I have developed numerous bell options over the years with the goal of having more than one viable option for every player's preference. Today, most clients typically have 3 to 4 options that will meet their needs. This allows for slight variations in projection, tonal quality and feedback after you've identified the zone of options that fits you specifically.
Choosing a bell is relatively simple and definitely fun. Want more projection? Then a thicker wall is for you. Want to hear sizzle or more sound behind the bell? Then a thin wall will give you more feedback. Just remember that thin wall bells are relatively fragile and less efficient than standard and heavy options.
Let's start with versatile bell options. Being a performer of every genre, I tend to prefer a balance of brightness, darkness, projection and feedback behind the horn. I want the best of all worlds. Versatility is often the name of the game and the most popular bell that fits every style of music is bell 1. I modeled this bell after the Bach 37 with a few minor changes. It plays more in tune than a Bach 37 or Yamaha Xeno, yet blends with these factory horns easily. The overtone series is vibrant, rich, colorful and satisfying much like a great Bach trumpet, but without the inconsistencies.
Other versatile bell options include bells 9, 7, 3, 4, 6 and 10. That's a lot of options so there's something for everyone. Bells 3 and 6 are more broad and slightly darker than bell 1 offering more low and mid partials in the overtone series. Bells 4 and 10 are even more broad leaning toward a darker tone that is usually suitable for all around playing. Bell 9 is a heavy wall version of Bell 1 designed with a slightly tighter bell tail giving this one more sizzle. And Bell 7 is also similar to Bell 1 designed with a larger bell tail and a larger final diameter of 5.4" producing a vibrant overtone series that projects more evenly to the audience.
My personal favorites are bells 7, 8 and 9. Of course, I would like to have one of each, but since I only have three horns, these are my bells. My Summit Midnight has bell 8, which is standard on the Midnight model. My Summit One has bell 7 and the Medusa trumpet has bells 8 and a tighter version of bell 9. For the past several years, I have only had these three trumpets as my personal horns. Maybe when I get ahead on orders I'll build myself a new Summit Two with the new AGR. At least, that's my goal for September.
The Bell diameter determines the projection pattern. Standard bells before WWI were often cornet and flugel bells, many of which ranged in size from 4 inches to over 6 inches. With the big band era came a small bell trend in taper, volume displacement and diameter. Most bells in the the 1920's through the 40's had relatively less volume displacement, tighter tapers and a smaller diameter than their predecessors. This was likely due to the nature of big band music, but I can't be sure as I wasn't born until the 70's.
A smaller bell diameter projects more directionally, which is nice when you want your music to move forward toward the audience like in a rectangular hall. Likewise, using microphones is typically easier with a smaller bell diameter, but you sacrifice tonal color and an even projection pattern in the process.
A larger bell diameter projects more evenly. This is ideal for intimate venues, small audiences, playing softly and being more expressive with your sound. And larger diameter bells work great for larger rooms or even arenas as the sound projects more like the wide setting on an adjustable flashlight. It is unlikely that anyone will get too much light in their eyes with this setting and the same is true musically. A larger diameter bell often results in more listeners sharing positive experiences as they no longer hear the shrillness so common in trumpet projection patterns.
Less bell volume in terms of displacement reduces the amplitude of partials in the overtone series. This means that smaller bells have less richness and are usually interpreted as having more edge. This is due to the physical limitation of the smaller space, which results in the full overtone series being diminished. Smaller bell volume is great for players who have lost some of their hearing or for those who prefer a brilliant tone that is easy to hear. I generally do not produce bells with an extremely small volume, but they are produced by other manufacturers.
More bell volume in terms of displacement increases the amplitude of partials in the overtone series. Yes, this is the opposite of the last paragraph. Larger bell displacement can be measured in the taper or by filling a bell with water, then pouring it into a measuring cup. The largest bell I produce is the 8, which is probably the largest taper available from any manufacturer. This bell produces every partial in the overtone series and it is obvious the first time you hear a Summit Midnight. The tone is so big, vibrant, rich and full that most people wonder if there are other trumpet players in the room playing along. All of the bells I offer have a fair amount of volume to create more of this affect with bells 1 and 9 being the smallest options.
Bell thickness affects projection, feedback, intonation and efficiency. There is a fair amount of physics I could bring into this explanation, but in basic terms a very thin bell will lose energy more easily than a thicker bell. This is due to the anti-nodes setting the bell wall into physical motion. The more your bell vibrates, the more energy you lose and the more problems this will cause. Thin bells are responsible for poor projection, intonation and efficiency. However, a thin bell will give the player a ton of audible feedback behind the horn.
Lead players who insist on playing lightweight bells to project are literally fooling themselves. It is physically impossible to project your sound further with a lightweight bell when compared to a standard or heavyweight option of the same taper, material and diameter. So why do so many lead players use thin bells? Usually because the feedback behind the horn sounds better to the trumpet section! Ask the audience and you will always get a different response as thin bells cannot project across a large room. I have had this conversation with many great players and several of them disagree with my findings. The evidence is overwhelming and you can test this yourself with a decibel meter if you're on a budget or a full spectrum analyzer if you have access to the equipment. Simply place your measuring device at the back of the hall and compare horns. Thin wall bells project less amplitude on most or all partials in almost every test.
I do offer lightweight bell options, but these are recommended only in situations where they are actually needed. The player who has lost a lot of hearing is the most common scenario followed by the lead player who insists they cannot play an efficient setup. The most efficient lightweight option I offer is bell 10GLT, which is relatively broad and stable. But at the end of the day, a standard weight bell will project further, play more in tune and easier. The major drawback to lightweight bells is that they are damaged easily.
Now let's get into the thicker options, bells 5 and 9. Bell 5 is made of pure copper and is the most efficient option I offer. However, it is the least popular bell as most players prefer the extra vibrancy and chaos that is present in the overtone series of a thinner, harder material. Copper is soft and does not set into motion easily meaning it is considerably more efficient than brass. In fact, Aluminum has these same qualities and I will soon be milling bells from solid Aluminum billet for this reason. The drawback to copper is that the tone literally sounds too pure for many players who are accustomed to the sound of a Bach, Schilke, Getzen or Yamaha. Bell 9 is almost the opposite of bell 5. The 9 option is very efficient, vibrant, colorful and it is the thickest brass option I offer.
Which bells are best for Orchestral playing? Well, the answer to this question will depend on the type(s) of orchestra(s) and the region of the world you are performing. Many orchestral works call for a broad, dark, open sounding trumpet while others require bright and light. Ideally, an orchestral musician would have many options at his or her disposal and perhaps more so than any other musician.
My major was in Trumpet Performance with an emphasis on Orchestra at a small private college known for very high standards in classical music studies. It sounds great to pre-qualify my advice to you by stating I went to a really cool school, but in reality what I have discovered is that you do not need a degree in something to be competent or even great at any skill. And my recommendations are general in this blog entry so your ideas of what will fit your playing best may change after we have had a conversation in person, on the phone or after you have tried a specific bell first-hand. People are subjective and choosing a bell is also subject to the circumstances. Also, all bell recommendations are the same for Bb and C trumpets.
