Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 09:33:02 -0500
From: "Richard Bullock" <>
Subject: EQ: My Wild Thing Trial - long, but good reading (IMHO)

By popular demand (private emails), I will post my thoughts and insights concerning the Wild Thing I tried.  I have attempted to convey objective observations as best I can, except where only the subjective can adequately explain my feelings.

Got the horn (silver) week ago last Thursday (2 wks ago yesterday;  lunch with Tommy Loy is always fun--excellent stories).  The cylindrical tuning slide (.470 in and out) was already in the horn when I pulled it out of the case.  That evening, I tried playing it with my jazz mouthpiece (Reeves 43).  I was devastated.  I couldn't control anything.  I played (tried) this way for about an hour, then put my old Bach 1C in it.  Was better, but still nothing to shake a stick at.  Was free blowing either way, no doubt about it; tone was good as long as I could "fill" the horn--what a workout.  After about 2 hours of playing with the cylindrical slide, I swapped for the conical slide (.460 in, .470 out).  BIG DIFFERENCE!  Was better with either mpc, although more control from the Bach, and still felt just as free-blowing.  I decided to play exclusively on the cylindrical and Bach for 4 days hoping to reach some sort of impasse with the Thing.

Four days later, I hadn't been convinced I could ever play it well enough to satisfy me, or anyone who would have to bear listening to me.  So I swapped to the conical slide (so I wouldn't forget) and put the whole thing back in its case while I played my own horns for a couple of days. I was so impressed with my sound and control on my own horns, I was tempted to never go back to the Thing.  I eventually realized the workout I had gotten on the Thing had increased my strength and focus, dramatically, only I wouldn't have been able to tell had I not gone back to my equipment.  So I decided to give the Thing another try, with the conical slide.  [Talked to Flip about it after I gave it back.  He said most new Thing players are supposed to start on the conical so as not to be overwhelmed, and that it could take a few months to master the horn (not a direct quote, so I may have made mistakes paraphrasing his statements to me).  Then gradually work into the cylindrical, if desired.]

After 2 days of re-acquaintence with my stuff, I picked up the Thing (w/conical slide), intending to play it forever or until I gave it back, whichever came first.  It was, again, a workout, it is so physically demanding (understand it was demanding from the standpoint that I needed to learn more focus, strength and intensity;  playing the horn is not hard, playing it well is difficult for me).  I worked with it until the weekend (this last one), when I had rehearsals and a couple of performances.  My intentions were to perform with it.  But my intentions were dashed after I remembered, through trial and failure, that mutes had to be reworked to fit in the darn thing (Thing).  My playing was better, more focused, by this time.  But couldn't put my butt on the line with it because of the mute thing.  So I rehearsed and performed with my stuff (stuff = '56 Olds Recording for legit, '53 Olds Studio for jazz).  I was very comfortable with my equipment, and I played very relaxed and clean.

I reluctantly gave it back to Tommy this last Monday.

Bottom line of all this long-winded ranting:
I completely believe the Wild Thing is a better horn than any of mine (would really like to try a lacquered one, or a raw brass if Michael Anderson can convince Flip to have one built).  I believe it's worth its price, even if you have to wait for Flip to re-work your mutes (if you don't want to do it yourself).  But in my personal situation (NOT the money), I won't have a horn sitting around the house, not getting played for a year or two.  Let me explain (if you don't already know--if you do, disregard).  I stopped playing in 1973.  Picked it back up in 1994 (Dec). So, my chops are only, essentially, three and one-half years old.  I've already said playing this horn is a workout, for me.  Someone with stronger, more focused chops might very well buy it in an gnat's heartbeat.  I figure it'll take me a couple more years of chops maturing to deserve a horn the likes of a Wild Thing.  Until then, I won't have one sitting in the room, staring at me, haunting me every waking moment, gathering dust, getting lonely for someone to play it.  Now that it has taught me more about the embouchure strength and focus required, I'll be looking for a Wild Thing, or something equivalent (if even possible) in a couple years (I believe I'm beginning to sound redundant).

What did I leave out?  Oh yeah!...
I let a couple better players than me try it out.  Although they only played it for a few minutes each (5 to 10 minutes), they all said virtually the same things.  "Wild!" (expected)  "Great valve action." "Nicely balanced instrument."  "Gorgeous!"  "Free-blowin'"  Feels in between a light and heavy horn."  (and the one I feel the most) "Too much horn for me."  So it appears I still have a little more growing to do.

Hope this was the next best thing to being there.  I try not to be too wordy.  But definitely an experience I'm glad I didn't pass up.

I am not trying to discourage anyone from trying one of these amazing instruments.  But I highly advise anyone entertaining the thought, to know well their own abilities and strengths.  THIS IS, without a doubt (my opinion), A PRO HORN!  If these instruments were to have their own personalities, they would be seeking strong, highly focused players.  The other side of the coin must be true, too.  The strong, highly focused player would be seeking a unique instrument, capable of providing a supreme challenge to the player, daring that player to try to outgrow it. Because I don't believe (again, opinionated) anyone ever will.  The horn can be grown into, but my recommendation would be for a player, with much more mature abilities than mine, consider it when entertaining an equipment upgrade.  I would guess that no further upgrades may be possible after purchasing a Wild Thing. Comparatively speaking, I have not ever tried a Monette, so I cannot vouch for sound, feel, response, etc.  But I would have to mention there seems to be a very big difference in their prices.  This is not bashing, by the way.  It's a fact.  I only use the Monette as a price comparison because it seems to be the most expensive brand we could get.  Blackburn and Lawler, only to mention two more, are also more expensive than a Wild Thing, I believe (could be wrong).  And, unless I just triggered a mass exodus to purchase Wild Things from Flip with this post, you don't have to wait for one.

BTW, Flip was very generous with his feelings and understanding with my reasons for not purchasing one at this time.

With only My Highest Regards for Everyone at TPIN,