Should we always take the easy option?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Sethoflagos, Jan 15, 2014.

  1. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Special horns are played for as many reasons as anything else is done. Harrelsons and Monettes customers are not only cream of the crop. First and foremost they are players with enough coin. Then they can additionally relate to what the designers have done. Out of that group we have a statistical balance of players at the top, middle and bottom. Yes, mediocre players also invest seriously!

    As far as the perfect trumpet being non-playable - most definitely not. A trumpet is a musical instrument that uses the laws of physics to its advantage. It is not a technical masterpiece that ignores playability.

    In fact, a horn flare can be perfected for a specific goal. In the case of a trumpet, it is not even there to amplify. It is there to change the acoustic length of the horn dependent on frequency. Buzz on 9 feet of 1/2" tubing without a bell and check out how out of tune the octaves are......

    It is possible to increase the "slotting" or Q of the resonant system. Then it becomes difficult to play in tune. It is possible to increase the throat reactance of the horn, then the player suffocates because their exhale cannot get rid of the air in "human" intervals.

    Nope, the perfect trumpet is something not created by aerospace engineers with no ears. It is created by an artist with engineering saavy. Google Richard Smith from Smith-Watkins cornet/trumpet fame. His technical knowledge did not get in the way of his designs!
     
  2. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

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    This is a very good example. I never heard the term 'slotting' (in TM sense) when I was younger but what I understand from what I've read here is that many players prefer a tight-slotting instrument with 'acceptable' tone and intonation to reduce the frequency of missed notes. But this is at the cost of the (potentially!) 'truer' intonation and less distorted partials in the tone mix of a wide slotting instrument.

    Looks to be a straight tradeoff of playability against absolute musicality, or have I got it wrong again?
     
  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Coming into this a bit late, but I have a few thoughts about customized horns and how they apply to the player.

    Rowuk brings up a good point about various aspects of a horn being close to perfected, such as the bell flare, or a horn's abilty to slot. For the pro player, these are enhancements that work to their advantage because they are good enough to know the difference and actually use those enhancements to be even better at their craft, and they are willing to pay for it because their livelihood depends upon their ability to be at their best as a musician.

    These enhancements may or may not help someone like me. I consider myself a serious hobbiest as a player - there was a time where playing trumpet was a large part of my day-to-day life, but it isn't any longer. I still gig and make money doing it though, so I want a good horn, but I don't feel like I'd be able to really take advantage of what a specialized custom instrument would have to offer, although in a way I kind of already play a specialized instrument in my Schilke B6 - this was a horn that was specifically selected due to it's brilliance, cut, and relative ease to play when it comes to the kind of music I play. However, it's still mostly an off the shelf production trumpet (mine has a Reeves valve alignment) so it doesn't carry the premium price tag of a custom instrument.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that dollar for dollar, there are diminishing returns for some people when it comes to spending the extra dough on a custom instrument. I won't do it - the benefit of a horn like that will be lost on me for my ability level, and paying more and obtaining a horn like that won't help me to be any better than I already am.

    I know a guy at work who spends some serious money on guitars, which is kind of funny because it seems like he's in a cycle of acquisition and selling due to the insistence of his spouse, and he's constantly losing money on it. He just loves getting custom, high end electric guitars with exotic features like 200+ year old wood bodies, genuine Brazillian rosewood fingerboards, custom wound pickups, and often built by boutique shops, so they are constantly one-off, high end instruments - top of the line. He's enough of a player that he can even tell the difference too, but here's the kicker - he doesn't gig. At all. He spends thousands of dollars on guitars and doesn't get a single cent of payoff other than the intrinsic reward he gets when he plays an instrument of that level of refinement. By constrast, there is a guy known as Phil X (Phil Xenidis - currently touring with Bon Jovi in place of Richie Sambora) who has in his stable of guitars a lowly ESP LTD Viper - this thing runs about $500 new. He had a single custom pickup installed, but otherwise, it's a plain guitar - it doesn't even have a nice finish - he didn't like the color so he put stickers all over it. That guitar has gone on a number of tours and is on all kinds of albums where he used it in a session. Once again we come down to the fundamental question: is it the player, or the instrument?
     
  4. Ed Kennedy

    Ed Kennedy Forte User

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    How about a deeper piece with the 3 rim?
     
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  5. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

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    This is very true. My primary Bb was a Carol Brass 658 before I bought my Harrelson Summit.
    I bought the 658 for $400 plus a Getzen Ren. I bought well and traded on it.

    The Harrelson Summit I got for $500 plus my Bravura in trade.

    So, it cost me about $3100 MORE to be able to play the Summit.

    Is it worth it? Well, to me, yes. Some may say I'm nuts, especially since (a) I'm not a full time pro and (b) I was pretty pleased with the CB 658.

    It really does cost a lot to get that last bit of performance out of an instrument. And things are relative too.

    Let's use a car analogy for a moment. Today you can buy a Chevy Malibu with a turbo 4 for around $28000 that will do that 1/4 mile in 14.8 seconds.
    That was very fast just a few years ago. In fact that's faster than most Corvettes made in the late 70's and early 80's. So one could argue that
    a Malibu is all the performance car one could ever want and that buying a new Corvette is a waste of money.

    A new Corvette is in the $55,000 price range and will run the 1/4 in 12.0 seconds. That is seriously fast. Is it worth the extra $27000 to own a 'Vette?
    I guess it's a matter of affordability and discernment.