With all that said, here are my recommendations for bells listed by composition;
On to Jazz, Lead, Commercial, R&B, New Orleans Traditional Jazz and more. I've played my fair share of gigs in every genre so I do have my specific preferences for various settings. But to give you a general idea of what most of my professional clients choose, here's a list of options listed by genre;
A note on "X" bells, these are turned on the same mandrels as their counterparts with an extra wide diameter, usually 5.3" or larger. The X bells spread your sound out more evenly to your audience for a more consistent and enjoyable listener experience.
The Summit model is where I spend most of my time developing, building and answering questions. On average, I take over a dozen orders for some version of the Summit trumpet every month. This includes variations designed for Jazz, Orchestra, Big Band, Solo, Symphonic Band, Commercial, Lead, Latin and Brass Quintet. Today, I will discuss the advantages of the Summit model, the various options available and I will make comparisons to other trumpets available from within my own offerings and those of other manufacturers. This is your opportunity to discover the incredible potential available to you in the form of an instrument I named after the highest peaks in the Rocky Mountains. I continue to invest my life into this ever-evolving expression of trumpet design, which may well be one of my life's greatest achievements.
Is the Summit Trumpet truly a custom horn?
Yes! In fact, every Summit is custom built to your exact specifications. And the Summit model offers more custom options than all other trumpet builders combined. This is a true statement and I've done the math. If you take every custom option available from every single company worldwide, you are left with a fraction of options when compared to the Summit.
A personal consultation is included with every order
Almost every client has a conversation with me directly to clarify options and expectations. This ensures that I build exactly what YOU want in terms of playability, tone, projection and aesthetics. We also discuss the model variations to find a balance between efficiency, price and wait time. The more efficient models like the Summit SWE and Summit One require more time and machining whereas the standard Summit is usually the quickest build time available.
Which line of Harrelson Trumpets is right for you?
I personally recommend the Summit line of my instruments over the HT, Bravura and Gravity lines for the following reasons:
What is the difference between the Standard, Jazz and Lead models?
There is no difference in build or overall design when ordering these three variations. The real difference is only the way you configure the leadpipe, bell, tuning slide and trim options. The Standard Summit IS exactly the same as the Jazz and Lead versions. I have given them different names since trumpet players are accustomed to seeing these words in the model descriptions. I could generalize by stating that most Classical players use a specific leadpipe and bell, but in reality that configuration may be the perfect setup for a Jazz or Lead player. So I refer to all of these models as the "Summit" trumpet.
What is included on a Summit trumpet?
Just about every option is included on all Summit models and here's the list of choices:
What is not included?
There are a few items you may consider adding depending on your preferences. These may include custom finishes, extra text, graphics, art, special bell bends, custom bracing shapes and just about anything you can imagine.
What are the prices of the various Summit variations?
The entire Summit line is the most reasonably priced instrument available today when you consider our custom options, service, playability, energy efficiency and quality. There is no competing model available anywhere in the world and thus the Summit is in its own class.
How does the Summit compare in price to other brands trumpets?
Comparing the price of other brand trumpets has always been a lesson in advertising. The general rule most corporations follow is to maximize profits while maintaining or gaining market share. This means charging as much as possible, while reducing production costs. Corporations are focused on convincing people to buy a product, which makes sense since they are in business to make money. All of the major manufacturers do this by advertising endorsed artists heavily regardless of the fact that you do not play the same as the person pictured in the advertisement.
I am also in business and have employees to pay, machines to maintain and numerous expenses. But the major difference is that I have devoted my life to the design, manufacture and performance of trumpets. My heart has been in this since I was 16 years old. My goals are primarily to offer the very best solutions to musicians at an affordable price while making the process and products extremely fun and rewarding for all. I have built this business from the ground up with no investment capital, just my own two hands, my mind and complete dedication to my own very high expectations.
Investing $4695 in a custom Summit trumpet is a very different experience when compared with other manufacturer options. You could purchase a Bach or Yamaha from a discounted online dealer for less than a Summit. Or you could purchase two or three Summit trumpets for the price of one Monette!
And purchasing your Summit trumpet is easy with flexible payment options. After your initial $500 deposit, you have the option of making monthly payments in any amount. We require 50% of your balance when your order is ready for final assembly. And your final payment is due when your horn is ready to ship to plating, lacquer or you in the case of a raw brass finish. Considering the build process is normally 4 to 6 months, you can create your own payment plan that fits your budget or simply make two payments at the end of the build process.
Here is a short list of other brand trumpets and current prices:
How do we compare value?
This is entirely up to you as value is subjective. You may want to consider factors such as who designed the instrument and when. Almost all manufacturers' trumpets were originally a copy of the French Besson, which was designed over one hundred years ago. There was some really cool experimentation happening throughout the 40's-60's, but the vast majority of options today are almost identical to one another and not much different than what was offered in 1970.
I have re-designed the trumpet using the latest technology including Computer Aided Design and Analysis, Ultrasound and Spectrum Analysis while incorporating Standing Wave Efficiency technology. Being a professional trumpet player in all genres for most of my life, I have built and played over one thousand different configurations within my own line of instruments. And I have owned, disassembled, carefully measured and re-built over 300 of the most popular trumpets available today. I have first-hand knowledge of almost every trumpet designed in the past 100 years that is not locked away in a museum. This includes the latest designs by the most advanced builders in the business. I have owned, measured and tested seven Monette trumpets and dozens of horns from the best current European manufacturers. What can I say? I like to do my homework.
You could also compare value within the manufacturing processes. This topic brings many manufacturing techniques into question as consistency and accuracy are usually sacrificed for speed and a mirror-like silver finish. I have devoted a great deal of my blog to addressing the issues prevalent in mass manufacturing today so feel free to discover these on your own. My manufacturing processes included extensive use of CNC machinery with glass scales to ensure consistency and high accuracy. I personally build every trumpet from the programming and running every machine down to hand fitting every single piece by hand before I solder and test all components. My name is on every horn and I want you to be proud of my work.
Where do we start with all these options?
At first glance, the sheer number of options available may seem overwhelming. I assure you, this is more fun than you think. There are no right or wrong answers when choosing components and I will guide you through the entire process. It's almost like designing a custom home and the goal is for your horn to feel like coming home. The following is a brief overview of every option included on all Summit trumpets including links to resources within the HT website.
There is a leadpipe and bell configuration to meet the demands of every player. I will walk you through the options that will best fit your needs helping you make the final selection.
Understanding Bell Options
This in-depth overview will help you determine the bells that will best fit your needs.
The latest SWE tuning slide options include styles A, D and R. Style R designates the "Ripples" design that matches the new SWE Bell Crook available on all Summit trumpets ($600 option).
