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Historic Trumpets

Mod Plus and Aether High Pitch Trumpet
Mod Plus and Aether High Pitch Trumpet

Natural Trumpets

The historic, valveless instruments I make are usually called “baroque trumpets” or “natural trumpets”. This is because these instruments notes are the natural overtone series. Compared to valved instruments these historic instruments are quite limited in which notes can be played on them. Bach, Handel, Purcell and other great composers from this time (and before and after) wrote for these instruments. Characteristic for the music written for the natural trumpets is that most of the time this instrument is played in the upper register to be able to play diatonic phrases.

My historic trumpet programme is a result of more than 10 years of constant development. Because another part of my professional life is playing on (modified) copies of historic instruments I have the opportunity to test my products through and through. My colleagues from all over the world test and give me their honest feedback as well. It’s an ideal situation to be in as an instrument builder. And as a result of this every year more colleagues play on instruments made by me. 

The video below shows some of the workshop and my view on natural trumpet building. It was made for the Nederlandse Bachvereniging since I have been playing with that (wonderful) group of people for more than 15 years.

Mod Plus corpus set up in D
Mod Plus corpus set up in D

About the MOD+ model

As you might have seen in the above video I (and most of my performing colleagues) mostly play on modified historical copies. This usually means that an instrument out of a museum gets measured and copied. Then as last step in the process ventholes are added. I don’t find this a logical approach.

It is quite certain that ventholes are a modern invention. As I am aware of the dramatic effect of adding them my design process is a little different. I have designed the natural trumpets completely around the ability to play with or without ventholes whilst keeping a sound that is as close to “historic” as possible. Curious? Look here.

This does not happen when a museum instrument gets copied and simply has ventholes added. I think more like a performer than a historian. When the performance is already “compromised” by the choice to use ventholes it is important that these ventholes really work without compromising the sound. And it all has to feel comfortable to the player. 

Leadpipes

The natural trumpets I make can be used with three different leadpipe systems, making the system even more versatile.

1) Historic: A historic taperless leadpipe system that can be used with historic tuning bits. Good for no hole playing.

2) Flextune (GR): The Mod+ standard insert type system (with or without desired GR tapers) that slides into the first yard of the trumpet, thus creating a natural “smaller’ start of the instrument. Especially nice for lower pitches and finetuning classical venthole playing.

3) Fixtune GR: A traditional venthole trumpet leadpipe system that requires different length leadpipes to cover all the keys / pitches. Mostly used for baroque playing in C and D.

Venthole Yards

The venthole yards for all the keys and pitches are dedicated to them, with a few exceptions. This means that every key and pitch has it’s own venthole yard for perfect allignment. These yards can even be produced with sliding F and C holes if desired. If you’d like to see how accurate the ventholes are you can take a look here. In this video you see that the low G and C can also be played with the “octave” venthole. This is very unusual and is only really possible if this hole is in the perfect spot giving exactly the right amount of resistance.

The venthole yards can have custom aligned venthole covers to suit your hands and ergonomics. This is a service that is FREE of charge and can also be done without a physical visit to the workshop.

More Options

Since everything is made in house I can make nearly everything you wish for your natural trumpet but I am not listing it all here to keep the website “to the point”

For more info about anything regarding the trumpets please contact me!

Below you can listen to Danny Teong playing G. Reiche’s “abblasen” on his Mod+ trumpet with Fixtune D leadpipe. Note how the colour of the notes stay very even with the use of ventholes. Besides a good playing technique the trumpet helps Danny a lot.

Basic Mod+ set in 440-415

This is what the Mod+ set in 440-415 looks like. A corpus, medium leadpipe extension, flextune leadpipe system with spacers for all tunings/pitches, a fixtune leadpipe for D and C 415 baroque playing, D elbow, C crook, crook extension (from 440 to 415) and all the dedicated venthole yards.
Mod  Natural trumpet set in D and C 440/415
Mod Natural trumpet set in D and C 440/415
Mod Plus trumpet set up as a holeless historic trumpet.
Mod Plus trumpet set up as a holeless historic trumpet.

