Thursday, April 4, 2013

Confessions of a trumpet geek.

Hello. My name is Brian and I am a trumpet geek.

 Let’s just say I know what most of you are going through. I have owned or played them all…horns and mouthpieces. Thanks to GR and Charlie Melk, I have finally arrived with my gear and hopefully will never need to change again. Here is my story. I am sure most of you can relate. Horns I started out on a school trumpet, a new Yamaha. Played it with the piece that was in the box. I was 13 years old at the time and having fun in the school band. The first horn that I owned was a Couesnon flugelhorn that I purchased for $300.00. Shortly after I got it, I sold it and purchased my first trumpet, a King 600.

 A year or so later I heard Maynard Ferguson for the first time and of course had to own an MF Horn. I played that through high school and college till I found that I could focus better on a friend’s Schilke B1. Sold the MF and Bought a B1. Found it to be stuffy (since I was over blowing it) and sold it. Got another MF Horn, this time the .465 bore. Got tired of it and found another Schilke B1, tunable bell. Got rid of it and yes, got another MF Horn. Right around that time I quit playing for about 6 years.

When I came back I purchased a King Silver Flair. That didn’t do what I wanted and I heard of this new “Shew Horn”. I bought one, a Yamaha 6310Z. Used it in my CHASE tribute group “Primal Therapy” till I felt that the horn played too thin for me. I bought a used Callet Superchops. It was right around this time that I met Gary Radtke.

Gary heard me play the Superchops and knew that the horn was too open for me. Someone had reamed the venturi to some ridiculous diameter. GR found me a French Besson that really kicked butt and was a better match for me. This is when I finally got some direction. Up until this point I was aimlessly purchasing horns looking for some “magic”. I have no clue as to why I changed horns so often. Could have been a chop problem at the time, but most likely just a simple mouthpiece / horn / player mismatch. I had the chance to lead the tribute to CHASE at the New York Brass Conference. I played it on my Besson and it went well. Fred Powell was sitting in the front row and invited me to the UMI factory and that is when I started on the Conn Vintage One.

This horn did just fine for me but I felt that it was a hair too open as my articulations were sluggish and endurance suffered. That is when GR and Charlie Melk stepped up. Charlie installed a GR leadpipe and the horn took on a whole new feel. More focused, better core, faster articulations. A few months later, GR said it could be even better with a tighter bell. Charlie changed the bell to his #1 bell and the horn got better yet. This horn got smashed at a gig when a mic stand fell over and I sent the horn back to Charlie. He and GR had an idea that they said would knock me out. They installed a slightly tighter GR leadpipe and Charlie’s #2 bell (tighter flare) and that is what I played for a good year.

For some reason, this configuration has started to feel tight to me so I may just go back to a more open bell. Well, then I decided to lose some weight. Lost 20 lbs. That changed everything. I no longer had that “jacket of fat” to support my core and lost some meat off of my chops. I started pushing too hard on the face and not supporting my playing by not engaging my core. I got a personal trainer a few years ago who kicks my butt pretty good.

She has me doing kickboxing, strength routines, a lot of core exercises, and some killer workout called “Insanity”. Needless to say my core is working well for me now and trumpet playing has never been easier. The photo was taken in Charlie's shop. GR and Charlie are working on Bri's horn.

GR Consultant Pierre Allard is lending his expert advice. I am monkeying around.  

 I went to Charlie Melk’s shop because I consider him the best brass repair guy and best trumpet builder on the planet. He and GR sat there tearing me up while I played the GR Playing Tests on various combinations of Melk trumpet bodies, bells, and leadpipes. The winner was a wonderful horn that Charlie calls The Primal Trumpet. I play this today and can not ever see switching. 

Contact Charlie for info on this horn. 



If it is commercially available, I have played it. Started out on 7C. Heard MF and tried an MF Jet – Tone. Bought a Schilke 6A4a instead. Bottomed out all over the place. 13A4a was next. Bottomed out. Then 13A4, 14A4a, 12A4a, 11A, 11. Went to Jet-Tone: Studio B, Symphony B, 6B, 7B, 2B, 3B, DS, Dave Stahl, Shavers. Bach 9D, 10 1/2C, 2C, 3C, 7C, 7CW, 5C. Warburton 3M, 6M, 7M, 5M…numerous backbores. Curry 10 1/2M, 7M. 

During this time I tried numerous other mouthpieces, not knowing how to test a piece or what to even look for. Then I met Gary Radtke. GR and listened to me play and determined that the 62M was the one for me. 

For one reason or another I changed. Lost the weight, played incorrectly etc. Then I had GR make me a bunch of mouthpieces that I THOUGHT would work. None did. Gary knew they wouldn’t work but he wanted me to learn on my own. One day I had had enough. I put masking tape on all of my mouthpieces so I could not see the model numbers and I wrote #1, #1, #3 etc. on them. 

Then I started playing one against the other and eliminated those that did not work. I was using the GR Playing Tests to determine the proper match. Well a few days later there was one that was outstanding. I kept the tape on for a few days so I didn’t know which it was. When I was convinced that this was the piece for me I removed the tape and just laughed. It was the 62M. Instead of telling me to play it, Gary just waited till I figured it out for myself. I got my ass kicked. 

 The bottom line here is that for years I could not find what worked for me. I would go into a music store and blast away in search of a piece that would give me the highest note known to mankind. I had no direction. GR says that even a great surgeon can’t do surgery on himself. It is very difficult to diagnose your own playing problems and equipment mismatches. Seek out professional help. I highly recommend Charlie Melk if you have any horn issues or questions. I will never again play a horn that has not been improved by Charlie, or completely built by Charlie Melk. 

 For mouthpieces, you must have a specific testing procedure. You must know what to listen for to determine proper match and to avoid costly problems down the road. Visiting a trained GR Consultant is your best bet. If you can’t do that, contact us and we can go through the GR Mouthpiece Questionnaire with you. Don’t do what I did. 

 Brian Scriver

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