Instrument Review: ‘JP by Taylor’ Trumpet

I have featured many of the John Packer Bb Trumpets in a previous article, my conclusions at the end of that showing the student and intermediate ranges to be fantastic value for money and packed full of lots of interesting pro features. The company have collaborated over the past few years with a number of custom UK manufacturers (Rath, Sterling, Smith-Watkins among them) to provide low cost, mass-produced instruments but with a real custom style and feel.

The latest among these collaborations is the John Packer ‘JP by Taylor’, designed in conjunction with Taylor Trumpets and featuring a handmade leadpipe by Andy Taylor. The brief in the design here was to create a jazz-inspired trumpet with a big sound, and importantly at a mid-range price. In the UK this is £1200, in the USA you can pick one up for under $1600.

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I was sent an instrument to test drive for a few days. Mine was in a clear lacquer finish, but it is also available in silver plate and satin lacquer (as pictured). First impression out of the box (a nice quality JP Pro Double case) is that this is a Taylor trumpet. Nice styling and accents, a thick-walled Taylor-designed leadpipe, heavy bell, heavy trim… It looks good! It has a .460″ medium large bore, single radius tuning slide, and a fairly tame bell flair, not too dissimilar to the standard model pro trumpets that we are most accustomed to.

Initially I found the blow nice and free, with some lovely dark tonal characteristics that you would expect from a heavier horn, particularly through the middle register and at softer dynamics. Once I got used to playing it for a few minutes, I realised that I could actually back off the air a lot more than I am used to, and as a result obtained a great brightness to the sound that really took me by surprise. The heavy Taylor leadpipe gives a real core and solidity to the sound, as does the heavy bell. The rounded, single-radius tuning slide however helps to balance this out by giving a freer response and a little more brightness that allows you to blend in a section.

Slotting and intonation across the range are good, and I have to say, it was a load of fun to play. Backing off the air, you can get a nice clear articulation with a blossoming bright sound, and some nice added zing up top for players that are ‘that way’ inclined! Pushing the air a little more in the middle register gives you a darker smoky sound that I have never found before in a horn anywhere near this price bracket. Close inspection of the mechanics of the valves and slides is the only way to tell that this is not a handmade custom horn at 3 times the price. But if you look after and maintain the valves well, there is no reason why this horn can’t stay reliable and in great blowing shape for many, many years.

This is a lovely, smooth-blowing horn, built for a ‘jazz’ sound that also gives you the flexibility to play it in any number of settings. And did I mention the price?! I challenge anyone to show me a horn for £1200 ($1600) that gives you as much as this.

For further details on this trumpet visit John Packer Musical Instruments

For a review of the other Bb trumpets in the John Packer range, click here.

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Northern Brass: Mouthpiece Review

Lee Adams from his custom shop in Atlanta, as well as the Jerome Callet trumpets and Flugels, exclusively offers the Northern Brass Mouthpieces by GR at Callet.com.  The brief on these designs was to create a range of mouthpieces that can help to give a really solid upper register while at the same time solving some of the problems that are often inherent with these types.

Many ‘lead’ style mouthpieces while helping the upper register to slot and to give a feeling of solidity, achieve this at the expense of sound quality across the lower and middle registers. I was very interested to find out how the Northern Brass mouthpieces might be different and to try a few for myself…NB Mouthpieces logoI generally play on a .660 inner diameter (3C-ish) mouthpiece for most things, so Lee has sent me a few different models to try, all approximately that size so that I can acclimatise to them quicker. There are 2 different rim shapes: The #3 is what we would describe as a ‘standard’ width, slightly rounded and with quite a gentle inner bite. The #4 has a slightly wider, semi-flat rim also with a pretty gentle bite.

For each of these 2 rims, I also have 2 cup depths to try, a *** which is a shallow cup and a **** which is medium shallow. All models have the GR #1 backbore which is focused and flexible.

I started off with the medium shallow cup and the more standard rim: 3-66****. This is nearest in specification to what I am generally used to, and I normally find it most helpful when getting into a new range to start off with a good point of reference.

First of all, I was struck by the clarity and depth of sound through the middle register as I played some long tones and simple flexibilities to get acclimatised. That focus, and core of sound actually got richer as I moved up the registers too. Articulation was easy across the range and this immediately felt like a comfortable blow.

From here I moved onto the medium shallow cup with the slightly wider semi-flat rim: 4-66****. The slightly wider contact area on the chops gives a massive feeling of comfort and the placement of the high point on this model makes it feel like a slightly smaller mouthpiece than the 3-66****. This initially felt odd to me but after playing for a while and allowing my chops to adjust, found that as my ease of flexibility and core of sound increased, my effort levels decreased. The perfect combination! If I had been trying a stack of mouthpieces in a trumpet shop, I probably would have skipped right over this rim shape after the first note. However, I was really glad that for the purposes of this review I persevered for longer. It was definitely worth it.

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Next up are the shallower cup models, first of all sticking with the #4 rim: 4-66***. This mouthpiece makes me nervous! I have never really got on with the shallower mouthpieces that I have tried to play, often finding that I am bottoming out very easily and losing far too much sound quality than I would be happy with. On first inspection, this does not look any different. I was again surprised when I began to play. The sound was immediately brighter than the **** cups that I had just been playing, but the solidity of sound through the registers remained. Sizzle in the high register was easy, but not at the total expense of core sound quality. Also, the shape of the rim and inner bite still allow for that comfortable feel that you do not always get on these more specialised upper register mouthpieces.

Finally, I tried the 3-66***: This also has the shallow cup, but with the slightly more rounded rim. The thing that immediately strikes me about this model is ‘volume’! Brightness, tonal core, flexibility and articulation are all easy, but the efficiency is incredible. Yes, the upper register sizzles as you would want from this kind of mouthpiece, but the volume and projection were just so easy.

These mouthpieces are all available in .630, .640, .650 and .660 inner diameters, and there is also now a slightly deeper cup available too. Looking at the range as a whole, you have to say that Northern Brass in collaboration with GR have really achieved their goal in creating high efficiency mouthpieces that fill a gap in the market – mouthpieces that are designed to give you the solidity in the upper register while at the same time allowing you to keep your core sound, flexibility and articulation. Exceptional!
NB Mouthpieces logoThe Northern Brass mouthpieces are available to purchase at www.callet.com

You can also get further information from the GR website here

 

Trumpet Artist Profile: Vince DiMartino

Vince DiMartino is sought after as both a trumpet performer and educator. His vast wealth of performance experience includes lead and solo work with the Lionel Hampton Band, Chuck Mangione Band and Clark Terry Band. Vince has appeared as soloist with top orchestras and bands throughout the USA and also has numerous solo recording projects. He has played an important part for the International Trumpet Guild over the years, and is a regular teacher, clinician and artist at specialist seminars and courses around the world.

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Through Vince’s relationship with Pickett Brass, I was delighted to be able to put a few questions to him:

What drew you to the trumpet as a child?

I really was interested in drums but they said they had enough so I tried trumpet! I liked it and stuck with it.

Did you have any particular early musical influences or heroes?

Yes! I met Louis Armstrong in my first year of playing. He talked to me and was so nice to me. I also met Maynard Ferguson the same night!  My neighbor was a bass player and told me to get a few records-Miles Davis, Maynard, Rafael Mendez and Billy Butterfield. Lucky me!

Career highlights to date?

So many…but I try to love every day, concert, rehearsal or practicing. I must say there is nothing like playing with my son Gabriel. I love Greece and my friends, Australia and my friends there, Asia….etc. Every place in the world especially home is great!

As a leading educator and clinician, have you found that your approach to playing and teaching the trumpet has changed over the years? How and why?!

