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.