John Packer Blog

Welcome to the John Packer blog. Here we’ll keep you updated on all the latest happenings at John Packer Ltd, all the latest music news, musical instruments and competitions.

Month List

Rath Trombone Day

by Administrator 11. May 2011 15:46

TO mark the launch of three new Rath products, John Packer Ltd will be hosting a special Rath Trombones open day at the shop in Taunton on June 4th.

Rath Trombones are respected in every conceivable musical genre requiring a trombone. Their new products include Rotax valve sections, bronze leadpipes and Rath alto trombones. This is a wonderful opportunity to see why Rath trombones have become a benchmark across the globe.

John Packer Ltd is very proud to be the only official stockist of Rath trombones in the UK other than Michael Rath himself.

Customers will be welcome to drop in between 10am and 4pm on June 4th to sample the new trombone innovations and try the instruments. Chris Beaumont - from Michael Rath - and our own specialist - Steve Herbert - will be on hand to assist with trials and to answer any questions.

Please tell any friends or pupils that you think may be interested.

For more information, or to make a booking, please contact Steve; or call 01823 282386.

Win £1000 & High Profile Performance in CASS Competition 2011

by Administrator 11. May 2011 15:18

Saxophone quartets and clarinet soloists are invited to audition for the Clarinet & Saxophone Society Competition 2011.


Winner of each competition will be awarded £1000 and a high profile perfomance opportunity.


The competition is open to clarinettists and saxophonists between the ages of 16 and 26 (inclusive) on 27th November, 2011. Applications need to be received by 30th June, 2011.

Applications should include an audition CD recording featuring a set piece and any other works (or movements from works). The total running time should be between 13-17 minutes.

Set Pieces

The set piece to be included for saxophone quartet applications is Torke, July (Adjustable Music). The set piece to be included for solo clarinet applications is Kovacs, Hommage a Khachaturian (Edition Darok EDL 2103).

Final Round

The competition final will take place on Sunday, 27th November, at Liverpool Hope University before a public audience. Each finalist will be expected to prepare a 20-25 minute programme. Full information including further details, terms and conditions can be found at

How to find a good reed

by Andy 5. May 2011 11:21

MOST single reed players will agree that the number of different makes and variations of reed available today is quite comprehensive, with a new one appearing almost on a monthly basis it seems, so choosing a reed can sometimes be a case of trial and error.

Are you looking for a reed suitable for Jazz, Big Band, Rock, or are you playing more Classical, Symphonic Wind Band? This should certainly influence your choice of reed brand.

Once you have made your choice of reed strength and brand, what do you look for in the individual reed? Here are a couple of suggestions.

  • Visually, check that the tip of the reed has been cut symmetrically and there are no splits or other damage by gently running your finger along the underside tip of the reed.
  • Next, by holding the reed to a light, check that the fibre or grain of the reed runs parallel to the cut of the reed, also the heart of the reed is central to the face of the reed and not to one side.

A few words regarding a subject close to my heart, Reed Management. On occasion I have heard people say “I bought a box of reeds and had to throw half of them away because they didn’t work!” Remember, reeds are made of an organic material and will change over a period of time. Also, humidity can influence the way a reed performs.  So, don’t throw those reeds away, you may come back to them at a later date and find that they play fine.

Customising your reeds, i.e. scraping and clipping, is something that a lot of players, understandably, approach with a certain amount of trepidation. There are various items on the market, such as reed clippers and re-surfacers that are designed to help you make the most of your reeds. I would suggest experimenting on old reeds to discover what effect adjusting the different areas of the reed might have.

Finally, I am often asked what reed I would recommend, very difficult to answer as there are so many factors that would affect that choice. Among them are the physical make up of the player, the genre of music and also the mouthpiece, including tip opening etc.     

Whatever reed you decide to play, it’s a good bet that you will always be looking for a better one! Good luck!


How to...

Why is music important?

by Jon 5. May 2011 11:14

I am writing this because I have just had the umpteenth conversation with the parent of a young student which illustrates that certain important messages are not being received. This particular parent had elected to organise music lessons outside school hours on the basis that, while they thought music was a ‘nice’ thing for their child to do, it certainly wasn’t going to be at the expense of missing something ‘important’ like Maths or English.