Of course! My attention to the basics of producing a consistent sound are always in my mind. My teaching has become more simple. Every school of trumpet thought eventually reaches that same conclusion.

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As a top performer, are there any particular routines that you follow to keep yourself in good shape for performance?

I try to keep my fundamentals higher than what is required to play most works.

How do keep on top of your trumpet playing while you are travelling?

Keep doing what you do every day the same as best you can. Try to play three times a day. I usually do that at home too.

Can you tell us a little about the current relationships that you have with manufacturers? What was the process like, working with Pickett Brass on new mouthpieces?

We are lucky to have so many wonderful industry people! I know most of them by name, product and reputation. I have been fortunate to have worked pretty closely with many of them.

As far as working with Peter Pickett and Eric Murine, it is wonderful! They have helped me develop a set of mouthpieces for all my trumpets, cornets and flugelhorn. I am lucky to live close to Lexington and can visit frequently. Peter is always willing to listen to me about my “ideas”. He lets me try some things and then we go on, working together hand in hand. I always feel like I am part of the process. As a result, I have felt that many of the things we have to do with a trumpet are more confident and feel good. Eric is a fine player too and usually comes very close to picking what I need to start with. Great team work from all sides.

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Pickett Brass offer a huge range of trumpet mouthpieces – their experience in trumpet playing and manufacturing gives a broad range that is immaculately designed and produced. As well as Vince, they have an incredible roster of artists including Allen Vizzutti, Rex Richardson, Doc Severinsen and Jens Lindemann. Visit their website to find out more.

Thompson Music stock a great range of Pickett Brass mouthpieces – you can click here to view the full range.

The Vince DiMartino Signature mouthpieces are all available here

Vince is also a Shires Performing Artist: You can view these trumpets here

Instrument Review: John Packer Bb Trumpets

John Packer Musical Instruments have been making brass and woodwind instruments for the educational market in the UK for a number of years now. With the range expanding to include upgrade instruments and with the JP brand gaining market share in many more countries, now seems like a good time to take a look at some of the Bb trumpets that are currently on offer.

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JP 051 Bb Trumpet

JP 051: This is the entry level Bb instrument from the John Packer range and on the face of it, looks like any of the other similar cheaper instruments coming out of Chinese factories. Yellow brass bell, red brass leadpipe, adjustable 3rd valve slide ring… However, looks can be deceiving, this is NOT the same as the countless other options on the market. The blow is really even across the range, and it is incredibly easy to make a very satisfying trumpet sound with minimal effort. The mouthpiece (a 7C equivalent as you would expect) is actually usable, comfortable and doesn’t slice your lip! The valves (certainly on the model that I had the chance to inspect) were completely flawless straight out of the box.

And wait for it… the price. It retails for less than £150 in the UK and is generally available for less than $250 in the USA. As a teacher, I have always encouraged students to try to get hold of a student Yamaha trumpet, and where family finances are tight and with Yamaha prices sky-rocketing, I have been tending to recommend good rental schemes. The JP 051 has been a popular model with music services and schools for a number of years, and now I can see why. This is by far the best and most reliable trumpet that I have encountered at this price point.

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JP 251SW Bb Trumpet

JP 251SWS: The model numbers for JP instruments are straightforward to work out. The first digit places it in the range, with ‘0’ at entry level and ‘3’ at the top of their intermediate ranges. This model sits in the JP upgrade range and is packed full of great features. It has a Bach-style valve block with 1st valve hook and fixed 3rd slide ring, double braced tuning slide and 123mm yellow brass, medium weight bell. This is one of several models that have been designed in collaboration with and approved by Richard Smith of Smith-Watkins instruments, and also has some nice aesthetic features that you would associate with a custom build trumpet: Nice decorative finger buttons and straight bell bracing including one right on the bell bow. This bracing is a feature on all of the JP models from 151 to 351.

A very common problem with upgrade instruments is that they are designed to take more air from an advancing player, however the quality of the materials and the lack of care in design and assembly often leads to an overly bright sound and a lack of centre. I am pleased to say that this is not the case with the JP251SW!  It can take a LOT of air, has a nice even blow across the range and has a brightness to the sound without becoming thin at the top. I had estimated the cost at around $1000 after reviewing it, and was amazed to discover that these sell from only $700 in the US and £400 in the UK!

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JP 351SW LT Bb Trumpet

JP 351SWLT: This horn is at the upper end of the JP intermediate range (as the ‘3’ prefix suggests), has large bore (11.73mm) valve section) and Smith-Watkins designed reverse leadpipe. It has a nice medium-heavyweight valve trim, and the look of a commercial trumpet. This LT model has a 123mm lightweight bell though, which gives a nice combination of ‘zing’ with some depth to the sound too. It has the open feel that you would expect from a large bore, reverse leadpipe instrument, however the cleverly-placed bracing (right on the bell bow as with the 251 model) helps to keep a great tonal core.

The price is a pleasant surprise too! From less than £800 in the UK, around $1400 in the US, you get a lot of trumpet for your money.

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JP 351SW HW Bb Trumpet

JP 351SWHW: This is a medium-large bore (11.65mm), heavyweight bell model, with stylish heavy valve trim and Smith-Watkins designed leadpipe. The leadpipe is a double-braced standard configuration, and it features the same straight bell bracing as the other 251 and 351 models.

I was immediately struck by the darkness of the sound. This is a remarkably responsive horn considering its weight, and creates a rich, dark sound that is easy to control across the range. Intonation is very good along with really nice harmonic slotting. The 351SWHW is the horn that I wanted to carry on playing after I had finished putting it through its paces for the review! The price is similar to the lightweight version and really does offer you a really interesting horn for the money.

John Packer

Looking at the range as a whole, I have never seen so many pro features and interesting characteristics put into a range of ‘student-priced’ instruments. Not reviewed here, but hopefully to come soon is the JP by Taylor trumpet, a collaboration with custom trumpet-maker Andy Taylor. Obviously, if you are looking for a custom-built top of the range horn, that is exactly what you should be buying. If you are looking for some great custom-horn features on a nice-blowing, incredible value instrument, then look no further than John Packer Musical Instruments!

17th April 2018 UPDATE: You can now read my review of the JP by Taylor Trumpet by clicking here.

Freddie Gavita: Interview & Instrument Review

Freddie Gavita is a young trumpet player at the top of his game. The trumpet category winner at the 2017 British Jazz Awards is receiving critical acclaim for his debut album ‘Transient’ as well universal admiration for his stunning playing with the Ronnie Scott’s Club Quintet alongside many other projects.

I have caught up with him here to find out a little more about him, and also his new role as an Adams Performing Artist and his work with Adams and Fultone Brass to settle on a new Adams A4 Bb Trumpet. I have also had the opportunity to get hold of a couple of different A4 models from Fultone Brass to include a review of this trumpet range below.

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Freddie, can you tell me a little about your musical background and what led you to play the trumpet? Any particular influences?

So I was brought up in Norwich, and started learning the trumpet in primary school aged 7. Back then you got free lessons and a free instrument, and I was lucky to have a teacher in David Amis who had a great knowledge of the physical side of brass playing, a deep love of all styles of jazz (even free!) and was an excellent communicator. I would put a large part of my career down to him, he was my only teacher from 7 – 18 years old. My mum was quite proactive as well, so she bought me a Louis Armstrong cassette which I really took to, and still love his music. My dad was the one that encouraged me to practice until I actually started enjoying practicing!

What trumpet and mouthpieces do you use?

I play a Monette B6 mouthpiece that I bought from eBay when I was 17, and an Adams A4 Custom Series ML with Gold Brass bell.

