Today I'll touch on the benefits of a SWE Tuning Slide versus a standard bent tube and discuss the characteristics of tuning slide shapes as I have offered 9 different shapes over the past few years.
First, let's explore the way everyone else has produced tuning slides up to this point. A standard tuning slide is limited to how much stress metal can endure while being bent. If you were to bend a brass tube it would kink, crack and break. To prevent this, tubing is annealed (softened), filled with ice, lead or pitch, then carefully forced around a inside radius form with a tube bending jig or machine. If the brass is very thin, this can often be done one time, but thicker brass requires re-annealing sometimes, which is one reason slides are always about the same thickness (considerably thin). Then the ice, lead or tar is melted out and the slide is balled out in a two piece die where the steel ball is the bore size and is forced through the tube to ensure proper inside diameter consistency. Then it is strapped (sanded) and buffed to remove all the pores produced by the bending. Monette is the only manufacturer bending thick wall tubes, which explains the porous pitted appearance and die seam lines on the outside of the bends as Dave prescribes to no buffing or strapping.
The problems with the traditional method are numerous including the fact that the inside of the bend now has more metal (the wall is thicker) and the outside has less metal (thinner). Now your slide made of thin tubing is even thinner on the outside of each radius. Unfortunately, this greatly reduces standing wave efficiency and these areas are prone to premature wear, dings and dents. The advantage is that bends in tubing can be made very quickly with this production technique, which was developed in the 1800's and remains the norm to this day.
Now let's pretend we're in the 21st century and we can make a tuning slide with other methods that would produce a more efficient design at perhaps a greater cost. First, would the added cost and slower production time justify the new method and would people really pay more for the benefits? You're in luck, we are in the year 2011, new techniques are currently being used and we have already sold over 50 SWE tuning slides (for Summit & Gravity models) with glowing reviews! It's no coincidence that the 2-piece symmetrical production method came to be my goal in building trumpet slides, tubes and bells several years ago. Hundreds of experiments confirmed that this method would produce tremendous results and as early as 2003, I had been dreaming of putting this into production. However, being backed up with 6 to 12 months of orders and raising the capitol to purchase the required cnc machinery has taken me more than seven long years.
Now that SWE Tuning Slides are in production, we receive very few orders for standard slides. This means more people are purchasing Summit trumpets as this model offers SWE slides in two styles and bell crooks coming soon. The Elliptiphone takes this concept two steps further with the leadpipe and entire bell also produced with the 2-piece symmetrical method. The Bravura will remain a bent tube, offering square, semi-round and round shapes and the HT3 offers a narrow span in semi-round and round. So the only option for a SWE slide is on the Summit or Gravity (twice the wall thickness as the Summit) at this time. Don't worry, I'm working on SWE slides for Bach and Yamaha for our friends who are not yet in the market for a custom horn.
So why does SWE make such a difference? Well, by my definition, Standing Wave Efficiency is the ratio of energy (in the form of a sound wave) to the energy (effort) put into the trumpet by the player. In other words, it is how much of your energy is transferred into audible sound rather than vibration, heat or any non-sound variable. You want most or all of your effort put into the trumpet to come out the bell end as beautiful sound. The SWE Tuning slide is considerably more effective in terms of efficiency than any 19th century thin wall bent tube. So much more effective that most players experience a dramatic positive change in their playing. Notes lock in easier, no more sloppy attacks on wide intervals or g's and a's above the staff and double d's and e's, improved range, endurance, dynamic range, the list goes on. This is real physics in action, better design translates to a better playing instrument.
So why don't the big companies like Bach, Yamaha and even smaller Monette produce a 2-piece symmetrical tuning slide? Most likely, it is because they don't care. Why would they invest considerable time, resources and money to change something that you don't demand? It is also very likely that their Research and Development departments are not equipped to study the physics, acoustics and machining required. Or it could be that their R&D departments are really marketing people who design brochures naming new models after large American cities with broad appeal. With the exception of Monette, I would bet this is the case. When have Bach or Yamaha ever changed anything in the original French Besson design? And why should they? They capture the majority of the trumpet market using the cheapest production techniques possible, resulting in some of the least efficient and most profitable designs in the industry. Kudos to Monette for breaking the mold in the 80's and reviving what was once an industry of true innovators like Conn, Olds, King, Reynolds, Huttl and Amati. Let's hope the smaller players continue to gain appeal and capture an ever-expanding share of that Bach/Yamaha market share so that we may all benefit with innovation, creativity and artistry.