Finishing your trumpet in silver, gold or lacquer may be preferable if you want a clean appearance. Mixing brushed and polished accents in any combination is common except in raw brass. Adding clear lacquer preserves the original finish preventing tarnish. Silver will tarnish over time, but much more slowly than raw brass. Adding carnauba wax to brass and silver finishes will also prevent tarnishing. Gold plate never tarnishes and looks great in a brushed finish, but the price is considerably higher.
5MM Modular Mouthpiece
With over a million modular configurations, the 5MM will allow you to play dark to bright, soft to loud, broad to focused and it is included with every Summit trumpet.
Your choice of tapered or cylindrical shapes in two diameters, the AGR Receiver is available plain or with text and/or model logo engraving.
A full set of 9 AGR Inserts is included with every Summit trumpet. After you have had a few weeks to acclimate, we will send you 9 more inserts in your choice of venturi and size to continue fine tuning air flow, flexibility and slotting.
Including with every Summit, your name or a small graphic may be engraved or milled into the receiver, top bracing or trim kit. In addition, you choose what will be milled into the top bracing. The standard setup includes the Harrelson logo, Leadpipe and Bell designations on the top and the build date and Denver, Colorado on bottom.
We now offer 4 water keys including the Saturn, Harrelson, Pollard and Amado designs.
Ergonomic finger rings are pictured in most photos on this website. Variations include the pinky rest with or without an open ring, cylindrical rings in 1/3" and 1/2" and the following custom styles; Flames, Summit One, Skeletonized and Ergonomic Arch.
Top caps are available in standard recessed 1/2", classic 1/2", tapered and low profile versions. Updated photos will be added to our website soon. See our Facebook pages for a sneak preview!
Bottom caps are available in standard cylindrical and classic styles in sizes ranging from 1/4" to over 1". We also offer numerous designer options including tapered, tapered groove, grooves and the new organic curves styles that will debut this coming summer. Updated photos will be added to our website soon. See our Facebook pages for a sneak preview!
Finger buttons are now available as a solid one-piece brass design in two sizes and two shapes and two modular variations. Updated photos will be added to our website soon.
Finger Button inlays options include everything from vintage dimensional glass to shells and semi-precious gemstones. We literally offer over 200 inlays and we perform extensive lapidary work in our Minneapolis shop. Updated photos will be added to our website soon. See our Facebook pages for a sneak preview!
Third Stop Mechanism
We now offer 4 options to keep your third slide from falling onto the floor. The spring ball stop is the most popular allowing you to set a tension screw once. Then you simply pull the slide with extra force to remove for cleaning or greasing. The screw stop is a much improved version of the industry standard. The latest design is a black delrin plunger allowing slide removal with one simple pull. The last option is the black band, which is requested from time to time, but not recommended.
Every new Harrelson Trumpet includes a full 12-month guarantee. You may exchange your trumpet for full credit towards another new Harrelson Trumpet based on your original invoice amount, allowing you to upgrade to a more efficient or different configuration without risking any of your investment.
How will you set up your Custom Summit trumpet?
Feel free to share your ideal Summit trumpet configuration by leaving a comment. I also encourage you to check out my Facebook pages "Harrelson Trumpets" and "Jason Harrelson" where you can share ideas with current Summit trumpet owners.
Bravura Flugelhorn research & development
I sat down this morning to write my latest blog entry and came across Jake's latest entry Infinite Finish Lines that hit home on exactly what I have been thinking as I build trumpets this weekend. My interpretation of Jake's blog is simple, musicians need not limit themselves as the essence of life is found within the process of growing musically and throughout all aspects of life. You may take a minute to read his blog as the following is my commentary on his entry...
"That sacred feeling of accomplishment, understanding and communication that musicians feel when they believe they have reached a certain level of proficiency is universal among all people. This is especially true of Jazz and Classical musicians who often believe that they are in fact special "talented" and/or "gifted" people based on their personal development on their instrument(s).
In reality, pretty much all people have the same potential to succeed in just about anything including Jazz music. What defines us as acceptable, good or even great musicians is our own individual "integral code" by which we live, listen, learn and express. There are many words spoken today that attempt to describe or pinpoint this "integral code" such as integrity, soul, musicality, intuition, expression, nuance, intimacy, drive, life, experience, synergy, energy, vibrancy, genius, etc. But at the end of the day, the common denominator is more accurately expressed as "choices". We each make choices narrowing down our options until we choose to do one thing over another. We CHOOSE to love music, to love our instrument, to love our work and to love our friends, neighbors, family and the stranger passing you on the street. Everything we do in life involves some choice. We can even choose to hold our breath and end it all in vanity, yet all of you reading this have chosen to breath and live another day.
So what is the source for the ever-present depression and cynicism among great musicians? Choice! Like everything in life, some of us choose to believe that the reality of life, music, politics or whatever is the right way and the only way. THIS IS THE SOURCE OF DEPRESSION. Expecting everything in life to go the way you had imagined is counter intuitive to reality. Our world is filled with billions of people and infinite possibilities so why do we CHOOSE to believe there is only one way?
You're onto the key ingredient to life Jake. Life is about learning, growing, stretching beyond our limits, trying new things every day and becoming more experienced gaining an ever-growing body of perspective.
We have it as good or as bad as our understanding of good and bad. (Most of us have it pretty damn good if we only gain perspective)"
How does all of this relate to my weekend of building horns in solitude? Well I'm glad you asked. I was reflecting on my life since the time I began holding a trumpet in fifth grade. I say holding the trumpet rather than playing it as I didn't take the time to learn to play trumpet for over six years. I literally held it and pressed my best guess at a valve combination and blew to hopefully get close to the required note in rehearsals. I was that kid that was always one note behind rhythmically while playing the wrong note!
The day I began taking trumpet seriously, I practiced four continuous hours. Within two years, I had a very defined vision of who and what I would become as a musician on trumpet. In my mind, I was going to become a classical virtuoso playing all the best venues around the world. My fans would travel any distance to see and hear my technically acrobatic unmatched musically genius, or so I thought.
Yes, I had visions of grandeur that no one could diminish. And for years I believed that it could and would all come true because I knew I had the drive, devotion, intelligence, integrity, passion and commitment necessary to succeed. I worked hard throughout college as a trumpet performance major continuing my 4-hour daily practice routine. Competition at St Olaf College was serious business in the music department as this school attracts and produces an extremely high percentage of great musicians every year. Just keeping up with all the other kids was a major undertaking considering I only had one year of trumpet lessons under my belt. I worked hard to overcome embouchure problems, ear training, even serious medical issues all the while keeping my eye on the ball. I believed that the key to being successful was never giving up and always working hard to reach my goals.