How did you find the process selecting your new horn? Can you describe the process?

So I was lucky enough to go on the Blue Note Cruise from Miami with the Ronnie Scott’s Quintet and Natalie Williams, and there were about 40 of the greatest jazz musicians on the planet on this boat! I met a great trumpeter called Keyon Harrold who works with Gregory Porter and has just released a brilliant new album of his own, he was playing an A4. As soon as I tried one I knew I wanted to delve deeper as I’d been looking for something like this for years. For me it’s about excitement, which might be dangerous, but I want to feel inspired when I pick up a trumpet and the Adams does this for me! I tried a few other models (A4 LT, A8 etc) with Neil Fulton at Fultone Brass, play testing the horns in the BBC Maida Vale studios! He had a good listen up close and far off, we recorded a few bits so I could hear what it’s like from the other side and then took it away to try it on some gigs, which is the main test any horn has to pass!

I have obviously played a lot of other people’s instruments on gigs, but this had the characteristics I’d always wanted. I can play acoustic gigs with a rhythm section and still not feel like I’m having to over blow to be heard, the slots are wide so you can bend notes and get sounds and tones from the trumpet that you never knew existed. It plays beautifully at a whisper and you can get a big, thick sound from it when you open it up. The valves are amazing as well!

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Your album ‘Transient’ has had a great reception from critics and musicians alike. Was it a difficult process getting this album together?

Thanks! It was difficult in one sense, that I’ve not done it all myself before. It does mean you have more control over what happens, who you use and where you record etc, the music was the least of my worries in a way! I also crowdfunded the album, which was very encouraging; not having to worry too much about the financial side of it does help you relax a little and think about the playing side of things more. We recorded 13 tracks in one day (10 made it onto the record) which for a trumpeter is probably a little silly, I’m happy with the results but I’d definitely do two days next time.

How do you find striking that balance between working on and progressing your own projects, and working with other bands and artists?

I think you have to be strong in your practice more than anything. Fortunately, I’m not much of a lead player, so I can focus on more jazz orientated practice which keeps me in good enough shape to play most of the gigs I do without being too knackered! I should probably do more reading practice as that’s one thing that I feel I’ve neglected a little over the last few years, but I’m ok! Having your own band and project gives you a stronger sense of the way you want to play and sound, so I guess when I have to sound like other trumpet players for different situations I’m trying to access a place where it’s still me, but bringing out their influence in my playing. I’d love to do more with my band, as its where I feel happiest and most at home, but it’s hard getting promoters to take you on playing original music sometimes.

Any top tips or preferred materials for technique preservation etc.?

I try to take at least one day off a week! I’ve fallen in love with the Cichowicz flow studies again recently and I regularly use material from Flexus (Laurie Frink) and Gerard Presencer’s book. I try to practise in my head as much as possible (often singing in my head and moving my fingers), so my mind is ready for the trumpet when I play. Especially when improvising, it really helps to have a clarity of idea in your head before you try to play it on the horn! I always feel the benefit when I get the chance to warm down as well, even if it’s just a few pedal notes. I love the Vizzutti Response and Rejuvenation exercise from New Concepts for this.

Do you have any advice for young aspiring players?

I would encourage any young trumpeters or musicians in general to go out and see as much live music as they can! Whatever style, hearing the best people play gives you such inspiration and a better idea of what you might want to sound like. I fully believe that you make the sound on the instrument that you hear in our mind, and the better the sounds you’ve listened to closely, the better the sound you’ll make!

Mouthpiece Online review of the Adams A4 Trumpet range:

The A4 is one of the most popular in the Adams range. Developed in conjunction with Amik Guerra, it is one of their heavier models with a heavy bronze and nickel silver valve block and a heavy 140mm bell. I had two popular options to try – The first, Adams’ Selected Series with the most popular option of a large bore (12mm) valve section and a 0.45 gauge gold brass bell. The second model is a custom instrument, similar to the standard Selected Series, but with a lighter 0.40 gauge yellow brass bell.

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My first impression is that these are fabulously designed and constructed instruments. Nothing has been left to chance, and every curve and nuance in the design is there for a technical purpose… and it looks pretty smart too!

I started by blowing the Selected Series gold brass bell model, which I would describe as a real nice combination of silky and solid. The large bore valve section gives you a lovely open feel through the middle of the horn, which is balanced out well with the responsive leadpipe and the larger bell. The harmonics still slot really naturally, yet you are not held back from creating the richness of sound that players want from this style of heavyweight trumpet.

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The custom model with the yellow brass bell gave me a similar feel. You can continue to make that rich, dark sound at softer dynamics, yet you get a little more sizzle to the sound when you open in the higher registers particularly.

Customisable options on this model include ML (11.7mm) or L bore (12mm), 4 different gauges of bell and 4 different bell materials. It is easy to see why this model has become such a popular one in the Adams range as it offers the remarkable feature of versatility alongside the tonal characteristics that one would expect from a heavier instrument.

To find out more about Freddie Gavita, please visit www.freddiegavita.com

To find out more about Adams Trumpets, please visit www.fultonebrass.co.uk

US readers, please visit Thompson Music for further information on Adams.

 

Frate Precision: Interview and Mouthpiece Review

Established in 2006, Frate Precision is the brainchild of trumpet graduate and expert metal-worker Dario Frate. From the facility in Lombardy, Italy they offer a broad range of mouthpieces that are growing in recognition and popularity around the world.Frate PrecisionDario has kindly shared some of his thoughts and experiences with me below, followed by a review from Jaime Tyser of Thompson Music, who has been playing these mouthpieces for a couple of years now.

Dario, how (and why!) did you get started with this? Can you tell us a little about your background?

HOW…

In 2004 I attended the Musikmesse in Germany where I saw numerous exhibitors, but I had the feeling that something in brass mouthpieces was missing.

Therefore I decided to try to create a new Italian mouthpiece dedicated to professional players.

When I was younger I graduated in trumpet studying with the trumpet players of the orchestra of Scala di Milano. Later I worked for 20 years in a big factory as a specialized programmer and expert metalworker on CNC machines – so I put together my knowledge of this along with my experience as a trumpet player!

WHY…

Working in mechanics is cold, but when through mechanics you can produce something that allows a musician to make art, it becomes the best job in the world. The mechanics are then at the service of the art.

I find it really gratifying to help other musicians.

The trumpet (like other brass instruments) is a special instrument – there is no external part that generates the sound, we are the sound producer so the trumpet becomes part of our body!

Frate PrecisionWhat were your priorities when setting out to put together a range of mouthpieces? What did you want to do differently to other manufacturers?

The market is already full of good mouthpieces and there is only space for something new if it is offering something different. The priority for me was the richness and fluidity of the sound. A mouthpiece that vibrates in an easier way thanks to its high quality materials and improved geometric shape. The result is a very different sound and response from our range of mouthpieces.

Before starting my company, I hadn’t worked for any other brass manufacturers so my products are not copies of mouthpieces that already exist.

Have there been any challenges that you have faced along the way?

Since starting in 2006 I have faced several challenges along the way, most importantly with myself!

It is a real challenge at the age of 40 to quit your job, design and make a new product, and start attending the international fairs… in another new language!

I know. You have to be a little crazy. I followed my heart and my passion as a trumpet player rather than reason!

What new developments are you currently working on?

At this moment I am improving the Classic model for trumpet with an another shank length – the medium length shank. It is another alternative option for C trumpet.

The standard length of our classic model is 87.5mm. The new medium length of the classic is 80mm and will be available in all combinations of cup, rim and throat. There are a number of backbores available for this model and it will be available in both classic and multigap.

