What is a Hand Hammered Bell?

There’s a lot of confusion about what a hand hammered, one piece bell really is. Not to mention the confusion about what makes them so special. Well, maybe not confusion so much as misinformation. The market is flooded with professional trumpets that have, so called, hand hammered, one piece bells. Thus creating images of craftsmen of old using nothing more than strength, determination, and skill to turn a flat piece of brass into an expertly crafted bell. In today’s industry, that couldn’t be further from reality.

In many cases, the way trumpet bells were crafted years ago has been left by the wayside. The overall specs and dimensions may be unchanged, but the manufacturing processes are light years apart. Do you think there were hydraulic presses slamming brass into bell forms at the turn of the century? What about computer controlled spinning lathes forcing a bell blank tight to a mandrel? While technology has made many aspects of manufacturing better, some advances have actually tainted the finished product. How many times have you heard someone say his or her 50 year old trumpet plays so much better than a new one? Why do you think that is? The brand names may be the same, but, as the saying goes, they just don’t build them like they used to.

What makes a true hand hammered, one piece bell? What’s the right way to craft one? I’m glad you asked. As I see it, there are several questions that must be answered. What’s the bell made from? How’s the pattern made? How’s the seam formed/brazed? How’s the bell formed? How’s the bell spun? The answers to these questions are what separate the “wanna be” bells from the real deal.

What’s the bell made from?

The Right Way: First and foremost, a true hand hammered, one piece bell starts out as a roll of plain old sheet brass. Sure there are different alloys and thicknesses, but the common thread is that they all start as nothing more than a simple sheet.

The Wrong Way: There are some out there that confuse seamless bells with true one piece bells. Seamless bells are formed from either a single piece of tubing or by electroplating a thick layer of metal onto a bell mandrel. Both of these methods have their advantages. We use seamless tube bells for our student line of trumpets and cornets. They’re inexpensive and durable while providing easy tonal production. However, these bells offer little in the way of projection or character. Electroplated bells allow us, and others, to produce copper bells at an affordable price. Despite the positives, these too are a long way from hand hammered, one piece bells in terms of performance.

Brass Rolls

How is the pattern made?

The Right Way: Simply put, the pattern is made by cutting the brass sheet to shape … ideally by hand. That is, someone lays a template over the brass, scribes an outline, and uses shears to cut along that line. No stamping, no laser cutting, no computer controlled cutting tools at all. In fact, if we got rid of our electric shears and went back to manual tin snips, cutting a bell pattern would look just like it did before the Great War.

Bell Patterns

The Wrong Way: Keep reading. This and the next two “Right Ways” are covered by just one “Wrong Way” used by some of our biggest competitors.

How is the seam formed/brazed?

The Right Way: After the pattern is cut, it’s placed in a hand press. Here the flat pattern is bent in bringing the two outside edges together. Basically, this press is nothing more than a table with a slot down the middle. The pattern is laid on this table with the slot running from tail to flare. A lever is pulled and the craftsman’s strength is used to push a piece of steel through the slot taking the brass along with it. This folds the brass pattern in half. Then a hand tool is used to cut tiny notches at set intervals along the length of the pattern. The notches work to lock the sides together and form a perfect seam. This seam is then hammered, by hand, tightly together. From here, it’s on to the torch room where the seam is brazed, again by hand, using a special brazing paste and torch. It’s a hot, noisy job, but one that requires the human touch to be done just right. After being brazed, the pattern begins to look like a trumpet bell for the first time. It may be a burned trumpet bell that was just run over by a steamroller, but a trumpet bell nonetheless.

Bell Seam Hammering

How is the blank formed?

The Right Way: This is where things get interesting and a hand hammered bell gets its name. It’s at this point the hammers come out. The burned, flattened bell pattern is taken into the aptly named Hammer Room. Here, the craftsmen involved start by “opening up” the pattern. In a nutshell they slide the pattern over a vertical, steel bell mandrel and repeatedly force it down onto the steel. Think of it as if they were trying to throw the bell straight down over and over again. The action forces the tight pattern to open up, meeting the mandrel’s taper. They’re beginning to open the throat of the bell, but we’re still a long way from finished.

Once the throat is opened, it’s hammer time. The pattern is again placed on a steel bell mandrel only this time it’s horizontal. Large wooden and/or rawhide mallets are used to, let’s just say, caress the brass to shape. Every inch of the bell’s surface from tail to flare rim are hit again and again as the bell is formed. The blows rain down like a one sided prizefight until the shape is just right.

This step is the key to what makes a hand hammered bell so special. Keep in mind that throughout this hammering the brass is work hardened. The brass must be re-softened via torch annealing to continue. It’s this hammering, hardening, softening, hammering, hardening, softening, etc… that gives the bell its truly unique tonal characteristics. Some think it’s the lateral seam that’s the key to a hand hammered, one piece bell’s superiority over two piece designs. The theory is that a two piece bell’s radial seam blocks resonance traveling through the bell while the lateral seam does not. While the seam plays a part to the bell’s overall performance, it’s just a small part of the whole. If the key was the seam, a seamless bell should be the best of the bunch because there is no hindrance at all. No, the real magic comes from the extremely complex and time intensive tempering of the brass. The kind of tempering you can only achieve with strong arms, a hammer, and a torch.

Bell Hammering

The Wrong Way: As I mentioned before, this “Wrong Way” is the competitions’ answer to the three previous “Right Ways” we practice when crafting a true hand hammered bell.

Like us, many of the competition start with a simple piece of brass sheet. However, the similarities end there. Rather than cutting the bell pattern and forming it into a blank with little more than the skilled hands of a craftsman, the majority of work is done by machine.

The brass sheet is fed into a hydraulic forming press. Here, the sheet is sandwiched between a mold and a hydraulic bladder. The bladder is inflated and, under thousands of pounds of brute force, the brass is forced to the mold. This exposes the brass sheet to an extremely high amount of pressure and stress. Due to its lack of touch and feel, the machine only knows one thing, go from flat to formed. After this forming, the excess material of the sheet is cut away and you’re left with what looks like a bulbous, overly inflated trumpet bell split down the middle.