Then reality stepped in and my dreams were shattered. At least that's how many young musicians think of their lack of accomplishments. I personally have never seen anything I've worked hard to achieve as a failure or shattered dream. I don't see how having a self-inflicting negative attitude is productive, necessary or enjoyable. Yet I meet a lot of young (and a fair number of older) people today who either believe they are extra special (and therefore better than others) or down and out because the world is not currently acknowledging their unique talent(s) and/or genius. Some of these people have in fact been recipients of prestigious awards after recording albums while others are completely unknown to the public. Regardless of age or accomplishment, they share self-pity, frustration and cynicism.
Before I continue, let me make it clear that the vast majority of musicians I encounter and work with are very positive, happy, well-rounded and productive people. So please do not think I see this as an epidemic problem. More likely, this attitude plagues the newest generation of players coming into our new world of instant communication, instant information, instant sound and video and instant gratification. I am thankful to have been raised for so many years living on the road with my parents, AM radio, 8-tracks and singing.
I dropped out of college in my senior year and pursued building trumpets. Everyone thought I was crazy to want to build trumpets, but I simply saw this as the natural evolution of my vision. I reasoned that I was older, more experienced and with my new perspective I saw that there was more to music than being a virtuosic star. I wanted to become more than a musician. I yearned for a deeper understanding of music, which is essentially artistic communication.
Throughout college, I became obsessed with three subjects outside of music; psychology, physics and biology. It seemed strange at the time that other kids knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. My friends would state that they were studying pre-med with the next steps being grad school, residency, then happiness. Okay, the "happiness" part wasn't spoken, but it was always implied as the natural result of having a master plan. Most of my friends were going to become lawyers, doctors, scientists, professors and concert musicians. And most of them achieved their goals.
I didn't have a master plan. In fact, I didn't even know I was going to college. I applied to attend St. Olaf College against the will of my parents and my high school guidance counselor. My counselor refused to write a recommendation for me and pleaded that I consider a small state school. He didn't know anything about me as the first time I ever met with him was when I asked for the recommendation. He took a look at my attendance history and grades and pretty much told me to get lost. I applied to college without him and had a glowing recommendation from my band director who saw my great potential.
Gary Tangen was my high school band director and he was much like my Dad in that they both pushed me extremely hard to understand and the concept of "Cause and Effect". Neither of them ever labeled their teachings as such and, like all great teachers, the essence of their lessons was always aimed at this basic principle. Everything in this world exists in its current state as the result of some action or inaction. The Cause and Effect principle is so very simple, so universal and very often completely ignored in our society. Mr. Tangen would demand excellence at all times just like my Dad.
There are many ways to achieve excellence or something closely resembling a really good job and it was expected of me to discover my options to produce real tangible results. If you've read my past blog entries or attended one of my master classes, then you may recall the time I challenged the best player in band and moved from 13th chair to first chair in less than five minutes. After I won first chair that day, Mr. Tangen saw my potential and took me seriously. He moved me to the top band a month later and I sat 3rd chair in the Symphonic and Jazz bands the following year. The first and second chairs were occupied by guys who had 7 years of private lessons senior to my 6 weeks of practice and zero lessons.
Mr. Tangen told me to sign up for study hall with him during 3rd hour the following semester. I didn't know why he wanted me to do this, but I didn't question him and signed up. The first day of "study hall", I walked into the band room and he said, "Go warm up the band, I'm going to the lounge to get some coffee." After he walked out of the room, I was suddenly hit with the reality of the situation. He just told me to go into the band room, which I could see through the large office window, to conduct warm-ups with the kids in the band, the kids who were my peers just a few short months ago. This was my first experience rising to a leadership position within a group of peers and I recall picking up the baton, demanding silence followed by fifteen minutes of warm-ups and exercises. Everyone did exactly as I asked almost as if I was the regular teacher and not a student. This was an eye-opening experience, one of many similar leadership situations that Mr. Tangen and my Father put me through time and time again. I am forever grateful for the opportunities I have been given to hopefully succeed when the possibility of failure was clearly evident. With risk comes the potential for growth, understanding, perspective and wisdom.
What did I learn from that day? I had never directed a band before, nor did anyone even give me the slightest hint that I may need this skill. It was literally forced upon me unexpectedly when I was 16 years old with no guidance or supervision. I learned that putting yourself into a new unknown situation is a great opportunity for success, which basically the opposite of what educational institutions preach. They tell you that you must study long and hard with your nose in a book and your butt in a chair to absorb tokens of wisdom, rules of the game and such before you ever set foot in your profession. Hogwash! (I love that word) How in the world did the very first band director ever stand up in front of a group of musicians and accomplish anything if there were no classes available to learn his subject matter? There's only one logical explanation, he got up there and figured it out all by himself. Cause and Effect is within everything we think, everything we do, everything everyone does everywhere.
I also discovered that day what it means to gain perspective. The previous year, I was sitting 13th chair in that band and couldn't play an Eb as I had not learned my trumpet fingerings. Now I was directing the band's warm-ups a few days a week and was looking for kids who didn't know their scales. I would pick them out right there in front of everyone and work on the notes they missed. I could easily hear wrong notes since I was previously an expert in this area. Perspective is everything. I could now see that making music was not about individuals, but rather the culmination of every musician's efforts coinciding within the patterns of the prearranged architecture we refer to as musical compositions. A band is the perfect example of Synergy, or synchronous energy and effort that produces something greater than each individual's contribution. Perspective, Synergy, Leadership, Cause & Effect...all in one day.
Getting back to my original story... Much to the surprise of my friends and family, I was accepted to St. Olaf and headed to college when I was seventeen. This was probably the first obvious point in my history that shouted to the world, "I do not have a master plan!" Unlike my peers in school, my plan was to live life and experience everything possible while achieving excellence and maybe even some small piece of success with others, rather than all on my own.
Making decisions based on circumstances in the moment has led me all over the world. By embracing the moment and seeing opportunity where others fearfully imagine failure, I have been gaining experience, perspective and understanding in everything I do for my entire life. Music has been an integral part of my existence as it is for most humans around the globe. But there has never been room for selfish narrow expectations of society to accept my music by my own definitions. And this, I believe, is where the latest generation of musicians has been misinformed.
Despite all of society's efforts to shower young people with praise and positive energy in hopes that they would grow up to push human potential even further in the direction of perfection, I regularly encounter young people "suffering" boredom, depression, lack of motivation and entitlement issues. This is where I pick up from last week's blog entry. Choice is a choice. It sounds silly until you think about it. You choose to consciously take responsibility for your attitude or you don't. It is your choice to decide to make decisions. In other words, we all have the luxury of choosing how we react to our current circumstances. Further, we all could hold ourselves accountable for our present state of mind, body, finances, career, happiness, etc. as these are all the result of our choices. Or it could be said that we are responsible for our own Cause and Effect.
Two very wise men taught me that choice is a choice that not all people choose.
Choose wisely my friends, for your love of life depends on it!