In addition to this, there is also the short trumpet shank (74.5mm) that is really good for Eb and Piccolo – perfect intonation in all registers.

Jaime Tyser of Thompson Music, Nebraska USA has been using Frate Precision for a while now and has shared her thoughts with us:

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My first contact with the Frate Precision mouthpieces was a few years ago when I was playing the 2nd book for the touring broadway ELF. The lead player on tour with them handed me a mouthpiece and said I should check it out! I took it to a church gig and played on it and I remember thinking, ‘wow! This thing has such a great sound!’ However, it was much too big of a diameter for me to get a really good feel for it.

I put it in the back of my mind for a while but it was in the fall of 2014 that I decided to order an experimental group for Thompson Music. There were a couple of reasons for this, it always stuck out in my mind as a product that had potential and I was searching for something a little better to play the 5th onstage part of Mahler 2 for. I ordered a size that fit me, and after a week of playing it I was completely hooked on it. While playing the Mahler, it allowed me to match the other players in sound color, while making it easier for me to move around from supportive lower notes to a few unison high ones. It was very easy to articulate cleanly as well which is so important!

The Frate Precision mouthpieces are very customizable as far as diameter, depth, rim contour, throat, and backbore. It is very possible to find the perfect match for you. The color of sound is very wonderful, I feel that it is a Bach type of sound, but with a lot more character and liveliness to it. The intonation is extremely good, when I play soft the response is still immediate and centered, and when I play loud the sound and pitch does not distort.

In the summer of 2015 I went to Traona, Italy to meet Dario Frate and see where he makes mouthpieces. (And let’s be honest, just to have an excuse to go to Italy). He is an extremely skilled machinist, each mouthpiece is able to be replicated perfectly each time and the designs of the backbores and other characteristics have been carefully thought out.

As I listen to more and more people in the store play these mouthpieces, I see them sell quickly and I hear the difference immediately. The Italian love for quality, a beautiful tone color, and captivating music is the foundation of these mouthpieces. I now own my first whole set of mouthpieces – trumpet, piccolo, flugel, and cornet – and I have loved each one from the day I got it! I am constantly happy with the ease of playability, pitch center, sound quality, dynamic capabilities, articulations, all of it!
– Jaime 3MS, 3, 106 – multi gap

For further information about Frate Precision, please visit:

Frate Precision website

Thompson Music website

Instrument Review: New Bach B-flat Trumpet Models

The past few years has seen a number of new Bb models enter the Vincent Bach catalogue. Below is a summary…

LT1901B Commercial

LT weight #1 bell with French bead 5” bell, standard weight 2-piece valve section with bronze upper, custom #43 pipe.

This model was a long time in coming. After much experimentation, the #1 bell (so numbered because it is believed to be the first bell design that Vincent Bach drew) was used in lightweight bronze. One of the biggest features is the 2-piece lightweight valve section with a bronze upper, that really adds a lot of brightness to the sound, particularly when you ‘give it one’! The custom #43 leadpipe has a later taper than the standard #25, but opens out quickly through a nice open-feeling tuning slide section. It is available in both ML and L bore.

Lightness of response, dark tone in mid-register and mid to low dynamics, contrasting with real zip and zing for higher register work make this a real Marmite trumpet. For US readers, Marmite is a disgusting, sticky brown product that a vast number of sick people like to spread on their bread – it is not possible to be indifferent to it, you love it or you hate it!

For the record, I really enjoyed playing this horn. I have spoken to some players who have described this model as like playing on a Yamaha LA only without the good intonation! I do not agree. The LT1901B is an individual instrument with some wonderful characteristics that I have not found in other horns.

LR19043B Mariachi

Bronze 5” #43 bell with flat bell wire, lightweight 2-piece valve block with nickel upper, LR25 pipe

This custom model for the incredible Jose Hernandez was Bach’s first real success in putting an instrument together for the more commercially minded. Great jazz and commercial players over the years have played and loved their Strads, but there had never been an option for that natural brightness in an instrument.

What I like about this model is it still feels like a Bach. This may sound like a stupid point to make, but it has that natural bite and depth to the attack that makes Bach trumpets different. For a primarily legit player like myself, it feels very comfortable with a natural soft and dark sound, but then opens up as you go through the gears. In the right hands, this trumpet sounds spectacular! My colleagues in the UK and many around the world will already be familiar with Simon Gardner, who uses this model to great effect for warm jazz as well as spectacular full-bodied lead playing.

R180ML37/43 London

Standard weight 1-piece body, LR25 pipe, gold trim, yellow or gold brass bell.

This has been available and popular as a special order for a number of years, especially in the UK. It is basically a reverse leadpipe 180 model, but mounted on a standard rather than a lightweight valve section. This has now been launched for the UK market as a standard model with added gold bling and a price tag to match! It is now just available as special order if you want it to look like a ‘normal’ trumpet!

I was working with Conn-Selmer at the time of its launch in 2015 and had the opportunity to blow on a dozen of these models, mainly 37s but also a couple of 43s. They give a combination of the slightly more open feel of the reverse leadpipe with the solidity of tonal core that you get from a standard leadpipe configuration. I had always been intrigued to try this model as I was always unsure how much genuine difference in feel the reverse leadpipe on a 180 Bach actually made. I always put down the difference in response more to the lighter weight valve section that it was mounted on.

What I found was that this model does actually have its own distinct feel and sound and holds its own within the Bach catalogue. Bach marketing material tells us that it is designed with the brass band heritage and style of many top UK orchestral trumpet players in mind. I am not sure that I completely buy this, but it does certainly give a richer core to the sound. One point to note is that out of the many instruments that I tried, there was a huge variation between them all. We all know that the Bach bell-making process deliberately allows for some variation from instrument to instrument, and we are advised to try a selection before making our minds up. The variation between these London models was even greater however, so I would definitely recommend visiting a stockist who is able to keep a good range in store.

I believe that for most US players, this model would still be a special order – contact Thompson Music for further information.

19037 50th Anniversary Model

Side seam, round steel bell wire, 2-piece valve block.

This is a natural progression from what Bach have learnt from the design of the Artisan range a few years back. Looking to the past to develop something new is not something that happens too often in this industry, but is something at which Bach excels.

The spec above tells you what is different about this model from the 18037 so I will not rehash it here. There is even more natural resonance than the standard 180, and a more focussed tonal core. There is a fraction more weight in the hand compared to the 18037 which adds to the richness of natural sound and also improved slots. I initially found this disconcerting as I am accustomed to having plenty of room to bend notes in tune, particularly the top of the stave E, Eb, D which are generally very flat. The tuning is slightly better on this model, so having that room to manoeuvre was not necessary!

An interesting point that I learnt from a Bach insider is that they save production costs on the Strad 180 models in silver plate by actually using brass outers to the slides instead of the nickel silver which you can clearly see on the lacquered models. The silver plate hides it, so we can’t tell! I have had assurances that there is none of this cost-cutting on the 190 Anniversary Model!!!

19043 (52nd Anniversary Model!!!)

Side seam, round steel bell wire, 2-piece valve block

This is a model that I have not yet been able to get hold of to assess, so I have been kindly helped out by my friends at Thompson Music! Please see Mike’s video tour of both the 190-37 and 43 below.

A.R. Resonance: Interview and Mouthpiece Review

A.R. Resonance is a maker of custom trumpets and mouthpieces from Italy. Antonio (Tony) Rapacciuolo creates instantly recognizable works of art, and is gaining a great reputation amongst trumpeters ‘in-the-know’, including Marquis Hill and Scott Tinkler. I only became aware of A.R. Resonance in the past 12 months from colleagues who had sought Tony’s advice, been out to visit him and come home with mouthpieces made of buffalo horn! I had to find out more…

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Tony has been kind enough to answer my questions to share with you, and I have also reviewed some ‘standard’ (brass!) AR Resonance mouthpieces.

