Survey: How do YOU test a new trumpet?

  • When choosing a new trumpet, what are your criteria? What do you play for your test, and why?

  • That it sounds, feels good and is free blowing. I have the business provide several mouthpiece brands to interchange to assure a best match is first found before setting the horn through a real test run. What I play is various jazz tunes by memory. I recommend a ballad to play with tone and control, a be-bop tune to test valves and responsiveness and horn flexibility. Play in several ranges to assure intonation issues that may come out at different ranges for the horn.

  • Qualified Repair Techs Credentialed Professional

    Start with 5 notes, slowly. Poo attack slurring from 2nd line G up to 4th line D. Assess how the instrument and the sound feels. Then up to D and down again. Invert - G down to C and back.

    That tells me pretty much all I need to know about a horn. If the basics are right most the other stuff will be as well. No horn is perfect. Live and work with the imperfections of your chosen one for the sake of its assets. Rather like choosing a life partner!

    Yes when you have narrowed the choice down, check out some high notes I suppose, and rapid tonguing.

    I might add:
    When I play test a horn I often end up playing some piece of music (like a ballad) that I had no idea before I started I was going to play.

  • Sound. If I can't get the sound I want, I don't bother going any further.

    Regarding mouthpieces, I match the horn to the mouthpiece not the reverse.

    Next I seem to lump some elements in together. I do some checking of how in tune it is, and that includes playing intervals in tune with each other, how flexible it seems, tone from one register to another, and that there is some comfortable resistance, and that the valves work well and freely.

  • @grune said in Survey: How do YOU test a new trumpet?:

    When choosing a new trumpet, what are your criteria? What do you play for your test, and why?

    Hi Grune, Great question!
    I'll base this on testing for the purpose of purchasing.

    1. I'll have an idea of which brand I want based on either personal experience, a trusted word of mouth and resale value. For example Bach 37/180
    2. I take my mouthpiece with me
    3. I will ask the shop keeper to pull all the 37/180's
    4. I try all the selections and ask myself, "which one feels the best"
    5. I ask what the return policy is
    6. I ask if there's a repair policy since I'm buying at their facility
    7. I ask if they price match a store with a lower price (and I'll have a name of a store that advertises a lower price)
    8. I will ask if I can get a case protector if I pay in cash (paying in cash is a powerful mechanism)
      What do I play at the test?
    9. Scales
    10. Lip slurs
    11. Stratosphere notes
    12. Lyrical stuff
    13. Tonguing exercises
      Why do I play these things when testing a trumpet?
      *Because these are the variables I'll be playing on the stage and at practice.

  • @Trumpetsplus said in Survey: How do YOU test a new trumpet?:

    Live and work with the imperfections of your chosen one for the sake of its assets. Rather like choosing a life partner!

    Now that's profound. And true.

  • Qualified Repair Techs

    When I play test an instrument I’ve worked on, or a new horn that’s come in, I’m generally testing its mechanics and making sure everything works as it should. I start by looking it over for imperfections, then making sure all caps are free and slides are working as they should. I play a few notes to orient myself on that horn, and then go through a few arpeggios and fast chromatics to make sure valves are fast and smooth, and tuning slides can be used properly. I’ll end with fast chromatic triplets from low f# to C above the staff and back down. If I feel anything weird or stuffy, or if the pistons can’t keep up with me, it goes to my bench. If the horn is for my own use, I’ll play some music I’ll use it for along with the mouthpieces I regularly use in different situations. I keep a test kit of mouthpieces at my bench that will work for pretty much any horn I test at work. Whenever I play test high horns, I play a few pieces I would regularly use on those horns to test intonation.
    Sometimes I add some music at the end of my work play testing just for fun or to keep my mind occupied, but normally if you hear me playing some real music on a horn at work it’s because I’m enjoying that particular horn. If you ever order a horn from us and it has a smiley face on the box, it means I especially liked that one! ☺

  • Great replies. Thanks.
    [My internet disconnected while starting this post. So now for my own "method".]

    My criteria are build quality, tone, ease of play. Build quality is by visual and tactile. The horn must be comfortable in my hands and balanced in my arms. All parts must be solid and fit/operate perfectly.

    For tone, I test with a Bach 3C. I find the 3C gives me a good balance for tone. If core, sparkle, etc are present with a 3C, I know what to expect for a 1.5C and a shallower "lead" m/p.

    I start by playing low C, D, E. I am determining the intonation of the D. Next is upper E, F, G, A, Bb. If I must use excessive slide to attain intonation, I reject the horn. Then comes a Bb scale from bottom to top, again for intonation.

    Then comes Clarke 2, 47, 48, 49. If the valves are not to my liking, I reject.

    Then comes my own variation of Schlossberg 28, 34. I am determining how easy or difficult is the horn to play intervals and range. I focus on the harmonics of mid C, to E, to G, to the harmonic Bb, then upper C. This is an acid test. Only very good horns will permit easily the slur to upper C. Then comes lip trills. If the horn resists, I reject.