So why is there a photo of the Bravura Flugelhorn stages of development? Because the choices I have made in my lifetime led me from wanting to be a trumpet virtuoso to discovering that there is so much more to life than simply playing a musical instrument really well. Every aspect of life on this planet holds the potential for growth that you believe is only possible with music. How else can you explain why mathematicians become lifelong lovers of equations or why biologists risk their own lives to discover new species deep in the jungles of the Amazon? The human experience is potentially the greatest experience in your life.
Today I will reveal a few simple techniques to setting optimum mouthpiece gap with any trumpet and mouthpiece. If you are new to the concept, Mouthpiece Gap is the space measured from the end of the mouthpiece to the beginning of the leadpipe (inside the receiver). The gap I am referring to is not visible and can only be measured by putting something inside the mouthpiece receiver of the trumpet. I will explain everything in great detail so if you'd rather see the summary and pass on all the mumbo jumbo technical stuff, just skip down to the graphics below.
How Gap changes over the years
The Gap on trumpets and mouthpieces varies widely by manufacturer, model, manufacture year, wear patterns, dirt, debris, damage, etc. The current tapered trumpet mouthpiece shank design in use today is prone to error on an extreme level and should be abandoned, in my opinion. The problem is that the slightest variation in the tapered surface results in a very different gap setting. For instance, when I take a brand new Bach 3C mouthpiece and place it into a brand new Bach trumpet, I can measure the gap. Let's say this number is .120" or 120/1000 of an inches, which machinists verbally state as, "one-hundred and twenty thousandths". Now introduce 2 years of wear from removing and re-inserting the mouthpiece. The inside of the receiver will stretch slightly depending on how hard it has been inserted and the outside of the mouthpiece shank plating will wear. Measuring the gap after two years, the measurement is almost always slightly smaller, say it now measures .110". Let's continue this scenario, in year 3 the mouthpiece is dropped and the shank is bent slightly. Now the gap may measure larger, say .150" thanks to the dent preventing the mouthpiece from being inserted far enough because the taper stopped at the high spot of the dent. Now years 4 through 17 see excessive receiver wear due to the dent in the mouthpiece shank scratching the inside of the receiver in various random places. The gap at year 17 may now measure anywhere from .250" on the long side due to more mouthpiece shank damage or as little as .050" on the short side due to regular wear to the inside of the receiver.
How Gap affects your playing
So the horn has been played over a period of time and the gap has potentially changed several times, both abruptly and gradually due to the factors mentioned and others unknown. But how does this variance in gap effect the way the horn plays? I have written on this subject extensively and you will find references throughout earlier blog entries, but here's a quick review. Very little gap, under .080" down to .000" offers less resistance in the airstream resulting in a more open blowing setup that requires more conscious effort to land on a note perfectly in tune or to hit the correct note in the first place. I personally play with a zero gap setting and prefer this as it allows me the freedom to place pitches anywhere when I play intervals, but I am the exception. Most players prefer medium gap, which I define as something close to .100" or one tenth of an inch. The setting gives you a balance of flexibility and slotting, making notes lock in easier while providing the freedom to slide off of a note with a little effort. The other extreme is wide gap, which is more commonly used in lead and high note playing and rarely in orchestral and symphonic setups. I define wide gap as anything over .130" and I have measured some horns built with gap up to .400". Most horns with wide gap tend to lock in on each note too easily so that slurring up or down to the next partial is difficult or sometimes nearly impossible. Some lead players love this feeling as it assists in landing on higher notes, but offers less flexibility. While others prefer a wide open blow to move around and find the notes with the air stream. A wide gap setting usually offers little or no room to adjust for intonation with the aperture or air stream so this is the least versatile option. I've created a simple graphic below to summarize the basics of gap so now we have an understanding of how gap changes over time and why we would prefer one setting over another. To each his/her own, but there surely is something that works better for you as an individual and I encourage you to try everything before making any conclusions.
This illustration shows the mouthpiece as it is inserted into the receiver. The leadpipe is fitted to the back side of the receiver to provide optimum gap, but the exact leadpipe position in relation to the receiver taper is a guess as every mouthpiece taper and shank length varies widely.
The ultimate solution would be a mouthpiece shank and receiver system that is not tapered, but rather a cylinder held by a collet. This is how the very same problem was solved in machine tooling where an adjustable length (gap) is required. Only when everything is perfect does a tapered system work, which would require all trumpet players to use the exact same gap length. This would give us more consistency in the system, but little versatility to meet each individual player's needs and preferences. The new AGR or Adjustable Gap Receiver is my solution and you will see this introduced on the Harrelson Summit trumpet later this year.
Sometimes I don't even know where to start, there is so much happening with Harrelson Trumpets and in my life personally. Between designing and building new custom trumpets for clients, designing new components and instruments (Bravura Flugelhorn & Summit Midnight), introducing our new Modular finger buttons/inlays, designing the 5MM Modular Mouthpiece System, offering Trumpet Master classes on Embouchure and Efficiency, playing with Oscar (our shop dog) and amazing events in my personal life, there has been little time to reflect. So this will be my attempt to summarize with the hopes of hitting on individual topics in future posts.
In the past three months, I am thankful to have to offered masterclasses at San Juan Conservatory in Puerto Rico, Loyola University in New Orleans, Lawrence University, University of North Texas, Oklahoma University, McNally Smith College of Music, Schmitt Music and other music stores. And I have worked with trumpet players around the country and Caribbean as well as in the Harrelson Trumpets Shop to help design and build new instruments to meet each player's needs. It has been great meeting so many of you on my journeys and if I haven't been to your area lately, send a request and I'll try to make it happen sooner rather than later.
Here are a few photos from the past few months...
I will be focused primarily on finishing the many projects I have begun in the coming months before the International Trumpet Guild Conference in Michigan. There may be a stop in Chicago sometime in June with master classes to be announced. There have been numerous requests to visit Florida, Georgia, NYC (again), Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, Australia and Arizona. Let me know if you're affiliated with a University or group of trumpet players in these areas and I will consider making a trip this summer to offer my perspective on Embouchure and Efficiency as well as a chance to play some really efficient horns!
