kept secret.

In summary then, these excellently built, antique drums, with a pedigree that demonstrates their tonal quality are perfectly suited to the baroque orchestra.  They would no doubt appreciate some refurbishment, but they are ready to go.  Although part of me likes to see the original finish on old instruments, they would probably also benefit from some sympathetic re-finishing to make them look more the part and to hide the previous bowl re-shaping work.

Thank you for reading.  If you are interested in buying the drums, send me an email and we shall take it from there.  If you have any comments pertaining to the article or associated historical information, please put it in the comments below.

Boosey & Hawkes Elizabethan Vibraphone For Sale (Job#1599)

FOR SALE £750

Here is another vibraphone that I have for sale, but a different beast completely.  Whereas the Premier 751 is practically immaculate, this vibe needs some TLC.


As you will have seen from the video, there are a few issues to be resolved, the main one being the pedal mechanism. If it were my instrument I would just make a new frame with a whole new pedal system. “Just” says the man who does this for a living!

The note beds were rebuilt a few years ago.  The horrible paint was stripped off to reveal the lovely English Oak beneath which I then varnished.  Instruments just aren’t made with this timber anymore, probably due to its rarity and cost.  Basically we should blame the landed gentry for whom us plebeians have been working for in penury for centuries, they stripped our beautiful country of all its majestic trees and were too tight, lazy or ignorant to have the foresight to plant some replacements.  Nothing changes.  So from that perspective, this instrument is a valuable rarity.

It is a while ago now, so my memory of what I actually did is vague, but I think that I had to do some modifications to the high end to hold the motor more securely or make is removable, or something along those lines. Whilst mentioning the motor, I won’t do any work to that, it would be condemned, so I strongly advise that is not be used.

What I really like are the note cord tensioners. So easy to use and very effective.  Also the little plates to protect the wood from the cord are a really nice feature seen on a lot of these old instruments.  The bushes that the fan shafts rotate through are also nice, being made in two halves for ease of access and with an oiling hole that can be seen in the photo below.

At the time I rebuilt the note bed I also did some work to the damping mechanism, but really it requires new components made or replaced which was outside of my remit.  My feelings are that the mechanism is a bit too complicated and certainly the spring is too powerful.

Along with all of the above work the notes were also tuned to bring it up to current pitch.  The range is not standard which may or may not be is an issue, but the quality of the bars is great and tonality is great having that vintage sound.

I guess I made my feelings clear in the video about my dislike of these vintage frames. However they are really well made just not very practical for modern use and like all instruments from this era, they were built for dwarfs. But just look below to see how small everything packs up!

If you are interested in buying this instrument please send me an email and we can discuss the next stage.

Premier 751 For Sale (Job#1623)

SOLD

In my possession I have a really nice example of a Premier 751 vibraphone for sale complete with a full set of cases which are also in excellent condition.  The video below looks at the instrument in detail including a section of higher quality audio recording so you can listen to it.


As can be seen from the video, I have had to do some work to the instrument to get it into perfect working order repairing the damage caused by an instrument repairer! There are some minor issues that are irreparable but I have mitigated these with the exception being the holes drilled through the legs and the damage caused to the paintwork by the oversized casters. These casters were probably fitted for a valid reason at the time, but the new owner would be advised to change them.

The price takes into consideration the overall condition of the instrument in comparison to the all the instruments that I have worked on over the years. As I state in the video, it looks almost new. There has been a bit of repainting, but there are hardly any tell tale scratches which are an indication of how much the vibraphone has been thrown in and out of cars, or not.

In addition to the overall condition of the vibe, it also has a new motor system which immediately inflates the price since these are a costly investment. The vibraphone also comes with the aforementioned cases which retail at £600.

As I have indicated, I will accept offers. If you are interested contact me here: email

Musser Kelon Xylophone For Sale (Job no. 1396)

FOR SALE £ sensible offers

As well as the marimba I also have a Kelon xylophone for sale. Again this is on a field frame, which is even more disproportionate than the marimba considering how light xylophones are. The frame was also damaged so speak to me directly about the options for replacement. This instrument would be perfect for a school or college (or marching) and put on a fixed frame with no nuts and bolts to ever come loose.

The note bars are in good condition. These are the Kelon bars which are a type of glass fibre and so are impervious to atmospheric conditions which makes them perfect for outside use. Like on the marimba they sound OK, but because they are synthetic they completely lack the timbral quality of wooden note bars. However, as I have said I am picky when it comes to sound quality and know what I like and that is wood. Additionally, Musser, like most of the manufacturers fail to make the bars thick enough, which means that, for me, the notes are too resonant. All that said, just like the marimba, I was actually pleasantly surprised that the bars sounded the way they do – my expectation was low and that I would hate the sound and actually they sound okay.

Musser 5.0 Octave Kelon Marimba For Sale (Job no. 1393)

FOR SALE £ sensible offers

I have a Musser Kelon 5 octave marimba in my workshop for sale. I also must confess it has been in for a while – it is always good to ask if I have anything for sale because I generally do! The delays are generally having the time for me to sit down and write this blurb, clean, repair and set up the instrument for photo’s and video. Because 5 Octave marimbas are massive, they take up a huge amount of floor space which means that the workshop needs to be pretty empty in order to do that, and that never happens. So because the instrument has been hanging around for a while I decided to write this blurb and will upload the photo’s and video later.

Anyway, this instrument is on one of those massive field frames pictured above and consequently is built for the US market where they like things to be ridiculously heavy and ironically not very strong! My advice would be to ask me to replace the frame with something made a lot more transportable and usable. The frame is functional, but not very user friendly; spanners are needed to assemble it and this in itself suggests that it is meant to be transported whole which means that you would also need to buy a long wheel base van! My frames are bespoke, so we can discuss your requirements and I will advise accordingly.

The note bars are in good condition. These are the Kelon bars which are a type of glass fibre which makes them impervious to atmospheric conditions which makes them perfect for outside use. They sound OK, but because they are synthetic they completely lack the timbral quality of wooden note bars. However I am a bit picky when it comes to sound quality and know what I like and that is wood, but I am pleasantly surprised that the bars sound the way they do – my expectation was that I would hate the sound and actually it’s on the okay to nice scale (if that makes sense).

Because it is a marimba, the resonators are massive too! these are the wide ones which amplify the fundamental and give a really rich tone. For me, it is these resonators that is the reason for buying, everything else can be easily upgraded at a later date, but making resonators like these would be very involved which means very expensive. So they sound great, but they are big, and big things are heavy. It’s the general theme of this advert.

5.0 Octave – C2-C7
Bar Graduation – 1.625″ – 2.5″
Tuning A = 442
Drop cover included

Marching Snare Drum (Job No: 768)

FOR SALE  £250

Here is a very nice parallel action marching snare drum in full working condition.

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The shell has only minor scratching in the chrome, but it still looks great.

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The snare wires raise and lower parallel to the head as opposed to just at one side like snare drums that are used on drum kits.

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The top head has an internal damper.  The lugs are high tension fittings appropriate for marching snare drum heads.

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Brand new heads (I couldn’t get over the price of the batter head) means that this drum is ready for action.

If you have any questions, ask and I will see if I can help.