The two people most responsible for the 4147IB sat down recently to discuss how this instrument came to be. It’s a great interview that shows just how much collaboration went into this build. Enjoy!
First came the Getzen Custom Series trombone line in 1992. Born of five years of success with the Edwards Instruments line of trombones, the new Custom Series trombones took the industry by storm. They quickly became some of the most sought after trombones in the world and fully cemented the Getzen Company’s place in the professional trombone market.
For nearly two decades, the full line of Custom Series trombones set the standard for what a professional grade trombone should be. Minor improvements over the years like all metal linkages, improved valve designs, and the addition of Griego mouthpieces kept the Custom Series fresh and at the top of the list, but it wasn’t until the introduction of the Custom Reserve line and the 4047DS in 2011 that a brand new model was added to the line.
The 4047DS Custom Reserve was unlike anything previously offered under the Custom Series banner. More than two years in the making, it featured an all new rotor design, wrap, bell, and handslide complimented with a Getzen exclusive fiberglass case. It quickly caught the attention of trombone players everywhere. Rave reviews showed that the Getzen Custom Series trombones were once more setting the standard of what a truly upper level trombone could be. We are extremely proud and excited to say we’ve done it again!
Introducing the all new, Getzen 4147IB “Ian Bousfield” Custom Reserve tenor trombone. Designed by Christan Griego in partnership with world renowned trombone artist Ian Bousfield, this new trombone marks another leap forward for the Getzen Company. While it may look similar to the 4047DS, the 4147IB is a completely different animal. The handslide, leadpipe, neckpipe, tuning slides, and bell are all exclusive to the 4147IB. It is Getzen’s first premium, professional trombone model built around a narrow handslide configuration. Other Getzen firsts include a single version of the Edwards trombone patented Harmonic Pillar system and a revolutionary handslide cross brace. This new cross brace is not only more comfortable in the player’s hand, but its design, material, and position dramatically improve the trombone’s resonance and response. The 4147IB is a truly premium, professional trombone worthy of the name “Ian Bousfield”.
The 4147IB Custom Reserve comes standard with the same Getzen fiberglass case as the 4047DS and a Getzen Custom Griego CS5 mouthpiece. Due to the nature of the 4147IB, initial supplies are expected to be extremely limited. Because of that, we are making the 4147IB available for pre-order now with anticipated delivery beginning in June of 2013 on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. For more model information, availability, or to pre-order visit your local Getzen dealer or www.getzen.com today.
by Christan Griego
Last March I traveled to Frankfurt, Germany to visit with distributors and dealers at the annual Music Messe. While there I had my night of fun with an old friend, who happens to be a trombone player (yeah, we run in packs). At some point in the evening, he mentioned that he had a friend who was not happy on his current equipment. He knew if there was anyone that could make this player happy it was…. me. Flattery sank in and I was immediately intrigued. As we talked about how to solve all of life’s problems, the conversation continued circle back around to this friend and what he needed. During this conversation the performer’s name was never mentioned, it was like classified information that would be unlocked when the time was right.
Fast-forward a month when I received a call from one Mr. Ian Bousfield. The mystery man was finally revealed. I knew Ian professionally as one of the world’s top trombone players and personally from a trip to the UK 15 years ago when I had scheduled a lesson with him. I still remember his Eb arpeggio and him helping me through the issues I was struggling with at the time. After talking a bit about everything from brewing beer, cycling, and trombones, Ian mentioned that he was not only in the States, but that he was only three hours away from Elkhorn and that he wanted to work with me. Not some distant time in the future, but in a couple of days. It was off to the races for me to get something together that could satisfy one of the most incredibly gifted and equipment sensitive individuals I had ever met. It was a monumental challenge I just couldn’t say no to.
With an understanding of Ian’s playing preferences, I first started with the basic body of the 4047DS trombone and added a narrow slide to it. This setup played okay, but it had some issues. Taking a narrow slide and just throwing it on a wide slide bell section caused the intonation to go sky high. Once we identified this issue, I immediately knew we had to add length not only to the slide, but to the bell section as well. Messing with tapers scares me to no end because it’s the balance within the tapers that makes or breaks a concept. It can turn a wonderful trombone into an out of tune mess if you’re not careful. The slide became longer first and from there I focused not only on the tapers of the neckpipe and tuning slide, but also on the treatments and construction of the bell. Ian tried some higher copper content bells and decided that was the direction of “color” within the sound that was needed for his demanding work. Once the bell choice was made, we needed a bit more “width” in the sound. Through what seemed like divine intervention, I realized that the outer handslide cross brace was the place to go. By changing the material, location, and removing excess weight we had exactly what we needed to move forward.