In other news, we have a new photographer at Harrelson Trumpets. Tony Mantovani is producing the nicest photos of my horns to date so check our website for updates on almost all trumpet and trim photos in the coming weeks. I believe Tony will also be offering his services to our clients individually if you are interested in having a full photo session of your new trumpet just after it is built. You may contact him at email@example.com. Be sure to see some of the new photos here first: Harrelson Trumpets New Photography
Other announcements include a new member to the HT Family, the Summit Midnight. I have been developing and exploring the Summit design with variations since the first prototype a few years ago. This allows me to try new ideas while maintaining consistency in the design and build process and offers new interesting design and machining challenges, which I welcome. Previous Summit variations include the Summit One, Summit Zero, Summit M, SWE Summit, Summit Art, Summit Art Nouveau, Summit Lead and Summit Jazz. There may be others that I don't recall at this moment ;)
In designing the Summit Midnight, I wanted to create a horn that speaks clearly in the low register with a smooth centered tone in all registers. James and I were discussing this idea when he suggested that a black lacquer finish would suit this horn's dark velvety sound. Thanks to Tom Green for the awesome translucent black lacquer finish now available on the Midnight. This finish shimmers a dark forest green under some lights and a deep purple under others. Either way, you can see the Harrelson Trademark brushed brass finish under the lacquer, making this horn very unique aesthetically and a ton of fun to play. I have never experienced such a broad, solid, full low register on any trumpet. Trombone players will not envy my low register as I can easily bury them! The coolest part is multiple tonguing is now a breeze below low c all the up to high c. I've never been great at multiple tonguing above high c, but that is now my new goal on this horn...double and triple tonguing scales and arpeggios to double c while producing a big beautiful sound that is anything but shrill. In short, I love my new Summit Midnight! And one lucky New Orleans musician just placed the first order for this model last week. Maybe I'll record a few videos showing the flexibility and extremely warm tone of this new horn. Did I mention it was designed with the largest bell I have ever offered? The flare of this bell could eat your Yamaha Xeno and Bach 72 simultaneously for breakfast! See more photos here: Summit Midnight
I intend to follow up this entry detailing the following topics so remind me if I miss something;
I will be back in New Orleans in less than two weeks to see the Satchmo trumpet sell at live auction. I built the Satchmo trumpet in honor of the Satchmo Summerfest that takes place annually at the Mint the first week of August. 100% of the sale price will go directly to French Quarter Arts Festivals, the non-profit that presents the festival. Please take a minute to spread the word on your Facebook and Twitter accounts by posting a link to the event here: Neal Auctions: Satchmo Trumpet
You can also see the trumpet on page 97 of the Neal Auction Catalog. I've also included a preview screenshot of the auction catalog page below.
I'll be offering a free masterclass at Loyola University New Orleans on Friday the 16th for students of Nick Volz. Let me know if you'd like to meet while I'm in town to talk shop or grab a drink.
Unrelated to this trip, I will also be giving a presentation on Standing Wave Efficiency tomorrow at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul tomorrow at 1pm. Please share this information as well by clicking here: SWE Lecture: St. Paul, MN
I have invested the past two months almost exclusively to developing new ideas on the cnc lathe. New developments include modular finger buttons and inlays, concave finger buttons, variations on bottom cap styles, more efficient bell couplers, Harrelson water keys and the 5MM System.
The 5MM Modular Mouthpiece System will offer over a million configurations by simple component changes including the rim, cup, throat, backbore, shank and outer body style. The idea is simple, settle on a rim size and shape then create variations of your favorite mouthpiece suitable for any kind of music. You can adjust air flow and tone by changing the throat, available in over 25 sizes. Attacks can be robust and bold with a deep cup or quickly switch to a shallow design for better endurance and cutting power. Backbore truly affects intonation and breadth of sound and various shank tapers allow you to use the same mouthpiece on any trumpet, cornet, flugel or even french horn and trombone. And finally, you can customize aesthetics and efficiency with a variety of stock or custom body components.
Our introductory price in standard sizes is only $100 for each complete set. You may now pre-order your 5MM Modular Mouthpiece on our website with shipping expected to begin in 4 to 6 weeks. Standard size variations include Bach, Yamaha and Schilke sizes with more options coming soon. Custom size variations will be introduced as they are developed.
Summit Art C Trumpet
Four months have passed since I've really stopped to think about what's ahead and what has been accomplished. The Minnesota leaves changed and fell to the ground in a matter of a few short weeks. Having lived all over the country, I have a hard time understanding why so many people enjoy this place of two seasons, one long cold winter and one very short unsatisfying summer. There's always talk of "four seasons" here, but after so many years I now realize it is little more than wishful thinking. I truly miss Montana this year, but that's another story.
Today I am finishing up CAD designs for a Summit Art trumpet featuring the Boy Scouts Eagle, several sports team logos, double helix valve stems and numerous other custom options while running modular finger button inlaid caps on the 6-axis lathe. The shop is humming with running machinery and the smell of brass is in the air, just like every weekend. Sundays are my time to focus on challenging new projects without interruption.
I had the idea to create modular finger buttons around six years ago, but never attempted the design on a manual lathe as the fine threads and very tight tolerances would have been incredibly challenging without the aid of modern machinery. Last summer, I vowed to purchase at least a 4-axis cnc lathe to accomplish producing the vast array of intricate parts and systems filling my invention notebooks. I have a habit of re-investing almost every penny back into Harrelson Trumpets so saving the funds to purchase our current 6-axis lathe was relatively quick and two of our most loyal clients were kind enough to loan us the additional funds to purchase tooling, a barfeeder and other necessary accessories. Can you believe it cost over $20,000 to purchase tool holders, collets and cutters? That's the price for high precision machining on one of the world's most amazing machines. I'm thankful for all the technology available today even if it is so expensive.
I have built over 800 trumpets using a manual lathe. Over 500 of those trumpets were built with the aid of a cnc milling machine of which I have owned 5 different models. Of that five hundred, around half benefited from our extremely accurate cnc vertical machining center purchased two years ago. And this summer marks the beginning of a new era in Harrelson Trumpets designs, production and customer service as we have put our new cnc lathe into service.
Our new lathe will allow us to deliver ANY trim kit in a matter of a few days through the mail or within an hour when visiting in person. Need custom top caps, bottom caps and finger buttons to match for a vintage Martin? No problem. You want the parts to look identical to the original 1941 design? I can do that or you may choose from any of our new custom SWE designs as well.
Speaking of new custom designs, I intend to introduce new designs every 2 to 3 months. Look forward to new inlay options, crystal cap overlays to protect inlays for life, wide body options, concave comfort shapes and intricate 2D and 3D milled artwork, monograms, etc. I enjoy combining jeweler-quality options with brass instruments. Why not have a horn that reflects you while adding beauty?
Back to the Modular Finger Button design, here's a photo of my sketches showing the three piece system. This consists of the Base, which is specific to the brand and model instrument such as Bach Stradivarius. The Base is similar to the bottom half of a standard finger button. The top half is a threaded hole that accepts the Core, which connects the Base to the Cap. The Cap is the part that is interchangeable allowing you to share a wide variety of styles and inlays between any horns fitted with the Harrelson Base. Now you can order your favorite inlaid finger buttons and years later, easily fit them to a different "favorite" horn.
I plan to introduce modular top and bottom caps within the next year offering similar options that are less expensive than purchasing standard SWE Trim Kit parts. Someday, those monogrammed bottom caps you ordered will fit any horn in your arsenal.
On the topic of creating solutions on the CNC lathe, here are a few of the new ideas you will soon see come to life:
- Harrelson Water Keys, an improvement over Saturns these are intuitive, more robust and offer custom options
- Modular Trim Cases for storing your SWE Trim Kit parts and accessories, these will be very inexpensive made from Delrin
- Internal Mouthpiece Gap Measuring Device (GMD), did you know that mouthpiece gap varies between almost all brands?