To form the bell’s seam the blank is put into another hydraulic press and bent to bring the two sides together. Again, no feel, no touch, just unbent and bent. Once the seam is brazed, the blank is already recognizable as a trumpet bell. It’s now that the hand hammering is done. However, since the bulk of the forming was done in the hydraulic press before a hammer was ever swung, it takes very little time and very few blows to achieve the desired shape. Less hand hammering means things move along much faster. It also means there is much less annealing needed. Think back, remember when I said the real key to a hand hammered, one piece bell was the hammering and annealing? All of that great tempering of the brass is sacrificed here for speed. Sadly, in the world of manufacturing faster equals cheaper and, in some minds, that means better. Now I guess you could argue that some hammering is better than none and you’d be right. Although, that’s like saying $5 is better than none, but wouldn’t you rather have $500?

Annealed Bells

How is the bell spun?

The Right Way: When it leaves the hammer room, a hand hammered, one piece bell looks more like a brass funnel than a trumpet bell. It takes a pretty good imagination to see the shape of things to come. The journey of turning this rough looking funnel into a full fledged trumpet bell comes with it’s first round of spinning.

Rather than being spun on a mandrel, like every other bell, it’s slid inside a special cup and hand spun to form a rough bell flare. This inside out spinning is used because of the rough shape of the funnel. This is the only way to ease it into a traditional bell shape. Trying to go from funnel right to a finished bell would expose the brass to damaging stress and metal fatigue. After this first spinning, the bell is pretty ugly, but it’s starting to shape up.

After one last pass through the annealing room, the hand hammered, one piece bell follows the path taken by every other bell we make. It’s hand spun on a steel mandrel mounted to a special lathe. Hand spinning is a key aspect of bell making. It’s all about the feel of the brass, the resistance of the tool, and the smoothness of the surface. Things much too complex for an automated system to monitor and react to efficiently. Yet again, the key to quality lies in the skilled hands of a trained craftsman.

The Wrong Way: Once again, superior craftsmanship is sacrificed for speed. Robo-spinners go from start to finish in one mighty pass. As before, there’s no feel and no touch, just unspun and spun. Their job is to smash the brass into place rather than smoothly easing it down to size. Think of it in carpentry terms. Say you’re building a table and need to cut a board to length. You can do it with either an axe or a circular saw. The end result might be the same, two pieces of wood, but the quality of the two pieces couldn’t be farther apart. What’s the old saying? There’s the fast way and then there’s the right way.

The real kicker in this whole thing comes when you realize that the “Wrong Ways” mentioned in this article are actually the best of the bunch. Some manufacturers completely skip the hammering process and rely solely on hydro-forming to go from brass sheet to the spinning lathe. Almost every benefit of a true one piece bell is lost. The worst offenders are those that hammer their bells for nothing more than show. Just so they can market them as hand hammered. I once saw an ad for a trumpet hailing its hand hammered bell. The ad featured a photograph of a finished bell on a mandrel being tapped with a ball peen hammer. Sure there’s a hand, a hammer, and a bell, but that’s not exactly the right idea guys.

Keep all of this in mind the next time you hear or read the term “hand hammered, one piece bell”. While the description might be technically accurate, there’s a lot more to it than mere technicalities. When a salesman tells you how great a trumpet is because of its bell, ask him some of the above questions. He might not know the answers, but if he answers them all with the “Right Ways” mentioned here chances are he’s trying to sell you a Getzen.


How to Play Test an Instrument

By Charlie Miller
(edited and reprinted from April 1978 Getzen Gazette)

How many times have you seen someone play test an instrument and spend most of his/her effort tying to hit that high F? Or try to perform a passage that they would find difficult on their own instrument? Testing one’s abilities rather than the instrument will only lead to frustration and teach you nothing about the horn being tested. So what should we look for when we test a new instrument?

I believe when you’re testing a new instrument, you should do only that. You should be finding out just what that instrument will do for your playing. What are its limitations? This is important because the instrument chosen is what you’ll be living with every day and you’ll either enjoy it or fight it for a long time. So here are some suggestions we all might consider when trying out a new instrument.

1. Quiet Please

Find a private room for your first encounter with the instrument. I believe it’s preferable to be in a room neither totally built for sound or too live and all echo. This way you’ll be in a middle of the road acoustically speaking. This will give you insight into the instrument in the average acoustical situation you may be performing in.

2. What Will It Do?

This is the main point of play testing. Try to find out what the instrument can do. Based on how it’s built, what is it naturally capable of without you forcing it? What tends to be easy on it? What’s more difficult? Play as naturally as you can without changing your style while trying to get the instrument to do something. Any changes you make will be required every time you play the instrument. If you do change something, you’ll cause yourself discomfort with the instrument and cut down your general efficiency in proportion.

3. Look To The Future

Chances are you won’t get to know an instrument well in one or two sittings, but you can get a good idea of how it will fit into your everyday playing. General practices, formal rehearsals, and live performances. There are certain things about an instrument that can be realized only after playing it a while, but if we watch for them initially, we can get an idea of what to expect from the instrument as we grow into and get used to it. Some examples are: How are the notes placed (Centered? Spread? Do they “lock in”?). What is the uniformity of sound and response over all registers? How’s the pitch of various notes (its scale)? How does the instrument project? How do you feel and sound after playing it for an extended period of time? How is the mechanical action of the instrument? Play slowly and listen carefully for these things and any others you may have in mind. This way you can get a clear picture of the characteristics of the instrument in question.

4. Blindfold Test

A way to get some objective opinions about an instrument is to get a few people in a large room with their backs turned and alternately playing different instruments for them. Be sure to tune the instruments with each other and play the same piece more than twice per instrument. This helps ensure that intonation differences won’t be misinterpreted as tone quality. It also rules out freshness and fatigue as factors. Each time you play a passage get opinions. If everyone says the same thing you have a good idea it’s really so. Do this until you have sufficient feedback on each instrument.