For review, I thought the best starting point was to get Tony to treat me as he would one of his clients…

Before sending 2 mouthpieces, I gave him a run down on what I play at the moment, and why. He then put together some suggestions from his range that would have a similar feel but would also address the niggles that I had with my existing setup. I tend to use 2 mouthpieces on the B flat. A 3C style mouthpiece with a slightly opened out throat (around 26) for most playing, with another identical rimmed version with a shallower cup and tighter throat for occasions when I need something brighter.

The 2x top and backbore combinations that I have been sent are:

-MC (3C-ish) top, 10 (open) backbore, both with a 40 throat (around a 21 in US sizing)

-MD (3D-ish) top, 6 (medium) backbore, both with a 40 throat.

I was immediately struck by the comfort of the M rim. I tried the MC-40-10 first and found it very easy to get the depth of sound immediately without any big adjustments. I was skeptical and a little worried before trying them as I had been reading that Tony favoured much more open throats to his mouthpieces than I have been accustomed. However this was not the uncontrollable beast that I had been expecting! Slotting was still good, while also give giving enough ‘room’ within the partials for good intonation.

I tried the MD-40-6 next and found a lovely open feel to the mouthpiece, yet still retaining a level of resistance and back pressure that I really like. Flexibility on this was exceptional, and the more that I played it I found that my sound was growing too. Even though this is a shallower mouthpiece to my standard 3C, it was matching it for sound quality easily while still giving a quick response and a level and ease of brightness that I like at stronger dynamics.

I also swapped the tops/backbores around to find that each of the 4 combinations had really interesting and unique characteristics. I would strongly recommend trying some of these mouthpieces if you get an opportunity!

Tony then answered my questions below, and a lot of what I found when I was trying these mouthpieces started to make sense!…

How (and why!) did you get started with all of this?

I started out of desperation! I bought a VERY expensive trumpet and I asked the maker to build a mouthpiece according to my specs because I totally knew what I wanted/needed/could play: another company was already making mouthpieces under my design for a few years so I could be very specific in terms of sizes and shapes.

Unfortunately he sent me stock mouthpieces saying that I had to play what he thought was right for me. I threw over 1000 Euro in the bin and waited months for nothing. One day I was reflecting on how much it would have cost me to fly to a maker to have some prototypes made for this horn and I realized it made no sense. So I decided to invest that money on a small CNC lathe, one of those clock makers use. I found one on eBay for a reasonable price, I drove 900km to meet the guy and he taught me how to turn it on.

Three months later I figured out how to make it work and I started experimenting with tools, materials and shapes. A couple of months later I had a working prototype. A friend of mine tested it and loved it! In a matter of 2 months I had some 30 mouthpiece ready and I went to the ITG where I sold most of the… so I bought a better lathe, another ITG later I bought another lathe… I’m now about to receive my fifth one, this time it’s BIG and I think it will be enough for the next 10 years!

The irony of it? Most of my top clients used to be clients of that maker and they all came to me looking for something this guy refused to make. Also, even if I finally made a great mouthpiece for that trumpet I haven’t played it since, I’m keeping it only as it reminds me how important customers are and how well you have to treat them if you want to succeed in this business.

You are known for working with non-standard materials such as bronze and buffalo horn! Can you tell us about the design process when starting to work with a new and perhaps slightly unusual material?

I’ve never used my hands to work, I am (still) an Air Traffic Controller, so every material is new to me, I had to learn how to work them, how much they weigh, how they feel, how they sound. And not coming from the music industry helps me think outside of the box. So every time I hear of a new material I simply try it, most of the time I fail but sometimes you find some real gems: buffalo horn is a good example – it is extremely light, grippy and warm. Some like it for baroque music as they sound woody, some because you can articulate in a very crisp and fast way, people from Northern Europe love them because they don’t feel cold, some use it with flugelhorn and some even play lead with it!

Another material I LOVE is Phosphor Bronze, it’s extremely difficult to machine or bend but it outperforms any kind of brass I’ve tried, it never backs up on you and rings like crazy. I can say the same thing about nickel silver: a completely different sound and definitely far from brass, makes any horn feel more secure and cuts in a big band like no other material.

I’m also experimenting with Stainless Steel and Titanium but it will take a little bit before I can officially offer these options. I am not sure about the sound yet (not enough play testing) but they represent the only option for those who are allergic.

The way I test materials is by designing different shapes that allow me to vary both the mass and how it is distributed on the mouthpiece. This is why I recently changed my line entirely and I’m offering the “legacy shapes” only to those who need a classical look such as orchestral players.

When I first started I used to spend little time with mass placement but as I reached the performance I was looking for, thanks to the internal geometry, I started working with some top players who are giving me wonderful feedback that will help me refine my line more and more.

Your trumpet mouthpieces tend to have a wider throat as standard, than most other makers. Can you explain the effect of this, and how this came about?

Larger throats than the usual #27 are definitely needed to obtain a better sound and a MUCH better intonation. Unfortunately there is no way to avoid that, but what we can do is vary other parameters (backbore shape, overall length, the cylindrical section after the throat, mass, shanking, the shape of the curve leading to the throat and so on) so that the feeling matches what a player expects from the mouthpiece.

Virtually all of the people who try my mouthpieces love the sound and feel and most of them never realize they are playing “big throats” (4.00mm or 4.20mm, like #21 and #19 in American sizes) until I tell them. Each of the 10 backbore shapes I offer allow for a different harmonic spread, sound color, articulation and back pressure with the 42-10 being “the magic combination”, as Scott Tinkler says, the one that performs the best because it’s totally neutral in regards to the instrument. I call it WYBIWYS, What You Buzz Is What You Sound.

When I started experimenting with the mouthpieces, the most important parameter to me was the back pressure feeling: every musician I know plays relying on that, some do it consciously, some don’t, but they all work this way.

If you can find a way to offer a constant back pressure feel along the entire range of the horn, and if you can match it to what the player expects, he will naturally relax and this will impact the performance greatly.

On the contrary, throats too big make you sound great but at the expense of endurance – the horn slots less and less and the high register becomes extremely sharp. In my opinion only the greatest players can cope with huge throats but there really is no need for that, there are other parts of the mouthpiece and the instrument that can give you the sound and freedom you are looking for without punishing you.

Can you give us a brief overview of your trumpet range? 

I’m currently making 4 lines of trumpets, Estrema, Suprema, Feroce and Classica and I’m working on the Leggera prototypes at the moment. Each of them is made of exotic materials because I see no point in making yet another Bach clone. I also think that “non conventional” doesn’t need to be heavy, all of my horns are actually lighter than a typical Bach or Yamaha and they all use the Meinlschmidt made MAW valve block, a real gem!

Suprema is the first one I envisioned, a one piece medium sized phosphor bronze bell with a side seam, no wire on the rim, one piece leadpipe with an integral triple threaded receiver machined out of a single solid bar of brass. This is something never attempted in the trumpet world and takes a combination of CNC and hand crafting skills simply too hard and time consuming to be viable for typical factory production.

The result is a trumpet that doesn’t feel like a barrier for the player, extremely resonant, easy to play and stable. I don’t believe in horns too open that push players to their limits just to tame them, I think a high end product must be the easiest possible to play, both for the casual or the experienced player. The moment a trumpet or a mouthpiece needs acclimation I think the maker has failed. I’ve been through that as a player and I badly want to avoid making the same mistake, as a maker.

