Waves. Like the ocean. Flowing…constant pressure. Making brass vibrate. Making brass vibrate so as to send a shiver down my spine. Has it ever given you chills? Oh yeah! I think it’s pretty amazing that we humans have figured out how to shape metal into tubes, that we blow into, to make beautiful music. I feel lucky to be a part of this human race because of music. We should all be, since it’s hardwired into us. Whether we realize it or not. It’s there in all of our really important moments. Like when we walk down the isle, march into battle, or when it’s played at our funeral… I could go on.
But, that’s enough preaching. I’m really writing to talk about sound waves traveling through a lead pipe. More specifically on a trumpet that has had three different lead pipes throughout its life. And then that got me thinking, does it really make a difference? They are all just a bunch of tubes, right? Does it really matter?
Well, trumpet builders & players say it does. They say it makes a BIG difference. Finding a lead pipe to make your trumpet vibrate correctly can be hard to do. On this particular Calicchio, that was the story. It was made in 1975 and traveled into many hands. By the time Chris got his hands on it, the lead pipe was showing signs of “red rot”, and it just didn’t feel right. It felt too resistant. And honestly, when a lead pipe gets the “red rot”, it usually means it’s time to patch it or replace it. So the decision was made to replace it to a brass Calicchio #2. The original lead pipe was unmarked, so we don’t know the number, which is bummer.
Here is a pic of it after the brass Calicchio #2 installation. But, once again… it just didn’t feel right. It just didn’t have that good vibration. Why? Hmm… Here is what I think. It all starts with the player. How the player blows into the mouthpiece. That buzzing pressure forced into the lead pipe builds up the sound waves before they travel through the rest of the horn. I believe it’s the lead pipe that shapes the wave, giving it it’s frequency for a certain wavelength.
I’m not a trumpet player, so I couldn’t say how it feels (I just have to go by what other players describe). Also, each player has a different technique so the pressure and intensity going into the trumpet is always going to be different. This means each player is going to create a different wavelength even if it’s the same lead pipe. That’s why I feel that lead pipes should be set to the player and not the horn.
But, back to the Calicchio. The decision was made to change it again. To a silver plated Calicchio #9.
The above picture is after the silver plated #9 installation. This particular lead pipe came off an older Calicchio that had a small hole from “red rot”. Notice the brass ring. That is to seal the hole but, I also think that ring creates a “nodal” point. But that is a topic for a another day. The player really likes how this lead pipe feels. It seems we finally found a match. And man does it vibrate!