After working with Ian and watching many of his performances on Youtube, I knew that this trombone needed to be as nimble as a ballet dancer, yet as powerful as a bulldozer, and all while remaining sensitive to the player. Giving him the feedback needed to know that what is going into the instrument while on stage, is what’s coming out equally in the hall. This is very hard to explain to listeners and the focus on near feel versus hall feedback is one area that I do concentrate on. When this subject is talked about it always ends up with people shaking their heads at me like I’m the crazy one, but to a player it is known immediately from the moment the instrument resonates against their lips, through their bodies, and out into the hall.
The comfort a trombonist feels by playing this style of instrument is also understood as “relaxed”, “more musical” with “less tension” in the sound compared to other styles of trombones made for the masses. Every day of my job I focus on the individual performer and this attention to personal details has helped me better understand what players want and need. This is what first lead me to develop the patented Edwards Harmonic Pillar system which allows a trombone to be acoustically tuned. I quickly realized that a singular version of that system was exactly what was needed to take this new trombone from great to a world class. It was the perfect design aspect to create a more intimate relationship between the instrument and the musician. Setting the trombone apart from any other on the market and at the same time broadening it’s appeal to all trombonists. It was the final piece of the puzzle.
When I designed the 4047DS trombone, time was not an issue. I had years to trial and error every design concept that came to mind. It became as much an education into what does not work in trombone design as what does. The process with this new trombone was the exact opposite. Instead, it was a relatively short time frame filled with very intense and focused work. Ian knew exactly what he wanted and, thanks to my experience with the 4047DS, I knew how to get there. Miraculously, there were very few bumps in the road and somehow everything seemed to fall into place.
It is my sincerest hope that this new trombone, the 4147IB Custom Reserve, will not only bring Ian Bousfield and his demanding playing schedule closer to his musical ideas, but that it will do the same for you and your career goals, performances, and beyond.
Ian Bousfield has been at the top of his profession for more than a quarter of a century, excelling in more facets of the music business than perhaps any other trombonist of his generation. His stellar career has included playing in two of the top-four orchestras in the world, one of which is recognized as perhaps the greatest opera orchestra anywhere. In addition, Ian has performed as a soloist with orchestras, brass bands, and on period instruments. His extensive resume also includes recording on top labels, playing the theme tracks for blockbuster Hollywood films, and teaching at the Royal Academy in London, England. It is easy to see why the name Ian Bousfield has become synonymous with the trombone.
Born in York, in 1964, Ian is a product of the famous brass band tradition in the north of England. His trombone career began at the ripe old age of seven with his earliest teaching coming from his father and later from Dudley Bright. In a strange twist, Mr. Bright would later replace Ian when he left the London Symphony Orchestra in 2000. The longest spell that Ian enjoyed in the brass band movement was with the Yorkshire Imperial Band between the ages of 14 and 18. During that short four year time with the band, he was fortunate to win the National Championships in 1978, the British Open in 1981, and the Yorkshire Championships on two separate occasions in 1980 and 1981.
In 1979, at the age of fifteen, Ian won the Shell London Symphony Orchestra scholarship. At that point, his carrier began to move undeniably in the direction of orchestras. He joined the European Youth Orchestra at age sixteen under Claudio Abbado and made a brief stop at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London before becoming Principal Trombone of the Halle Orchestra in 1983. During his time in Manchester, Ian was lucky enough to perform the United Kingdom premiere of Eine Kleine Posaunenmusik by Gunter Schuller, under the conduction of the composer himself. In 1988, after five years with the Halle, Ian replaced one of his life-long mentors, Denis Wick, as the Principal Trombone of the London Symphony Orchestra at only 24 years of age. There he enjoyed a twelve year career. While with the LSO, Ian was featured as a soloist with the orchestra on several occasions, and recorded the soundtracks to many films, including Star Wars: Episode 1 and Braveheart. In 2000, following a successful audition in Vienna, Ian achieved the honor of becoming the Principal Trombone of the Vienna Philharmonic/Vienna State Opera. Ian was the first, and to date only, British member in the orchestra’s storied, 150 plus year history. This appointment was followed by his membership in the Vienna Hofkapelle Orchestra.