Keep in mind that an instrument is an individual, personal thing. Ask questions and use the ideas of others, but remember that how the instrument feels to YOU is most important. We all differ in our physical make up, such as lung capacity, oral cavity, tooth size and shape, etc… Also, musical likes and preferences are different from musician to musician. After all considerations are made and all opinions are listened too, the most important decision falls back to you. How do YOU feel about it? Always bear in mind that this is the instrument you’ll be working with day in and day out. Be sure you know what you’re getting into and that you like it for your own purposes. These are a few thoughts on testing new instruments. I’m sure there are many more possibilities. To repeat, I would say the main target is to approach the instrument realistically to find out what it can and can’t do. While play testing, avoid becoming personally involved in some difficult passage, high notes, or any other thing that won’t really help get the answers you’re after.

We all know that the relationship between a musician and his/her instrument is very intimate. We get to know every corner of it and every thing it’s capable of. Just how far we can push it to play soft or agile. What it will do in the low to high registers. How hard we can push it to play loud before it breaks up. How the instrument feels in our hands. These are the beautiful things about an instrument. The things that, if we know them well, give us a chance to improve and deliver better. If we know our instrument well, we can then easily monitor our own personal ability and progress. We then know what we can do and what gives us problems. Then, and only then, can we grow and develop our abilities and ambitions as players. Learning not to blame the instrument for a personal shortcoming.

Education/Technique Trumpet

Dimensional Characteristics of the Trumpet Mouthpieces

By Dr. Maury Deutsch
(reprinted and edited from the September 1979 Getzen Gazette)

Trumpet Mouthpiece Diagram

There is nothing more crucial for a successful trumpet or cornet career than a proper fitting mouthpiece. This clearly points out the importance of a qualified instructor for the beginning student. A pitfall that faces many young trumpeters is an orgy of mouthpiece changes. This is frequently the result of an unwarranted belief that qualities such as range, tone, endurance, flexibility, etc… can be magically improved by a mouthpiece change. This articles aims to clarify the functions and interactions of the dimensional mouthpiece characteristics and is not intended to encourage a self-induced mouthpiece change. Basic criteria for judging the efficiency of a mouthpiece are: 1) The tone possible in the lower register, 2) The ease of playing in the legitimate upper register, and 3) The lip flexibility obtainable in the middle register.

Cup Diameter (1): The component most frequently mentioned when seeking a new mouthpiece is cup diameter. A large cup diameter favors both amplitude (tonal volume) and lower register play. The resulting tone has a mellow quality because the energy principally resides in the fundamental and lower to middle partials. With a medium cup diameter, the air pressure forces more of the energy into the upper partials with a corresponding increase of brilliance. A small cup diameter favors the highest partials. The tone then acquires an almost metallic quality.

Cup Depth (2): Playing in the lower and middle registers is easier with a deep cup. The deep cupped mouthpiece, with its more mellow tone and greater volume, is frequently recommended for playing hymns. A shallow cup provides a greater rebound of vibratory energy. This energy return interacts with the lip vibrations resulting in an increase of vibratory intensity. High notes of metallic quality are consistent with a very shallow cup. A popular innovation used by many jazz artists is the double cup mouthpiece, i.e. a shallow cup progressing into a deeper cup. The shallow portion subtly aids the upper register and the deeper segment helps volume. A negative consequence of this is the loss of acoustical energy due to the greater number of reflective surfaces. Higher pitched trumpets (relative to the standard Bb trumpet) naturally require a narrower diameter and a shallower cup for maximum playing efficiency. On the contrary, lower pitched trumpets require both a wider diameter and a deeper cup.

Outer Rim (3): The outer rim cushions the instrument’s impact on the lips and teeth. A narrow rim will subtly increase lip flexibility (less of the lip is demobilized). However, there is the danger of lip irritation from impact over a relatively narrow area. A wider outer rim (cushion rim) acts to aid the play of the upper register by increasing the overall lip tension. However, the vice like effect of the broad rim is a detriment to flexibility.

Inner Rim Edge (4): The principal function of the inner rim edge is to provide termination points for vibrating lips. This is analogous to the opposite terminal points of a vibrating string. A moderately sharp inner rim makes for greater playing precision and accuracy of attacks. Too sharp an edge can cause lip discomfort and also interferes with lip flexibility. Too rounded of an inner edge has a negative influence on clean attacks and accurate intonation. However, greater flexibility is possible.

Throat (5): Although a large throat favors a greater volume of tone, there is difficulty in playing pianissimo, especially in the upper register. The greater air pressure required to play the upper register frequently causes these tones to be slightly sharp. A narrow throat opening makes the high notes easier, but can weaken the lower register. The backwash of vibrations interacting with lip tension results in a nasal quality at lower dynamics and a metallic quality at louder dynamics. Some trumpet players extend the throat opening (without increasing the diameter) in order to obtain still greater resistance. The upper register is made easier, but there are negative consequences. The overcompensation required of the embouchure makes low notes slightly sharp and high notes slightly flat.

Backbore (6): The back bore is encased within the shank. Too small a backbore does not permit sufficient energy to reside in the fundamentals. The result is a nasal quality as energy falls in the middle partials. In addition, the upper register has a tendency to be flat. Too large a backbore makes playing precision more difficult. Also, the upper register has a tendency to be sharp.

Remember that the ideal mouthpiece for you cannot be determined without playing it. The choice must be based on your lip, mouth, teeth, and facial characteristics. A cardinal rule is to avoid extremes in each of the constituent parts of a mouthpiece. One must choose a mouthpiece that not only meets the specific needs of the player at the time, but one that also provides the versatility to meet future needs. It is important for us all to realize that choosing a mouthpiece is more of an art than a science.

As an aside, not all mouthpieces are made of metal. Louis Armstrong carved a mouthpiece out of wood when he was a youth. Plastic mouthpieces have some advantages. The softer plastic material has a subtle positive effect on flexibility. However, intonation and clarity of attack is slightly inferior due to the lack of the firmer support from a metal mouthpiece. The greatest advantage of a plastic mouthpiece is the added comfort they provide when performing outdoors during cold weather.