- Internal Mouthpiece Gap Adjustment Kit (GAK), now you can adjust your gap, see why gap is a deal breaker for everyone
- External Gap Kit (EGK), available in several variations offering almost everyone the option to make your external gap disappear
- Precision Valve Guides for all horns, made of Delrin, superior to brass or nylon offering smooth quiet performance
- Air Speed Aperture Trainer (ASAT), this device is based on my extensive research and teaching on range, embouchure and endurance. Contrary to almost every product developed by other companies over the past fifty years, the ASAT trains you to develop aperture and air speed coordination to develop a beautiful sound at all dynamic levels in all registers. The fundamental idea behind the ASAT is directly responsible for my own control as demonstrated in my videos, lectures and private lessons. Playing high notes really has little to do with forcing lots of air or developing strength. Coordination is the name of the game!
There is much more to mention here, but now I must get back to machining and building trumpets!
Today I will be discussing the differences between SWE Technology and Bent Tube Technology. There are tremendous advantages with SWE Technology brass instrument design that are simply not possible with early 19th century tube bending. Since SWE Technology is the basis for all Harrelson trumpets and accessories, I will also spend extra time explaining Standing Wave Efficiency and how I incorporate this into HT designs.
Standing Wave Efficiency (or SWE) is a term I coined in the 1990's to signify the amount of energy in a standing wave that is transferred into other types of energy. These other energies are primarily instrument vibration and heat. SWE is the percentage of energy transferred from the sound wave into heat and vibration of the instrument including the player's body and head. The higher the Standing Wave Efficiency of an instrument, the less energy tends to be transferred into movement of the tubing, bell, head and body of the player. Measuring actual energy loss in the form of heat is negligible except in cases of extremely thin wall instruments.
Bent Tube Technology came into widespread practice in the 1800's and was considered cutting edge stuff at the time. This evolved into the modern day techniques used to bend tubing in the musical instrument world. If you check Wikipedia, you will find no mention of this process, though it has been in practice in its various forms for almost 200 years. Essentially, a tube is annealed then filled with pitch or water and bent around a custom form or die. To produce tight or multiple bends, the process is repeated as the material work hardens when bent requiring re-annealing. Today, modern off-shore mass production facilities that produce tubes and parts for brands like Bach use basically the same techniques that were used in the 19th Century.
Let's start by exploring our options with Bent Tube Technology. By producing brass instruments with this technique, one may create an impressive array of smooth aesthetically pleasing curves in a tube. Early designs often featured two, three or more complete circles within a single tube. Very cool. Tapered tubes like the bell may also be bent, which is how most trumpets and cornets are made today. In fact, the following trumpet parts are all achieved with this technique; all three slide crooks, tuning slide and bell crooks. Look at a French Horn and you'll quickly appreciate the artistry of Bent Tube Technology.
However, taking a closer look at this nearly ancient method of metal forming reveals inconsistencies that have been a concern of mine for nearly 20 years. I began taking trumpet seriously at age 16. In fact, the first time I ever practiced trumpet outside of school was halfway through eleventh grade. I became addicted after my first week of practice, learning all my major and chromatic scales and quickly moving into the Arban's method. The more I practiced, the more I noticed how my trumpet was designed and built. I noticed dings and dents in the tuning slide, bell crook and second valve slide crook. I asked my Dad about the dents and he explained to me that the tubes were thin on the outside of the bend and thicker on the inside due to the way they were produced. This meant that the outside of the crooks were weaker and prone to additional wear and damage. This really had me thinking about building a trumpet with tubing that was equally thick at all cross sections. Two years later, I was experimenting by disassembling two trumpets and reassembling them to have reinforcements at the crooks.
As I gained more experience and knowledge of brass instruments by completely disassembling them, I learned of many more inconsistencies introduced by Bent Tube Technology. In theory, you should be able to roll a .459" gauge ball down a .459" tuning slide and it will roll out the other end. However, this is rarely possible. In fact, I don't believe this has ever held true in all my experiments and measurements. You are lucky to get a .454" gauge ball through a .459" tuning slide and more often than not only balls in the .44x range will fit. Why stamp a Bach Stradivarius with "ML" and offer a key referencing .459" if there are .446" restrictions within the inside diameter? The answer is likely that Bach doesn't care to hold up to their own advertised bore size. In many cases, mass production is clearly more important than honest clear advertising.
Believe it or not, there is an additional step to modern Bent Tube Technology designed to prevent the previously described bore size errors. This process is known as "balling out" the bent tubes. A die set is milled to accommodate the bent tube profile with a tiny bit of extra space at the bends to allow for expansion when a steel ball the size of inside diameter is forced through the bent tube within the die set. The ball forces metal to give way to the softer brass opening up the inside diameter to the desired bore size. In doing so, the ball stretches, pushes and pulls the walls of the tube often creating scars and pitting as you would find in shaping modeling clay. These pores and scars are now a permanent part of the tube, never to be re-worked or smoothed.
Imagine the assembly line where someone sits on a stool bending annealed tubes around a curved form all day long. Next the freshly bent tubes are individually balled out in the die set and stacked in a bin. Three weeks later, another assembly line technician pulls the bin of tubes and begins forcing them to fit into a jig designed to solder trumpet tuning slides. Some of them fit, but most need finessing as they are imperfect from one another due to the tube bending production process. The daily goal is an arbitrary number of finished tuning slides for the day so guess what the technician is thinking about while forcing each one into the jig? My guess is that quality control is not always on his/her mind. Even if the highest quality product was the number one concern during assembly, the process is not conducive to consistency. You see, when you make a bent tube "fit" a jig, it is usually necessary to bend it slightly a second time by hand. Consider the bent tube is too wide to fit into the fixed length jig. You bend it in slightly to make it fit. But in doing so, you just crushed the inside diameter all over again. Only this time there's no way to ball out the diameter. You have just produced a tuning slide for a ML .459" trumpet that actually measures .446" at one or both crook bends. The same would be true if you had to bend the tube out in the case of it being too narrow for the jig.
So far I have described three sources of inconsistency in Bent Tube Technology. These are 1) non-uniform wall thickness (thick inside of bend, thin outside of bend), 2) Damage due to ball out technique (scarring and porous wall surface creating air resistance) and 3) Inconsistent inside diameter due to the demands of mass production jigs (results in smaller than desired bore size).
The primary reason I produce my instruments using my own techniques is due to Standing Wave Efficiency. Sure, I don't want the problems that result from old techniques, but these are small issues compared to the considerable energy lost when producing instruments cheaply. And by cheap production, I mean using on or off-shore manufacturers to make large quantities of inexpensive parts that have likely never been inspected using metal thinner than is acoustically practical. Ever wonder why 10 identical models from the same manufacturer play different? Now you have an idea of how mass manufacturing using 19th Century techniques is partially to blame.