After Suprema, Estrema was the natural consequence: for the most part it’s the same instrument but the bell is super sized, 150mm, the same diameter as many flugelhorns but still made on a trumpet mandrel. It’s meant for those who play in small settings where you want to fill the room and not pierce a hole in a wall in front of you. The way it spreads the sound makes it extremely rewarding for those who want an intimate relationship with their horn, it’s smooth and warm when played soft, almost as a flugel but can be nasty when you push it. The only reason to not prefer it to the Suprema is if you want the horn to be more stable on the very high notes.

Feroce is what I call an acid horn, the bell is in nickel silver, smaller than the Suprema, meant to be extremely aggressive, trombonists in front of you might say it’s “annoying” for how loud and piercing it sounds. If it wasn’t for this sound it could be a perfect classical trumpet, the level of stability is unparalleled, responds very quickly, fast slurred passages almost sound lightly tongued. For this reason it’s perfect for big band, bop and section, latin and so on.

Classica is available in Bb and C (Eb is coming soon) and has a more tamed sound, still with a nickel bell to add stability and make articulations very clear. The valve block is again the MAW kind but with a more classical look. While it still sounds big and resonant it doesn’t sound too distant from a typical orchestral trumpet. This is extremely important when you want your trumpet to blend in a section of Bachs. The bell taper allows for a narrow projection compared to the other trumpets I make and doesn’t have the “wham!” feel when you step on the gas, it never “barks” as the Feroce does.

Leggera is due in a couple of months, it’s still going through the play testing phase but the idea is to make it super light and bright, not really an all around kind of horn, suited mostly for high note players and those who need a feather in their hands.

What new developments are you working on at the moment that we may see in the near future?

With my current setup I can make almost everything I need but some parts simply take too much time when you need a quick batch of prototype parts for play testing, for this reason I’m still expanding in terms of machines and tools and a big 4 or 5 axis CNC machining center will complete my “arsenal” soon. The goal is to be able to make everything in house with exotic materials – for example I’m now working on CNC machined Z braces for my horns that are a mix of high tech and hand finish and fitting. The first pieces I made are extremely promising and will make the horns even lighter and more resonant. Same applies to spit valves that hopefully won’t stick and will play a role on how the horn rings. Even the smallest details are important when you make high end instruments, that’s why I’m experimenting with different grades of springs in different materials, lengths, number of coils and shapes. I think my customers will love the result!

There’s a lot more I’m working on but time is limited, so some projects will have to wait a bit more than others. Two things that are coming soon for sure are surgical grade stainless steel mouthpieces (for those who are allergic to brass) and phosphor bronze backbores. A few selected customer are already testing them in gigs and the feedback is absolutely stunning. The down side is that they are both a lot more expensive and extremely hard to machine so quantities will be limited at first.

One crazy idea I have is to offer horns with all parts matching the bell material, this is hard but doable with Nickel Silver but it’s proving a real challenge for bronze, the lead pipe literally steams when you machine it!

The other big goal for the next year is to actively expand to new countries: so far I’ve literally kept the business on a leash as I couldn’t keep pace with the orders but with the new lathe I will finally be able to have some real stock parts to offer. I will also go to more conferences and give more talks in conservatories and music schools: I’ve met a number of teachers who

are willing to teach their student how to test the mouthpieces and instruments they will have to use for their careers, and to me this is extremely important.

Finally, I’m trying to help and promote young and talented players as much as I can – I have met some extraordinary ones thanks to this business and in a way I’d like to live through them the life I haven’t had the opportunity to live myself as a player.

To find out more about A.R. Resonance, please visit the website

pBuzz: Brass Playing for Younger Children

Encouraging younger students to play brass instruments in a crowded marketplace full of competition for children’s attention is a tough task. Warwick Music (the team behind pBone and pTrumpet) has set about opening up “buzzing” to the masses in the hope that the pBuzz can be the gateway instrument to get children interested in brass. Recorders have been a mainstay of primary schools across the world for many years, and ukuleles have also been very popular as an affordable way for hard-up schools to introduce musical instruments in the classroom at an early age. So, why not brass?!…

I have had the use of some pBuzzes (I think this is the plural) for a few weeks and below have put my thoughts as well as those of my 7-year-old son.

pBuzz: Priced at under £15 in the UK and under $30 in the US, and made from durable brightly coloured plastic, the pBuzz is clearly aimed at a younger user but is also fine for older users like myself! It uses a small trombone mouthpiece, requires a simple right hand slide action (like a trombone) and is pitched between a trombone and a trumpet. Due to it’s short length, there is just one natural pitch/harmonic available to players which anyone that has taught whole classes of brass will appreciate – it is great to have a room full of children actually playing the same pitch from the outset! This obviously brings with it a limit to this instrument’s musical uses, however I think that this is very much the point. Brass (or plastic in this case) has been simplified to make it easy and accessible to all, while also encouraging good fundamentals of breathing, buzzing and posture from the outset.

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The pBuzz website (pbuzz.co.uk) has links to some great teaching resources that help you to get the most out of it.

From a personal perspective, I do not like to place too much emphasis on buzzing as a way of producing the best possible sound [Please click here to read my interview with Allen Vizzutti on this subject]. However I believe that buzzing is a great tool for encouraging good breathing and control and is a fun way of introducing brass playing to younger musicians. The pBuzz certainly ticks these boxes!

7-year old Nathan writes: “The pBuzz is a really fun way of making lots of noise and learning about music. I like being able to play with the sound and make different sounds using the slide and my raspberries!”

Steven Greenall, Chief Executive of Warwick Music Group has also been kind enough to spend some time to do a short interview with me and give some background on the processes involved in developing a new product like this:

I have been struck by the amazing accessibility of the products launched so far by Warwick Music. What are the main motivations and influences when it comes to design and launch of new products?

The primary motivation comes from our own experiences as musicians, teachers and parents – in that sense we know many of the challenges and issues which students, parents and teachers face each week. We are fortunate that the whole team has a deep appreciation and understanding of our vision to get more children into music and that means we also have a lot of fun and enjoy watching and hearing the innovative ways that teachers, students and amateurs use pBones, pTrumpets and pBuzzes.

We also care a lot about giving a quality experience – we are proud to have some of the best quality review rates in the industry. We are not perfect – and we are always learning from customer feedback – in fact we have a “team email” which is sent out to our whole company every week that discloses all the comments we’ve received. It keeps us motivated for the great impact we have had, and also serves as a reminder to improve constantly. Being “disruptive innovators” is a mantle we wear proudly – if we are going to really engage the next generation of children, then we have to shake things up!

When it comes to using non-traditional materials to manufacture instruments for student brass players, there must have been some difficulties and surprises along the way! Can you share some of the challenges that you have had to overcome with us?

Yes, of course – failure is par for the course in innovation. But that is not a bad thing – because we need to be fearless in how we tackle problems. If innovators play everything safe, then there is really no progress. Understanding how materials can be manufactured – the critical need for tolerances, the right type of plastic at the right temperature – there really has been a ton of stuff we have learnt as a team. But, we are always good at asking ourselves – why? We like to challenge the status quo.

There are 2 huge differences in the way we do things: firstly, the material and secondly the way we make things. Whether brass or plastic, it is easy to make things cheaply – but to offer a quality product that also has pedagogy at its heart – we believe in our niche, Warwick Music Group are really pioneers. The biggest surprise has been how the music world has embraced what we do and why we are doing it.

What was the primary motivation and design brief behind the pBuzz in particular?