I recently emailed Ed Balls (Secretary of State for Education) pointing out that if parents really understood the benefits of music they would be forming a queue. I suggested that maybe his department should stop preaching to the converted (the Education system and Music industry) and start telling those who would benefit most. (I have yet to receive a reply!)

So, why should parents form a queue?

Research into the effects of practical music making concludes that the player will have:

  • Higher all round test scores, regardless of socio-economic back ground. Yes, even if you miss a weekly maths lesson because of an instrumental lesson, you will be better at Maths and indeed everything else! (It is also true that there is a considerable correlation between musical ability and proficiency in mathematics and the sciences.)
  • Better concentration
  • Increased creativity
  • Improved memory (short & long term)
  • Better self esteem
  • Greater physical coordination
  • Increased self discipline
  • Improved social skills
  • Greater self reliance
  • More positive attitude

Research also shows that students who participate in a school band or orchestra will have the lowest levels of current and lifelong use of alcohol, tobacco or illicit drugs of any group in society. How much is that sort of contribution to enhancing your child’s life worth? As if this isn’t enough, studies have also shown that making music will help to:

  • Relieve stress (Many universities offering courses in high stress careers like medicine view having music as a hobby very favourably)
  • Reduce burnout
  • Enhance mood
  • Improve overall feelings of well being
  • Alleviate the symptoms of asthma and other related breathing conditions (if you play a wind instrument)

Clearly many of these benefits are for people of all ages, but children are different in that they are going through a rapid developmental process. Music making requires the child to think quickly, often 4 or 5 decisions per second. It teaches them to manage information, to think about and solve problems, to be adaptive, to learn continuously and to work with others. It reinforces self-discipline, teamwork, creativity and self-expression.

In summary making music can make you smarter, healthier and better balanced. This isn’t speculation. The scientific evidence is absolutely overwhelming… So, if you are:

  • A parent of a school age child, please form an orderly line outside the office of the Head of Music at your child’s school.
  • An adult, please form an orderly queue outside your local music shop
  • A carer of the elderly or anyone with learning difficulties or breathing disorders, get professional advice and then head for the music shop or school.
  • Feeling unmotivated or depressed, see if there is any room left for lessons at school or join the others at the music shop.

How to find a good teacher

by Administrator 5. May 2011 11:10

Yo Yo Ma, Jonny Dankworth, James Galway… these musical stars are united by one common thread - excellent teaching. Having a good teacher is instrumental to the success of the pupil. An inadequate teacher can put the initially enthusiastic novice off for life. 

A teacher should be always enthusiastic, empathetic and inspiring - making the student feel that anything is possible with dedication and lots of practice!

We’ve put together these guidelines to help you find the perfect teacher. Remember you should be trying to find the best teacher - not necessarily the cheapest. And, if you’re not happy leaving your child with a stranger, don’t!

  • Meeting a teacher for a first time could be like going into the lion’s den. Remember they are a stranger, so you need to take some precautions. By contacting a prospective teacher by phone first you can get a quick idea of whether they will be suitable. Email correspondence will never fill you with the same confidence as a proper conversation. In your discussion don’t be afraid to ask about their teaching credentials! Ask questions like:
    • How many pupils do you teach - could you get a reference off any of them?
    • How long have you been in the teaching business - have you had a CRB?
    • Can the lesson be attended by a parent/friend?
    • Do you offer a consultation lesson before committing to learning?

No teacher should object to these questions. If you decide to pursue references before committing to lessons explain this to the teacher; if they are responsible they won’t mind.

  • When you do meet the teacher - preferably in a free consultation - be clear about what you expect from them. If necessary have a list of questions prepared beforehand. Questions such as:
    • How do you approach instrumental technique?
    • What type of music do you teach?
    • How do you teach music theory?
    • Do you encourage pupils to study for exams - if so which examining boards, or why not?
    • How do you develop sight-reading skills?
    • Do you encourage pupils to participate in public performances?
    • What expectations do you have of your pupils?
    • Will you provide progress reports and make notes during lessons?
    • What qualifications do you have and what is your professional background?
  • Of course the teacher will also want to know about your intentions; your musical aspirations and commitment to lessons and practice. Be honest! There’s nothing wrong if you just want to play for fun at home - not every pupil has to become a West End pro. By being open about your expectations and ambitions, the more beneficial the consultation will be.
  • Don’t get caught up in the moment! You shouldn’t feel obliged to make a decision there and then and hand over your well-earned money. If may be advisable to have a consultation with more than one teacher. If you do feel confident about the teacher, make sure you understand the tuition fees and how and when they are to be paid. Also clarify the teacher’s position on cancellations and who is responsible for providing learning materials and music.
  • And finally! After successfully finding the perfect teacher, make sure you maintain the same level of interest in the music lessons. Discuss with the teacher what progress is being made and how you or your child should practice at home. Sitting in on lessons or having a recording of them can be really helpful for both the parent and the student when you’re at home trying to recall what was said.

