Matching horns to the player

Discussion in 'Horns' started by trumpetpimp, May 4, 2004.

  1. trumpetpimp

    trumpetpimp Piano User

    Dec 6, 2003
    I've been thinking(a dangerous thing, I know)...

    I did the custom mouthpiece fitting with Brian Scriver from GR and have been very happy with the results. For those who are unfamiliar, after you discuss mouthpieces you have played in the past and what has or has not worked for you Brian hands you pieces with the direction to not look at the model numbers. You keep trying mouthpieces and he listens to you until you get dialed into the rim and cup that best matches you. Sometimes you'll be ripping screaming high in the stratosphere and he'll say, "That probably won't work for you after a long gig. I can hear the alpha angle will give you problems." Or you'll be playing with a big fat sound but struggling a little up high and he'll say "You're not getting enough support on your chops with that rim. Try this instead."

    Why doesn't anyone do this with horns? I mean, I know everyone goes into a music store and tries as many horns as possible but is there any dealer or manufacturer that has a specific system for selecting a horn that will best match a player? I could tell most mouthpieces that were working for me and which ones weren't but I wouldn't have picked the one that Brian suggested and I'm glad I took his advice.

    Has anyone had a similar experience in horn buying like going to the Schilke factory or something and tried all the combinations until they found a fit? Schilke, for that sake of argument, has about 50 combinations with regards to bore, weight, and bell. A music store may have as many trumpets but you won't get all the combinations. You'll probably only find a couple different types from a bunch of different companies. Allow me to explain...

    I can walk into the local music store and I know they have a heavy yellow brass ML Bb from B&S, Bach, Conn, and Schilke. One might be of higher quality but they're all built with very similar specs and sound concepts. I might not actually be best suited to heavy yellow brass ML trumpets. I might be better suited to light, reverse leadpipe, rose brass, L trumpet. Or maybe M bore fixed beryllium bells Schlikes. How many of those do you think they can stock? Those are only two options that stray slightly from the middle of the road.

    Wouldn't it be better to choose a brand with a good name and try all the different specs until you find a match? I've a funny feeling that picking a manufacturer might yield more success than playing a pile of horns at a music store.

    I hope I haven't rambled too much. Any thoughts or opinions? Am I way off track or am I on to something? Show me the error of my ways. :wink:
  2. dcstep

    dcstep Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    Interesting question.

    I can see the need to develop a questionaire along the lines of the GR mpc questionaire.

    Oops, gotta go, but I'll be thinking about this overnight. I can see lots of possibilities.

  3. Dr G

    Dr G Pianissimo User

    Nov 9, 2003
    While both the mouthpiece and the trumpet are [or at least can be] very highly engineered, the production costs [at least for professional instruments] is comparatively high [substantially higher than that of a mouthpiece].

    The potential for variation in trumpet design is both sophisticated as well as complex in that almost any change in structure, material, or assembly procedure can result in a substantial variation in playability.

    Choices are to buy a "production" horn or a "custom" horn, the difference being that the custom horn generally will be designed [either by the maker and/or the buyer] to meet a certain group of specifications. The compromises in design create the differences in the final instrument.

    The major characteristics of the instruments are generally known by the buyers and players will generally acquire the type of horn [the one that meets their criteria best] they desire.

    I suspect there are any number of folks who can [and for an appropriate price will] provide a horn that meets your requirements in exactly the same way as a mouthpiece manufacturer does.

    Only problem is that the expense to do this is substantial. Consider this to be somewhat like a motor vehicle. If you want to carry stuff, you buy a truck, if you want to go fast you buy a sports car, if you want to take your family, you buy a sedan, if you want to drive in the dirt you get a four wheel drive vehicle, etc., etc.

    If you want a truly custom vehicle, one that meets each and every of your unique requirements, be prepared to spend a lot of money [there are already cars that are not custom manufactured that cost in the half million dollar range] There is no limit to what you can spend.

    Same with trumpets [on a lesser scale of course] --- you can get anything you want if you are willing to pay for it.

    A simple adage from the motoring world ---"Speed costs money, how fast do you want to go?"