    If you've got the $ and the cajones to drive one at the limits where you can tell the difference then more power to you.

    I've played some nice horns one might consider "normal". Most recently a couple of Edwards. They are nice and well worth the asking price.

    But, I need the all advantages I can get. I need the "horsepower" of the Summit as I don't have hours to spend everyday perfecting my skills.

    Greg
     
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    I take most comments about trumpet characteristics with a grain of salt. Many of the preferences are compensation for lack of specific skills. The quantity of players here that use things like slotting as an artistic tool is "limited". The same goes for "free blowing".

    This is not to say that compensation is bad business........ I just consider the value of an instrument to be much more. If one characteristic "sticks out" It is like cooking with too much salt. The meal remains edible- but.....

    Funny enough, trumpets considered stuffy by some are just fine for others. What is the difference? The player of course. Obviously we also have a large following for a "hardware" silver bullet. The manner in which amateur players here make a big deal is simply not present in the professional world. It isn't the gun, it is he/she who pulls the trigger.

    When I go trumpet shopping with my students, I look for the ability to phrase. Air supply and demand are very big on my list of necessities. Tone and intonation are next. I can't ever remember slotting being an issue.

    Regardless, technically a trumpet can be built to be more or less efficient. That has nothing to do with quality. I consider the Xeno to be one of those extremely efficient horns. Yamaha defined a new palette of colors when that model came out - and got a real blast from the traditionalists. in the mean time they have gotten over it and we see those horns in many interesting places.

    I personally look for complementary colors to my current collection of instruments. None of my horns give me breathing or intonation issues in spite of vastly differing efficiencies and colors.
     
  7. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

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    I truly appreciate all you have posted above. Until a year ago, I would have totally taken the pledge, "when it comes to spending the extra dough on a custom instrument. I won't do it"... Then that darned rep from Harrelson came through Dayton in his traveling band. I hesitantly tried the SWE Summit and was totally blown away. Up to that point, I would passionately profess it is the performer, not the horn. But then there is this thing called the SWE. While it didn't make me a better player, it made it easier to play. I am bearing down quickly on the age of 60, and I just don't want to work that hard. This horn does make a difference. I can work with minimal effort and get the same result. Never had this happen before. I wrestled with the idea... is it worth the cost? Well I really really considered this question and in about 5 minutes, I came to the revelation that it was. I am seriously only 3 years away from full retirement at the University, at which point, I decided I will be going full time as a musician. Ok, I'll see a patient here and there, but I will only do so at my convenience, so I can keep a schedule to travel with my Quintet, which we are doing more and more.

    So Patrick, there may still be a time in your life where you may consider to make a similar leap in you life. Just be grateful that there ARE horns that are really quite affordable that does make life easier, but I agree, will not make me the better musician. Traveling with the Quintet will take care of that task.
     
  8. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

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    Maybe in Germany, but not on this side of the pond.
    Two crème de la crème players in America are certainly gearheads, Manny Laureano and Arturo Sandoval.
     
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    I kind of already did - I started using a Schilke B6 in place of a Bach Strad, LB/25 bell. The Strad had become a beast to play in a rock band setting, and by comparison the Schilke just naturally had the right sound and blow. The gig got immensely easier once I got the B6.

    Rowuk, regarding horns being stuffy for some and not for others, I have believed for quite some time that is a product related to the mouthpiece and how it fits in the horn more than the player - the gap, especially on Strads, is hugely important. One day I'm going to spring to have all of my mouthpieces converted to Reeves Sleeves.

    Don't get me wrong - equipment can certainly help, but it's not going to make the difference for someone who isn't already a solid player. I once did an Easter gig with a kid who had all kinds of neat stuff - a whole pouch full of custom mouthpieces, an Anniversary model Bach Strad with all the gold plated parts, and over breakfast he was telling me about all these other horns he had - this C trumpet, and that pic, etc, etc, etc. He had a really nice gig bag and accessory bag with every neat horn related thing you could want - mutes, stands....

    By contrast, I rolled in with my beater Strad (in its stock beater case) that I'd been playing for over a decade with a single mouthpiece, a couple of basic mutes, and a single Hamilton trumpet stand I'd inherited from my sister in 1986. The trumpet definitely had some battle scars - it was missing plating all over the place from being used and sweated on all over on Army parade fields, once it had gotten sat on, bending the bell, and I'd even dropped it on the bell once, putting a nice crease in it that had to be rolled out.

    As this kid and I were chatting over breakfast and he was enthusiastically telling me about all of this great gear I had a really mean thought - I thought to myself that he'd be better served selling off all of that gear and putting his money toward something more worthwhile that he could actually use. To put it mildly, he had some playing issues, but he desperately wanted to be a part of all things trumpet. Keep in mind, I'm certainly not the world's most wonderful trumpet player, so who am I to crush his dreams, right? I kept my mouth shut, played my parts, collected my check, and called it a day.

    But bringing this back around to the subject at hand, this kid definitely had better gear than me - it was his usage of that gear that needed to be refined, not the gear itself.
     
  10. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Patrick,
    I think stuffy has more to do with what and how we hear than with physical factors. Take your best horn and play it in a nice church hall - nice and resonant, easy to play. Now go outdoors on a not too humid day and play into a wide open space - stuffy! The reason is that we do not hear ourselves as well. Interestingly enough, horns with lightweight bells and little bracing seem to light up easier but they do not seem to have the breadth of sound and power that heavier horns do. My take: we need more than one horn if we play in various acoustical spaces.
     

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