Education/Technique Trombone Trumpet

Daily Warm Up for Elementary Brass Players

By Bobby Herriot
(edited and reprinted from September 1972 Getzen Gazette)

1. With the Lips Only

Try to make a buzzing sound by forcing the air through the lips. To do this, put your mouth in the same position needed when you put the trumpet up to your lips. Grip the muscles in the corner of the mouth FIRMLY, but not tight. Now put your tongue behind the TOP teeth and release the air and sound between the lips. Don’t worry about producing any particular note. Just be happy if a sound comes out. Do this approximately 6 times to get the lips loose and vibrating properly.

2. With the Mouthpiece

Take the mouthpiece in your left hand and place it on your lips in the NORMAL playing position. Take a deep breath and play the following exercises. If you need help finding the notes, you may use your trumpet to play the first note to get it into your ear. A piano would be better though. Just be sure to play through all three exercises with just your mouthpiece.

Exercise A
Please note that frequent rests are needed during the initial stages of playing. It is extremely important that these rests are observed during the warm up period and during all practice sessions.
Exercises B and C

3. With the Trumpet

Hold the trumpet in your left hand and place your right hand in playing position. With your three playing fingers perfectly on TOP of the finger buttons and your pinky OUT of the pinky ring repeat exercises A, B, and C.

This warm up should be done every day before attempting to play any other exercises or tunes. If it becomes a habit, which it should, then the rest of your playing will be made much easier resulting in better control over the trumpet.

Education/Technique Trombone Trumpet

Basic Concepts In Brass Playing

By Dr. Leonard A. Candelaria
(Professor of Trumpet & Artist in Residence, University of Alabama at Birmingham)

Many players seem unaware of the fundamental concept that must remain foremost in the minds of all wind musicians. The concept is that, no matter the style, tempo, volume, or range of music being played, the sounds we produce on our instruments must always possess a vibrant and rich quality of tone that is the product of blowing air in a smooth, flexible, and continuous manner. The following ideas may be of benefit to most brass players.

Air Control

  1. Always inhale air deeply, calmly and silently.
  2. Be sure to inhale in time with the tempo of the music.
  3. Think to yourself as you do the following; 1, 2, 3…Breathe…Play
  4. Make playing feel as though you were sighing through the horn.
  5. Always blow firmly or gently as needed with positive energy!

Practicing Tips

  1. Always begin each practice session by playing soft, slow, and sustained middle-register tones. Never begin by playing loud and high. Without being comfortable in your ability to play your very best tone on each and every note in the mid-range, you should refrain from playing high, fast, or loud.
  2. It is better to practice for several short sessions (20 -30 minutes at a time) rather than practicing only once daily for an excessively long period. Rest frequently during each session.
  3. While you play each exercise or study, keep one goal in mind the whole time. Do not be satisfied with your playing of the exercise until you achieve your goal on a consistent basis, then pick another goal. Primary goals should always be the relaxed and efficient use of the breath, the production of a rich and resonant tone quality, clear and consistent articulation, and precise fingering.
  4. Other basic musical goals are accuracy of pitch and intonation, precise rhythm, following dynamic indications, consistent phrasing, and control of width and speed of vibrato.
  5. Always strive to make everything you play sound like beautiful music. This even applies to scales, scale drills, arpeggios, lip slurs, and articulation studies.
  6. Repetition is the key to fine playing and effective practice. In order to do the correct things in the correct manner every time we perform, we must do them correctly many times in our practice before they become correct and automatic habits.
  7. Remember, both good and bad playing are a matter of habit!
  8. We play like we practice and we practice like we play. So practice often and practice well!

The Tongue

  1. The air always starts the tone, the tongue just cleans up the front of the note by knocking the “fluff” off the sound.
  2. Use the pointed tip of the tongue to articulate in most cases.
  3. Flick the tongue positively and quickly as you blow and think of saying “Too”. Think of saying “Too” and “Hoo” as though they were two parts of one word: “Too-Hoo” then becomes “T-hoooooo.”
  4. Now say “T-hoo” several times in succession with no spaces between the individual articulations. This is the basic manner most repeated articulations should be played.
  5. Use “Too” for rhythmic styles of articulation and “Doo” for most melodic styles.


  1. The fingers of the right hand should be slightly curved with the fleshy pads of the fingertips directly over or touching their respective valve buttons. The thumb should rest under the lead pipe with the tip of the thumb touching the space between the first and second valve casings. Overall finger dexterity will be enhanced if the little finger is free to move without using the finger hook.
  2. The fingers manipulate the valves so that the valves move as quickly as possible from up to down, or down to up. The action of the fingers should be smooth, firm, and positive.
  3. Coordination between the air, the tongue, the fingers, the lips, and the tempo/rhythm is the primary concern.
  4. Practice all difficult technical passages slowly and carefully many, many, many times before attempting to play at a faster tempo. Use a metronome to ensure accurate rhythm.
  5. In fast passages, think of “banging” the valves down with good rhythm to clean up the execution.

The Embouchure

  1. The lips must always be together and touching before the tone starts.
  2. Firm the corners of the mouth by making “dimples” or by “krinkling” the corners of the mouth.
  3. Buzzing the lips alone without the mouthpiece is commonly termed “free buzzing.” One or two minutes of “free buzzing” is an excellent way to begin each practice session. With the center of the lips firm (not tight or rigid) and lightly touching, blow firmly and steadily as you silently say the word “POO”. With a little practice, the lips should vibrate or “buzz” freely. You should be able to sustain the vibration for a few seconds. The vibration that results could sound like “P-uzz”. Whether the resultant pitch is high or low is less important than producing and sustaining a free and vibrant “buzz”. Later, superimpose the consonant sound of the letter “T” over the “P”, changing “POO” to “TOO”. Now use “TOO” to start tones.
  4. To buzz on the mouthpiece follow the same approach as outlined above, but do these things on the mouthpiece alone. You may have to blow more firmly with the mouthpiece than you did with the lips alone. Keep the corners of your mouth firm and the center of your lips (inside the cup of the mouthpiece where the sound is made) should be relaxed but touching.
  5. Learn to sustain high and low sounds on the mouthpiece as well as slurring from low to high and back down. Sustain the mouthpiece tone by sustaining the movement of the wind (the blowing of air). Also practice articulating connected repeated tones without creating space between the notes.
  6. The sound quality of the mouthpiece tone is important. It must be free blowing and vibrant with lots of ‘buzz” in the sound. Use lots of air and play at mezzo forte or forte.
  7. Practicing problematic passages on the mouthpiece, regardless of their technical nature or musical style, is often the fastest way to improve the playing of the same passage on the horn.
  8. An effective approach is to play a passage, buzz it, and play it again.
Education/Technique Trumpet

