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

Grade 8 Challenge - Blog No. 2 - A Visit to Denis Wick to Pick the Perfect Mouthpieces

by Administrator 28. February 2013 09:37

As mentioned in my 1st blog, the instruments that I will be using for this event have all been kindly supplied by John Packer Musical Instruments and I am using their top of the range “3 series” brand of John Packer Instruments. Now having experimented and played around with the instruments for a few weeks, I am beginning to realise the difficulties that I will encounter in attempting these Grade 8 exams. The foremost of which being choosing mouthpieces that I believe will provide me with the endurance, intonation and tone required to be successful in my grade 8 examinations.

On the 18th of February, I visited the Denis Wick factory in Poole after being kindly invited by Denis himself [pictured below]. I was welcomed by Brian Miller who gave me the full tour of the factory where it was fascinating to see how components such as the mouthpieces and mutes are actually made and the processes involved. I was also given the opportunity to try out mouthpieces and choose the best ones for the job.

After much testing, playing and annoying the staff that were trying to work at the time in the factory, these are the Denis Wick mouthpieces that I have paired with the John Packer instruments and reasons why I chose them:

Brian Miller

Denis Wick Factory

Trumpet: JP351LT(SW) Classic 1.5C /Ultra 1.5CH Cup depth and diameter felt very comfortable on both mouthpieces. They are different shapes and designs and I could not decide on which provided me with the best tone quality on the day so was kindly allowed to take both.

Tenor Horn: JP372 Sterling Classic 1A A deep and large diameter cup which allowed for a very sweet tone but somehow still felt more comfortable on my higher and lower range than the smaller and shallower mouthpieces I tried.

Trombone: JP332 Rath (Large Bore) Classic 4ABL This mouthpiece and instrument combination just worked so well. Even when compared to the similar 4AL mouthpiece, this one seemed a vast improvement in the power I could put through the instrument and tone that was sounding out.

Euphonium: JP374 Sterling Ultra SM3U A superb and warm tone was achieved in this pairing, perhaps a larger diameter mouthpiece than some might expect, but a personal strength in my playing is upper range and this mouthpiece allowed me to squeeze out even more warmth of sound without compromising range.

Bass Trombone: JP232 Heritage 0AL A powerful, yet controllable and open sound could be achieved through this set up. The mouthpiece is very large but somehow felt comfortable and not the ‘bucket’ feel of other bass trombone mouthpieces that I have played on.

Tuba: JP377 EEb Sterling Heritage 3XL In this combination, I thought I was looking for the impossible in a mouthpiece that would allow me comfortable low range pedals (an area I have found difficult in Tuba playing) whilst maintaining a good mid-range tone and keeping a reasonable upper tuba range. This mouthpiece ticked all of the boxes when used in conjunction with the instrument. I played lower than I have ever played and somehow maintained tone and upper range.

Russell Lock at the Denis Wick factory

If all that was not enough, I also left the factory with a practice mute for the Trumpet and some of Denis Wicks new valve oil, all of which kindly given with no charge in order to aid the fundraising for Cancer Research UK.

You can now donate to the charity directly by visiting my webpage at
You can also donate from your mobile phone by texting: GRAD88 and the amount you wish to donate (e.g £5) to 70070.
100% of the money raised will go to Cancer Research UK. Your support is very much appreciated.

Thank you,
Russell Lock
(Supported by John Packer LTD, Denis Wick Mouthpieces and Trinity College London)

All of the above Mouthpieces are available from John Packer Ltd. Call 01823 282 386 Option 1 to speak to Steve in our Brass Department.

Packers Donates Musical Instruments to Ensemble in Uganda

by Administrator 23. November 2012 16:11

JOHN Packer Ltd and Derbyshire Music Service have collaborated so that the Mbale School Band in Uganda recently received a raft of woodwind and brass instruments. The band practice often and learn vital life skills from their experience in the band. We'll keep you posted on their progress! 

Philip Monk - founder of ugive2uganda - said: "Learning to play a musical instrument to a reasonable standard requires determination and instills character in a child. Add to this the comradeship, confidence and fun that comes with being part of a musical ensemble and you have a perfect environment to stimulate spritiual, academic and character development."

