Hands up, anyone who has wasted a practice session messing around with heavy valve caps and trim in the hope that they will be the answer to all of their problems. And then gone back to what they had on originally. I guess that I am probably not alone.
There are some really attractive options out there and there is no doubting their ability to give you a ‘pimped up’ horn. At first glance, these trim kits from Frate Precision are beautiful. A gold-plated refined Italian design with black onyx set into the finger buttons, and black anodised aluminium stems. They are simply stunning. Ultimately though, what will persuade us to keep them on the horn is how they help or improve the instrument’s performance.
Different weights positioned at different points on the trumpet undoubtedly make a big difference to tonal colour and response. I will go through the 3 different weighted cap options that Frate Precision offer as well as looking at the performance of the upper part of the trim kit.
I have started by putting the trim kit on my Bach LR180ML37. Bach valves are not known for being the smoothest, so I was initially looking for an improvement in the action. These trims use an original dampening system which uses low density rubber washers encased under the finger buttons and positioned on the axis of the stem for a more silent and fluid movement. They certainly made a big improvement to the action of the valves. I then play-tested these using my normal Bach bottom caps and actually found slightly less resistance than normal.
The Frate Precision ‘Light’ bottom caps are 41g and 9mm deep and are a small fraction heavier than my standard Bach caps. There is immediately a greater stability of sound. Slotting is better, but there is still a nice resonance to the sound, which is why I picked out this horn in the first place!
The ‘Medium’ bottom caps are 72g and 13mm deep. They add a real darkness and a silky quality to the focussed sound. This would not be my setup of choice for sitting in an orchestral section and making a blending sound, but I love it nonetheless! Effortless (well, nearly!) power with round and focussed sound – I can see this setup suiting lots of players, classical, jazz and commercial.
The ‘Heavy’ caps are not as extreme as we see from some other makers, at 135g and 20mm deep. I have never really seen the benefits of adding extreme weight to a horn that was not designed with that in mind. The intonation often suffers as well as the original characteristics that presumably led you to pick out that trumpet in the first place! The Frate Precision heavy caps are more ‘civilised’. Yes, they totally change the character of the instrument – dark, compact, forward-facing power – but the intonation and articulation characteristics of the instrument remain intact.
A number of players like to add some additional weight to just one valve. For instance, extra weight to the 3rd valve cap can really help give some extra depth and weight to the sound without compromising the overall resonance of the instrument. Some players like to add that extra weight to the 1st valve which can typically give you a more explosive and immediate attack. Adding a single ‘Medium’ cap to the ‘Light’ kit gave exactly this reaction.
When ordering these kits, you can choose exactly what weights of caps you want (all at the same price), and you can add an additional single heavier one if you like, or even have one swapped over. They are completely customisable.
These trim kits get a ‘highly recommended’ from me! Yes, they look great. But they also give a real and noticeable range of performance enhancements. The full specs and prices are below:
-Refined Italian design
-Disc in Black Onyx set into the finger button
-Black anodised aluminium stem
-Original dampening system
-Available in Gold Plate (£225) or Raw Brass (£150). An extra bottom cap is £17.95 in Raw Brass and £29.95 in Gold Plate
-Available for Bach and Yamaha trumpets
-Light Bottom Caps 9mm, 41g
-Medium Bottom Caps 13mm, 72g
-Heavy Bottom Caps 20mm, 135g