Dialing things in - You and/or the Hardware

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by trickg, Feb 28, 2015.

  1. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    I thought I'd start a thread about this because our hardware - the horns and mouthpieces we use - seems sometimes to override all else, and so many go looking for that magic horn or mouthpiece that's going to make it all easy. I also wanted to start it because I've been doing some minor tweaks myself, and I thought I'd post some some of my anecdotal observations about it. It's a bit long, but bear with it if you can.

    Typically I'm not one to mess with my gear too much. My philosophy had always been to find something that works pretty well, and any other deficiency I might have could be dealt with in the practice room. Then came the day when I had someone custom tailor the gap of a mouthpiece for me, and I began to realize that sometimes even a minor change can have a pretty dramatic impact. I find this to be particularly true of my Schilke B6, which seems to be pretty sensitive to even small changes.

    The whole thing started up a little less than a year ago. I had a couple of gigs in a row where things just weren't where I wanted them to be. My accuracy was such that I missed a fair amount, simply from over/under shooting notes, and it would take me half the gig to finally get things dialed in. Additional time in the practice room didn't seem to be helping much either.

    With that in mind, I decided to try to find a mouthpiece that might help - I figured part of the issue might be with the round inner rim on my Schilke 14A4, so I did some online research, and decided to give Warburton a call. I spoke with Ken Titmus, who set me up with a 4SVW and a KT backbore, but to that end, I wanted to try a couple of backbores. The 7 didn't do much for me, but I like the KT backbore, but I kept the DKT and EKT, (each seating a bit further, in order KT, DKT, and EKT seating the furthest into the leadpipe, and going from playing tighter to more open) with the idea that I could dial in gap for whatever horn I might have at the time.

    To further try to help matters, I've always felt that slotting with the B6 is pretty slippery, so I wanted to try to add some weight here and there to see if that might help. To that end, I have a set of Curry heavy Hex Caps, but even one of them seemed to be a bit much, so I decided to go with just the brass shims and O-rings in valves 1&3. This helped things considerably, but I've always wondered what it might be like to put a brace on the tuning slide, so I ordered the removable tuning slide brace to see if it would dial in slotting a bit more.

    So here's where things get interesting. Adding the brace seemed to tighten the horn up a bit, so I've been messing with the shims, and different backbore. I'm heading into the gig tonight with the EKT backbore and no shims, which seems to be a nice combination. I'll post an update to let you know if it got me where I wanted to go.

    So, if you've gotten this far, here's the question: At what point do we stop fiddling with hardware and start simply dialing in our own playing to the gear?

    I know from past experience that enough time in the practice room can often times help - we'll micro adjust ourselves to the gear to find the maximum efficiency. But I'm also of the belief that even minor changes in hardware can make a difference. Even switching out backbores that internally are dimensionally the same but that have different gaps can make a mouthpiece feel and respond completely different.

    Just curious to see how you guys feel about it.
     
  2. jiarby

    jiarby Fortissimo User

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  3. richtom

    richtom Forte User

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    You might want to try Schilke's own heavier valve caps.
    As you (and I) have experienced, something simple can alter the way a horn plays, sometimes hardly noticeable, sometimes drastically.
    I have a friend who spent considerable time performing with Herseth. He said nothing seemed to ever phase Herseth -equipment wise - and whatever he played on came out perfectly. Too bad we all don't have that ability, eh?
    Personally, I have a tendency to over analyze what I hear and feel, yet as a GR dealer, I can listen to a player trying out various GR mouthpieces and hear the subtle differences and know what questions to ask the player. When (and if) they hit the right combo for their instrument, they can feel it.

    Rich T.
     
  4. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Jiarby, I think you may have missed the point I was trying to make. As an experienced player for over 25 years, I was never one to mess with it too much, but recently I'm finding that little things can make a fairly sizeable difference and make my job easier.

    Furthermore, I find it a very interesting possibility that the difference between a stuffy horn, and a good horn - a real player - might only be the difference of around 3/64ths of an inch in how your mouthpiece gaps in the receiver.

    So should you struggle to stay tuned up with a hardware setup that isn't tuned and efficient, or should you look into making some minor tweaks to see if they'll help, and at what point do you decide that the additional work in the practice room isn't paying the dividends they should be because your hardware is inefficient?
     
  5. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

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    what about physiological changes to your body? --- meaning of course, your getting older, and really are you improving your gear OR just finding tweaks that help in diminished capacity as we get older (skin, lips, muscle tissue, breath, energy, etc) ----
     
  6. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    KT, things have definitely changed, and I've correlated fluctuations in my weight to how my mouthpiece feels, but with the recent fiddling and tweaking I've been doing, those small changes result in instant and sometimes frantic changes to how things feel and respond. Again, it's anecdotal, but noticeable nonetheless.
     
  7. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Some of us never stop fiddling, but also never take risks because our practice procedures only make the changes tweaks instead of like weak players that do not have the strength to deal with small differences.

    I believe the biggest differences in bracing and weights is with how we hear ourselves. Weak players cave when the ears/brain does not get what it expects. Strong players have the focus of purpose to navigate changes. It takes a pretty serious hit to shake a strong player.

    A couple of weeks ago I had Firebird and Tchaikowsky 5. On the afternoon of the first concert, I had the leadpipe and bracing changed on my Bach 229CL. It was WAY different and the concert was still just fine. Right after the concert, I noted what I experienced and the horn went back to the tech for further changes. There is no special technique behind this except paying my daily dues for decades.
     
  8. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    That's a good point, that some players will cave if the equipment doesn't feel just right. I won't cave - I'll still be able to successfully navigate the gig, but it will feel different.

    The Schilke B6 is noted for being a bit slippery in slotting, and I think that's what I'm struggling with a little bit. It's not that I play poorly with it - I don't. However, I do miss more than I'd like, and part of these small tweaks are being done as a means to see if I can tighten the horn up a bit more before embarking on possibly getting a different trumpet. I've known of several people who went through a similar thing and ultimately wound up on a Schilke S42, which gave them the additional security they wanted. In any case, I did make some forward progress with a different mouthpiece, moving away from the Schilke 14A4 rim/cup I'd been using since 1997.
     
  9. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

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    Might I also mention that there is a mental-confidence thing with tweaking your equipment -- in that if uou "feel/think" the trumpet plays better you are more likely to believe the new confidence in your equipment change. Several years ago I tweaked my horn with the spacing on thd shank of my mpc and also by adding heavier bottom caps --- you know it was like 50% better sound, feel and such. BUT having a science background -- I recorded this new tweak in equipment as well as my normal setup (at that moment in time you could easily hear the improvement --- but a few weeks later listening to the same recordings - I really could NOT distinguish any significant differences --- I ditched the tweaks ---- one's mind can play tricks on them, Trickg
     
  10. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

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    Actually Patrick can you humor us and perhaps yourself and record with the tweaked equipment and with the standard equipment --- then listen a week or 2 later. Of course it would be ideal to do a Blind test -- where your wife, sons or a friend handed you the trumpet without you seeing the setup --- you probably could tell by feel --- but it would be interesting on the future playback to get "other" ears listening and see what their thoughts are about any differences in sound
     

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