From the Mailbag

Hello Getzen,

I go to Wauwatosa East High School and our band has just returned from a trip to England. Our Jazz Ensemble and two concert bands performed at the Gala concerts for the London New Year’s Day Parade. We also marched in the parade and the Jazz Ensemble performed during an awards reception.

Two members of the band and myself play on Getzen 3051 Custom trumpets. The included picture is of the three of us in uniform on the Thames River in front of the MI6 building. As a proud Getzen customer (I also own a Custom cornet) I just wanted to let you know that your horns are leading the pack in our band. My Custom 3051 works excellently, regardless of if I am playing principle trumpet of our top concert band, lead trumpet in our jazz ensemble, or screaming over the top when marching on the street.

Thanks for such a rock solid horn. Keep up the phenomenal work!!

Dave Baker,
Wauwatosa, WI

Zach Ovanin, Dave Baker, and Jared Schulz
Zach Ovanin (left), Dave Baker (center), and Jared Schulz (right) proudly pose in their Wauwatosa East High School Marching Band uniforms in London, England. All three play 3051 Custom Series Bb trumpets in silver plate.
Education/Technique Trumpet

My Experience Learning to Be a Teacher

Nicole SasserNicole Sasser

By Nicole Sasser

They say teaching isn’t for everyone and I always thought it wasn’t for me. That is, until I started to teach. Since graduating from college, I’ve created my own studio with twelve students. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that, to my surprise, I’ve become very attached to my students! True, I would rather perform than teach. After all, there is an amazing rush of adrenaline when I’m on stage in front of an audience. But with teaching, I’ve discovered that there’s great joy in watching a student grow as a musician. I love the challenge of motivating my students to be better trumpet players. In this last year, my skill as their teacher has developed along with their skill as musicians.

When I first went to Indiana University I wavered between classical and jazz performing, but one thing was always certain: I wanted to be a performer not a teacher. Naturally, I worked toward and earned my degree in performance. My friends tried to convince me that, with an education degree, I would always have teaching to fall back on. However, an education degree had different requirements that would limit my time and opportunities for practicing and performing so that option was out. My performance degree did require one pedagogy class that I took towards the end of my college career. In that class I learned how to set a studio policy and guidelines for teaching and I started to get excited about it. When I moved to Florida I decided to establish my own trumpet studio. Now, half of my living is earned performing while the other half comes from teaching private lessons. Who would have guessed?

My first rule for teaching is to have a solid studio policy, which I give to both my students and their parents in writing from the beginning to prevent any issues. One thing I have learned about studio policies is that once I set them, I need to stick to them, but doing that can be a challenge. For example, I offer a discount to students who pay for the month of lessons in advance. Most of my students do this, but it can be difficult to get that check once a month. When the time comes for a lesson and you haven’t been paid for it yet you face a difficult decision. Having the lesson means you might get paid for it later, but you might not. At the same time, skipping the lesson all together means that you definitely won’t get paid and the student misses out. Even though my rules say that the lesson won’t be held, I usually give in and teach the lesson, hoping to see a check the following week. If I don’t, I then skip the next lesson. Of course, all of the rules are given to my students in writing to prevent any problems if this happens. I also make sure that if I have to cancel or switch days, I give the students a printed note for their parents. You have to remember, kids forget.

When I start teaching new students, I tell them and their parents my expectations and goals for them at the start. I highlight my attendance policy and make it clear just how important regularly scheduled lessons are. I also request that every student buys a metronome and a notebook. The metronome is a must have, especially when the players are young and just starting out. The notebook is for me to write their assignments in. That way they can take it home with them and there is no confusion as to what they are supposed to practice all week. It’s very important for students to know what’s expected of them and what they want to accomplish. I ask them to write out their own goals as a player. I want my students to think about why they are practicing. They need to know that they aren’t practicing for me; they’re practicing for themselves. When they realize this, their practicing will be more focused. Even though they are taking private lessons and I can guide them along, their individual practicing at home is the key to the whole process. Students must understand that the lessons alone will not guarantee success. They must be dedicated, to the amount they practice, but also to the way they practice. I discovered that, although many students spend the right amount of time practicing, they don’t always spend the time wisely. The best thing I can teach my students is how to be their own teacher when practicing. To help them out, I wrote the handout How to Practice Properly consisting of 10 guidelines for them to follow. I thought, if they just focused their practicing in the appropriate manner, they would become much better players overall. I give the handout to my students and go over the guidelines with them. After a few lessons, I highlight the top three items that pertain directly to each student. This way they know what they’re good at and what they need to spend more time on.

After a student plays an etude or excerpt for me, I like to ask him/her questions. I ask if the student was happy with the way he/she played. What does he/she think could be done better? It’s interesting how many times students play without even really listening to themselves and instead just go through the motions. So I will ask them to play it again and then tell me what they think. I’m not just going to give them all of the answers. I want to guide them to finding out how to become a better a player for themselves. Eventually, the student will point out a few things he/she did wrong and then I can elaborate on those issues. From there, I can give tips on how to improve these areas. I also point out what I liked. It’s just as important to tell the students what they have done right as what they have done wrong. This positive affirmation of their success will further motivate them to work harder and achieve more.