So what is a 2-piece symmetrical SWE tuning slide and why am I educating my competitors openly in my public blog? Simply put, it is a tuning slide milled in two halves down the center line with a semi-circle trough in each half. When put together, these form a perfectly round tube cut to any wall thickness, bore size, shape and from almost any material. Want a steel slide? How about aluminum, stainless steel, brass, titanium or even wood? Yes, I'm working with most of these materials right now, stabilized wood and aluminum are the current top picks for the new SWE Bach slides coming...someday ;)
Why am I educating (and criticizing) my competitors? Well, for one I've worked my butt off all these years while they seemingly reap the benefits of an antiquated and inferior production design AND I really don't think any of the big companies will consider competing in the custom trumpet arena. Their solution would be to buy a company like mine and swallow it whole likely spitting out words and again leaving innovation by the wayside. I dropped out of college in the last week of finals based on principal, there's little chance I would sell Harrelson Trumpets. I built this company from nothing and money really has little value to me personally once the basics are covered. It would be interesting to see some new marketing angle in response to my SWE designs from a major manufacturer. Has anyone out there seen anything like this...I don't always read every brochure so let me know if you find efficiency jargon please.
In the name of building trumpets, I will have to save explanations on tuning slide shapes for another day and go get my hands dirty...
I get angry dismissive emails every month or so, often from the strangest places. Surprisingly, the majority of my dissenters over the years were clergy of some sort, but today's angry email came from someone I considered more than a client. He has purchased two Bravura trumpets in the past and actually stood over my shoulder for the entire production asking questions and comments as he himself is a trumpet maker of sorts. The process of building my horns is not simple so I didn't see any harm in sharing as I highly doubt he could reproduce my results. He has praised my instruments for years and I have likewise praised his musical ability.
We had a casual phone conversation yesterday concerning his ideas for a new trumpet brace, which he claims to have tested superior to my own designs. Apparently using a "synthetic material" which has not been named, he modified a Getzen trumpet to play 1.5 decibels louder than his Bravura so now he is asking me to change my production. Producing just one part of his proposed design could easily consume 4-6 weeks of my undivided attention and I let him know the cost would be considerable not to mention incorporating a design change into my line of instruments. And why should I change my production to suit his idea, one that I have already tested years ago?
His email below (identity omitted):
Thanks for the conversation yesterday, its always entertaining hearing your thoughts on trumpets.
I have to say that I am disappointed that you will not offer conventional weight trumpets as part of your business model. A couple years ago you gave me the impression that you wanted to sell as many trumpets as possible, without compromising, of course.
I appreciate that you have the realities of manufacturing to deal with and that you are content with selling 200-300 horns per year. The sad reality is that people aren't going to change their minds and start buying heavy trumpets in large numbers. I'm afraid you are just going to wake up one day and on a whim stop building trumpets. Then all that will be left is 1000 or so Harrelson trumpets in existence with no one to carry on your work.
Is it really about putting a clearly superior trumpet into the hands of anyone who wants one, or is it about being another Dave Monette who doesn't really care what his customers want because his way is the right way?
As a strong supporter and repeat customer, I'm trying to make you realize that there is a huge pool of customers that just won't even consider a heavy (or "weird" looking) horn and that attitude will take decades to change, not years. By that time you likely will be bored with it all and quit.
Anyway, I again thank you for your great contributions to trumpet building science and sharing your knowledge."
