Quality of Brass...

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by crowmadic, Sep 18, 2007.

  1. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Crow,
    by the time the instrument builder has beaten the brass into shape, it has been annealed and tempered several times and NONE of its original resonant properties. I have built a couple of instruments and can attest to the craftsmanship being the deciding factor, not the material.
    Wood is a much different situation as it is a natural product with a grain structure and broad range of mass that influences the resonance. We would have to tap on chipboard to compare to alloys. Sterling silver is also sometimes used and has a different mass for a given wall thickness. The temper properties are also a bit different than brass.

    Stch: imperfect was the wrong word (that is my problem with bilinguality, sometimes the wrong word looks great!). IMPURE is what I meant in comparison to gold or silver where purity is a $$$factor$$$! Sorry

    The master will select one of the few alloys suitable for his instrument - more for cosmetics than sound. Schilke even called a certain brass alloy beryllium. It was possible to make the bell extremely thin with that material. Thin=lower mass= different sound depending on the temper.

    I am sure that somebody will eventually come up with a plastic that doesn't sound bad - and a ton of technobabble to support the idea that it is the greatest thing since the invention of the valve.

    Schilke did some interesting experiments with lead, steel and glass. There is some material on the internet at the Schilke Loyalist.

    I sell large IBM servers to medium and large businesses. The trumpet is just something that has posessed me my whole life. I am greatful to make a living from and be able to talk about other things!

    Cymbals are in fact cast and then spun. I visited the Zildjian factory. Pretty amazing stuff!
     
  2. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

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    My apologies, but your posts would sometimes benefit from a more simple form of writing, without all the wordiness. Just a little constructive criticism.....and I'll say no more.
     
  3. godchaser

    godchaser Banned

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    'I sell large IBM servers to medium and large businesses. The trumpet is just something that has posessed me my whole life.'

    Ah.. i thought you were degreed in engineering as well Robin. To yur'credit obviously. I asked in forethought of your tech. talk on the mouthpiece. I was wondering whether you'd be able to appreciate talking with John Lynch, and translate for us? In line of setting aside the 'technobabble'. :)


    On point Mr. Proctor; i'll take you at your word, but i can't do much about the way i talk. -If anyone can answer these questions i'd be grateful.

    If we mixed a batch of brass, gold, copper, and silver together; and with less admixture for greater purity -would it be worth the time and expense? Would it enhance sound by comparison of a (single) and (less pure) metal -not a 'mix', but just a brass, and its admixture? Obviously its not practical, given the added expense, but would the trumpet go better as'a result? It's interesting to consider; particularly if there's ever been any formal and lasting testing done, and what was learned?

    I don't think it's moot discussion in that its impractical? It may well be that builders just don't think its worth the effort because there's little difference in sound? Or have had ample opportunity to even try- given the expense? And if there is reference of this kind of experimentation, was it more than a sample testing or was it more involved? If it's worthwhile, the costs would have to come down once they, (a builder(s), got a process hooked up? I guess how much it would come down, and how much more is that number compared to what's going out the door already, is the thinking? Not whether there's benefit?

    Maybe this amounts to the apparent and timely conditions that nurtured the woods that Antonio was fortunate enough to build his Strads? Or not.. maybe that's all a lot of voodoo?

    I guess it'd be worth it to venture?


    C
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2007
  4. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

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    Uhhh, ok. Here is a link with some technical information about brass alloys you might like to read: The Hendrix Group - Corrosion of brass an brass alloys

    Word on the street was that Yamaha, for all their technical finesse and perfection, used a brass "inferior" to that of Bach, resulting in an instrument that didn't sound and didn't carry "quite right." Voodoo? I dunno! Malone did some pretty amazing things to Yamaha bells (to put it nicely) so it may well be that the famed "crystalline structure" might very well play more of a role than actual percentage of copper and zinc. German instrument makers would heat up parts to 200 degrees Celsius to relax the brass (something I tried once in Germany using my wife's oven, but solder melts at at around 200, and so I had some explaining to do to my local Blechblasinstrumentenmachermeister--and my wife!).
     