Historic Playing

The bell on the MOD+ model is very much like an EHE bell but still slightly different because I have implemented the Golden Ratio (Fibonacci) sequence. Not only in the shape of the bell but in many other ways. Whenever there is a taper, and whenever balance and proportion is important.

Besides that I make sure to make a (one piece!) bell that is light enough with a standard 0.35mm wall thickness. This gives a nice direct response without the sound wavering away. And it still has enough “mass” to carry and blend nicely. Just like most original historic natural trumpets.

One of the strong points of my MOD+ instrument is that it can also be used without the use of these ventholes and function as a “historically correct” holeless trumpet. A few important bits can be swapped (by the player) to activate the historic characteristics of the holeless trumpet. The (usually problematic) F and A are much easier to play on this instrument.

The historic crook setup is a complete solution that can be used for both baroque and classsical repertoire. I use this when I play with the Orchestra of the 18th century and it works like it should. Of course I am always looking to improve things but this instrument is pretty close to what I wished I could make one day when I started to build instruments.


High Pitch  ~ Aether ~ Natural Trumpet
High Pitch ~ Aether ~ Natural Trumpet

High Pitch Trumpet ~ Aether ~

This trumpet is designed to cover the high pitch demand of specialist natural trumpet players. It is a slimmed version of the Mod+ trumpet and works great in the tunings Eb430 all the way up to F440. It overlaps seamlessly with the Mod+ trumpet that goes from A430-Eb440.

Important is obviously that the instruments helps the player that wants to perform the brandenburg concerto. The smaller bell and smart leadpipe system really help to keep the sound compact, slim and pretty and the resistance even enough to be able to stay in the upper register without stretching stamina to the max.

Different (custom) leadpipes can be made to make the instrument work perfectly for you. And because every player is different the venthole yards can be made with moveable F and C holes. A recording of the brandenburg concerto played on the ~ Aether ~ trumpet will follow soon!


4hole trumpets vs 3hole trumpets

If you are considering to buy a natural trumpet with vent-holes, one of the first decisions you need to make is what kind of trumpet to go for. A short bendy 3hole instrument or a long historic looking 4hole model. Both models are compromises that are widely used in Europe and the rest of the world. 

Besides an instrument builder I am active as a professional natural trumpet player. I have played many different instruments over the last ten years. The first 6 years I have played short 3hole instruments only. Later I was introduced to the 4hole instruments. I have developed a strong preference for 4hole trumpets, especially for baroque repertoire. The 3hole instruments also have their qualities, but I feel that the 4hole trumpets are a more logic choice.

This preference is for pure practical reasons. These reasons are in the first place “sound” and in second place “playability”. To my ears, a long model trumpet sounds dark and rich at the same time. Another way to describe the sound is “pure”. Short trumpets tend to sound more nasal and they tend to feel stiff, especially in the lower register. Played with the use of vent-holes the long model is very flexible and stable (resistance-wise) over the whole trumpet register without compromising sound too much. Played with and without the vent-holes the four-hole trumpet sounds very close to a historic trumpet. This is mainly because of the correct proportions and the shape and length of the bell.

Technical differences

The big compromise on the short trumpets is the shorter bell. The start of the bell has been cut off, interrupting the most important (and only!) long taper that it is also present on a historic trumpet. The bell on the short trumpets is made shorter to make the trumpet easier to hold and to make the ventholes more accessible. That seems practical, but this makes it nearly impossible to play “no holes” on a short instrument. This is because the proportions are lost. Not to mention the fact that on the 3hole trumpet there are some notes (like the written D2) that don't seem to be happy to be played at all. On the 4hole trumpet this problem is non existing. Although the short and long trumpets are different, in practice they can be used in the same trumpet section without problems.

I also feel that the 3hole instrument has reached it’s peak, and has nearly finished developing thanks to instrument builders (f.e. Egger Instruments in Switzerland) that have invested a lot of time and effort in the development of the 3hole natural trumpet. The 4hole trumpet has not finished developing to modern requirements yet. Even my very first building attempts following simple logic worked out surprisingly well. The 4hole trumpet is a great starting point because of it’s basic shape (and history..) but it can be made much better. There is great potential, and that is the reason why I keep developing long baroque trumpets only.