My response is posted below and then I will have nothing more to say on this subject. I will not get into a "Trumpet Herald" style sparring session over how to run my own business ;)
I spent almost an hour speaking with you yesterday and never had any idea you were upset. I have devoted more than 15 years of my life to understanding the physics of acoustic instruments. Your ideas are not new, nor are many of mine, this is reality. You state that you're disappointed in me making comparison to Dave Monette. Do you realize almost every statement in your email is a contradiction and comes across as emotional? Did I somehow offend you by running my business the way my customers see appropriate? Did I not build your trumpet exactly the way you wanted with you leaning over my shoulder throughout the entire process? And now you condemn me?
And what is this controversy over standard weight instruments? Have you played my HT3, which is more efficient than any Bach or Yamaha, costs $1000 less and is almost identical in weight? Please take the time to understand my products before ripping me apart in a rude email that Paul is trained to delete before it reaches my eyes.
Weight has nothing to do with physics of trumpets. It is not a necessary component and your assumption that my goal is to add weight is misguided to say the least. Tens of thousands of hours experimenting on trumpets and you think my goal is weight? Hmm. Regardless, my goal is to offer the best playing horn to fit each individual's playing preferences and nothing more. I don't care to sell thousands of horns and hope the custom market remains relatively small. If my designs became mainstream, they'd be ordinary like a Bach. Mainstream is exactly what I do not want.
Your email is dismissive, which anyone would find disrespectful, so I imagine you'll find my rebuttal the same. Attack my life's work and I will defend. Your one idea is a small grain of salt in a massive heap that overflows my every moment. If you want your hollow braces produced, be prepared to pay the price. I don't think you'll find another shop in the world that will come close to my price and quality, though I don't believe you're remotely interested in producing anything. Maybe you simply like to throw insults at people that have more important things to do?
In your words I will, "wake up one day and on a whim stop building trumpets" and "likely will be bored with it all and quit". In reality, I will never stop thinking about how to improve the trumpet or most other things. Where do you get these ideas since we barely know each other? If I ever do retire from building trumpets, it will most likely be to avoid the arrogant and dismissive emails from people telling me how to run my business or the long hours.
You have your own ideas, put them to work and compete with Harrelson Trumpets. I welcome all legitimate innovation in the trumpet marketplace even if it comes from a former client who, after purchasing and praising two Bravuras, thinks my designs are seriously flawed. We sell more custom made trumpets than any other company in the world. Please, compete and show me how a trumpet should be built.
Apparently a few hours of sledding with someone daring enough to brave the elements is the cure for feeling trapped in a brutal Minnesota winter. The snow was too sticky to jump over anything so I definitely need to find the wax and overhaul my toboggan before the next opportunity to snap bones. I've only broken two bones sledding, unfortunately they were important bones for someone who spends most of his time building things...my right radius and ulna close to the wrist.
I'm sure I wouldn't have broken anything that day had I remembered fear is there to protect. In my mind, fear was something to overcome as if it were an artificial obstacle that, once removed, would reveal a world of freedom and opportunity. Well, to some extent this is true, but when faced with the scenario I created the only freedom I would experience was around 6 seconds of freedom from gravity. Note to all readers, and I know this from numerous personal experiences, gravity always wins so long as you are on earth!
So my friend Rick and I decided to take our orange plastic sleds to "snurf" the dreaded, "Hiker's Hill". Those of you not familiar with snurfing should know that there was a product invented in 1965 known as the snurfer, which is basically the first snow board, but without bindings. You simply stand on it, maneuver and hope you don't fall off and mess up your face. We would snurf in our orange sleds down the steep hill behind our mobile home and onto the pond below. The grade was around 60%...that's not a typo, it really was around 50-60 degrees, which is very fast, leaving little room for error. This explains two things...why we sometimes couldn't muster the nerve to go down again and why we eventually got so good at snurfing. The real challenge were the old cars half buried in the hillside on the path down. In the summer we had ways of getting up and down that hill with little ropes, branches, etc because it really was too steep to climb, but you had to climb over all the junk, old cars, refrigerators, etc. because this place was essentially built on an old junk yard or dump. I guess we got the "junk yard" discount on our lot rent? So in the winter time snurfing a 12 ounce plastic sled, there was no option to go over sharp jagged chunks of metal, we dodged them the old fashioned way, with skill and stupidity.