    There are a number of highly qualified people making professional grade instruments, There are also a number of people making customized versions [or customizing existing products] of almost any horn you can think of.

    The question is simply, are you willing to pay for the expense of doing it your way?

    If you are not you will spend a lot of time trying to compomise [which, by the way, can be almost as fun as playing itself]

    MUSICandCHARACTER Forte User

    Jan 31, 2004
    Newburgh, Indiana
    It is coming ... and soon.

    In the trombone world it has been around for a long time. For example, if you go to Shires or Edwards or Rath (UK) you try various components. You might try an 8" bell, 8 1/2" bell, thin brass, thicker copper. Different bores sizes and complete with interchangeable leadpipes.

    If you go to the Edwards or Shires factory, you make an appointment and often spend the entire day trying different things. Maybe you like two different bells -- so you get two bells sections, etc.

    This matches an extremely high quality horn with your personal tastes and abilities. Shires is already planning to make trumpets in the near future ... and Edwards will likely go to more of a custom shop.

    But this matching of custom horns comes with a price. A big price. A Shires or Edwards trombone will cost approximately double a Bach or Yamaha or Conn. 3 or 4 times more than a good "artist horn."

    Lets say you can buy most good horns for under $2000 or close to it (a Strad, an Olympus, a V1, close on a Schilke). Then a custom horn might cost $4000, maybe $5000 (if you doubled the cost of a Wild Thing for example).

    What is interesting to me is that they will have horns that play like a "Bach" or a "Conn" etc. Some are distinctly different of course. In some ways, in may not be much different than going to a good music store and playing 10 horns. But these horns are always hand made to your specs. Shires makes about 500 trombones a year. Steve Shires still spins every bell himself!

    Check out the Shires site: it has some fun stuff.

    I know many pros who play custom trombones from Shires, Edwards and Rath. I also know many who play Bachs, Conns, Getzens, etc. The custom horn has its place ... but so does the "factory" horn.

    It is coming. Start saving your money and begging your spouse.

  5. Dr G

    Dr G Pianissimo User

    Nov 9, 2003
    Very true, but the physics of a trombone are much simpler than that of a trumpet. The problem arises from the harmonics of the horn/valve combination which can wreak havoc with an otherwise fine instrument. Indicator is that some notes are a little "off" in the scale and adjustments have to be made either by the 1 or 3 slide or the lips.

    Nothwithstanding this issue [and many others], I suspect that there are [or soon will be] on the market trumpets that, through extensive artistry and/or science will or already have pretty much conquered this problem or at least reduced it to an acceptable level.

    Whether the "adjustable" qualities will be part of the horn itself or designed in by the purchaser is beyond me, but I anticipate someone marketing a trumpet line with not only the variations described in the trombone world, but some that will be unique to the trumpet.

    Who knows, they might even be able to make one for me that I can afford.
  6. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE

    If I remember rightly Smith-Watkins encourages you to have a 'personal fitting' with Richard Smith if you want to buy one of their trumpets so that they can match the player to the horn. You're right though it comes at a price!!


  7. trumpetpimp

    trumpetpimp Piano User

    Dec 6, 2003
    I'm not talking about custom. It's easy to call up a manufacturer and get something made you your specs. I know people like Eclpise and Lawler can do things like that. You're right, that takes money.

    I'm talking about finding out what works best for you. I didn't know that I needed a sharp rim and a reasonably deep cup before I went to GR. I didn't know that I was completely wasting my time on my 14a4a because I put too much chop in the cup(too much support) and that my 13D4 and 16C4(both Yamaha) didn't give me enough support on my chops. I learned that through trying a couple dozen mouthpieces with a dealer who is trained to hear and recognize what's going to work and what's going to cause problems. I could have had custom mouthpieces made but I wouldn't have know what to ask for.

    If I tried every Conn V1 combination I can be pretty sure I'd find a horn that worked great for me. Same thing with Schilke or Kanstul. Maybe even Yamaha or Bach. Finding the right specs that work well for you(bore size, lead pipe taper, bascially these all relate to resistance) doesn't take money, it takes selection.