Things to think about when buying an instrument

by Administrator 5. May 2011 11:06

The most important thing to remember when looking at new instruments is that - with practice - your playing standard will only improve. If you buy an instrument that is perfect for you now, you will probably need to change it again quite soon. Most respectable student instruments will comfortably allow for the player to reach at least grade 5 or 6 or even higher in some cases. It is usually the next, ‘step-up’, decision that is more difficult, particularly if you are progressing well and may be considering a career in music. It’s a bit like buying a pair of shoes for feet that haven’t finished growing. In general terms, the more you pay, the more time you buy. If you want to ‘go pro’ a mid-range instrument may not cut it; being honest about your playing expectations and aspirations is more important than just evaluating how you currently play.


Always consult experienced players and get independent advice. Some instruments that appear to be bargains may be absolute disasters and it is usually best to stay with instruments that have achieved a good reputation and have a proven track record. This will not significantly affect your breadth of choice, but will focus your selection and reduce disappointment trying the wrong instruments. Remember, you may have little come back if your privately purchased ‘bargain’ ends up needing a complete overhaul a few weeks later.


How you test an instrument is also very important. Most instruments will give a reasonable level of performance in middle register and dynamic. It is often the case that you will find out more about their real playing characteristics if you test their extremes where weaknesses and strengths may be much more apparent. These areas should always be explored in depth before you play through your favourite pieces! Don't forget that an instrument that can play Mozart beautifully, may struggle with the very different technical requirements of Prokofiev.


When you buy an instrument you are creating a team - you and the instrument. The ‘perfect’ instrument has yet to be made and the ‘perfect’ player has yet to be born. The instrument’s strengths should compliment your weaknesses and vice versa. It is therefore particularly important for more able players to have a clear idea of what they are looking for before embarking on instrument trials. Don't be afraid to have a long reconnoitre of what's on the market before making your decision. There will likely be a lot of money at stake and - more importantly for the player - you will have to live with the consequences of your decision for a long time!


As independent specialists we carry a broad range of makes and models in stock to try. We never try to encourage you to buy an instrument which is most beneficial to us. We always endeavour to enable you to make the most informed choice.


How to...

Who is the real John Packer Ltd?

by Administrator 3. May 2011 11:33

FOR almost 10 years John Packer Ltd has been busily developing and expanding a JP range of woodwind and brass products. This has been very successful and the range now extends to over 100 different models with more in the pipeline.

Inevitably, all this activity and our pride in what we have been doing has meant that our promotional efforts have become dominated by the JP product brand. It has occurred to us that maybe we have created the impression that things have changed here at John Packer's.

Let us reassure you that (with the exception of our own range) nothing has changed. We still carry a huge breadth of stock from student to professional including all the latest models from a broad range of manufacturers. Even where we have our own products, we still carry all the usual alternatives from other makers because we know that all players are different and you need a real choice!

The latest additions to our stock include: the exciting intermediate range of Schagerl trumpets, the new Neo euphonium and YPC62R piccolo from Yamaha, Fossati oboes, Azumi flutes, Trevor James Signature saxophones, Michael Rath handmade trombones, not to mention an abundance of new accessories; Stock mouthpieces, Aizen saxophone mouthpieces, Voros bassoon reeds and Kernow oboe reeds.

Bottom line? We are everything that we used to be and a little more besides!

That includes: Adler, Altus, Azumi, Besson, Buffet, Bach, Conn Holton, Howarth, James, Jupiter, King, Leblanc, Mateki, Miyazawa, Muramatsu, Patricola, Paxman, Pearl, Powell, Rath, Sankyo, Schagerl, Schreiber, Schilke, Selmer, Smith-Watkins, Stomvi, Yanagisawa, Yamaha and more! All in stock, all ready to try in the shop (or on approval), all can be checked/set up by our workshop, all with the personal specialised service that helped to give us our reputation.