So the hill behind my place was our training ground and the day finally came where we decided to test our luck on Hiker's Hill. This "hill" was legendary, kids had supposedly broken collar bones, legs and one even was crippled after simple challenges like climbing that hill on a clear dry summer day. To this day, I don't know what the hell I was thinking as a kid. Recalling stories like this and knowing there are dozens of other days I acted like a complete idiot, I wonder how I could be living with all ten fingers and toes today. Not to mention two summers later, I would live to tell the story of jumping my Huffy dirt bike after descending this very same hill. This explains why my mother would wake me in the middle of the night after a nightmare where I died...poor mom.
So no exaggerating here, only facts...here are the exact coordinates to Hiker's Hill which you can see compliments of Google Earth...
If you don't have Google Earth, download it here for free and enjoy:
After you start Google Earth, click "Add" from top menu bar, then click "Placemark" and type in the coordinates above and you'll "fly" to that location. I'll be using locations like this now and then, so if you really want to see more into the world check it out.
It is clearly visible when landing at the Billings Airport many miles away. If you click on the imagery date in google and find the 2009 satellite photo, you'll see a more accurate view of my childhood playground complete with dozens of ponds, the Yellowstone river, junk yards, endless hills & valleys (to the south) and the little mobile home where we lived at 349 Dani Street.
I wonder if there's a way to compute the grade of hills on google? Regardless of grade, when (and if) you stand at the top of this hill, there is little doubt that you could be very near your own death on a sled, bike or two feet. As far as I know, I was the only kid stupid enough to climb to the top and go over the edge and even after I did it with Rick and a group of neighborhood kids watching, nobody believed it the next day. It is daunting and on google earth it doesn't even look like a hill as it is nearly vertical.
So this story is getting out of control long...after many attempts, I eventually climbed to the top without falling back down, this is done by walking up the edge of the cliff. There was a lot of snow so falling down was soft at lower levels. Finally to the top, I said a prayer and let myself fall off the face of the cliff with my sled underneath and much to my surprise I got stuck in a huge heap of snow 30 feet below. The snow was too deep to sled! All that build up and it's not even possible to kill yourself today, the snow is too deep. I tried from that point and the same, I got stuck. About halfway down the hill, maybe 100 feet from the bottom, the grade lessened and I could feel the hardness of the ground under the snow. I jumped on my sled and was moving fast from the first second, wiped out and rolled to the bottom.
I'm certain nothing was broken at this point and the kids at the bottom seemed to think I was some kind of hero...kids are weird. That wasn't nearly the fun I had anticipated...so I took my secret weapon this time, the Flexible Flier! This was a snow tube given to me by my parents for christmas. It had handles and a rope. Thanks to extremely smooth plastic construction, this inflatable was very tough and super fast! Nobody wanted to ride it due to numerous injuries and headaches from smaller hills. But today, that tube was going to live up to its name...we were gonna fly.
Confident from my recent success dropping from the top of the cliff and surviving, I climbed back to the halfway point where I had just come down from and jumped on top of my tube. Kids were screaming, running out of the way as I was blinded by snow spray and whistling air, I balanced and somehow stayed on all the way to the bottom...
Now here's where the term, "stupid kid" was coined...at the bottom of the hill. What I haven't mentioned up to this point is why we had come to Hiker's Hill in the first place...the "jump" at the end. Okay, it wasn't a jump, it was that big 20-foot ditch road crews cut between steep mountain inclines and the road. Hitting this ditch at the right angle produces serious air, like 30 feet. However, you kind of need that much air considering you're jumping over a country road with cars. We would spot each other for traffic and I knew there were no cars since I could see for miles from up there, but what happens when I hit that jump from this speed? Now I know why the rumors about kids breaking bones on this hill are true...too bad I'm blinded on my way down about to hit the jump, yet uncertain when that will happen since I can't see and then wham! The force of hitting the short incline knocked my head down into the tube before the sensation of flying set in...and I was weightless...still weightless...wind blowing in my face, fear completely gone and still weightless. Then I began to wonder if I had died when I smacked the ground and slid, grinding my body against packed ice and rocks on the street in the neighborhood. I lost my hat, gloves, boots, a sock, pants were down to my knees, blood stained snow blotches marked my all time record jump and I was now running on adrenaline! I got up...kids were running down picking up everything that flew off of me, cheering.