    I want to know if I could be a more effiecient player by finding a horn that matches me better. I've already become more efficient with my new mothpiece. I don't bottom out and I have way less "no-speaks". Can this happen with a horn?

    It's easy to shell out money to a custom horn maker but I you don't know what to ask for you could very well get a fantastic horn that hardly matches you at all. Here's what I mean:

    Some lead players play medium bore horns and some play large bore. If you asked a player that prefers a large bore to play a medium bore they probably wouldn't find it easy, they're find it stuffy. Same this for the other guy. He'd probably have a devil of a time filling up the large bore. Both players could be fantastaic lead players but you'd likely screw up their phrasing and range on poorly matched horns. Both could be probably play into the stratosphere and sound as big as a house but if you made them switch horns they'd probably be pretty uncomfortable on a gig.

    Does that make any more sense? It's not about getting a horn made to certain specs, it's about finding out what specs you want. My stock GR feels like it's custom made because it matches be very well. Why don't we treat trumpets the same way?
  8. Dr G

    Dr G Pianissimo User

    Nov 9, 2003
    It may be that I do not understand what you are asking. If you want someone to tell you what kind of trumpet to play, there are thousands who will do that -- some for free and some for varying amounts of money.

    As you are [or at least should be] aware that playing a trumpet is not the easiest thing in the world, you should consider the advice of someone who has more experience and/or ability to understand more precisely what the unique requirements you might have for a horn. I suspect that it is probably more difficult to design a proper horn than it is to play one as well as to determine exactly what you might need [or want] in a horn.

    It may well be that you have confused precision and accuracy. Just because a particular horn [or mouthpiece] might be labeled as having certain measurements, that does not mean that it will perform exactly like one made by someone else to the same specifications. Both make the horn to the same precisse dimensions, and perhaps even use the same materials and prodecures, [this is precision] but the horns will play a little bit different [this is an accuracy issue].

    Precision costs money. Consider the suggestions that mouthpieces made by some of the companies are reputed to vary substantially in characteristics. A precision issue.

    Consider also that someone can consistently [and very precisely] make a mouthpiece that does not work for you.

    If you believe all mouthpieces [even to some extent those made by the most modern and precise equipment] labeled the same are exactly the same, rethink your position. All mechanical things have some accuracy tolerance. Currently they are working with .0001" ranges and, in some areas closer, but there is still some variance.

    What the best folks do is design their products so that these variances either do not affect the product or they provide a way to make appropriate adjustments.

    Seems to me you prefer that someone else should tell you what horn to buy.

    If so, spend the time to find someone you feel you can trust. Pay them whatever it takes to get their opinion, and then follow it to the letter.

    Get an expert to do this. In my field an expert is someone from out of town.
  9. ScreaminTrumpet

    ScreaminTrumpet New Friend

    Feb 25, 2004
    Lubbock, TX

    I completely agree with you. I think if there were a shop that had every trumpet imaginable to test out it would be great. To have a trained professional sit in and listen and hear the nuances of your sound that are hard to hear from behind the bell would be great. That way you would be able to increase the number of factors besides what "feels" good. I know that Edwards does something like this. I've seen pictures of their demo room. WOW! One day I will have my Gen III......oh well.

    Also, where did you try the GR mouthpieces and who was there giving you MP advice? Was it the GR shop or a dealer. I would love to know!
  10. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    What you guys are saying only reinforces the argument in fanvor of finding a shop that stocks horns and where you can try a multitude before you select rather than going "for cheap" and dealing with mail-order. Yes, I know that mail-order houses "usually" have trial periods. But let's face it, by the time you pay for shipping back and forth, by the time you "deal with" the fact that you can only try maybe two or three horns "at the same time", well you might as well just pack up and take a trip to visit somewhere that HAS a lot of stock for play testing. It will likely cost you a little more... stores with a lot of inventory generally have higher overhead and that has to be covered. But is it worth it TO YOU to pay the extra?

    TANSTAFL again. "There Ain't No Such Thing As Free Lunch". aka "You get what you pay for".

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