Friday, December 7, 2012

If You Can Play Trumpet, You Can Play Flugelhorn

If you can play trumpet, you can also play flugelhorn. It is in the key of Bb just like the trumpet. The tubing is the same length, it is just shaped a little different. There is a reason it is shaped like it is. There are only a few inches of cylindrical tubing before it goes into the larger conical section. You cannot easily put the valve section in the part of the tubing that that is conical. Because of this, the leadpipe (called a shank on the flugelhorn) goes straight into the valve section. As soon as the tubing comes out of the valve section, it gets larger. The large amount of conical tubing gives the flugelhorn its very deep, dark sound that it is known for. It is also harder to put a tuning slide in the tapered section, so on most flubelhorns, the shank can be pulled out or pushed in to tune it. (Bach and maybe a few other manufacterers put the tuning slide in the conical section.)

Another difference is the mouthpiece. It is a lot like a cornet mouthpiece, but it has a deeper cup; also to give it a darker sound. Most manufacterers notate the flugelhorn mouthpiece with a "FL" after the number. For example 3C-FL.

Flugelhorns are usually used in jazz, gospel, and studio music, but they can also be used in other situations.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"The Mystery of the Wandering Trumpet 2nd Valve Slide"

Recently, I tested a trumpet after repairing a valve problem. The second valve slide was very loose and it vibrated as I played. Then I noticed something that I had never seen before even having tested thousands of trumpets. When I played the low F#, the slide rattled its way out. Then, after playing a little more, on the low B, the slide worked its way back into place. This was so odd that I had to make a video of it.

After contemplating the phenomena, I figured out the forces at work. When you play a trumpet, or any other wind instrument, there are high pressures and low pressures at various points in the instrument. These places change with the frequency of the note that is being played. So in my case, it happened to be that on the low F#, the point of high pressure was at the 2nd valve slide, and on the low B, the low pressure point was there. (Along the same lines; if you play a trumpet with the water key open, most of the notes sound very airy and bad, but a few are not affected at all.)

P.S. As interesting as I found the wandering slide, I did tighten it before I gave it back to the customer. They likely would not have found it very interesting if their slide fell out during a performance.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Brass and Woodwind Repair Video Series #2 "Why Won't My Baritone Play?"

Recently, a Yamaha baritone came into my shop with a problem that I see quite often. There is a simple fix so I decided to make a video of the repair. This is a repair that you can safely do yourself if you use a little common sense and care to not destroy anything.

It usually goes like this: a customer comes into the shop and says, "I oiled my valves and now my baritone won't play." I immediately know what the problem is. The valve guide was rotated 90 degrees unbeknownst to the customer. Now, when the valve goes in, the flow of air meets the solid side of a valve and not the open port. The effect on the player is puffy cheeks, bug eyes and no sound.

Sometimes the customer knows what the problem is and says, "My valve guide keeps getting rotated and I need to fix it repeatedly." The same simple fix is applied to keep the problem from recurring.

The Fix: you just need to make sure that the valve-to-valve-stem threading is screwed on tighter than the finger-button-to-valve-stem threading. This way, when the finger button is turned, the valve guide is not loosened and allowed to rotate.      

If there are any repairs that you want to see me put on YouTube, make a suggestion and I will consider it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Brass And Woodwind Repair Video Series #1: Stuck 3rd Trumpet Tuning Slide

In the past several months, I have put a few videos on YouTube about brass and woodwind repairs. One of them shows how to pull the third slide extension on a Bach Stradivarius trumpet. I wanted to put a video of this on YouTube for a while because it is one of the few repairs that most Strad owners can do without damaging it. (And it is an interesting repair that is fun to watch.) The problem was, I did not own a Bach Strad. As soon as I get one in my shop, it is sold. Anyway, a while later, a good-natured customer came into my shop and wanted this very repair. I asked the customer if I could take a video in exchange for a free repair. He gladly agreed and was so interested that he wanted to watch the repair. After the filming was done, he insisted on paying me anyway. We both won. I got the video that I was hoping to get, and he was fascinated and thoroughly enjoyed watching the repair.

Fast forward a few months. The video has been on YouTube and there have been several hundred views with a handful of very positive comments. Then, someone gave a review, saying that you should never do your own repairs and you will destroy your trumpet. A few months later, there was another comment saying about the same thing. I was quite surprised that this caused any controversy. In a way, I found it a little humorous that a tuning slide would do that.

My concerned viewers did have a point. You always do need to use care when doing any brass or woodwind repair. This set my mind to thinking. I got an idea. I could do a series of videos that contain experiments on how much an instrument can take before bad things start to happen. This would hopefully help people know what not to do to their instruments. I have some ideas for experiments that I hope to try in the near future. I will try this and see where it leads.