As a soloist, Ian has performed with the Vienna Philharmonic, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, Halle Orchestra, Sapporo Symphony, and Austin Symphony to name a few. He has worked with countless conductors including Riccardo Muti, Michael Tilson Thomas, Sir Neville Marriner, Kent Nagano, Ion Marin, and Matthias Bamert. Over the years, Ian has also made several solo recordings for labels such as EMI, Camerata, Chandos, and Doyen. Perhaps the greatest highlights of Ian’s solo career to date have been performing the Nina Rota Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic and Riccardo Muti three times in Vienna, as well as at The Lucerne Festival and in Tokyo, Japan. Another highlight for Ian was performing the world premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Stargazer, written for and dedicated to Ian, with the London Symphony Orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas in 2007. He has performed with all of the world’s major brass bands, recording with many of them. Ian has appeared as a soloist and as a clinician pretty much everywhere in the world. In fact, it’s probably easier to mention the conservatories and festivals at which he has not appeared than to list all of those he has!Ian is currently Professor of Trombone at the Hochschule der Künste in Bern, Switzerland, a position he has held since September 2011. Having had a relationship with the Royal Academy of Music in London since 1992, where he has been awarded an Honorary Membership, he will be returning as a member of staff as of September 2012.
Ian is also currently an International Fellow of Brass at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. His list of former students includes some of the most successful players in orchestras around the world and that list continues to grow.
Dear Getzen Customer,
The musical instrument industry has changed a lot over the last few decades. Consolidation and economic hardship have changed the face of the industry. Historic companies are no longer with us and long standing traditions have faded away. Change is inevitable, but it is not always a negative.
My grandfather founded the Getzen Company in a converted barn behind the family home in 1939. He had no customers and a dream. His hard work paid off as the Getzen Company grew. Not only did he start a company that year, but he also started what would become a tradition of the Getzen family in the brass musical instrument industry.
I am very proud to announce that tradition is carrying on today and growing even stronger. A life long goal of my brother, Adam, and I was achieved on February 13 when we purchased the Getzen Company, Inc. from our father Tom Getzen. Adam and I are the fourth generation of Getzens in the industry and could not be more excited to carry on our family heritage at the helm of the Getzen Company. Following the purchase, I was named President and Adam Vice President. We have some very big shoes to fill, but we feel very confident that, with our experience and your support, the Getzen Company will continue to thrive and grow.
Adam, Tom, and Brett Getzen
The passing of the torch will forever mark 2013 as an important date in the 74 year history of the Getzen Company. We are excited for the challenges ahead.
On behalf of myself, Adam, and the entire Getzen family thank you for the continued support and patronage. We look forward to working with you in the future.
The Getzen Company, Inc.
Christan Griego recently designed an new trombone for Getzen. He shares his thoughts about it below.
A while back, I had this idea. As always, it started as the most innocent of thoughts. It was “There’s this mythical ‘Bach’ style of trombone that, while some are great, most are inconsistent. Let’s try to build on this ‘Bach’ style while maintaining what we’ve always done best”. As you are probably aware, we’re known for making the most consistent resonating instruments in the world. So we should be able to make this work.
I knew where to start and I knew where I wanted to end up. That was the easy part. I also knew I didn’t want to re-invent the wheel, but I didn’t want to just rehash the same old things either. And so, by combining time tested ideas with a few new design approaches, I started the journey of creating this dream instrument that ultimately turned into the 4047DS Custom Reserve. Here’s a little insight into the how and why the 4047DS came to be.
This was the easiest part for me, since I knew what I wanted. A large, .547” bore hand slide with yellow brass outer tubes, nickel silver over sleeves, and a yellow brass end crook. The end crook gives us the width of sound needed to offset what is happening a bit later in the bell section. Prior research into end crook bore selection had given me the knowledge needed and the choice was made. The entire design is balanced and offset to each component so that it all works together to achieve the final outcome we are after.