The feeling of flying as a kid is innately pure and addictive, even if it isn't entirely normal or common. I was obsessed with this feeling, jumping sleds, bikes, repelling with bailing rope and once even making a hang glider that didn't work. I was addicted to adrenaline and the free fall even if I didn't know it at the time.
So what did I do? I pulled up my pants, put my clothes back on and ran back up to do it again, and again and again. I'm not sure I even let anyone use my tube that afternoon. It wasn't until long after dark that Rick and I started back down to our street to call it a day when I noticed pain in my wrist. My Dad always said if there isn't blood, you probably aren't hurt. I didn't see any blood on my wrist so I put it out of my mind. But the pain did trigger the recent memory of the first landing, the one where I cleared the county road easily by 30 or 40 feet and lost all my clothes. For the following weeks, this memory was triggered many times, that's when I broke my bones. It happened on the very first jump, yet we stayed for hours abusing our bodies again and again and I didn't even notice I was broken.
They say laughter is the key to happiness. They also say it heals. I know this for certain, laughter will allow you to break yourself into pieces without a second thought.
The mind is a powerful pain reliever, but gravity always wins...
People often ask me if I have kids. Nope...never settled down. I always thought I would get married in my late 20's, a naive thought really. But being single has advantages at least when I stay busy. I can work as many hours as I like, eat whatever and whenever I like, play trumpet whenever I like and take on as many projects as I can juggle. Meals and travel are less than half price and I have empty space in my closet!
Honestly, I hate being single. Today is one of those days where it seems the entire world is doing something and I bet half of them are couples. I just played Freddie Hubbard solos for two hours (played them for 3 last night) and suddenly can't get motivated to do anything alone. Why does this happen? I suspect because people sometimes work best in pairs. Can't I fool myself into believing I'll have a great time inventing new things here in this huge shop all by myself? It works for me most weekends, but not today.
Enough of the self-pity, I'll go write a new song, play with oscar puppy and swim until I forget being social is important. And if it snows 15 inches tonight (like I'm hoping), I'll surf my toboggan down the hill alone...happy to be alive, even if it is one more solitary moment soon to be forgotten.
So Paul and I prefer to drive trucks. We live in Minnesota and I've spent most of my life in the west where four wheel drive is pretty much required every few weeks. Our trucks are old, mid-90's GM make and they are in dire need of new parts and attention. The good news is that parts for these babies are super cheap. I often wonder why so many people buy new or nearly new vehicles when just about anything can be fixed or replaced. To me, there's something special about driving a vehicle 10, 15 or 20 years. I don't know why, maybe it's my way of recycling without the craziness of junking the car (like happened with that weird government program a few years ago). I often hear the argument that people don't have the time or knowledge to repair cars themselves. This blows my mind. People are so quick to judge us for driving trucks that get 15 mpg when they buy a new car every three years. And then they justify their criticism by saying it is impractical to make what is old, new again. The really strange thing is that so many of my friends have masters and doctorates and earn good money, yet still claim they have no skills with tools. Hmm...you can become a lawyer, professor or physician, yet you can't be responsible for turning a few wrenches? I guess I live by different logic. Sure, I don't have a doctorate in anything and have no desire to go back to school, but that doesn't mean I don't learn something new everyday. I wasn't born building trumpets, rebuilding engines or writing music...these are skills I learned.
Paul doesn't really know much about mechanics so I made a deal with him. I help him replace the differential on his Tahoe and he helps me rebuild the entire front end drive, suspension and steering on my Bravada. It's a fair deal and I always like a spotter just in case something heavy falls on my chest. I'm kidding...kind of, but that's the fun in doing it yourself. If anybody is interested in learning basic (or advanced) auto mechanics and would like to trade services, let me know. I have lots of projects around the shop I could use help with...including building a stage, finishing a recording studio and building a catwalk for Oscar so he can wander around the shop without getting stepped on.
ps...despite what I just wrote, I do not recommend changing your own oil and you could save $800+ replacing your own brakes.
