Rather than answer some of the most F.A.Q's with a technical list, I shall attempt to give you an overview of my thoughts on trumpet making. This should help you get a better insight into what goes into a Taylor Trumpet. This will also help to answer those why? What? and where? questions that keep appearing in my inbox.
ARE THEY COPIES?
I suppose I should start with the most frequently asked question. Is it a copy of another well-known brand? This will depend on your interpretation of the term 'copy'. Putting it simply, if by 'copy' you mean does it look similar, then you have a valid point. Yes, it does look similar. If the term 'copy' is to include such fundamentally basic qualities such as, does it feel similar? play similar? Is its construction similar? Is it dimensionally the same both externally, and more importantly, internally? Are the design (mechanical) parameters the same? Then the answer is a catagoric no. If the intention was to 'copy' the other brand then all these factors would have been copied as closely as we possibly could.
There is another contender on the scene that is tagged a 'copy', only this time its from one of the big boys. The Concept TT is as I'm sure many of you have noticed 'visually' similar to the Monette. The TT makes a big deal of the 'pipe within a pipe' concept. We at Taylor make a big deal of our one-piece machined leadpipe. Both these are very different concepts, not only from each other, but also from the design used on the trumpet we have supposedly copied. It does not matter which works the best, for this is up to the customer to decide. I could go on about other major differences in these trumpets but I think you should be getting the point by now.
WHO GOT THERE FIRST?
Another issue is, which came first, the chicken or the egg? I make no claims to be the instigator of the, strip all the finish off and add some weight movement. As I see it, there is so little that hasn't been done before at some time. Take a little time to look at the history and development of the trumpet and you will find it full of great ideas, some that have stuck around and others that have fallen out of favour. Chances are, if you think of something, its most probably been done before. That includes heavyweight trumpets and trumpets shaped like saxophones! Interchangeable leadpipes and bells that stick up at odd angles! Quarter tone trumpets and oval mouthpieces! The list goes on and on.
I fully respect what the Mo****e company has done for the image of the trumpet. Proof of this is that some of the larger manufacturers in this field now make trumpets in a similar style as well. I would also like to point out that we only make the one model, albeit our best selling one, in that style. Please take the time to look at the Taylor Heritage models. Now, these are blatantly modelled after older trumpets, yet no-one so far has called them copies?
The 'other' company does not make a flugelhorn, yet ours is apparently a copy of something they make!! I can't figure that one at all!! The Manhattan is a hybrid design. It is similar to many attempts over the years to combine the qualities of the trumpet and the flugel, and you've guessed it, it's a copy of the 'Fl****t', and it doesn't even look close!! I'm staggered at all this. The Taylor cornet is a traditional European style shepherds crook design, with a twist. You can guess the rest!! As I say, I am staggered that I can copy things that don't exist!!
WHY THE CUSTOM SHOP ?
Another question is to do with the Custom Shop instruments. Why do we make them? Simple answer is, because we can, and hardly anyone else does, plus they are a lot of fun to do, and there are things to be learned from pushing the boundaries that bit further. It seems quite apparent from my inbox that most of you appreciate what we are trying to do with these. To some however, it seems to be somehow blasphemous, that someone should dare to go outside the golden rules of trumpet making, and try to bring art and sculpture into the picture. Well, I have not seen these 'rules' written in stone anywhere.
Imagine the guitar scene had Gibson not introduced the Flying V or the Explorer!! Or the motor manufacturers didn't make concept cars to give us a teaser of what might be available if we all smiled at it hard enough. It's possible that without these creations we would still be driving around in something resembling a Model T, albeit with a more fuel efficient engine and superior brakes and better headlights, oh, and seat belts and airbags.
To me, thinking outside the box and trying to make a few instruments to fire the imagination is like a small breath of fresh air. For those who disagree and think more of the same is the only sensible way I'm sure the Strad 37 180 ML Reverse lead pipe in Silver Plate will be around for a long time to come.
It is widely acknowledged that a pivotal moment in the development of the trumpet was the introduction of the French Besson. I don't wish to get contentious here but, take a few minutes to think of how many trumpets so closely resemble the look of that instrument. Many still try to get them to play like it as well!! Think about it for a moment. I do, every time I go to a trumpet convention or trade fair. I think we should applaud Mr Besson for his services to the trumpet industry.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS ?
