It has become an almost daily occurrence that I speak to trumpeters who believe that they are either looking for an instrument with natural open resonance OR a closed resistance. The title of this blog post is a deliberate misnomer as I do not believe that these two factors are mutually exclusive. In fact I would say that every horn for every player needs the perfect balance of the two.
The question should not be “do I want an open or resistant horn?” but instead “where in the horn do I want to feel that resistance and resonance?”. These two elements are absolutely essential in a trumpet to give the player their perfect blend of tone colour and projection.
Working with Vincent Bach a few years ago, I spent a lot of time travelling around UK conservatoires giving presentations to students and teachers on how to try to communicate the sound and response that they want to achieve, and what technical variables in a trumpet they should look for based on this and their playing style.
Some examples of popular horn setups:
A player that likes the feel of a really open horn mid-section will need to balance this out by finding resistance elsewhere in the horn in order to achieve that perfect resonance. The standard Bach 180 Stradivarius large bore Bb Trumpet for instance uses a fairly middle-of-the-road leadpipe at the start of the horn, and a relatively compact late taper #25 bell to allow the sound to really connect and blossom. This has typically suited players with a broad airstream who like that openness through the horn, and that feeling of ‘connection’ late on.
Another (yet totally different) large bore example is the approach championed by the late, great Derek Watkins. With a fast and narrower airstream, the sound really ‘connects’ immediately with a resistant leadpipe, and then is allowed to blossom through an open valve section and early taper bell.
With M and ML models, most players tend to use the valve section as a pivot with either an open (or reverse) leadpipe or a more open feeling early taper bell depending on whether you want to connect early or late on in the instrument. For players who like that mid-section connection (please forgive the corny cadence!), models such as the Bach LR180ML43 are very popular – an open reversed #25 leadpipe with an open feeling #43 bell.
In the interests of brevity here, I have focused on the most common variables and used Bach purely as a reference point as these models are familiar to most players. There are of course other ways of achieving this connection at the desired point by adding weight or varying the materials at crucial spots for example.
The crucial question again in approaching what setup is right for the individual player is “where do I want to feel the sound connecting?” Once you have an answer to this, you are all set to go and find your perfect trumpet!