Not only does this approach motivate students to work harder, it also helps them to open to their minds to other areas that need improvement. One student of mine inspired me to write a short guide on sight reading. Since I encourage that self-inspection, he found that he was having trouble with sight reading and told me he wanted a way to get better. After working with him, I was able to put what he and I learned together down on paper so that it could help my other students as well.

As a new teacher, I am always learning just as much from my students as they are from me. The more I teach, the more tools I develop and the more I fine tune my technique. If you are a teacher, I hope you find these handouts useful and pass them on to your students. If you are a student, I hope they help you to further your playing. I’m a firm believer that, no matter how long we have been doing something, we all have more to learn. I know that I learn something new everyday that I continue to teach. And, while this is good for my students, it is great for me, too.

How To Practice Properly

  1. Write down goals. Do you want to learn all of your scales, or improve your range, double tonguing, triple tonguing, jazz improvisation, etc…? Write a practice schedule and what you will do to achieve these goals.
  2. Realize that you are your own teacher. Analyze your playing. What do and don’t you like about it? How can you make it better?
  3. Isolate tricky sections. Play them tongued if they are supposed to be slurred, and slurred if they are to be tongued. Play them down an octave. This will help you hear the sections rather than focusing on hitting the high notes.
  4. Play slowly. You will accomplish your goals much faster if you learn to play a piece slowly and then speed up. Playing too fast will result in sloppy play and it will take you much longer to perfect.
  5. Use your ear. Listen carefully. Did you pay attention to what you played or did you just play through it without thinking or using your ear?
  6. Try working on one measure at a time and adding to it. Don’t continue until you can play without stopping and without making any mistakes. Yes, that means going back to the top each and every time you stop.
  7. Record yourself. Listen to your playing from a different perspective and take notes on what you like, don’t like, mistakes you can fix, and areas you can improve.
  8. Perform for your family. Get used to your nerves by having someone listen to you play a piece straight through from beginning to end.
  9. Get a recording of what you are playing and study it. Listen to it over and over until you have it memorized.
  10. Listen to various trumpet repertoires and players (classical, jazz, etc…). Each has his or her own unique sound. For example: Phil Smith, Bud Herseth, Sergei Nakariokov, Wynton Marsalis, Alison Balsom, Wayne Bergeron, Arturo Sandoval, Doc Severinsen, Allen Vizutti, Chet Baker, Freddy Hubbard, Louis Armstrong, Lee Morgan, Rafael Mendez, Harry James, Marcus Printup, Bobby Shew, Clark Terry, Maynard Ferguson, Miles Davis, Nicholas Payton, Donald Byrd, Clifford Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, and Chris Botti.

Sight Reading Guide

  1. Know all of your scales (major and minor), arpeggios, scales in thirds, and key signatures. Then you are prepared for anything. If you know the key of the music, you can essentially “skim” sections that are scalar.
  2. Always check the key signature and time signature before playing. (This is a familiar and simple rule that’s often forgotten. Even I do it at times.)
  3. Don’t take it too fast. You don’t want to play sloppily and you don’t want too many starts and stops. Pick a comfortable tempo that allows you to be consistent.
  4. Be prepared and know before you play. Look for key words like a tempo, allegro, and adagio so you know when to expect tempo changes. Find and identify all key changes as well.
  5. Be as musical as possible. Anyone can play notes on a page. A musician brings the music to life.

About the Author
Nicole Sasser graduated from Indiana University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in trumpet performance. She is now a classical and jazz trumpeter as well as a jazz vocalist in the Orlando, FL area. Her professional experience includes being an adjunct trumpet teacher at the Osceola School for the Arts, a regular sub for the Brevard Symphony Orchestra and several different bands at Disneyworld, as well as performing as a trumpeter with Norwegian Cruise Lines. Prior to her professional career, Nicole made a name for herself with the Chicago Youth Symphony and by earning herself a place on the Honors All State Band (first chair) and Honors All State Orchestra (second chair) in Illinois. For more, visit

Artist Education/Technique Trombone Trumpet

Hints for Building Range

By Mike Vax

The proper way to build range is to increase it gradually over a number of years, always using as natural an embouchure as possible. Students need to learn to let the air do the work instead of the chops. And always, always, always avoid false or trick embouchures like the plague!

Always remember that range comes from endurance, not the other way around! After you gain the support and muscle control to play for longer periods of time, you begin to have the basic foundation to start increasing your range. Working to extend range by half step increments, over a long period of time, insures control, confidence, and consistency in the upper register that will last for years. There is no deep dark secret that will increase your range overnight. It takes hours of hard practice and concentration. There is no shortcut!

Young players trying to stretch into the upper register too quickly can face quite a few problems. Gaining the ability to reach up high should be thought of as a marathon rather than a sprint. A student can injure muscles in the embouchure as well as other parts of the body by trying too hard to hit the upper registers without first having the knowledge and physical stamina to play up there correctly. Rushing it can also be a detriment to other aspects of playing.

There was never a time in my life that I spent hours a day just trying to “honk out” high notes. The upper register was just one of the many facets that I worked on with regard to my overall playing. Instead of focusing only on high notes, I try to point out to students the importance of working on technique, articulation, flexibility, reading, and endurance. If all of those are mastered, the ability to hit high notes will follow. I also stress to students that the measure of a player is not how high he/she can play for one, forced note. The real measure is how high he/she can play both consistently and musically. I urge them to remember, that the main consideration of trumpet playing is to achieve pure musical sound in all registers of the horn.