The design of the bell took us to the machine shop. The bell shape had to be correct in order for the 4047DS to give us the enveloping quality we were after. This is always the scary part of design as you hope your initial shape concepts are right due to the high cost of bell mandrels. I study history and what has been done in the past to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of others. As luck would have it, we hit a winner with our bell mandrel. With the bell shape nailed we moved on to the material choice, yellow brass and that’s all I can say. We have to keep some secrets, but I can tell you it’s not a light bell nor is it a hernia maker. My whole goal was to make an instrument that will fit most professional players without them making the journey to Elkhorn, Wisconsin to work with me on fitting a trombone. It’s okay, no offense taken.
This is possibly the most “oversold” part of any instrument manufacturer’s claims. While I’m not refuting anybody’s self proclaimed valve supremacy, my goal was to make a professional trombone that used a conventional rotor not of a higher deity or bloodline. Listening to vinyl recordings late in the evening, I have heard players from the 1950’s through today that sound incredible on good old, conventional rotor trombones. There are many musicians that I’ve studied with that still play on standard conventional rotors that aren’t at all hampered by the rotor’s design. I did play around with port diameters and rotor passageways to come up with our final design, but with design simplicity I think we have found a great combination.
It’s possible to make an instrument play great with a conventional rotor by making sure the overall wrap design is correct. I used my knowledge of wraps and bracing concepts in this area. The “DS” double edge brace design is born of the Edwards B454-D-E bass and it works just as well here on the 4047DS. In addition to the “DS” bracing, the 4047DS utilizes the concept of Asymmetrical Bracing with both yellow brass and nickel silver bracing. This innovative bracing design frees both the F attachment and the bell from diminished resonance and response caused by invasive bracing systems.
And Finally… The Leadpipe
I’m fortunate to be friends with lots of trombone players with a wide variety of equipment both new and old. One such friend knew about the 4047DS project and offered me a decades old leadpipe to test on the horn. Man did that pipe play well. The second the brass leadpipe slid into the slide, it was an “Aha!” moment. This was the final piece of the puzzle that made the 4047DS something special.
When developing a new instrument, we test things on a daily basis and get to see the improvements made slowly over time. Moving toward a goal only to have the destination cut short is a real drag and I think that many companies do just that. Rushing to launch model after model just hoping to get one to “hit”. That is exactly the approach I wanted to avoid. We have worked on this trombone for a few years and not once was I pressured to get the horn to market. I wanted, and was encouraged, to take my time. Only when it felt right every time I came back to the horn and after hearing the 4047DS played by countless players in house did I feel right taking this new trombone public. Crafting new trombones is fun. Crafting one that plays this well is something else all together. I am extremely proud to finally provide other players with the ability to play and perform on the all new, Getzen 4047DS Custom Reserve. Enjoy!
— Christan Griego
- Bell: 8 ½” Yellow brass unsoldered rim; B Mandrel *
- Tuning Slide: Yellow brass; Single radius taper *
- Bell & Tuning Slide Braces: Nickel silver construction *
- “DS” Edge Bracing: Yellow brass construction *
- Neckpipe: Taper evens intonation tendencies within the harmonic series. *
- Inner Handslide: Solid nickel silver construction cork barrel assembly *
- Leadpipe: Retro brass leadpipe born of historically proven bloodlines *
- Over Sleeves: Nickel silver providing longer wear points *
- End Crook: Yellow brass with large inner diameter providing a width of sound & consistent feel *
All in an optional fiberglass shell case with adjustable padding and backpack straps. It is the smallest large bore, tenor case on the market today. Providing more protection than a traditional gig bag while remaining lightweight without the use of expensive carbon fiber. *
* = Designed exclusively for the 4047DS Custom Reserve
OK, not really. However, recently one of our competitors sent out a mass mailing to all of their dealers stating that they are “the only brass instrument maker producing all its horns in the United States”. Apparently, in their world, Elkhorn, Wisconsin is no longer a part of these United States. Believe me, that was a shock to all of us here at Getzen.
That’s the only explanation for their statements. After all, every Getzen instrument is manufactured at our factory in Elkhorn. In fact, our current production facilities are less than a mile away from the converted barn where the Getzen Company built its very first trumpet. So obviously they either think Elkhorn is located outside the borders of the United States or they are grossly misleading their customers. And we all know the later never happens right? Right?
The fact is we pride ourselves on the fact that all Getzen instruments are manufactured in the US. In an industry riding the wave of outsourcing, it is a badge of honor to be part of a very small group of manufacturers holding strong to our roots.