The charity is currently fundraising for a music centre where they can also teach woodwind instruments, keyboard and guitar.

For more information visit:


JP243 Soprano Saxophone a "remarkable instrument" says RCM Prof!

by Administrator 20. February 2012 14:20

We do love receiving feedback from musicians, and we were delighted with this glowing review on the new JP243 soprano saxophone from David Burnand -a music professor at the Royal College of Music...

JP243 soprano saxophone

"I received this saxophone last week and have had great pleasure playing it.

"The sax feels light, which for me is good, as I play without a sling and am now developing arthritis in my wrists. In fact it's 200gm heavier than my 1926 Buescher True-Tone, but so nicely balanced that it feels lighter on the right hand. Good news for us oldies and for younger/smaller players, too. I like the integrated neck and (therefore) absence of a curved alternative crook, thought his might not suit everyone. Overall construction and appearance are of a high quality.

 "Against expectations, I stuck with the mouthpiece provided, which plays very well. In fact, on this instrument, I prefer it to my (presumably more expensive) Vandoren, Barone and Link m/pieces. The square cross-section of the chamber arch reminds me of the Selmer S-80. It speaks clearly throughout the entire range of the instrument from low Bb to high G. Intonation is excellent. The usual variations at tops and bottoms of registers lie within a very narrow range on this instrument. Tone is even throughout the instrument. Inevitable differences of tone for overlapping notes either side of the break are useful, therefore, rather than sounding like different instruments, one too thin and one to thick.

"The keys are smooth, even, fast and well positioned. My relatively short little fingers can be problematic with low Bb on some instruments. No problem at all with the JP243, which has a well-designed plate for the left-hand cluster. On some instruments altissimo keys are often difficult to find or too easily opened inadvertently, especially for players with smaller hands. Not so with the JP243. Fingering is intuitive and comfortable on this sax.

 "In conclusion, this is a remarkable instrument for its price range, and I would recommend it to beginners and professionals alike."

Professor David Burnand
Royal College of Music

Click here to buy the JP243!


JP351SW Trumpet Receives Thumbs UP from NYJO and Royal College Prof.

by Administrator 17. January 2012 14:37

We're delighted to have received this review from Mark Armstrong about our JP351SW LT trumpet. Mark is Musical Director at NYJO and Jazz professor at the Royal College of Music. 

"I was recently asked by the chaps at John Packer's if I would review one of their recent introductions to the market - the JP351SWLT trumpet. Having both tried and been impressed by some of their earlier instruments I was keen to see what they had conjured up now. This interest was further enhanced by the fact that this instrument is a movement into new higher market areas for the Packer team and this means that you are battling with tougher opposition. Firstly the model number - 'SW' shows that, once again, Richard Smith (of Smith-Watkins) has been involved both in the overall design and, specifically, the all important lead pipe.  The 'LT' refers to the fact that the bell is very lightweight which, combined with the nickel silver reverse leadpipe, is an interesting combination on a large bore instrument.   

"On first sight I was impressed by the build quality - lovely construction and the slides and valves all moved sweetly and positively. Not only are Packers collaborating with the best designers in the West they are also using western grades of materials and, it seems, the best technology to ensure good construction quality. This instrument is over £1000 less than my own trumpet, but the build quality appeared to be equal.  It's impressive even when you open the case and look at it.  

"That's the cosmetics dealt with, but how does it all combine as a working tool for a musician? I tested this trumpet both at home and 'in the field'. My initial tests made me feel so confident in the instrument’s capability that it has now been heard by many people who have been to see Chicago in the West End. The sound is pleasingly warm and centred even at extreme dynamics and its overall characteristics make it ideal for jazz, big band or showmusic etc. Capable of power or subtlety with equal ease.   

"Frankly, at this price, this instrument is amazing value. Packer's intention in bringing higher quality & performance to the market place at accessible prices has certainly been achieved. I have been happy to use it professionally and will be using it again on Boxing day when I take NYJO to the Today [BBC Radio 4] programme.  This trumpet is without doubt capable of professional performance, but priced to be accessible to players doing the higher ABRSM grade exams. Great combination!"

