Horn Builder Q&A, Leadpipes and Bracing.

Just stumbled on your website and enjoy reading your philosophies and about your horns. I'm curious about the Yamaha horn... What prompted you to open the venturi? I always thought Yamaha horns had already just about the largest venturis around. And the solder joints. Do they increase the perceived blow resistance of the instrument?

Like a lot of horn players, I'm curious about horn design, having tried many leadpipes/horns/mouthpieces, but haven't been able to make sense of it all yet!

Greetings from NYC, Aleks

Hi Aleks,

Since the answer is book length, I'll just share with you what I think about horns in regard to those parts (long solders, leadpipe)!

I've played many horns that have uneven registers. By this I mean that as you go higher in the range, the horn "tightens up" and loses the ring in the sound. This causes squirrelly high notes and makes the upper range very hard to play (high Bb anyone?). I believe that the reason this happens in Geyer style horns is that the leadpipe venturi is too small. But, opening up the leadpipe sometimes turns the horn into a dump truck to play (very hard to be agile and direct with the sound). Many horn makers err on the side of a too small venturi and leave it up to the player to get around the problems in the upper range.

The second part of the equation is the long solder joints. The more that the horn is soldered together, the more energy it takes to vibrate the instrument. This gives the feeling of resistance without the unfortunate "backing up" of air that accompanies trying to fit a large amount of air through a small hole.

So! What we have are two sets of generalizations;

1. Large venturi pros include more even horn and easier high range. Cons include not enough resistance to push against and loss of endurance/ focus in sound. Small venturi pros include focused sound and quick response. Cons include very tight in the high range, slurs and too close together (intonation issues).

2. Braces equal quick response, lots of ring in sound, no focus, and pops in slurs. Soldered equals slower response, more resistance, extra focus in sound, and liquid creamy slurs.

I pair a large venturi with long solder joints to get the best of every world. Nice easy high range with good intonation but still resistant and focused enough to push against and not get tired (or to play really loud).

CAVEAT! Everything must be BALANCED! Longer solder joints are not always better. It is the right venturi paired with the right solder lengths that make the horn sing. So don't go at your horn with a torch and some solder and yell at me later...


October 29, 2009