We take the standard of “Made in America” very seriously. It is a little known fact that the requirements for using that term are pretty loose and liberally enforced. Basically, in order for a product to be marketed as “Made in America” a significant change has to be done to any parts in the US. For example, Brand X could import bells, valve sections, pistons, etc… from Trumpetland to the US. Once here, those parts could then be soldered together, silver plated, and polished and the resulting trumpet could be sold as “Made in America”. Since the imported pieces were just that, pieces, a significant amount of work was required to turn them into a finished trumpet. So even though the term “Assembled in America” would be a better definition, Brand X can legally claim their horns were “Made in America”. While technically and legally true, this practice profits greatly on the market place’s lack of knowledge about the fair use of the term. It may not be dishonest, but it is definitely misleading.
At Getzen, we take an entirely different approach. Take our 390 student trumpet, for example. There are roughly 97 parts used in the manufacturing of a 390 trumpet. Of those 97 parts, 73 of them are made right here in Elkhorn, WI. The remaining 24 parts are all manufactured in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, or other parts of the US. And that is our lowest priced, student level instrument. I think we can all agree that a 100% American made student instrument is a rarity these days.
Could we reduce costs and increase profits by purchasing pre-made bells, valves, pistons, etc. from some offshore company, slapping them together in Elkhorn, and patting ourselves on the back while selling them as “Made in America”? We sure could, but then we wouldn’t be selling a real Getzen instrument. As long as my name is on the bell and I have any say in the matter that will never happen.
Getzen Company, Inc.
Translated from the original article by Andrea Libretti in Strumenti Musicali Magazine
Getzen is an historical brand of American brass instruments started in 1939 by a former Holton employee. Getzen first started building trumpets in 1947. Since then, Getzen has gained experience and reliability recognized worldwide. The 400 Series was created to meet the needs of students who are on a budget, but don’t want to sacrifice the technical features and timbre of upper class instruments.
One of the strengths of the internationally recognized Getzen Company are the pistons. In fact, the durability and speed of their nickel silver pistons has become legendary unlike the Monel pistons found on nearly all other trumpets. The outer surface of the piston is shinier, harder, and travels the vertical movement within the casing with remarkable smoothness. More generally, the Getzen trumpets give a good impression of strength and compactness, as well as being well finished. The 490 is produced in a medium-large bore size which is ideal for the student. The entry bore size of the gold brass mouthpipe give a better response to the lower octave. The weight is on average with other instruments of its class at about 1030 grams. The first slide has a saddle while the third slide is controlled with a ring. The one piece gold brass bell improves tones in the lower harmonics. The trumpet is available in lacquer or silver plate and is available with a good hard case. Substantially, all of the features described above (except the pistons) are the same as many existing horns tested. What differentiates an instrument like the Getzen 490 is the quality of the materials used and the accuracy with which the parts are assembled. In this case, with a craftsman’s skilled hands, thus providing higher overall sound quality than the rest of the instrument industry.
When you test a horn for the first time, you must have a reference to the class of the instrument. It should be clear that if I’m talking about a student trumpet and define what is good about it, the review should be analyzed in the scope of the category of the instrument. If not done, you could be comparing a student trumpet to one costing 5000-6000 Euro.
In the case of student trumpets, it is natural not to expect a very full tone, flexibility, or comfort. Speaking of the Getzen 490 though, you will be pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of the brand, certainly well above the other horns of this same class. This means that during studies, the trumpet will increase the efforts of students and, likewise, increase the rewards they see. It is always more pleasant to play an instrument that one likes and better meets our expectations.
During this test we found a good overall tone with a good coupling of the harmonics. The fluidity of tone was inline with other trumpets in the test. The pressure necessary to control the air column required effort slightly above average, but in the transition to a professional level horn, this will help to teach better control. The pistons, as already mentioned, are extremely fast, accurate, and durable. There was never any binding on the pistons. The only negative of the trumpet is that the springs return the pistons so fast and powerfully that it can result in a slight noise from the piston returning. This is not difficult to work around however. Simply remove the piston, remove the spring, and compress it by hand until you achieve the desired strength.