See this wonderful trumpet by clicking here!

JP351SW LT trumpet

Music Makers 2011

by Administrator 10. November 2011 11:23

YOUNG inspired musicians flock to Music Makers every summer holiday; such is the positive feeling they get from a week of music making.

Music Makers is directed by the experienced David Andrews and assisted by a team of specialist teachers. The aim is to share enthusiasm for and enjoyment of music, whilst helping musicians develop their abilities and confidence in playing and performing.

There are four courses; juniors age 5-6, intermediates age 7-10 and seniors 8-18 - grades 2-6 & 6-8 (with residential option in Fordingbridge). Courses take place in Wimbledon, Salisbury & Fordingbridge. All the course culminate in a presentation concert of some of the music rehearsed during the week.

John Packer Ltd attend some of the shows with a trade stand of emergency musical supplies!

If you'd like to know more about Music Makers, click here

Got An Event?

by Administrator 1. October 2011 11:21

If you are hosting an event and would be interested in having a John Packer trade stand there, please contact the shop on 01823 282386 or email Packer Trade Stand with lots of instruments on display







PHOTO: John Packer trade stand at the Welsh Regional Brass Band Championships in Swansea.

Flute Day Hosted by Internationally Renowned Flautist

by Administrator 5. September 2011 16:03

JOHN Packer Ltd and 4Flutes annual flute event will feature world renown flautist Paul Edmund Davies this Autumn.

Taking place on October 23rd at Plymouth University, Devon, from 10am-4.30pm the flute day is open to players of all ages and abilities.
Guest star, Paul is an astonishing player of great virtuosity and his reputation is at the highest level around the world, established as a flautist and soloist in the twenty years that he was principal flute of the London Symphony Orchestra, performing under the baton of many leading conductors including Leonard Bernstein, Rostropovich, Pierre Boulez, Kent Nagano and Andre Previn. He has performed on more than 50 film soundtracks, including classics such as Star Wars & Harry Potter. He is also Professor of Flute at the Royal College of Music.The flute day promises to be an exciting opportunity to listen and learn from one of the greats. Paul will even perform on the day in a final informal concert at 4pm.

4Flutes aims to bring opportunities to the southwest that are both affordable and accessible to pupils, parents and in general lovers of live music.

All places need to be booked in advance. Tickets cost £25 per person. For an application form or more details please see or contact: Ruth Ballantyne or Mike Nottage on: 01752 844017/ 07779 063948.

For more information about Paul Edmund Davies you can visit his website by clicking here.

New York based freelance trombonist Roland Barber reviews JP Rath trombones on The Trombone Forum

by Administrator 6. July 2011 15:24

"...Wildest surpise: John Packer Rath (student horn????) (available at Dillon)

The multiple question marks are because this horn [JP230 Rath], other than the $700 pricetag, did not say "student" at all.  This horn has the most heat, bite, and sizzle of ANY "student/intermed" horn I've ever tried.  Absolutely perfect for pop/soul/funk/section playing, in my opinion. And an incredible high range playability.  Just remarkable. Horns like this have the potential to change the game at many levels.  Remember the loud playing small bore thread? This horn goes on it, darn near the top of the list. A very dominant, passionate high register, and slots great between High F and altissimo A flat - I'm not used to horns that you can lean on THAT hard (fff) and get your effort's worth up in that register. I had to settle in and focus in order to stop cracking the F from above...

Instead of sending my students who are looking for a solid jazz horn on a semi-tight budget to find an old 2B or 3B, for the same or less money - this horn is a winner

And I tried the .5

25 [JP231 Rath] as well -  This horn handled somewhat like a .508 but played very big and still soulful...More of a solid blow than a 3B, and with a broader yet quite intense sound. Think of Jimmy Bosch type tone without the effort that you'd normally have to give to get that much sound out. I had NO idea on first try that it was .525.  This is kind of what I imagine a KING 4B really WANTS to do...Both excellent horns, and exciting additions to the marketplace in terms of quality and pricepoint. Congrats to Rath and Co..."

For the full review click here

For more information about the American Jazz trombonist Roland Barber click here

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.