When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually say I build trumpets, but that is only 20% true. I spend the other 80% of my time in support roles developing new concepts, learning new technology, learning in general, building production processes, jigs, machinery, training co-workers, practicing and performing the horns I build, prototyping, research and even a fair amount of time developing ideas and products outside the realm of music. Going over last year's numbers, I see that I've put in just over 4200 hours and was paid almost $25,000 in wages. So I made close to $6 an hour last year, the highest I've ever been paid by Harrelson Trumpets to date!
So why do I do it? Nearly everyone I know makes more than I do with the exception of my sister who is a stay at home mom and cake artist. Friends, colleagues and customers often have the attitude that I have it made as if I have piles of money stuffed in every crevice of my tiny studio apartment. Hundreds of customers ask for discounts every year claiming they can't afford a new horn, mouthpiece or trim kit. Really? I tend to believe almost anyone in the US could save $100/month for two years and buy a new Bravura on sale. Am I really asking too much with pricing high efficiency horns lower than Bach and Yamaha? Seriously, I make six dollars an hour :)
I do it because I love the process of creating something new. Developing an idea that is a solution to a problem, taking it through the thought process for a few days or weeks, then planning a prototype production scenario, cutting parts, messing it all up and starting over several times only to finally get it right and play or hold the finished, now tangible, idea in my hands. This is very fulfilling, this is what life is all about for me and I did it for less than $1/hour the first two years of HT with a smile on my face. Life isn't about money, though it is in some part about paying the bills. In the end, enjoying fulfilling work and balancing that with friends and family is what it's all about. I have no desire to make a fortune doing anything for the sake of money. And if I do someday make a good wage, I'll likely start more ideas some of which will be philanthropic. I like to think that sacrificing my own profits, time and ideas while offering a significantly better tool to fellow musicians is at least a tiny bit good for the world if not the spouses of all the trumpet players who swear less often!
Not to say I haven't been tempted to do something completely different. On many occasions, like after someone gets angry over an extended timeline and demands a refund, I have considered closing shop and moving into the aerospace industry. Standing Wave Efficiency applies to almost everything and the efficiency of jetliners interests me a great deal. I am certain fuel consumption on take offs could be reduced by more than 30% saving everyone a ton of money, oil, pollution and noise while shortening runways. I'm guessing even playing some small part in that kind of savings would pay more than my current wage and the challenge could be a lot of fun.
Maybe after I re-establish my playing career and automate most of my production line, I'll stop offering so many options and artwork. That would give me time to work on bigger problems that interest me and could benefit more people in the world. Either way, I feel a bit lucky to understand that working with physical objects in a physical world is truly more satisfying than any desk job. It's funny that Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) makes a living demonstrating the values, benefits and joy in physical labor. We are human, with hands, arms and legs, strong backs and minds with the capacity to physically change our world, so why are we sitting in front of computer screens?!
If you still don't understand why I love working for $6 an hour, I challenge you to try any or all of the following...
1. Sell your tv (all of them)
2. Make a list of things you would like to physically change in your world (anything really)
3. Devote at least 10 hours a week to working through your list documenting your progress somewhere other people can observe (this is important)
4. Recruit others to work on bigger projects with you
5. If you see a real opportunity, consider selling or donating your results (this will allow others to physically test and critique your work so you can improve the process/product)
6. Do what interests you and challenge yourself to learn new skills along they way
7. Last thing, don't start with a project that is unreasonably difficult (building a trumpet or a homemade car may not yet be in your skill set, start with something easier)
8. Have fun
9. Share your creations here please
10. Break the rules!
I don't really understand my stream of thought today, but it's time to mill some trumpet art!
