Keep Your Horn Playing Consistently with These Tips!

I've had a pretty wild week, I've finished work on a heat treating technique for my bells which is having a nice improvement in response and color. I've also finished up another horn and am hard at work on a single Bb and a new double to show at a few regional workshops in March. I thought I would share a few tips to keep your horn playing consistently from day to day and some possible tweaks you can do to change the sound in certain situations.

1. If you have a screw bell, make sure that you twist it on ALL THE WAY, all the time. Many times a bell has an extra 1/8 in farther to go once it stops on its own but you do need to turn it all the way. It may help to make a mark where bell and tail ought to line up so you can hit it each time you put the horn together. If the bell is not making solid contact with the horn, the horn will sound brighter and feel less stable than it actually it.

2. Same thing with the mouthpiece, make sure that you are putting it in the same way each time. Try not to put an excessive twist to crank the mouthpiece in. It may help to make a mark on the mouthpiece to make sure that the depth and the orientation is the same. One problem with horn construction is that over time the mouthpiece tends to rub inside the mouthpiece receiver and work its way deeper into the leadpipe. This will cause the horn to take on a "fluffy" quality (thats the only way I can think to describe it). If this is happening to you, put a very small piece of masking tape around the mouthpiece and see what happens.

3. Make sure that all the valve caps are tightened. A loose valve cap can change the quality of the sound and make things brighter. This can be used to your advantage if you are playing loud and want a brighter sound or if you need to play a high Bb at triple forte and feel like the horn is too tight to allow all the air to go through. Try experimenting with loosening a valve cap slightly and see what new sounds or techniques open up for you!

These are all very subtle things, but when you add them all together, they make a difference. While I'm sure there is a good scientific theory, I am more concerned with empirical testing to find out the real world effects and applications. Give these a try and let me know what you come up with!


February 9, 2010