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Chris,
    ANY research is useful, if conducted in a scientific manner so that the results are reproducable.
    There has been a great deal of experimentation in materials and manufacturing techniques. Other than sterling silver, copper and bronze I know of no successful alternatives (but many attempts). We keep coming back to standard brass because we have so many possibilities to make IT do what we want. As I said, temper, bracing, material thickness and malleability are the most relevant factors.
    Sometimes we get to a point where we have to accept that the craftsmans hammer is the most important factor. No one has figured out what Stradivarius did to make his instruments better. There is speculation that the wood was exceptional, his laquer magic all the way to a certain fungus that gave the instrument "magical" properties. My opinion is that everything was probably involved - AND exceptional players broke the instruments in, further improving the synergies. The same is true with the trumpet. The product is a result of the synergies - not any one or two specific factors.
    Crows original post about a magic brass alloy is indeed interesting. Maybe we have it already?
     
  6. godchaser

    godchaser Banned

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    Thanks for the site Vulgano. You got some more? :)

    'There has been a great deal of experimentation in materials and manufacturing techniques.'

    Can you point me to that Robin?

    'Other than sterling silver, copper and bronze I know of no successful alternatives (but many attempts).'

    Plastic does seem like a good idea i guess, but i dunno- Doesn't sound like something i'd want to play. And i don't mean to burden the topic, i won't say more :) -but a mix of all the metals in one melting-pot is something i'd be very interested. My logic being more is better. Not that i'd argue we don't have the 'magic brass alloy' already. Nonetheless, if we add up the brass, gold, copper, plus silver, all mixed together- and say Abracadabra three times.. did we get some more of that good stuff, or just some bubblin' bubbles in'a pot?

    -As well, my thinking is coming from all these metals being used on one horn as it is- given a particular build strategy. A copper bell, silver leadpipe, brass slides, and gold plating. So to take that a step further into the artistry of trumpet building.. man i envy builders ..instead of a base metal of just, copper, silver or gold, to be used for particular parts of the horn, they'd use a mix of all of'em in differing percentages and admixture combos, for particular parts of the horn / particular build?

    Sounds like madness i know, but is that literally adding more of the same quality these metals represent already, to the sound of the horn? I'd sure love to find out if somebody's done this, or similar, and what happened? Seems a reasonable route despite it all, given there's genuine compliment there in the synergy that you speak of Robin?

    And again, i don't feel that it's moot topic given the added expense? If it'd work, there'd be'a win/win market for it?


    C
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2007
  7. NYTC

    NYTC Forte User

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    Chris,please read what Robin had to say:

    "by the time the instrument builder has beaten the brass into shape, it has been annealed and tempered several times and NONE of its original resonant properties"

    AND

    "The master will select one of the few alloys suitable for his instrument - more for cosmetics than sound"

    AND

    "There has been a great deal of experimentation in materials and manufacturing techniques. Other than sterling silver, copper and bronze I know of no successful alternatives (but many attempts). We keep coming back to standard brass because we have so many possibilities to make IT do what we want. As I said, temper, bracing, material thickness and malleability are the most relevant factors."



    The first statement should more than answer your question.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2007
  8. Billy B

    Billy B Pianissimo User

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    According to my repairman there is a large discrepancy in the alloys used in instruments. Selmer saxophones are notorious and he claims the favored instruments are made of a much softer alloy. I have an early 80's Bach Strad that is very soft compared to other Bachs. So soft I have to be careful not to cross thread the valve caps.
     
  9. stchasking

    stchasking Forte User

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    I can't believe you mentioned saxaphones on this thread.
     
  10. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    BillyB,
    the hardness and softness are made by annealing or tempering the metal. That is done by heating the brass and cooling it quickly or very slowly. The material is the same. This is what I am trying to explain. Brass is the chameleon of metals. We have so many possibilities to work it and optimise it. It is handwork, not chemistry!
    Many people (even technicians!) do not always realise how many possibilities that we have!
     

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