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’


One of the beauties of being in this business and having such a niche interest is that we hear from people all over the world.

This information comes from one of our friend via the USA – Chris Dankler is a prolific Ebay seller and collects/studies and sells a large range of vintage horns and equipment. (I thought you would all appreciate me sharing this – and it is being shared with his permission – and we will be sharing more of his information in our Guest Posts section in the future)

He had this to say about Martin Horns: “Hey you guys…..found  your page discussion on the Martin Standard and I can fill in some blanks. If you find a standard with nickel past 42, then it’s actually a discontinued Handcraft Committee …..the earlier standards go back maybe as far as 32….and they aren’t named.

Schilke was doing much of the same design work at Holton early 30’s messing with the placement of the cluster and other little tweaks but really the basic “Committee” design was started 32/33…..they also changed their mid bore to .453 then and also kept their famous taper but increased the bell ending diameter.

I have a 32 horn with the traditional reverse tuning slide/bigger bell but it’s all .438!….(getting a valve job on it). Later they introduced the Handcraft Imperial with all of the nickel and maybe more ornate finger rings etc but the Standard is basically just the plain stepsister!….and most probably all Schilke designed….people think they’re student horns, but people forget that the Indiana line was actually the student line.

Under the Martin name there really aren’t lesser horns…..not only that, even the Indiana’s share the valve clusters and valves….as time goes on the Indiana and straight Imperial are both lesser horns for a while…..they don’t do the step bore and the bells seems to be made of harder metal but due to the design still retain many of the qualities.

Now on top of that, in 55 when they introduce the Magna, the Imperial gets the goofy double reverse slide…..BUT, as my theory goes, they were low on money….as it seems they were quite often…..and my thought is that they used Committee bells on them…..there are some that are also stamped IMPERIAL-COMMITTEE….also COMMITTEE…with Imperial script underneath Elkhart…..on top of this, they use the Committee Finger Buttons too…..and they PLAY much different that the Imperials and really close to Committees, but once again with better bracing.

One thing that is really funny too is that you’ll notice that sometime around 1960, they don’t have that great olive color to them anymore…..some attribute it to having to change lacquers but roughly the same thing happens to Blessing same time…..I think that the brass forging changed, whether they went to cheaper makers or perhaps some industry change…..there really isn’t a horn today that can play like some of the New York Bachs, 50’s Holtons too….and I think all the designing in the world doesn’t help as it is the actual material that made the difference!!!”

Martin Handcraft Standard Trumpets


This post has literally been a while in the making – as I ordered these horns back in Feb/Mar of this year, and have been patiently waiting since for them to arrive.

Brand new to New Zealand (and perhaps the first worldwide for at least one of the horns) are the two following CarolBrass Custom horns:

1) CTR-5000L-YST-AD

This horn is the standard offer CTR-5000 with a unique finish applied to it. If you weren’t familiar with the CTR-5000’s they are probably the most popular of the lightweight horns that Carolbrass sell – and for good reason…they are a great price – and they play exceptionally well. An ideal horn for Jazz, Lead or Commercial music.

AD – in the model number stands for Antique Dark. See the image below for details – I think this is a stunning looking horn and really has a modern contemporary look about it.









2) CTR-5000L-PSM-AL

This horn was the one I was really waiting for……. It uses the valve block and leadpipe/mouthpipe from the CTR-5000 but comes with the Carolbrass Phosphorous Bronze Standard Medium bell.

How many horns do you know of under $2K that has a bronze bell on them?

On top of that I asked the factory to apply a special finish to this horn – the finish is Amber Lacquer – which has only ever been used on the full Material range phosphorous horn – and that costs quite a bit more and is very limited. This same process was applied to the bell and the body and produces a finish which I think is stunning – it’s like having an aged horn from the 1950’s with all the perks of a modern one (great valve action – and even better yet in stainless steel – and amado water keys). Doing this was a big roll of the dice as it’s a risky move with the process and it’s always coming out different – but I think it really paid off.

If you like this horn don’t sit on the fence – contact us via the website and talk to us about it – At this stage there is only one that I know of that has been made.

Someone is going to be exceptionally happy with this horn in their gig bag.


Chris Botti & Band were in the house last night – and when I say house (with a Canadian twang) I mean the stunning Orpheum Theatre here in Vancouver.

Unlike last time I planned ahead and bought my tickets as soon as they became available (around August 2011).

Being super prepared and dedicated afforded me and my wife one of the best seats in the house – front row.  (Classy!) – Above is a photo taken on the sly (as they don’t allow pics)

What unfolded over 2.5 hours was a fantastic concert – it had a bunch of the classic tracks – plus a few of the new tracks from the new Impressions album in for good measure.

The great thing about this band is that every musician in their own right is an awesome soloist – Billy Childs, Robert Hurst, Mark Whitfield and Billy Kilson – then you have Caroline Campbell and Lisa Fischer in there as guest artists also. Each soloist at some point almost store the show with each of their respective solos.

The show was mixed with some high energy songs like – When I fall in Love, The Look of Love (this was worth the price of admission alone – Lisa Fischer is amazing on this!) and Why Not where the band was just smoking hot. If you can get in the front row it’s totally worth the price of admission as you can see the expressions, hear the hidden comments and share much more of the experience. I especially loved watching Billy Childs on the keys. He is just a blur of hands in some songs – and he decides in a couple of sounds that he’s run out of keys to play – so he starts plucking or strumming the piano strings directly for additional effect.

