Part 2 of 2

Apologies for the really delayed post, but here’s the completed horn in all it’s glory.

(Sorry about the logo there – but I notice a lot of people using my images for reference and tagging – so they need to know where they can find all these great horns)

It’s amazing how a collection of parts can be assembled into something completely different by someone who knows what they are doing. Josh is the Master!


Interestingly – the lead pipe I sent with the horn was able to be saved – so that saved a good chunk of change from now having to pay for a newly hand drawn pipe.

Everything else that I sent was incorporated into the build.

You can see where the main tuning slide steps into the valve block that there is a smaller tube there – that design is actually the same as some of the early Benge trumpets.

Using a Cornet valve block was a great idea – lower cost and almost exactly the same as the trumpet block. I already have another block and pistons for another project lined up. I added the rubber bumpers on the 1st and 2nd valve slides as the slides were just 1mm or less larger than the tubes. (I attribute that to using 1930’s slides with a 1950’s valve block) With the bumpers there it all sits flush. I guess this could have been trimmed – but that would risk throwing off the intonation.

The only negative is the 3rd valve slide – the slides fits so well and the horn holds quite the amount of pressure that it impacts the operation of the 3rd valve slide a bit.

Sound: That’s the best part of this horn – it has come away with a dark, and full sound profile to it – it’s very much in the style of the large bore Martins, and also the 3/9 Calicchio. Needless to say that I was very happy with the outcome. (I’ve already had offers from players to buy this horn). You could pay twice as much and still not get as good of a horn as this one.  It’s got a bit of resistance in there – but a big full sound to it.

Bits I would change if I were to do it again:

– Leadpipe – as much as I really like this one. I wonder how much more fluid the horn would have been with the Committee style pipe.

– Main Braces – I really like the older Martin Handcraft Committee braces (which I think was borrowed from the French Besson design). Essentially a post in the middle with two connectors soldered. This I think allowed for less tension in the build. I personally also think that contributes a little to why the earlier horns have slightly better higher overtones in the sound than the later models.

Bits I really like: 

– Call me weird, but I really like the Indiana Finger Button design – they were built round and solid like a button with two grooves cut into it all the way around. Simple, good weight and feels good. These are much better than the earlier Handcraft designs which were quite small.

– The #3 Bell. Wow! – I get it. These are good, really good. Now if you wanted to buy one new (if you can) they were about the US$900+ mark. I’ve been looking but these are very hard to come by. In fact, hand made bells by many makers are quite hard to come by for that matter.

– Valve block. Yep it looks and feels the same, and pretty much there is zero draw backs (unless you have an issue with the connecting piece)

– Older valve slides and parts: These look much nicer in my opinion than the later models. There are more grooves, more weight and a higher quality brass used. If you look at the main tuning slide you can see it’s braced from the back of the crook. All these little touches were lost in later designs so they could pump out more horns and make higher profits. If you want a lesson in real craftsmanship look at some of the 1900’s – 1930’s horns that were built.


I’d love to share with you all how much this build cost, but I can’t – as I get pretty good deals on the building process. I will venture to say that it’s a lot less than a new horn. So before you go out and put your hard earned cash down on a new horn – why not recycle something old and turn it into something unique? There are many great custom builders worldwide who can do just that. It’s also quite the adventure tracking down parts and elements you might like to incorporate.

I will give you a rough breakdown on parts alone:

Bell = $350.00

Tuning Slide and Slides & Leadpipe = Approx $150(Got them off a Martin Handcraft Standard Bb Trumpet donor horn I paid $350 for. Sold the bell and valves to pay for the rest)

Valve Block and Pistons = $150 (This is a good price – expect to pay more)

Trim (Buttons, Caps & Tops) = $105 (Committee style caps will sell for up to $50 per cap – so see if you can find the older Handcraft Imperial/Standard or Indiana ones – they are close to half that).

All in all, well worth the trouble! Good luck with your own projects.



Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

It’s been a while since I did the last project ‘Making something new out of something old’ – Martin Handcraft Hybrid where I took a bunch of different Martin parts from various Martin models and put them together.

Whilst it took quite some time for the project to come to fruition that horn really turned out great. That particular horn found a new (very happy) owner in Japan – and no doubt will be seen in the Jazz scene there.

So,…….on the back of that project being finalized I started to look and source parts for another project.

For this round I have some pretty special parts lined up to make what I hope to be a special horn.