At 5:25am, I awoke with a few new ideas. The first was a suspension trumpet case that eliminates the risk of damage when shipping horns. The system is very simple so I don't know why I didn't think of it years ago. I will add that to my list of prototypes to test in the coming months as it looks promising. I've also had my mind working on slide locks for modular finger rings, leadpipes and bells. This system has to be simple to use while maintaining SWE design principles which is a challenge. Moving parts are almost always inefficient thieves of energy. My latest demo trumpets were due to be complete in December...on hold due to the complexity (or simplicity?) of the slide lock design. I think I have it now...time to build one.
Set lists are also working into my daily routine. I have ignored my performing the past three years, taking random gigs or short tours here and there just to get out of the shop. I truly do not enjoy long runs of playing horn parts in a section or lead in big bands so I put performing on the back burner to focus on trumpet designs. Up to 2008, I was performing in 5-6 bands with around gigs every weekend so the change has been extreme and I find myself blowing horns continuously for hours without pulling the mouthpiece off of my lips. I guess I have a lot to express through the horn when I'm not out playing every day. Hence, set lists are coming back into my life. The goal is to create 3 or 4 shows and get back out on stage, this time solo. Sure, that's what everyone says, but how many of us actually do it? I'm working up a biographical musical comedy for cruise ships...don't laugh, cruising is fun and can be lucrative; a more personal show for small to medium 30 something clubs that will be vocals, trumpet, piano, bass, drums...this one is also biographical on a more personal level; next is a new masterclass combination trumpet solo performance for high schools and colleges that focuses on my personal experiences in a way that reveals my growth as a musician while offering insights into overcoming the many obstacles brass players and musicians in general face while making music their career. And last, but not least is a jazz set that shows off the many tonal possibilities of my arsenal of horns including the new (but top secret) elliptiphone.
Now where am I going to find time to do all of this? In my sleep...
Not officially a Nouveau trumpet, more of a hybrid, I'm close to finishing my third New Orleans trumpet. I've re-designed the valve casing bracing on the Nouveau to be more defined and striking in appearance while tightening up tolerances over previous designs. The new design is in two halves much like the Bravura system to allow for variable tuning slide and bell crook spans. Machining these braces is difficult due to the complexity of the parts and the fact that they are radiused on one edge after both sides have been cut. Finishing work is done by hand and requires a full day just to smooth out machining marks. In the end, it's all worth it and I personally can't wait to have this horn assembled in my hands to test!
A little background on the Nouveau design... I built the first Nouveau as an exercise while learning new software and machinery maybe 5 or 6 years ago. I didn't think the braces would actually be built into a complete trumpet as, at the time, I thought my machining skills to be questionable. A few weeks later, the first Nouveau was built despite numerous machining obstacles. I followed up with a second Nouveau trumpet designed with a special aviation theme for LR-60 and finally came to understand I could machine a level of complexity far beyond my expectations.
Cindy Bradley plays a custom Nouveau designed with unique bell and tuning slide crook braces to set her horn apart from the others. Her name and a graphic of Artemis is milled into the leadpipe and for Christmas 2009 she added a second set of pink paua finger button and bottom cap inlays which visually transforms the horn...and it matches her dresses.
This latest Nouveau design is actually a Summit hybrid so it will be considerably lighter, darker and very broad similar to the Summit Cindy recorded on her latest album yet to be released. The New Orleans theme is one that I thoroughly enjoy. I was after all born in Louisiana...go Saints! Previous New Orleans designs include Shamarr Allen's horn boasting a Fleur de Lis and his initials as bracing and the Hurricane Katrina trumpet I donated to Jazz at Lincoln Center's relief effort just weeks after the disaster. This trumpet was a donation aimed at raising relief funds quickly so it was not very well advertised and is relatively unknown. However, the custom work on this horn was a ton of work and in the end I was very proud to have built and designed something so special to me personally.
I have plans for several more N.O. horns and one specifically themed with the quotes (musical and literary), images and symbols of many of the great trumpet players who called the birthplace of jazz home. On that topic, I'm also working on early N.O. jazz transcriptions for a show complete with vocals. Does anyone have tips on sounding like Louis without smoking a cigar or trashing my voice?