Things To Focus On To Extend Range

  • Flexibility studies
  • Long tones
  • Pedal tones (with natural embouchure)
  • Endurance builders (such as the characteristic studies in the back of the Arban’s Book and the Daily Set-Up drills of Herbert L. Clarke)
  • Chords and scales that gradually go higher
  • Breathing exercises. (AIR is your real “octave key”. When you SUPPORT your sound properly, playing high becomes much easier)
  • Walking, running, biking, swimming, etc… (the better shape your body is in, the better chance you have with both endurance and high notes)

Warning Signs Young Players Are Rushing The Upper Register

  • Loss of flexibility
  • Airy tone
  • Trouble with lower register
  • Loss of control and consistency
  • Loss of endurance
  • Inability to center pitches
Artist Company News Education/Technique General Trumpet

Extending a Helping Hand

Brandt Brass Band Click image for larger view

In the fall of 2005, I was contacted by Mike Vax. Not a big surprise since Mike checks in with us at the factory quite a bit. This call was different. Mike was looking for our help. Some friends in I.T.G. had passed a story on to him that he thought we would be able to assist with. A group of musicians were having trouble getting instruments. Specifically a piccolo trumpet. The musicians were members of the Brandt Brass Band of Saratov, Russia. A very talented group rapidly making a name for themselves. Up until that point, the band was forced to borrow a piccolo trumpet from a neighboring town’s band. Not at all an ideal situation. In an effort to alleviate this, the members of the band were able to scrape together a few hundred dollars. By no means was that enough to purchase a new piccolo. They were hoping that through contacts in I.T.G. they would be able to find a used piccolo at a reasonable price. Enter Mike Vax.

Mike called us after he heard the tale and asked if there was anything we could do to help. Trumpet players around the U.S. had heard of the band’s troubles and were donating money to the cause hoping to boost the band’s buying power. Mike wanted to know if we had an old or seconds piccolo around that we could sell the band directly. We did not. After discussing the situation with my father Tom Getzen, we came up with a better solution. Rather than selling the band an old horn, we decided to give them, free of charge, a brand new 3916 Custom Series piccolo. From our standpoint, we had been fortunate in life and this was a perfect opportunity to pass that along. At the time, Tom relayed a lesson to me that my grandfather had taught him. At some point in life, you’ll have the chance to help someone else. While the time, effort, or dollar amount may not seem like much to you, to them it will mean the world. This was a perfect example of one of those situations.

Immediately, I got a hold of Mike and told him the good news. He was ecstatic and quickly passed the development on to his friends in I.T.G. The news spread fast and I was inundated with emails and phone calls thanking me for our donation. That’s not the reason we did it, but they were all appreciated. As word spread of our donation, trumpeters continued to donate money to the band. The new plan was that the band could use that money to help pay for a quality recording of the band with a CD to follow. I’m personally excited for that since I have heard nothing but praise for the band’s performances and I’m anxious to hear them for myself.

Soon after we decided to donate the horn, I was contacted by Mr. Gary Mortenson. He had great news. Gary had arranged for Steve Chenette, a former President of I.T.G, to deliver the horn and cash donations to the band during a visit to Russia. This was great, as it would ensure the horn made it to the band in good condition. Once the method of delivery had been established I had the piccolo prepped and shipped it to Steve. I also sent along several care kits (valve oil, cleaning cloths, etc…) for the band.

Once the piccolo was on the way to Steve and all the arrangements had been made, the members of the Brandt Brass Band emailed me to express their thanks. They asked me to pass on their “endless thankful words to all the people who some how took part in our life and help us to work better”. A few weeks later they also took the time to send me a nice Christmas greeting. I was honored that they would take the time and proud that they were so excited to get the instrument.

Fast forward to March of this year. Steve Chenette made his way to Russia with the piccolo and donations in tow. He emailed me from Saratov to tell me how excited the members of the band were upon his arrival. In fact, they couldn’t wait to try the horn. Instead, they spent nearly a week playing and practicing on it so they could use it in a concert shortly after the “official” presentation. After having the 3916 for a few days, Oleg Abramov emailed me to pass on their feelings. “Our trumpeters now behave like children.” Oleg said. “Everyone is trying to play it and they are always discussing it.” He went on to say, “Thanks a lot for the wonderful gift! We haven’t had such a trumpet until this in Saratov! So I think now it’s the most beautiful treasure in musical Saratov.” When asked how the players felt about the horn Oleg said, “Our piccolo player, Nikolay Khudoshin, is very delighted with the instrument. It’s very beautiful, has reach and a wonderful sound. It reacts on every breath you put into it!” “As our guys are joking,” Oleg wrote, “we have a beautiful blond, but we haven’t chosen her name yet. An enormous huge Thank You! If you’ll need something someday you must remember that you have 3 friends in Saratov, Russia that have close relations with one of your girls.” You cannot imagine my sense of pride. Knowing that not only were we able to help, but that the piccolo was met with such high regard. That, after all, is the most important thing. In July, Oleg Abramov contacted me to say that Nikolay Khudoshin enjoys the piccolo more with each practice. He went on to say that they have chosen music for their upcoming recording. The band will be performing Mozart’s The Night Queen’s Aria from The Magic Flute. I’m sure I’m not the only one anxiously awaiting its release.

All in all, this was a very rewarding experience for the company as a whole and for me personally. It was great to see the trumpet world come together to help their brothers in need. I am just glad that we could have a small part in the effort. Hopefully the piccolo will serve the band for years to come. I wish them and everyone who helped them continued success in all of their future endeavors.

News Coverage Videos: Channel IST | Channel Russia

Education/Technique Trombone

What Does a Trombone Leadpipe Do For You?

Everyone knows that trombones have a bell and a handslide. What a lot of players don’t realize is that all trombones also have a leadpipe. However, the majority of leadpipes are fixed (soldered) into the handslide. This is because most manufacturers do not want to offer options to the customer. To the manufacturer, options mean building more complex components with additional parts. This adds time and money to the construction of the horn. On the contrary, at Getzen we believe in offering the player a wide variety of options. These options are all intended to better fit each instrument to each specific player.

Getzen offers a large number of trombones featuring three interchangeable leadpipes included as standard equipment with the instrument. In fact, every Getzen Custom Series trombone model is designed with the added flexibility of interchangeable leadpipes. This flexibility gives the player more control over response and timbre by custom fitting the leadpipe to their specific playing needs.