The idea is to make a Committee style horn (heavy Martin influences) with a larger bell – the idea being that the sound will be even larger and fuller  than the previous horn, and perhaps be more like the larger bore sound concept. The 3 bell was rumored to be a copy of the original large bore Martin bell anyhow so the results should be rather interesting.

This will be known as project ‘CaliMar’ – it blends some handmade custom Calicchio parts with Martin.

Valve Block – 1x Martin Committee Cornet Valve block complete with pistons

Leadpipe – I’m going to go with a Josh Landress brand new pipe here. Whilst I did have a #9 Callichio pipe lined up – I really do prefer a reversed setup – so I am going to have Josh complete this part for me and make a new pipe with a larger venturi than normal to compensate for the bell size. Plus he makes his pipes from scratch and they look and play great. A no brainer.

Tuning Slides – Sourced from a couple of Martin Handcraft Standard parts horns I have. 1st, 2nd and 3rd all from a cornet, and the main tuning slide from a Handcraft Standard trumpet.

What I like about the Handcraft slides is that they 1) have the standard style waterkey & 2) they have the additional detailing in the joins and edges that you don’t see on the later models – just nicer look and feel to them.

Trim – I have a set of Indiana/Handcraft yellow brass bottom caps. For the top I have a brand new set of Committee tops. I’m thinking to now save those and instead source some Indiana finger buttons and top caps to complete and older style look.

I’ve left the best piece till last – the bell.

I managed to find a Calicchio 3S bell that is in near new shape – been mounted for a test only. It wasn’t cheap – but it also wasn’t full price at about US$600 if you buy it new. Usually there is the #3 bell – the S I don’t know much about at all to be honest – and there isn’t much documented on it either. The size is a touch over 5 inches.  Either way I have high hopes for what this combination of valve block, leadipe and bell can do.

The last piece of the puzzle is of course – finding a good tech who can add that bit of magic and actually build what you have in your mind.

Josh Landress is definitely the guy for the job – a quick call to him, some quick suggestions and a rough quote – and the project is in progress as we speak.

I would imagine it will be finished by the end of April.

Here’s the before photo with all the parts laid out – can’t wait to see what the finished product looks like:


When done – I may break down all the costs as a matter of interest so people can see what it takes to put one of these horns together – it should be interesting!

Be sure to check back for update 2.


The last 8 months have just flown by…..

I’ve made some pretty sweeping changes to the website and Facebook pages too – they don’t currently exist!

That’s actually due to the fact that I’m concentrating on the Canadian side of things in Vancouver, doing my day job (Store Operations Manager for 200+ people), trying to build a business in Canada :,  and trying to raise a 2 year old. Needless to say I’ve been pretty busy of late. 

One thing I would like to keep going is this blog – I think it could become a pretty handy tool for some brass players out there, and might save them some time in researching and finding the information that I have learnt over the last 3-5 years.

For New Zealand the Trumpetgear website may be gone – but I will still continue to support people getting access to great instruments and information where possible – you can find me at for any brass related products – but I will continue to post here.

So coming up I have plenty to write about.

Since last posting I have lucked out and found some really nice instruments to talk about:

Martin Handcraft Imperial (37 Bell), Schilke B5L, Harrelson Bach Modification, Martin Deluxe Committee in C, Martin Handcraft Committee (Medium Bore), and coming soon – Martin Handcraft Committee (Small Bore) and Martin Handcraft Imperial Large Bore. 

More to come on these soon!

A horn that was a year in the making!

……. actually it was completed about April of last year but through a series of events never got back to me. (Partially my fault as I kept sending several horns to be fixed at once)

Anyhow the experiment seems to have worked!!

Originally what I had was a series of parts from Martin and someone with the skill and know-how to put it all together in Josh Landress  (Josh is the man for any Martin, Bach or Besson needs you may have – restorations, tweaks etc)

The concept was to use all different parts and see if: a) everything was interchangeable b) if we could make a decent horn for less than your average Committee and c) create something from old parts. The result is a very nice looking horn that looks authentic and plays well…….very well actually.


I would note that a surprise is that this horn plays on the brighter side of the spectrum – the Standards are an all brass configuration – and this one is in raw – so that could be an element of it. The lower nad mid range is full and rich – I do notice that this configuration really closes down when you try to play high – it really reminds me of my old 6310Z – it used to do the same. That lends me to believe that this could in fact be that I need some time on the horn to adapt to the blow.