    Lastly, I will play a tune in the key of Bb, as I find a Bb horn sounds best in this key. Usually it's my own version of Impossible Dream, starting on low D. I will start 'pp", and then work to "fffff" to determine whether consistent tonal quality and intonation, and whether the horn will permit me to develop full power.

    This permits a quick assessment. If passed, the horn goes on my wish list.

  • I am not a N+1 player. I have purchased four trumpets since 1965. The first was an Olds Recorder. I was playing a Conn beginner horn and went to the music store for an upgrade (7th Grade?). I tested the Olds. The sales guy commented about the Eflat intonation , but i generally liked the sound.

    1970 - Olds was stolen - needed a horn -- went to a different music store - different town - limited funds - they pulled out a Selmer Paris (very used) not to0 discerning -- good to go.

    1983 - starting to get serious again - went to another store - asked for their pro models - Bach 37, probably a Severinsen - plus a couple of others. Valves on the Bach were superior, Bach had great tone - bought the Bach.

    2014 - had been researching other horns for fun - friend (section player)said a local store had a Schilke X3 on sale - new -- tried it -- loved the sound - loved the valves - loved what i could do with it -- bought it.

    Now I periodically pull out the Bach --thinking it may blend better in quintet or generic band environment.. But I still like the multiple tones and sounds i get from the Schilke. I can make it blend with whatever I am doing.

    So for the time being, I am happy.

    Tone -- Valves -- flexibility -- weight

  • I’m one of those weirdos that just plays the horn. If it feels’s not the horn for me.

    I am very analytical about a lot of things...but testing out instruments isn’t one of them.

  • First, I examine the horn for dents and other imperfections, and see how the slides and valves move, lubricating them as necessary. I check valve alignment, and if there is a problem, I address it at this time. Also, I will not play a horn that is dirty inside.

    Concentrating on maximum resonance, I test for intonation, using a tuner to see how close to the expected pitches the horn plays. In addition, I can see how much I can bend notes and feel how much effort it takes to do so.

    Next, I play intervals to hear how they sound and feel how easily I can slur them.

    This is followed by various tonguing exercises including rapid passages that allow me to feel how the valves respond.

    Lastly, I record some tunes played at various and varying volume levels in order to compare the feedback I get from the horn to what actually comes out in front of the bell, listening carefully to its timbre.

    During all this any ergonomic issues will have had time to present themselves. I'll also have become aware of feel and balance.

  • The last horns I bought where all second hand horns bought from the Dutch on-line marketplace. I have a pretty good idea what kind of horns I like; bright sounding horns so I leave big bell 72-ish horns for other people.
    I stopped buying student horns although they do usually play well, I find pro horns better sounding

    After unpacking the parcel I look to the horn for imperfections like dirty valves and or slides, if so, I clean them. I oil the valves, grease the slides and put my regular mouthpiece in it with my regular backbore.

    First I do scales slowly up and down, especially C# major and F# major to examine if there are intonation issues, I do this by ear since I have to play by ear in orchestras as well.
    After this lip flexibilities to feel the response of the horn, I compare the new horn to my favorite horn, a Getzen Eterna 700s.
    My practice room has a nice acoustics so I compare the sound by playing a ballad on the new horn as well to the Getzen 700s, the new horn should sound 'better' than the Getzen 700s other way it doesn't make sense to keep her.
    I play arpeggios with variabel articulations to check response as well and how free blowing is the new horn. If she is too much free blowing (like my late Bach 180-43*) I polish the horn and resell her.

    Finally I take the horn out for rehearsal in both the symphonic orchestra and our Herb Alpert tribute band, when she preforms well the horn is a keeper until I run into an even better instrument 🙂

    Good instruments you always can sell for a good price so I find this a good way of doing investigation

  • Trusted Seller

    @Trumpetsplus this is a wonderful answer and a similar approach I have. Soft playing tells all in terms of efficiency of design for me at least.... ALWAYS music for me.

  • Qualified Repair Techs Credentialed Professional

    @ACB said in Survey: How do YOU test a new trumpet?:

    @Trumpetsplus this is a wonderful answer and a similar approach I have. Soft playing tells all in terms of efficiency of design for me at least.... ALWAYS music for me.
    Aw. sweety!

  • I play long tones first with no attack. The horn should speak on a whisp of air in all necessary registers. Then I check intervals to see if the entire system is in tune with itself. I do not play long passages, rather only short things that I have prepared well. Nothing to show off. Normally, I have a reference instrument with me to keep me grounded and open minded.

    In a store or someones house, I have no chance to test "projection" or "power" so I don't. If there is a church or reasonably sized hall with good acoustics. near by, I try to take it there to test how well I hear myself when playing as well as other things needing space.

    I always have a trusted second set of ears to also judge from the receiving end.

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