The Getzen Custom Series line of jazz, tenor, and bass trombones were derived from the industry leading Edwards Instrument line. Edwards trombones were the first to provide interchangeable leadpipes as a standard feature with their instruments nearly two decades ago. The interchangeable leadpipe system fit perfectly with the modular design of Edwards trombones. In essence, the Edwards design allowed players to custom build a trombone for themselves in an affordable and timely way by simply choosing the components that worked best for them. Over time, the Edwards technology made its way into the Getzen line. Now, three brass leadpipes are included with all Getzen Custom Series trombones as well as with Eterna bass trombones.

Many players do not understand the basics of the interchangeable leadpipe system. Why are they used? What are the differences between the three? How do players properly choose which leadpipe is right for their situation? To answer these questions, you must understand the physical characteristics of the leadpipe and why it is built the way it is. There are only three parts to a Getzen leadpipe, but each is crucial to the overall performance of the trombone.

1) Receiver
Simply put, the receiver accepts and connects the mouthpiece to the horn. Great care is taken to ensure the proper fit between the mouthpiece and receiver. The fit is crucial because it allows for proper vibration transfers into the instrument. An incorrect fit would result in not only an annoying “buzz”, but also in a less efficient blow caused by air leaks between the mouthpiece and receiver tube.

Leadpipes Click image for larger view

The receiver also has an external portion known as the threaded nut. It serves two purposes. First, the threaded portion screws into the handslide and “fixes” the pipe to the horn eliminating any vibration or buzzing. The threaded nut is also used to denote the different sizes of the leadpipes. Each receiver nut has either one, two, or three decorative cut lines in the knurling. This tells the player if they are looking at the smallest, medium, or largest size pipe.

2) Venturi
The venturi is the smallest diameter section of tubing after the receiver section. Since the diameter at the end of the leadpipe is the same for all three sizes, the initial diameter of the venturi dictates the rate of taper over the length of the leadpipe. With a smaller venturi, the rate of taper will be faster from start to finish in order to match the bore of the instrument. On the flip side, a leadpipe with a larger venturi will have a slower rate of taper into the instrument. The venturi is what gives the player the feeling of compression or something to push against to start a note. Think of the venturi as acting like your mouthpiece throat. If the venturi is too large for a player the horn will feel woofy and lack clarity. If the leadpipe is too small the instrument can back up and feel tight. The three venturi sizes we have chosen to use are the result of many years of development and experience with thousands of players.

Leadpipes Click image for larger view

3) Tapered Tube
The tapered section of tubing within the leadpipe determines the sound characteristics of the leadpipe. Generally speaking, a faster taper will produce a more compact sound. A slower taper will create a broader sound and resonate with more width near the player’s face. As previously mentioned, it is easy to distinguish which leadpipe is which based on the cut lines in the receiver’s threaded nut.

When selecting an instrument, it is very important to find a compression level in your instrument that is right for you. When testing an instrument or trying to find the right leadpipe, you should be thinking of this compression. Compression within the instrument should be right at the chops. If compression develops too far into the instrument, you will have to correct it by tensing your chops in an effort to get clarity back into your sound. This will make any articulations much more difficult as you battle against yourself and the horn. If there is too much compression, it will begin to back up into your throat. You may feel a tightening in your throat because of this, which can/will cause tightness in your sound.

When testing leadpipes you should play a lyrical etude that covers most registers. This allows you to get a better feel for the leadpipe across a wide spectrum. It also gives you the chance to better study the sound differences between each pipe. You will also want to try a scale and a more articulate work that covers most registers. This is a great way to study how the leadpipe effects the articulation. All the while, you should be paying close attention to what you are experiencing with each leadpipe. Some differences are dramatic while others may be more minor and hard to notice right away. It is important to note that every player is different. The best sounding and most comfortable leadpipe should always be chosen, regardless the specifications of the leadpipe or what size one’s colleagues may prefer. Allowing a player’s preconceived notions to come into play may prevent him/her from choosing the leadpipe that fits best. Therefore, it is imperative that an individual “blind test” each leadpipe in the beginning. This creates an open mind and prevents a biased opinion from the start. It can also be very helpful to do a blind play test for someone else. Let them listen to an etude and scale on each leadpipe without knowing which is which. Get their input and opinions from the bell end.

Once all of this is done, you can put the information together to find the leadpipe that gives you the best compression, tone, and feel. Keep that leadpipe in the instrument. While experimentation is never a bad thing, you will generally not need to retest or change leadpipes unless you make a change to your mouthpiece. If that is the case, the same technique should be used to find the right pipe again.

The purpose of these leadpipes is to properly match the instrument to you as the player. While working with musicians as I have over the years, I have found that making a small change close to the face will result in a large change to both sound and overall response. Each person has his/her own resonating characteristics that make the matching of the horn to the player necessary. Everything from oral cavity, chest cavity, dental structure, and overall height/weight will determine how much air volume each player has and how that air works for them. An individual may be over 6 feet tall, but if they are not efficient with their air they may need a smaller diameter venturi on their personal leadpipe in order to give them the best compression, articulation, and sound.

At Getzen and Edwards, we know it is important to find the perfect instrument for you. An instrument that not only matches your playing style, expectations, and needs, but one that matches you physically. Matching your mouthpiece and personal playing characteristics to the leadpipe can give you a much better overall playing experience. Getzen has made the conscious decision to let you decide what is best for you. We want to help you find the perfect instrument for your playing style.

So what does all of this mean to you? It means that you now have the knowledge and tools to find a better instrument. One that can work with you instead of against. Finding a great instrument is not only important to you, it is also important to us at Getzen. We strive daily to provide you with that instrument. Why limit yourself musically? Give yourself the tool to do the job and find the enjoyment of a great instrument resonating with you.

About the Author
Christan Griego studied music performance at Texas Tech. under the tutelage of Don Lucas. He has worked as the Director of Development & Marketing at Edwards Instrument Company for the past 8 years. In that time he has fit thousands of trumpet and trombone players to their instruments. Some of which are: Joe Alessi, Dave Taylor, Mark Lawrence, Leonard Candelaria, and Christian Scott. Christan also owns Griego Mouthpieces which produces trombone and tuba mouthpieces.