Other work done:

Josh ended up replacing the worn out leadpipe and set me up with a Landress reproduction. His reproduction looks exactly like the original (I have a HC Committee and compared the two).

Fit and finish on this is great and the valves having been rebuilt give this horn a new lease of life. Not bad for a complete Frankenhorn!

If I’d wanted to be super fussy about this build I would have done the following: sourced an original trim kit – the bottoms from an early Indiana are great as they are essentially the same – the top caps and finger buttons don’t look of feel the same though. However, I must say that I do like the modification – there is a lot more room to hit the buttons vs. the originals – will keep that in mind for future projects. The waterkeys don’t match – purely cosmetics.

For the braces – if I did this again I would opt for the Handcraft Committee style braces – basically a mounted post – although I suspect that may lend it to become even brighter still. All in all I am pretty happy with how this horn turned out and look forward to the next project as I have another Martin HC Standard donor horn just itching to be resurrected to her former glory.



Which one is the Committee??

Posted: December 10, 2012 in Martin Committee





I thought I would do a quick experiment this afternoon and record a short sample of a song on a number of horns.

The challenge is to work out which one you would define as the closest to the Martin Committee sound concept?

Horn #2 Sound Test

Horn #3 Sound Test

Horn #4 Sound Test

Horn #5 Sound Test

Horn #6 Sound Test

Horn #7 Sound Test

These are one take (mostly) quick recordings with no editing – just a mic (AT2035) into a Zoom H4n recorder.

For the purpose of this exercise there is no horn #1 – the track got lost somewhere – which is unfortunate – but the experiment can still be run without it.

Put your votes in here or via trumpetherald!

Olds Recording Trumpet










This particular horn was in my possession for just over a month before it’s new owner was found.

I knew of the Olds Recordings and how highly regarded they are but it was through mere chance that I happened upon this horn locally and was presented with the opportunity to acquire it.

Now, unlike the Martins – there seems to be a lot better information out these in regards to these horn – so if you are looking to gain some insight into the horn and the specs etc this particular post is not for you.

What I will give is purely an emotional perspective upon such a horn.

Just looking at a vintage horn is this kind of condition you can but wonder the care it took for someone to preserve the integrity of the horn over the last 50+ years.

These horns were built to be played and recorded – and I am certain that this horn has done both, although somewhat sparingly.

The design and thought that went into this horn ins somewhat special also – the devil really is in the details:

– Trombone style waterkeys for easy use

– 3rd Valve trigger centrally located

– Offset 2nd valve (Ergonomically friendly!)

– Pushed forward valve section for balance

– Knibs on 1st and 2nd have mother of pearl inlays.

These horns just ooze a quality rarely seen in some of today’s mass produced horns – even the engravings is deep and crisp.

The sound of the horn matched the visual quality also – the horn is full, rich and with some power to it all at the same time.

When first putting it to the face you really need to be careful not to whack your chops as the valve placement is deceiving, the 2nd valve feels funny for a few minutes and then just kind of makes sense as the hand naturally falls that way. Today’s horns are mass produced – so it’s about efficiency of production and use of parts for multiple models – where this is a horn of yesteryear that was ‘crafted’.

Needless to say, I was well impressed by the Olds Recording Trumpet.

Truly a stunning design and well worth seeking out.




Well, I lucked upon yet another great example of a Blessing Super Artist cornet about a month ago (being so close to the US is great for horns!)


This horn has really got me stumped though – The serial number and my research just don’t add up.

The serial on the horn is the lowest I have seen on a Blessing instrument to date – Serial #1101 – that would put this horn in the very earliest years of Blessing Instrument Manufacture – which dates back to 1906.

Now according to some webpages between 1906 and 1935 some 28,000 instruments were produced. I am doubtful that this horn was produced earlier than 1930’s though as the decorative bell work seems consistent to the late 20’s early 30’s horns I have come across.

I emailed Blessing themselves hoping that they might have some records – but no luck.

Official response:

“Your cornet has to be from the early beginning of Blessings. 

Unfortunately early records were all kept by hand and not on the computer. 

Serial number with 28,000 are from the period of 1935.  

Your horn has to be before this period.  Blessing’s was started in 1906.  Unfortunately I do not know where your horn would be from 1906 to 1935.”

Hence I draw the conclusion that they restarted the serial numbers somewhere perhaps with a new model line.

