What influences the timbre of the trumpet the most?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Kujo20, Jan 27, 2011.

  1. bumblebee

    bumblebee Fortissimo User

    Jan 21, 2010
    Great Southern Land
    This is a difficult one for me, but something I found quite interesting to look into a little while ago -- I have four trumpets (Destino, Strad 43G, Olds Recording, B&H Lafleur) and they all sound different, but not in the way I might have thought by reading their specs.

    The Strad 43G is a medium weight horn I would say and is medium bright.
    The Lafleur is slightly lighter in weight but sounds "deader" (I hesitate to say "darker").
    The Old Recording is perhaps slightly heavier than the Strad 43G but feels "harder" (hammered bell?) and is both darker and brighter depending on how I push it.
    The Destino III is the lightest horn I have and is by far richer in tone than all the others.

    The Strad has two braces near the tuning slide, the Recording has one, the Destino III has none - so that doesn't explain it. Neither does weight. The Strad, the Destino and the Olds bells seem quite similar, the Lafleur's flare is slower, more like a Wild Thing - so maybe something in that (though nobody would say the Wild Thing has a "dead" sound I would venture)? The Strad and Olds have hammered bells I think, and the Destino has an annealed bell so far as I know. Changing mouthpieces brings out some interesting differences -- using a shallower piece my tone on the Strad doesn't alter much, nor on the Olds, but on the Destino it gets noticeably "harder".

    So I think unless you can hold all of the things which can vary in your horn constant and change just one of them you won't really get an idea how much a particular feature affects the overall timbre of the horn. :-?

  2. turtlejimmy

    turtlejimmy Utimate User

    Jun 6, 2010
    I don't think player or mouthpiece was part of the question.:dontknow:

    Every trumpet has natural tendencies towards dark/bright, etc. Weight, material, bell size, leadpipe, and just about every other detail effect sound. Brass instrument designers have a better idea. Good luck figuring it out from the answers you're getting on this thread.:lol:

  3. Dave Mickley

    Dave Mickley Forte User

    Nov 11, 2005
    I'm just an old man with no knowledge but I look at this question kind of like who is going to win a drag race. is it the guy with a set of headers, the guy with a decent rear-end with p-trac, the guy with a better carb or the guy that gets a jump off the line. In my own opinion it is the guy with the best balanced set up, not one thing makes a car fast just like one thing doesn't give your horn a dark sound.
  4. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    The myth that a heavy horn sounds dark and a light horn sounds bright needs to
    die once and for all. Its just not that simple.

    In general, heavy horns project better than light horns, so more of the sound goes out the bell rather than back to the player. Unless you are playing in a very lively room or listening to a recording you cannot know how bright or dark a heavy horn truly is.

    The brightest horn I have ever played without question is the Gravity prototype horn that Jason Harrelson built. It was by far the heaviest horn I have ever seen and the sound I got out of it was incredibly bright, almost to the point of being annoying.
    Harrelson Trumpets

    So, lets drop the heavy=dark myth, shall we?
  5. Kujo20

    Kujo20 Forte User

    Sep 29, 2010
    I have heard directly from Taylor, Harrelson and a few other horn makers that heavy walled horns cut down on the vibrations of the horn, lessening vibrations/overtones of the horn, therefore dampening the sound of the horn. Thinner metal=more vibrations="brighter sound"...thicker metal (heavier horn)=less vibrations=dampened/darker sound.
    Also if I am not mistaken, in a video that Jason Harrelson does on his Gravity, he calls it a "very dark sounding horn".
    Am I completely wrong? I'm not saying that this is a set in stone thing, but it sure seems to be "proven"....
    Thanks for all the posts!
  6. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN

    I think you misunderstood what Jason said.

    Yes, the heavy horns he builds using a lot of brass cut down on the vibrations of the horn itself.

    The extra brass does NOT dampen the sound coming out of the horn, in fact , it does the exact opposite, it increases the amplittude of the sound coming out of the horn and also produces a fuller set of overtones.

    When a trumpet is played, you do not hear the horn itself vibrating, you hear the air vibrating due to the standing wave set up within the instrument. Efficient horns like Jason's are built so that the standing wave is able to excite vibrate more of the air in fornt of the bell rather than causing the horn itself to vibrate.

    Check out some articles on trumpet physics that explain these concepts in greater detail.

    Trumpet Physics

  7. Kujo20

    Kujo20 Forte User

    Sep 29, 2010
    Hey Everybody,
    I'm not trying to start a thread within a thread or a post war about heavy=dark/light=bright..., I'm just trying to find some answers!
    I understand what you were saying about Jason's horns and the efficiency thing, the place I got my info was Taylor's website....http://www.taylortrumpets.com/frameset.html...under the heading "What's the Advantage"
    This leads one to believe that heavy horns (more material or thickness), two piece bells, heat treatments, sheet bracing...etc...I tend to listen to what Andy says, seeing as he is a master trumpet maker and everything that he's ever made for me has been truly top-notch!
    This is what I'm trying to nail down....what do all you find true and not true (regarding the original post)
    Thanks for all the responses!
  8. hahkeystah

    hahkeystah Piano User

    Jan 12, 2011
    Charlottesville, VA
    true or false? true. lol to all of it. does weight effect sound? true. material? true. embechoure? true. bracing, annealing/hammering, true. all of that stuff. HOW it effects sound is up for debate, and i think a lot of it is mainly just variables that effect the sound differently for each person. I notice that silver plating makes jumping partials more difficult, vis less responsive. others disagree. despite what any manufacturer says, or any "expert", each horn sounds different per person. i don't believe that adding a brace, for example, is going to have the same effect on anyone. its all about finding that "perfect" combination for YOU
    Kujo20 likes this.
  9. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    OK, I read what you referenced at: Taylor Trumpets.

    Taylor does not use the words 'dark' or 'dampen' when he describes his heavy horns.
    He talks about "The result is a more rounded, fuller tone. " - not darker.
    Darker implies cutting out high frequency overtones, such as a cornet is darker than a trumpet and a flugelhorn is darker than a cornet.

    The heavyweights do NOT cut out high frequencies, they boost the overtones throughout the spectrum.

    Also, I would not say reading Taylor's website is the same as hearing directly from him.

    I've spent hours discussing trumpet physics with Jason Harrelson in his shop and countless hours working on modifying "heavy" design trumpets in my own shop, so I'll say again, adding brass does NOT dampen the high frequency content of the
    instrument's sound.

  10. Kujo20

    Kujo20 Forte User

    Sep 29, 2010
    What does everybody have to say about: The material used (bell and leadpipe), bell size/bell flare, bore size, position of valves....etc....?
    Thanks for the replies! Robert, Bumblebee, Turtle: I found what you had to say pretty interesting!

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