The pBuzz had its genesis in a car journey with 3 of our team in the USA. We were talking about the recorder as a music education instrument and discussing how there is no brass starter instrument in the early grades (or years in UK parlance). Buzzing is just cool – kids love it, but the only way they can access it is via a “proper” brass instrument such as cornet, trumpet or trombone – which by default means we leave brass learning later and later. In some cases, it is simply too late – especially in this technological world where children want immediate results.

So we built a brief for an introductory brass instrument that would be accessible for the youngest children and also be colourful and fun – and pBuzz was the result!

A number of retailers report that traditional sheet music sales are struggling at present. Is this a pattern that you have noticed through the Warwick Music publications, and how do you think that publishers can adapt to a changing marketplace?

I think all types of publishing have changed radically with technology – at Warwick Music we have been selling “digitally” for some time, but of course the challenge is protecting the copyright of your composers whilst enabling customers to access music in a world of free music, free TV, etc. We have been discussing looking at subscription type models, whereby customers will essentially have access to a complete instrument catalogue i.e. all the trombone music, and can use it for as long as they’d like to pay for it – we are also moving more into online learning such as with Ian Bousfield’s Unlocking the Trombone book and videos, or Peter Gane’s Circuit Training 2 online course. There will certainly be a lot of interesting developments over the coming decades – I always like to see what companies like Fender or Hal Leonard are doing . . .

Further information on pBuzz is available at pbuzz.co.uk

pBone, pTrumpet and pBuzz are available to buy from Thompson Music

Trumpet Artist Profile: Allen Vizzutti

Regular readers will most likely need no introduction to Allen Vizzutti – an artist of the highest calibre: soloist, recording artist, composer, educator and master clinician!

On a visit to the UK earlier this year I caught up with him and wanted to discuss two main topics with him – a fascinating topic on which Allen often talks in clinics and also in his method books that have become standard literature for students around the world: whether there is an over-emphasis on the word “buzz” in a trumpeter’s vocabulary; and also the design process behind the impending launch of the new Yamaha Vizzutti Model Trumpet.

I had a (brief!) opportunity to have a blow on a new prototype 9335V when Allen was touring Europe recently, and my first impression was that it felt very similar in response and tonal character to the 9335NY New York model. There was perhaps a slightly richer tonal core across the range though. I very much look forward to having a proper test-drive when the instrument is launched later this year – watch this space!

Below, Allen tells us a little about the thoughts and processes behind this new model:

The new Yamaha 9335V Bb trumpet will be launched in it’s second iteration in November. The Vizzutti model idea was born in a conference room in Japan several years ago and I was given the go ahead to help design a personal model from the ground up. It was an exciting opportunity and one for which I am very grateful. I worked on the project with Yamaha genius designers Bob Malone and Wayne Tanabe in New York at the Yamaha Atelier on 5th Ave.

Even though we had permission to start from scratch I had been enjoying using a gold plated but otherwise stock New York Xeno for some time. Logically we chose to start with that trumpet as the basis for the new model. If that didn’t prove successful we could always begin again from scratch. I would like to make clear that I am not a trumpet designer. My input was based on evaluations of the physical feel, the sound, timbre and the trumpet’s characteristics in different registers. Again, I was pretty happy with my stock Yamaha New York Xeno. I should note that I brought along a Bach Strad that belonged to one of my students because there were characteristics of that horn that I liked and wanted to reference.

The short story is after a few hours of experimenting with different small part changes we were getting amazing results. We blew the Bach away early on. Changes consisted of using different small parts made of varying materials and having different weights. We moved bracing and tested myriad slides, water keys and valve parts. I would ask for something and Bob and Wayne would head into the workshop and return to the testing room with changes. The final result came relatively quickly. The new 9335V had a better harmonic structure and was slightly more open and free blowing without being a large bore. It was much easier to play above high C regarding both response and resistance. The sound was a little darker than the New York Xeno. In reality, the improved characteristics of this trumpet are most noticeable by professional or near professional level players. When played with maximums of flexibility, power, control and beauty it is the best horn I have had.

Later when production was in full swing I tried 40 examples of the trumpet. Asked to pick 2 for my personal use I couldn’t really tell the difference between them. In the end I randomly pointed at a couple and those were the horns I ended up using. Unfortunately the first run of the 9335V was limited to a small number of units. The good news is the newer version will be unlimited!

Yamaha 9335V 2.0. What’s been changed? Over a couple of years Bob Malone worked on small tweaks to the 9335V. After he was happy with it I tried out several examples. We ended up with a minimal version of changes through evaluation most of which you cannot see. The water key structure is probably the most observable difference to the newest 9335V. It plays great. I like it a little better. I can honestly say I would be happy performing on either version.

Like a great automobile company, Yamaha is committed to constant development and improvement. The evolution never stops. The Yamaha 9335V should be available in November 2017.

Regarding the question, “To buzz or not to buzz?”, Allen has kindly pointed me towards the relevant page in his method which I have reproduced below this. From my perspective, buzzing has always been a fundamental part of my teaching and important concept for beginners to grasp early on. The main priority for me is that the buzzing is used to show students how relaxed the chops should be and to put the emphasis on the air and support.

Aged 16, I was put through quite an aggressive embouchure change that set the mouthpiece onto a “buzzing embouchure”. This meant that my embouchure barely moved across the range of the instrument, but unfortunately my sound went to crap! It was only when I started at the RCM at 18 that James Watson told me to ignore the past 2 years, and I suddenly had my sound and flexibility back! Therefore Allen Vizzutti’s theories below strike a chord with me…

The use of the word buzz in trumpet study is pervasive. When creating sound with the lips alone or playing the mouthpiece alone it is easy to understand why this is true. The sounds created are sounds of buzzing. However, buzzing one’s lips into a trumpet mouthpiece will create an unwanted “beginner’s” sound. Even actual beginners can avoid ever having a beginner’s sound when taught to blow and not to buzz.

Using the embouchure [described on page 153], one can learn to send a steady and firm airflow through the aperture – made by the lips, into the trumpet, creating a wonderful tone without ever thinking of buzzing. The tense, tight sound of buzzing and the accompanying weeks of frustration associated with “unlearning” this habit can be completely avoided. Unfortunately, for most of modern history, the conventional wisdom of trumpet pedagogy has been to instruct beginners to buzz their lips. Aggressively sending air through the trumpet without buzzing causes the air column to cycle in waves against the tubing of the horn. The vibrating air column is a result of the air meeting the resistance set up by the lips, mouthpiece and leadpipe. The trumpet bell amplifies the vibration. The smoother one blows through the horn, the smoother the sound. Buzzing does not create the sound.

ls there any purpose in buzzing? Actually, yes. Buzzing is just a different entity than trumpet tone production. Buzzing the lips without the mouthpiece and trumpet, including flapping them (loose and low-pitched), is a very useful relaxation technique. I do it to loosen my lips, warm down and as an emergency substitute when warming up may be impossible. Lip buzzing exact pitches to then match on the trumpet, as suggested in some educational material, is of little value (other than ear training), in my opinion. My range on the lips alone is very limited. My range on the trumpet is much more extensive.

Playing the mouthpiece alone is often referred to as mouthpiece buzzing. lt can be very useful as part of an organized warm-up. The concept of playing the mouthpiece should be the same as playing the trumpet. lmproving one’s mouthpiece sound can really help improve one’s trumpet sound as well. Eliminating the trumpet and its sometimes-confusing technical concerns can encourage successful breathing and relaxed blowing. Playing melodies on the mouthpiece is very helpful for ear training and embouchure pitch control. Ultimately, the smoothness of playing the mouthpiece alone will translate to a smooth and steady trumpet sound.

To find out more about Allen, his projects, recordings and publications please visit www.vizzutti.com

What difference does mouthpiece material make?