I’m picking 1930-32 but that’s a real stab in the dark.

The funny thing is for a 80+ year old horn this thing stills plays great and just like one of the later models that are so sought after. Another gem uncovered from the Trumpetgear crew…

Here’s some images for people to compare/enjoy:



To SWE or not to SWE?

I like heavy equipment for my trumpet when it makes sense – For me, and quite a few others it seems to just work.

For those of you pondering if you should try out some additional mass on your horn I say – why not? There are several options out there to customize your horn – but I just want to focus on one element as the topic for discussion, and that is the mouthpiece.

This of course is the single most important element (short of your own physical body) as a source of input that allows the rest of the trumpet to act as a amplifier and bring forth big and bold some form of your sound. That being the case……does it make sense to ensure that the maximum level of ingredients that go into making that sound get directed down the horn – or that the quality of the input is at it’s best?

Perhaps this is where Jason Harrelson and his SWE (Standing Wave Efficiency) modification for mouthpieces comes in? (or for that matter any Mouthpiece manufacturer that makes a heavyweight mouthpiece blank – I personally prefer Dr Daves Wedge Heavyweight Backbore myself)

I used an interesting analogy just the other day about the ‘feel’ of  playing a SWE mouthpiece. I’m not sure if this is the best analogy (perhaps better to explain a heavyweight leadpipe – but the concept is the same) Imagine picking up and old straw and blowing air down that straw in a stready stream – the straw will handle that level of air to a point – but what happens if you blow to hard or too soft? Does that level of air get sustained? Does the straw perhaps vibrate under those conditions? Then imagine getting a small metal pipe of the same internal proportions – but with extra mass around that straw. What happens? – the air is consistently delivered down the pipe under both loads and remains consistent.

Therefore is it better to have additional mass at the point of delivery? – Yes, I believe it does!

My theory (and it’s probably common science/physics) is that with the additional mass more energy is delivered into the horn where you need it to be – thus allowing better control on loud and soft volume. I also notice that with the lighter weight mouthpieces there is more physical feedback on the mouthpiece through the minute vibrations – and this is enough to throw you off ever so slightly when going to highs and lows in the range of the instrument.

I tested this theory out by purchasing a Curry 1.5DE mouthpiece and a Harrelson Modified version of the same mouthpiece then played them testing out the difference in feel, blow and slotting. To me the Harrelson was far superior in all 3 areas. Such a simple concept – and it works. Not only that but the modification just looks badass. (and all us trumpet players want to look cool right?)

Now the only question left is – can you justify the price tag to do this ‘tweak’? – or do add mass in another way?  For those with Curry mouthpieces – I suggest purchasing a Curry Monster Sleeve for significantly less.

For the rest of us the question remains to SWE or not to SWE!!

The question remains…

Before considering purchasing another instrument to get a different sound – why not consider the option of purchasing a different mouthpiece to change the tone and color of the sound?

Here is another Trumpetgear sound sample that demonstrates just this idea. (I recommend using some good quality headphones or monitor speakers to pick out the differences)

Mouthpiece Test (Cornet)

The horn in question is a Conn Victor 80a Vintage Cornet (from the 1950’s) and 4 different mouthpieces:

– Vintage Bach New York #2 Cornet Mouthpiece

– Wedge Gabriel Rim Flugel Top with Cornet Backbore

– Vintage Bach New York #10 Cornet Mouthpiece

– Al Cass 3×4 Cornet Mouthpiece

Although most share a common sound concept there is a definite change in tone and timbre – the most noticeable being the Al Cass 3×4 mouthpiece.

Switching between mouthpieces is a big no-no for a lot of players – but I have developed being able to do this over time and can fine tune the sound to the music and the sound concept through some minor changes.

I hope you enjoyed this little test and look forward to your comments as to which you think might be best.

Which is better – a Bb Harrelson Summit or a Vintage Martin Committee??

Let your ears do the deciding for you.

I finally have some semi decent home recording equipment for which to make some accurate recordings of horns. (More on this later as I dive further into this)

This comparison I have been asked for several times – so here it is:

Summit vs Committee Sound Test

Conditions for recording:

Mouthpiece – Wedge Gabriel Rim 24 with a Medium Backbore on both horns

Mic – Audio Technica AT-2035 linked into a Stienberg CI-1 Audio interface and Audacity software – there are no effects added to this recording – it’s raw and ‘as-is’