Question for Alex

Discussion in 'Horns' started by Ash, Feb 18, 2004.

  1. Ash

    Ash Pianissimo User

    Jan 18, 2004
    I was wondering where you learned to design musical instruments? I see on the zachary music site, the zeus line includes everything from saxes to trombones. And you handmake guitars! After reading the reviews of the G/O trumpets, I know they're quality instruments, and certainly designed by a knowledgable player. Do you play all these instruments? Is there a collaboration between you and other designers? Thanks for the answers!

    Take care,

    PS, Where does one go to learn instrument repair? Is it all apprenticips (spelling!)?

    MUSICandCHARACTER Forte User

    Jan 31, 2004
    Newburgh, Indiana

    I know you directed this question at Alex. But I can help with one part of the question. To learn more about instrument repair see . They have information on repair schools, apprenticeships, and some very good general information on instrument repair.

  3. Zachary Music

    Zachary Music New Friend

    Nov 10, 2003
    Good question Ash.

    I began by studying classical piano at the age of 6. Took lessons seriously for about 6 years, then I discovered the guitar and the trumpet at the same time at the age of 14. I picked them up very quickly and realized that if you have a piano background any instrument will come much easier. I took trumpet right through high school. I was in all the school bands. In the late 70s I had received a brand new Olds Special trumpet before the company went out of business I guess. I remember it was nickel-plated.

    I went through university, took a lot of music courses, got my degree but always knew that I would rather work with my hands and also be involved with instruments. I was always good with making things and I can’t stop making things to this day. In 89 I went to Budapest Hungary where I met two young guys one was a woodwind repair tech and the other was a brass tech. The woodwind guy worked out of is home and the brass guy was employed at the best brass shop in town. In Eastern Europe at the time they had to make their own pads and brass replacement parts. These guys were good out of necessity. I thought this was so cool that I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I apprenticed with them working in their shops every day. My vacation turned into a serious thing and I stayed and worked there for several months. When I came back I also went through the woodwind and brass repair school at Red Wing College in Minnesota. After this I apprenticed again with an old guy at a major music store repair shop in MN.

    I then came back to Canada and started my own business repairing instruments full time. A few years later I started buying used instruments, overhauling them and the selling them. I then acquired some quality lines of new instruments to sell as well. Throughout this time I also started building electric guitars as a separate business. That’s a whole other topic of discussion. My guitar designs are totally original and innovative. There is nothing like it on the market. My customers say I make the best electric guitars.

    About 7 years ago I realized that what I really want to do is start my own wind instrument line. I wanted to have full control of my products. This is very important to me. I wasn’t totally happy with any instrument or its position in the market and knew that I could do better if I invented unique products and marketed them myself. This was the birth of ZeuS. The first ZeuS instrument was the ZCL 250 student clarinet. I discovered this instrument by a European maker and thought it was exceptional. I was selling Yamaha at the time and this less expensive clarinet played much better and had a bigger sound than the Yamaha at a much lower price. It had all the characteristics of a ZeuS, so I got rid of my other clarinets and started selling the ZeuS clarinet and it’s still the best student clarinet on the market.

    Soon many other ZeuS instruments followed, basically by me knowing and researching exceptional existing instruments and their manufacturers. I had to modify some of them and their appointments, making them into ZeuS products. Some I only modified in a minor way by giving them better cases and mouthpieces and some I had to design from scratch. I always work closely with the manufacturer. I basically want to create some very cool products that I am excited about myself. They have to be different and they have to be a better value.

    Then the ZeuS Guarnerius trumpet came along. It was immediately a hit. I did not design any of this trumpet because it’s obviously based on a Bach. I did dream up the concept of offerings a “better†Bach for much less money and also making it much more exciting. I was following the specification of my old Bach trumpet. The Olympus on the other hand was my design and it was made from scratch. I knew what I wanted exactly in terms of tone, feel and playability. Every aspect of it was thought out carefully. Its unique in many ways. It is alive. I wanted the whole instrument to vibrate like a tuning fork when you hit the bell with your fingers. I wanted it to have a unique balance which made it feel like a light trumpet. I knew the important position it would fill in the market and I knew that a trumpet like this was very much needed at an affordable price, so that it would be accessible to everyone. Its just a very exciting instrument to play. Both the Guarnerius and the Olympus have their own distinct positions in the market.

    Sometimes I ask the manufacturer to be the creative one and have them come up with something really exciting and unique for me. This is what is happening currently with the development of the ZeuS piccolo. They know me well enough to know what I want and create something special for my needs.

    In Europe repair techs are also instrument makers, they are also trained to design and make every part of an instrument from scratch, so I picked up a lot from there. I also visited many manufacturers and know all the processes that go into making instruments. I visited everything from bassoon and oboe factories, many brass manufacturers, clarinet makers and many guitar companies. I also know instruments well enough from repairing thousands of them. Yes I play all woodwinds and all brass, some better than others. You have to if you want to repair them. Trumpet is my main wind instrument. I had made custom modifications, custom leadpipes, conversions from Bb to C, custom slides, removable trombone leadpipes, etc. In Europe I learned some of the fine points of instrument design. For example I witnessed how if you move a certain brace on a French horn over just slightly you will destroy the instrument.

    Where do you go to learn how to repair instruments? Not too many places unfortunately. There are a couple of schools like Red Wing, but they are not enough and are very expensive. The best way is to apprentice with someone who really knows their stuff. This is hard to get into as well. There is no formal apprenticeship but there should be. In Europe there is but not in NA.

    The newest thing I have designed is the new ZeuS Trumpet and Cornet cases. They are now available with all Olympus trumpets and are designed to withstand considerable abuse and protect the instrument inside. The whole case is made of a block of foam with no wood or plastic frame. On the inside there is a different type of foam. I specified the use of this special foam, which is used in the camping industry as tent sleeping pads. The case will also be available for sale separately. This instrument was specifically designed to hold a big bell trumpet like the Olympus but also holds any other trumpet. The matching cornet case was specifically designed to hold a short model cornet perfectly.

    The new 1000 series ZeuS saxophones are also coming in April. I designed these with double key arms extra reinforcement braces and a big bell. They will also come in a very unique finish as well.

  4. Ash

    Ash Pianissimo User

    Jan 18, 2004
    Thanks! Do you have timeframe of when the picc will come out?
  5. Reverend

    Reverend Pianissimo User

    Nov 9, 2003
    Greater Houston area
    Just when you think you know the person...

    I know you had already informed me of some of the above Alex, but it is nice to see the additional details!

    Sure wish I had the time to learn the repair business! Maybe...someday...


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