‘Design Innovations’ is a series of articles looking at new and innovative developments in trumpet design as well as gadgets and tools that are designed to make our practice and performance easier. Next up in this series is Asper Trumpet products…
Lynn Asper is another interesting designer that I met at ITG 2018. Embouchure visualisers and mute holders are not new concepts to trumpeters, however Lynn has taken his vast experience as a trumpeter and educator to come up with new designs that ACTUALLY WORK! Lynn has shared some of his thoughts on this process below:
Can you tell us a bit about the background to these projects?
I’ve been playing the trumpet for 60 years. I was inspired to be a music educator and taught at the high school and college level for over 42 years.
My college teachers wanted me to use a visulaizer but back then they weren’t available in a range of sizes. So when I started teaching and needed to know if my students were using the correct size mouthpiece or if they needed an embouchure change, I had to develop a visualizer in multiple sizes.
The Mute Mate mute holder development came about because I was standing in the back row playing in several big bands. The older I became and the faster mute changes got, the less I enjoyed reaching down to the floor to grab mutes (that sometimes dropped and rolled).
What was your primary purpose and motivation for each of these new designs?
The Visualizer development was an improvement of an existing design. A patent search revealed that patents for several designs had expired in the mid-1980s, so I set out to create the style I thought was best for me as a teacher and trumpet player. I favor the one-armed design to facilitate a good view of the buzz in a mirror and by a teacher. A variety of sizes was also important to me. I believe that the Visualizer is a better tool if it matches the size of the mouthpiece, especially if it is being used as part of a warm up routine.
The Mute Mate came about when I tried to buy one that I had owned for years for the rest of the players in my section of a big band. Because it was no longer available, I decided to adapt the “rings-clamped-to-the-stand” design. I felt that the rings needed to be made from rubber-coated steel and the clamp needed to be revamped to be much stronger. This product has to be really durable, portable, and not damage your mutes.
Were there any particular challenges that you faced along the way?
Challenges? Yes! I was not able to buy blank mouthpieces to cut into Visualizers for a reasonable price in the US and finally found a supplier in Germany. This was challenging for me since I was not familiar with international business, shipping, or exchange rates. In order to create the style of Visualizer I envisioned for myself and my students, I must have chopped up about 50 old mouthpieces with a Rotozip in my garage. I took the last and best idea to a local metal fabricator. Once I had a batch of them made by the metal fabricator, I shipped them to Indiana to be plated. This all took at least a year the first time around.
After doing this for seven years, I paired with Pickett Brass Blackburn Trumpets to develop and manufacture the current design. I was so thankful to hand this process off to such a great company!
How long was the process from initial conception to the product reaching the market?
The Visualizer process took 14 months from my garage to the market.
The Mute Mate took 10 months and 700 beers from our front porches to market.
What were your main ways of launching the products?
I have a website that was started to distribute my books, so each new product was launched there and on EBay and Amazon. My company also exhibits at the annual ITG conference and at the National Trumpet Competition. This year we plan to exhibit at the Florida Music Educators Association Conference. The Asper Pickett Visualizer has been available from Pickett Brass Blackburn Trumpets since they began producing them for me.
Is there anything that you would do differently if you the chance to do this over again?
I’m a trumpet player and music educator, not a manufacturer or marketer. I’m not sure I could have done anything differently at the time. I certainly wish I had known back then what I know now about business in general. But I was solving problems or making something that I needed personally, so I tried what made sense for me and went from there. I’ve certainly learned a lot along the way in the areas of business, web design, marketing, and a host of other areas.
What new developments are you currently working on?
In conjunction with Pickett Brass Blackburn Trumpets, we are developing a kit containing four Visualizers and four corresponding “Young Artist Series” mouthpieces for educators. This kit will enable teachers to fit students with the correct size mouthpiece and will include a step-by-step guide that I’m currently writing. The idea is to give music educators – even those who are not trumpet players – a way to get students to sound better and have better musical experiences at every educational level. Students who are happy tend not to quit.
The new generation of Mute Mates comes in response to requests and comments from our current customers. Before Christmas the Generation Six Mute Mate model will feature one small ring as standard to accommodate thinner straight mutes.
To find out more about Lynn Asper and ‘Asper Trumpet Products’, please visit the website.