I wonder how anyone can justify spending $2000+ on a trumpet that has never been internally inspected. Yet, this is likely the case with the vast majority of professional trumpets sold in the United States. How can I say this? Well, because I have personally inspected them and time after time, these inconsistencies remain. In fact, it is a common occurrence when measuring a customer's mass produced name brand silver trumpet to find that the "ML" marking should actually read M, L or S. It is even more common to find the wrong leadpipe on a specific model trumpet. I wonder sometimes if factories simply use up excess tubing, leadpipes and bells just to meet production needs or to clean out the supply room now and then. How else do you explain repeated discoveries of Model 37 ML trumpets measuring .462" built with a 43 leadpipe?
By designing with Standing Wave Efficiency in mind, I created an entirely new production process where tubes are precision machined on CNC equipment in two halves. This guarantees precision inside diameter tolerances far less than a thousandth of an inch while providing an extremely smooth polished inside finish. Gauge ball tests confirm accuracy with a perfectly tight fit to all sides of the tubing wall. And the best part is that producing tubes in two halves allows any wall thickness, which in turn improves SWE. Since the production process of SWE tubes is proprietary, I will not explain everything in detail. But from the photos here, you should have a good idea of how this process is far superior to Bent Tube Technology.
The future of Harrelson Trumpets will evolve into SWE Technology being utilized in the precision manufacture of every single piece of the instrument while abandoning Bent Tube Technology altogether. Currently, the SWE Trim Kit, Finger Rings, Tuning Slide and Leadpipe are produced with the new production process for the higher end trumpets with the SWE Bell Crook coming to the Summit and Gravity later this year. Other components will include SWE Slide-free Valvesets, Bells and the new 5MM Modular Mouthpiece System.
When I was a 10-year-old boy in fifth grade, I opted to play the trumpet in the school band. Back then, I believe the rental fee was $25 per semester and my parents did not have the funds to make this happen.
So the band director, Mrs. Oakey, waived the fee when I told her I couldn't join the band. She assured me the fee was just a formality and I did not need to pay. She then handed me an old cornet that I played for the next 4 years.
Being on a budget has always been a fact of life. My parents are very intelligent and hardworking, but they never earned a lot of money. My sister and I were very happy growing up to the point that we did not know we were on the low end of the income scale. In fact, going to Goodwill was one of our favorite activities as we could sometimes find a hidden treasure in the toy department while my Mom was shopping for our clothes. I never gave a second thought to wearing used clothing or playing with used toys. When we received new clothes and items, we cared for them and kept them like new as the value was clearly important to us. As I grew older, I wondered how so many people could justify spending $X for something new when you could buy it used for 10 cents on the dollar. When it came time to buy my first vehicle, it was used. In fact, I've owned over two dozen cars and only one of them was new. When it comes time to buy a home, most people buy used the first time around, right?
Well, fast forward to college and my take on reality changed dramatically. Almost all of my friends received a new car for high school and/or college graduation. This blew my mind. How could their parents afford brand new vehicles for their KIDS? Now I get it, some people have more money than others and buying new cars may or may not be a reality.
However, purchasing one of my trumpets can be a reality for just about anyone. It is one of my core beliefs that my trumpets and accessories be available to everyone regardless of income. My SWE Trim Kits are an incredible value considering the advantages gained by Standing Wave Efficiency starting at under $210. That's around 58 cents a day if you saved for one year. And with our latest "Trade in Event", you can receive up to $2500 off your new Harrelson trumpet by trading in your used Bach, Yamaha or whatever. This means you could purchase a brand new Bravura for $4.09/day if saved over the course of one year (or $1495 cash + trade). Show me another custom trumpet builder (or any manufacturer in existence) that comes even close to this offer and I'll show you a potential competitor with Harrelson Trumpets.
Not to blow my own horn, but this is the opportunity of a lifetime to own a true handmade custom instrument that fits your specific playing preferences. I will discuss your musical and equipment goals, offer various leadpipe, bell and tuning slide configurations to meet your needs and answer any and all questions along the way. The best part is that ordering a new Bravura or Summit includes EVERYTHING you want in your new horn; finger button inlays, saturn water keys, SWE trim kit, ergonomic finger rings, choice of leadpipe, bell & tuning slide all for one fixed price. Where else can you even find these options? We are the exclusive manufacturer of more custom options than all other manufacturers COMBINED.
If only I could have purchased one of my own horns or even a trim kit back when I was starting band at Newman Elementary in Billings, MT.
So go get a jar out of the closet and start dropping in 58 cents a day to get into your first SWE Trim Kit. Then you'll be hooked and for just over 4 dollars a day, you'll be on your way to a BRAND NEW Bravura!
Believe it or not, here at Harrelson Trumpets we get this question every month or so, "Who builds Harrelson Trumpets?". Well, the answer is simple, WE DO! Or more specifically, I personally build every Harrelson Trumpet and my shop assistant James cleans them up while Paul is careful to check each trumpet build a third time against the original order form. It blows my mind that anyone would think we didn't build our own product. And if we didn't, then who would be secretly producing them for us all the while remaining anonymous?
When I step back and think about this question, it makes more sense in the backdrop of modern manufacturing and branding. Many brand name companies do not produce their own products. And those that do produce something often achieve this by way of anonymous factories in China, Indonesia or some other place we associate with soul-less mass production. Maybe Harrelson Trumpets somehow come across as mass produced, but I really don't see how this is possible. I build more custom trumpets each year than all other manufacturers combined. Only a small handful of the instruments I build are stock options, usually within the HT series. Looking at our photos of completed trumpet orders posted daily on Facebook, there is a wide variety of options produced every week.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I also receive this question quite often; "I see so many variations, but what will my Summit look like when it's complete?". The answer is whatever you want your Summit to look like. You also determine how it will play to a great extent by choosing your leadpipe, bell and tuning slide configuration. This may sound like a fair amount of work, deciding on all these options to have your trumpet made custom to your preferences. But in reality, it is a fun and rewarding experience that usually results in learning more about yourself while working with me personally to find the best options to fit your particular needs. Having the final word on each and every piece of your trumpet is seriously an addictive process that many customers choose to repeat with a second or third Harrelson horn.
I am making it my goal to provide more explanation and an inside look at my work through this blog by making new entries every week. I find it easy to forget to write my blog as I really do wear many hats at HT producing just about everything that goes out the door. Hopefully, this blog will answer the big questions and give most of you insight into my approach to physics, acoustics, music, trumpet, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I seriously love what I do and have made tremendous sacrifices to pursue a full-time career in trumpet design, manufacture and performance since 2001. Please feel free to send me ideas for future topics and questions.
ps...here are a few older photos of horns that I built with my own two hands, right here at Harrelson Trumpets in Minneapolis Minnesota!