This is too a broad question and also very difficult to judge!  I ask it because I came across a now-discontinued Sterling Silver Yamaha 14B4 trumpet mouthpiece a short while ago and was very interested to find out…

1. What difference the silver makes…and

2. Why they were discontinued.

Question 2 is probably pretty straightforward to answer. Where they are still showing as available in the UK, the retail cost of them is around £300, which is most certainly not a price bracket that we are accustomed to with Yamaha.

What difference the silver makes requires some playing and listening, so I have lined up 3 mouthpieces that are all advertised as having the same rim and cup profiles from Yamaha and will test them on a Xeno 8335RGS and a Bach 180ML37:

Standard 14B4 Trumpet Mouthpiece

Custom GP (heavyweight) 14B4 Trumpet Mouthpiece

Custom 925 Sterling Silver 14B4 Trumpet Mouthpiece

I played each mouthpiece on both trumpets at a range of dynamics and registers using a variety of attacks and articulations. I took notes based on how they ‘felt’, and also recorded them closely-miked to get an idea of how they would perform for me in the studio. I also asked a trumpeter friend (although they may not be for much longer after the racket that I subjected them to!) to listen from the other side of the room and take their own notes.

The whole lot makes for a long (and not particularly interesting) read, so I have done a summary below and would very much welcome thoughts from other players (and indeed designers and manufacturers) on these and any other mouthpieces made from non-brass.

The Standard mouthpiece gives a nice even sound across the range, although it gets overly bright for me in the upper register and doesn’t really open out enough for my taste in the lower registers.  This is probably partly to do with the fact that although I generally have always played on 14 style (Bach 3) rims, I have also always opened out the throats to give less resistance.  The brightness and ‘edge’ that I was experiencing was also picked up on by my audient and to a lesser degree by my close-miked recording.

The Custom GP mouthpiece is also brass and has more mass around the outside of the cup.  Immediately I felt a huge tonal difference.  The sound was much more centred and had a richer and more solid tonal core across the registers.  I could not however get a brightness of sound (even on the 8335RGS) at louder dynamics that I would want.  Interestingly, my listener at the other side said that there was not much difference at louder dynamics to the standard model.  This was also the case listening back to the recording, suggesting that the biggest difference with the GP model is in feel and comfort from a playing perspective rather than necessarily in sound.

The Sterling Silver model has a similar volume to the standard (a bach-ish style blank) but is certainly a few grams heavier than the standard due to the material.  It felt instantly different – more tonal core (quite similar to the heavier GP), but surprisingly also a massively quicker response.  Unlike the GP model, what I was feeling as a richer sound did actually come across to the audience and the difference could clearly be heard on the recording.  Generally you would expect this from a tighter or shallower-cupped mouthpiece, but not necessarily from something like the 14B4.  The rim and cup profiles, the throat and backbore should all be the same as the standard model, however this mouthpiece responded completely differently.

I mentioned earlier that I generally open out my mouthpieces to a 25 or 26 throat. This silver model has a standard narrower 27 throat, yet has a strange combination of the open sound that you associate with a larger mouthpiece with the quick response and overtones that you can get from a smaller more resistant piece.

What do my fellow trumpeters think? I would be really interested to hear what you have thought about non-brass mouthpieces.  There are obviously a lot of options now available made out of synthetic materials and plastics. Has anyone experimented with metals other than brass, and is there scope and/or a financial viability for designers and manufacturers to explore this further?

Numerous mouthpiece options are available along with specialist advice from Thompson Music.

Mike Lovatt: Interview and Instrument Review

Mike Lovatt has one of the most heard and recognisable trumpet sounds in the world right now.  If you do not think that you have heard him play before, you are probably wrong!  Starring on more movie soundtracks than I can even begin to list, he is instantly recognised by his signature scintillating yet full, rich sound and his smooth, understated style.  His versatility means that he is equally at home in his lead trumpet chairs with the John Wilson Orchestra and Superbrass as he is as guest principal with all of the UK’s major symphony orchestras.  He is also sought after by the biggest names in the pop and commercial sectors and is a true A-lister of the trumpet world.  I never had the opportunity to sit in a section with Mike in my trumpet playing days, but was fortunate enough to work as producer on some Superbrass sessions that he was involved in.  I got to see first hand his incredible skill, musicianship and professionalism.

This incredible level of versatility requires an instrument to match it, which has led to Mike’s latest project, a collaboration with trumpet builder Richard Smith to design a new instrument capable of fulfilling all of these varied requirements.  The ML Smith-Watkins is the result of this partnership.  My review of the new model follows these thoughts and insights on the design process that Mike has kindly shared with me:

Mike:The process of designing was quite slow as Richard Smith is in York while I am in Hertfordshire, which meant a lot of bits of trumpet being sent backwards and forwards as well as trips up there for me to tweak and try things.  

I wanted to improve all of the things that that weren’t quite right for me on the original SW models which Richard designed in consultation with the late, great Derek Watkins.  After nearly 30 years of playing one of those models I felt that I was in a position to develop them further for my needs.  I always liked the way those trumpets blew though, and wanted to keep the interchangeable lead pipe system.  I think that this part of the design (dual lead pipe) is key to the feel of the instrument and helping the resonance and efficiency of the energy going through the horn.  

We started off by choosing a valve block – I had about 4 different ones to try just as they come (a valve block and slides). I was looking for good compression yet good mechanical movement of the valves.  I sat in front of the TV wiggling valves for hours on end and ended up choosing a .460 bore which had good compression and worked really well !

Next was a bell to balance it up.  I tried a different bell in lots of different settings on a trumpet all taped together!  I tried lots of bells of different sizes and gauges.  In the end I settled (not knowingly)  for something equivalent to a Bach 37 – the only thing was that I thought it sounded a bit bright and wanted to have the full picture range of sound from dark to bright when pushed!  After trying the bell in standard gauge metal we tried a heavyweight version.  This was perfect.  At this stage I still hadn’t tried the instrument soldered together! 

Lastly and importantly we worked on developing a leadpipe to be adaptable in lots of different styles of playing and one which lent itself well to the smaller bore and smaller bell than I’d been used to.  After the ‘core’ of the trumpet was sorted, we addressed little things like a new style finger hook and water key position.

Since the launch of the new trumpet in Summer 2016, demand has vastly outstripped supply.  Interestingly, they are not only proving a hit with jazz/commercial players but can also be seen in a number of symphony orchestras across the UK and Ireland.  I was therefore very keen to get my hands on one to review and see what all of the fuss has been about!

The trumpet has a .460” medium large bore valve section, heavyweight yellow brass bell and is supplied with the custom ML leadpipe.  A lovely distinguishing feature is the laser-etched titanium finger buttons. It is supplied in silver plate as standard, but gold plate is an optional extra.

I was immediately struck by the ML model’s response.  Most of the Smith-Watkins trumpets that I have played in the past have required a tighter feeling late-taper leadpipe to give you that delicate and immediate response.  I found that with this model, I could get that immediacy yet combined with a rich full sound even at quieter dynamics.  The tonal core feels really stable across the range and dynamics, and there is a lovely sizzle to the sound when you open up the throttle.

In short, I was not disappointed!  For my own interest, I also tried this model with #10 and #32 leadpipes.  For quality of sound and general versatility, the supplied ML leadpipe definitely wins the day though, and I can certainly see why this trumpet’s appeal seems to have reached out of the commercial sector.

If you would like to find out more about this trumpet, please visit the Smith-Watkins website at www.smithwatkins.com

To find out more about Mike Lovatt, please visit www.mikelovatt.co.uk