Second most common question, or questions, for I shall lump all these together, is the technical stuff. I could go on about energy absorption, or maximum SPL's, or calculating the differing frequency banding, depending on where the listener is sitting in relation to the bell-end, allowing for early primary reflections from an adjacent wall 3 metres to the right. We could discuss the merits of using lead free solders, or the mechanical properties of the metals, and how to optimise the energy of the airflow to maximise efficiency. This has its place, but we are talking about 'a trumpet' here.
I need to stress this point, 'this is not rocket science'. We are not dealing in absolutes, and while all this could be of academic interest, the effect is of little or no practical value in deciding whether it plays or not. It will either work for you or it won't. It really is that simple. I hope none of you buy a new stereo based purely on what the spec sheet says. Sure it's a help comparatively, but that is all it is. You buy it based on how it sounds, and to a degree what it looks like. You wouldn't base your purchase on what the slew rate of the amplifier is, the ohm rating of the cabinet, or the db roll-off at 5k in the crossover unit! or would you?
WHAT IS AND IS NOT IMPORTANT ?
So, to all the little tech stuff, such as do the titanium finger buttons affect the sound? Or is the water key in the optimum acoustical position? Or will the intonation be affected if I ordered it without the pinkie ring? Yes, these are real questions from my inbox!! I'm not going to answer these because they are basically pointless. I will try to answer the more practical questions.
Mouthpieces? Yes, they do come out. Yes, you can fit nearly all commercially available mouthpieces into the receiver. However, my recommendation is that the trumpet will work at its best with a mouthpiece of the correct weight. It will play better, be more focused, have improved intonation and a more controlled note centre. It will also be more efficient, meaning more volume in front of the bell for less effort from the player.
We can make virtually any combination of rim and cup to suit you, matched to the correct weight and a backbore balanced to match the trumpet. The advantage of this is that you end up with a mouthpiece that feels comfortably familiar to you, yet perfectly matches your trumpet. This hopefully makes the whole package come together.
WHY ARE THEY HEAVY ?
This is a very common and valid question. This only really applies to the Chicago models and in particular the Custom. Well, quite obviously there is a lot of metal there. This was not arrived at by the, 'lets get a Strad and tack bits on' method. That's all been done before and only works up to a point. After that its back to the drawing board. You design/build the trumpet from the outset, so the weight/density is in the right places to gain maximum effect, i.e. along the airstream.
It is also important when building heavy trumpets that the balance is right. With the right mouthpiece in, they must not tip forward or back. They need to sit right when held in playing position. (How many of you have got a tired wrist from holding a lightweight trumpet that is bell end biased? Quite a few of you I guess!!)
WHATS THE ADVANTAGE ?
But why make it heavy? Its basically to do with this efficiency thing again. A lightweight trumpet has a bright sound, primarily because the air passing through the instrument is causing the thin metal walls of the trumpet to vibrate. This in turn 'colours' the sound heard by our ears as 'brighter'. Technically, an audible increase in the upper frequencies, along with a weakening in the lower ones, hence the often noted lack of 'body' in the sound of lightweights.
A heavyweight, to a certain extent has the opposite effect. As the metal is thicker it will not vibrate so readily, and the effect can be made even more controllable by using heat treatments. The result of this is the metal vibrates less and does not colour the sound in the same way. The sound is fuller in the lower frequencies and not so 'squawky' in the upper. The result is a more rounded, fuller tone. With a heavyweight, the sound gets progressively louder without getting progressively brighter. The result is a big strong sound at high volume, instead of the normal loud but brittle sound associated with many lightweights.
The other, and probably more useful 'advantage' of a heavier trumpet is mechanical efficiency. I'm not talking valves here, but efficient use of the air. If less of the air energy is lost making the metal vibrate, then what remains of the air steam is sound being projected forward from the bell. Less metal movement means a faster response, because the airflow is smoother, as it doesn't need to fight the moving metal. Move more air and you get more volume, plus move that air in a more efficient manner and you get better long throw projection.
Often the player of a lightweight thinks he/she is loud because they and the person standing next to them can hear it ok, but it does not travel very well, as to much of the air has been used up by the trumpet itself. The player of a heavyweight, though they hear less from behind the trumpet, is pushing well into the room as more of their airstream/sound goes forwards.
REAL WORLD GAINS.
Another plus point to this added efficiency is this, a big sound in front of the trumpet will always mic up and record better. Microphones are a part of the music scene whether you like it or not. They are here to stay, so why pretend like they don't exist? More and more players are now beginning to realise that to sound good in the mix, or even to get heard in the mix, both in the studio and live, that a good sound where the mic is, is very important to them. We have made particular efforts to improve this area of the trumpet, basing this on feedback from our customers.
