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...
2/28/2011 07:07:43 am
I have an SWE slide on my Summit, and besides the significant difference it makes in performance (I've also played Summits with traditional slides), it's beautiful! What you didn't mention is the art that went into the design. Rather than a flat piece of solid brass filling the inner curve of the slide, there are two subtle "waves" that almost seem like soft ripples moving through the brass, similar to what you'd see after dropping a pebble into a still pool of water. Anyway, it's my favorite feature on my horn.
3/3/2011 02:38:15 am
I just read the post below on another blog and immediately thought of these slides. No idea how the metallurgy of these alloys would be suited to instruments, but it seems like the process could allow for super-complex tapers, integral bracing, all kinds of things:
3/3/2011 03:17:16 am
very cool Sam...here are more articles for readers to check out on these titanium-zirconium alloys...
juan carlos russo
6/5/2011 06:28:05 am
saludos desde argentina lamentablemente tus trompetas no llegan por estas playas . yo ya estoy jubilado de un teatro de opera el argentino de la plata y teatro colon de bs as donde pase varias temporadas , siempre con trompetas bach in c sib tambien tengo una schilke de 4 pistones sib mib con 2 campanas es una trompeta maravillosa .mi maestro ya fallecido opinaba como tu sobre la bach , en fin son cosas del comercio lamentablemente .un abrazo juan
11/6/2021 05:27:45 pm
Would I be able to order a swe tuning slide for my getzen eterna 2 700 trumpet in raw brass. If so what would the cost be?
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Inventor, Musician, Educator and Founder of Harrelson Trumpets, Trumpet Momentum and Harrelson Momentum.