Perfecting the Geyer Design.
My focus is on building the absolute best Geyer style horn possible. The Geyer design has defeated many other different designs in the rather short evolutionary history of the horn. It continues to be the template of choice for many of the premier makers and players. I've chosen to use the design for a few different reasons. The first is that the Geyer horn can be made extremely accurately by hand. There is not a need for complicated machinery and bending jigs, although many companies use them. Also, because I have full control over the bending, I am able to take advantage of the places on the Geyer design where tubes run parallel to add long solder joints. These joints don't exist on many other designs, and don't exist on many manufactured Geyer horns either. The Geyer horn has stood the test of time, it needs no improvements from the likes of me. My focus is on building the absolute best Geyer style horn possible.
Evaluating design claims
The only claims worth making are ones that can be tested on the same horn. Too often, we attempt to make judgements by comparing two horns and isolating the perceived differences between them. Extrapolating these judgments to make claims about horn design in general is extremely problematic. Some claims I run across often are:
- "Sharp bends introduce extra resistance"- The implication here is that large diameter (which I refer to as "Mickey Mouse") bends produce a horn that plays more open than one with 90 degree bends. This claim is almost impossible to validate because there is no way to isolate this characteristic to test it. I've heard a story about Bob Paxman creating a F/F double horn where the thumb valve switched between a angled and a loopy F side. Apparently, people had trouble telling the difference between the two. Another story I've heard was about a set of experiments by German trumpet makers which showed that most players preferred squared tuning slides (with two "sharp corners") to rounded.
- "Braces must be placed at nodal points"- I can understand this one because of the picture of the string where the node can be touched without disrupting the rest of the string. I do wonder how much of a parallel this is in reality however. What note should you use to calculate nodal points? As soon as you change notes, or even pull a tuning slide, the nodal points will change. By using long solder joints, I believe that I affect all nodal points equally, making a more even horn.
- "It's all about the tapers"- This claim might make sense at first, because we've all had experiences changing a lead pipe, or trying out 2 or 3 different pipes by taping them to the horn. The problem with this though is that once you permanently install the pipe, it rarely plays the same way. I believe that the way the tapers are incorporated into the horn are just as, if not more, important than the specifics of the taper.
Things that I value for learning about my designs are things that can be changed on the same horn, eliminating the possibility that I will make a wrong assumption when comparing two horn that might have other, subtle differences between them. Things like:
- Bell flares- can be screwed on and off without changing any thing else on the horn.
- Tuning slides- a good place to test alloys and hardnesses in an isolated way
- Solder joint lengths and depths- can be lengthened and shortened with compressed air to find the best balance of efficiency and openness.
Consistency as a guiding principal is a fools errand in my opinion. If it were possible, then every factory horn would play exactly the same because they are all made from the same set of plans and spec sheets. Every horn player knows from experience however, that two horns of the same brand and model don't play the same, in spite of the technology and detailed design plans involved. My approach is that every horn of mine should play consistently well while allowing the individual characteristics of each horn to show through.
My demands from my horns
While I do allow the horns their own individual personalities, I do have some very high and specific playing standards that each horn meet before I feel that it's ready to meet the hefty demands of todays orchestras.
- Each note has a clear and open articulation, especially on the often squirrely E5-G5 range.
- Each note has a well defined bottom groove to allow the player to relax into the bottom of the note (where the best sound usually is) without sinking flat or having to rely on chops to hold the note up.
- Every horn should be able to decrescendo from ff-ppp without sinking flat at the extreme soft dynamics
Density vs weight
Many of the makers working today are attempting to produce the lightest horn possible as they pursue horns with "light" "agile" or "crisp" playing characteristics. Horns are not airplanes. Lighter horns are not necessarily more efficient instruments. While there is such a thing as a horn that is too heavy, I think that many makers have gone too far in their pursuit of "lightness" and have hurt other characteristics such as intonation and power/ projection. My opinion is that "weight" has become a loaded and dirty word for horn players so I've switched to using the word "density" to describe how my horns are put together.
November 15, 2017