The Chicago models are probably the most mic friendly trumpet on the scene at the moment, and maybe the only one where this is seen as a very important performance consideration. The result of this is a trumpet that is very easy to record with using the minimum of eq and studio trickery to get a great sound. The same thing applies to live work. A good full sound on the mic head means little work for the sound engineer (most of whom don't understand the trumpet anyway).
If all the sound engineer hears is a thin, top heavy sound, he won't play with it, he will bury it. And, at the end of the day who pays you, and re-books you? If the audience/listener is not happy, then the promoter is not happy, and the job goes to someone else. This can also apply to the little intimate jazz combo gig. Not much miking here, but the audience is close and they want to hear a pleasant full bodied sound. Now, hearing a trumpet player for a long period, no matter how good they are technically, is tiring on the ears if the sound is top heavy and over bright.
THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE RIGHT JOB.
Bright has its place, and so does a warmer sound. I know which one I would rather listen to for any length of time. Many trumpet players use a different trumpet to cover both ends of the spectrum. I think that the days of the 'Jack of all trades' trumpet are limited now as players, venues, promoters, sound engineers, bookers and especially audiences, demand a more varied palate.
Of course it must be stressed that the trumpet itself is only a tool. A tool to make the musicians job a little easier. After all, you can put a screw in with a hammer, but it is easier with a screwdriver, especially a rechargeable one with a magnetic bit in it. There will always be those gifted players who would sound great playing a garden hose, but most of us mere mortals have to get some extra help where we can. It's no disgrace to your musicianship to use it if it helps get the job done.
Occasionally we are accused of not having the highest standards of fit and finish. If you want Yamaha type 'fit and finish', then buy a Yamaha! To get that kind of machined perfection requires a huge investment in CNC machinery and equipment. Their product specs are inflexible in the short term, and there is a good chance the results could be as bland as a happy meal at a burger chain.
With a Taylor Trumpet, the slight 'imperfections' are part of the hand made 'character'. With something hand made, you expect it to feel substantive, sensual almost, as if someone has actually got their hands dirty making it. As craftsman we will make it as best we can, but you do have to draw the line somewhere. Some parts need to be spot on, the valves for example (the general consensus is that these are about as good as piston valves get.) A small company that specialises purely in valves, makes them to the highest standards. It makes perfect sense to combine their expertise with ours.
A Taylor is like a hand made suit. Now, some of you will no doubt know what it feels like to wear a real hand made suit. It fits, it's really comfortable and above all it makes you feel good about yourself. Do you say to the tailor 'Excuse me sir, but did you sew the collar by hand, because the stitching is slightly irregular? The suits at Walmart have perfect collars!' You can guess the probable response can't you, and it may well start with a capital F!! Hand made shoes are another good example of where the feel factor plays such a large part in what you are paying someone for.
Hand made is like
the difference between a photograph and a painting, or listening to
live music instead of recorded. Each has its merits, but its more likely
to be the painting or the live performance which stirs the passions.
You either get it, or you don't.
WHAT'S THE PEDIGREE ?
I've now been building and working 'hands-on' with 'horns' for nearly 30 years. The first 15 of these on French horns, where I learned my craft. The rest on my own, building up my company. The early mainstay of this was making components, mostly bells and leadpipes for other small makers. This gave me valuable insight into what other makers were doing and what they wanted to do. I would be asked to help develop other instrument lines, but mostly along traditional lines.
When time came to build my own trumpets, I felt I had an opportunity to bring in some different thinking. As an experienced French horn maker, I construct my trumpet bells like scaled down French horn bells. This is not the quickest method of making them, but I know it makes them unique. They are Taylor bells, and they have their own character. I have employed French horn thinking in other areas of the trumpet as well. This is what I mean by 'thinking outside the box'.
Without the limitation of a totally trumpet based background, I have used ideas based on what I know works or does not work on other brass instruments. Plus, when you are used to French horns, the trumpet, to be frank, is really quite a straightforward instrument. As I said, it's not rocket science. This approach has paid off over the years. Now I am called upon to help other makers develop their instruments and ideas by virtue of being able to offer a different perspective.
So now you have some answers to those why? What? and where? questions. I think I've given you some insight into the Taylor thinking. Some of you may agree with me, and some of you won't, but that all makes for healthy debate. If you didn't manage to fall asleep at least once while ploughing through all of this, I salute you.