On the slower/softer side there was – Italia (feat. Lisa Fischer & Caroline Campbell), Venice, Emmanuel (Feat. Caroline Campbell), Cinema Paradiso (Feat. Caroline Campbell) and a few more I can’t recall at the time of writing.

Being up close to Chris is a thing in itself also – I knew that he has a great sound (and I am not talking the electronics or reverb) – but the soft edge and fullness of the horn and how he creates that sound is testament to the time that he has put in on the horn. He’s also found a way to deliver percussive phrasing and runs on the horn unlike most horn players why try and fit in strings of notes. I must have looked like a weird guy in the front row staring intently at all the actions, nuances and phrases taking down mental notes on everything.

Seeing him live is a totally different experience to listening to a CD as you realize he can do all that, run the stage and the sound guy and the audience all at the same time.

From the new selection of songs on the Album the track – Prelude No.20 in C Minor is haunting and is a must listen track – we were lucky enough to get the live version played on the night.

To finish the show – My Funny Valentine (My all time favorite) with just him and Billy Childs. – Great!

What an awesome show!

Afterwards you get the opportunity to meet Chris (Billy was out signing too) and have him sign records and take photos. And he stays till the last person – which is nice as that takes about an extra hour to run through 150-200 people and all the photos. I didn’t want to miss out so I bought a CD and also brought along an old playcard bill from 2001 from his opening concert of Night Sessions which got a good chuckle as it was from 10+ years ago and he hadn’t seen it essentially since then. (Thanks Ebay!) Both now signed.

What I should have done was take along my Martin Committee Prototype horn built by Reynold Schilke and had him play it.  I have a small collection of interesting Martins brewing so he probably would have dug that

Thanks Chris

Hope to see you again next year!

Correct me if I am wrong – but In New Zealand a lot of players tend to be involved in playing a variety of different musical styles.

What that means for a Brass player in general is that sticking to the ‘middle-of-the-road’ option for choosing your horn means you generally end up looking at a Bach, Yamaha or Schilke option. All 3 of these brands are know for  producing professional horns that are in gig bags all over the globe.  It’s safe to go for a more commercial style horns as the sound is generally consistent and there are less inherent ‘quirks’ if you stick with them.

Out of those brands lets dig a little deeper into them and look at what you are paying for them:

Yamaha – good options for all-round playing are more than likely the Yamaha Z series (8310Z) and the Xeno (8300 series and above) Horns. These are great horns and are well made.

But let’s look at some costs I found for these from online retailers:  8310Z  $4095.00 RRP (I am guessing street price is about 10% less than that – so $3600 ish), 8335 in lacquer is $4995.00 RRP (So around $4,500).

Bach – most common option would be the Bach Strad 180/37 $4299.00 in lacquer with standard tuning slide (Street price is just below $4K). If you want a reversed tuning slide setup it’s about $100 extra.

Schilke – B Series is still the classic choice $5299.00 (Guessing street price again is about 10% less). Let’s be fair that’s in silver plate – but still quite a bit of outlay.

I’m not against any of these brands – I have played them all in the past (I’ve literally played the entire range of Yamaha horns at the Super Store in Japan – and owned a 6310Z for over 10 years) – I am merely pointing out that there are options out there in the big wide world that are only just now being discovered!

This is the CarolBrass CTR-5000L-YST-SL Bb Trumpet. (The series is CTR-5000)

It’s going to cost you around $1300+ NZ at the time of writing  (Photographed option SL is approx NZ$300 more).

It’s a Lightweight Bb Trumpet that will blend with most other horns, sounds great and is built to last.

These also have Stainless Steel Valves – so will outlast any of the monel options and give you a better valve action.

On top of that they come a few options that frankly embarrass the competition:

  • Additional Main Tuning Slide (You Get 2 in the case – so you can choose which feel you like better). If you have ever looked into after market parts these usually cost around USD$170 alone
  • Lightweight Finger Buttons (You get a standard MOP set on the horn also) – A set of these are usually US$50+
  • Lightweight Valve Springs (Again you get to choose how you like you valve action)

So, you not only get a comparable quality horn, but you also get more options that some of the others for less than half the price?

Makes you think twice about splashing for the Big Brands I hope.

If you are looking to put a kit together you can probably get 2-3 horns for the same as one.

For example (all with Satin Lacquer Bell Finishes – that’s an extra $100 per horn)

Carol CTR-5000L-YST-SLB NZ $1395.00 – Bb Trumpet

Carol CFL-6200-GSS-SLB  NZ$2395.00 – Flugel

Total Price for 2 horns = $3790.00

Getting back to CTR-5000L horn specifically you can dial that horn in a variety of different ways should you wish(For an additional cost – contact us for details) – for example with the finish options:

P – Raw Polished Brass, L – Lacquer, SLB – Satin Lacquer Bell, SL – Satin Lacquer, S – Silver Plate – they also offer a Black Nickel Finish with Gold Trim or Silver Plate with Gold Trim.

You can also adjust the Bore Size – Medium Large, Large or Xtra Large.

You can adjust the Bell – Size (2 Sizes – available – Standard or Large)

And Lastly the Bell Material (Yellow Brass, Gold Brass, Red Brass or Phosphorous Bronze)

The reality is though it’s a great horn straight out of the box – no tweaking required.

So if you’re thinking about changing your horn with Lightweight, Cost Efficient, and Does the Business are your criteria –  give this horn a go!