In conclusion, we could not be more satisfied with the performance of the Getzen 490; a student trumpet with some professional features and tendancies. We could call it a semi-professional horn that can fully satisfy the needs of a student in the early years of training as well as those of an amateur musician in any band area. Of course, you pay for quality and it is natural that this instrument will cost a bit more than similar competing products. But try to compare the Getzen 490 trumpet with any made in Eastern Europe or East Asia and let me know.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
As many of you, dealers and retail customers alike, know some Getzen instruments are hard to come by these days. We face concerns about delayed delivery just about everyday. While building to order is better than having bloated inventory sitting on the shelf, people will only wait so long before they move on and buy another instrument. What’s the deal?
When you compare the last few years to 10-15 years ago, our production numbers are down. That’s despite the addition of new employees and the institution of new manufacturing techniques and processes. At the same time, our annual orders have been steadily increasing for almost every model. More orders plus less output equals long back orders. For a few specific models, we started the 2008 fiscal year with more instruments on back order from 2007 than we were able to build and ship in the previous twelve months. And I’m not talking about inexpensive student instruments. These are, unfortunately, higher end instruments. Eventually, many of these customers are going to go elsewhere. So what is the answer?
Just up production right? We could easily put the pressure on our people and start forcing horns through. Just crank them out as fast as we can. Maybe even cheapen some horns. We could take a cue from our competitors and cut corners to speed up student and step up production. Maybe even import some lines rather than building them in the US. Or, we could automate some of our production and let machines stamp out more of our horns. After all, a machine doesn’t need a break and you don’t have to pay it overtime. If we did all of these things, I’m sure we could out pace the last few years with ease and even approach record production highs in no time at all. It would definitely fill our back orders. Delivering on all of those orders means a lot more money coming in while the shorter production time translates to lower costs. Everyone knows what that means… higher profits. That’s what business is all about right? Then again, we’ve all heard some of the horror stories going around these days. “Trumpet X is great… if you can try enough to find a good one.” Or, “Every single Trumpet Z is the same… they just don’t have any character.” My personal favorite, “Sure it doesn’t perform like a trumpet, but it looks like one and it was sooooo cheap.” Maybe sometimes chasing higher profits isn’t the right answer.
Our philosophy is a simple one. Higher production is great and we strive for that every day. However, we will never sacrifice quality and craftsmanship in exchange for upped production and delivery. Could we save time by cutting short the lapping and honing time on student trumpets? Sure. Could we save time by eliminating some of the hand labor on our one piece trumpet bells? You bet. Could we get more trombone slides made if we lowered our standards on plating, barrel shaping, and hand straightening? Definitely. Would our instruments be any good? Nope, but we sure could build them fast.
Years ago, as I got more and more involved in the business, one of my main concerns was quality. I was, and still am, extremely frustrated and discouraged to hear from dealers and players whenever they purchase a horn that was sub par. It was hard not to take those complaints personally. Being the squeaky wheel that I am, I got the grease in the form of being put in charge of establishing our quality levels. I wasn’t very popular at times, but I refused to lower the standards I expected from every instrument we built. Having worked in the factory myself, I knew what we were capable of. It took a lot of work and persistence, but over time every goal I set was met and surpassed.
The quality of instruments being delivered today far exceeds those that we built back in 1991. There was a price to pay for those high standards though. Eliminating the pressure for volume and rejecting sub standard instruments will diminish monthly production output. It’s a tricky tight rope act, teetering between high quality and high production. In the beginning, we fell from that rope again and again. There were times that our quality took a step back. Other times, our numbers were far below demand. Over time though, we have gotten better at balancing things out. Now, with the addition of people like Jim Stella, we are moving ahead in leaps and bounds. Steps like refining our manufacturing, adding more people, and instilling in our existing employees just what they are capable of are adding up. Everyday we move closer and closer to filling our back orders. At the same time, our finished quality continues to rise. It’s a win-win for all of us.
Don’t get me wrong, we still have a long way to go. Even with our improvements we realize this is not a time to just sit back and relax. There are always goals to be set and broken. In some cases, even with higher production we don’t seem to make any headway. Just ask anyone waiting for a Custom Series tenor or bass trombone. The more we ship, the more that are ordered. Go figure. It’s like treading water with a weight belt on. As soon as you get strong enough to raise more than just your nose out of the water, someone adds a few more pounds and the struggle starts all over again.
This past year has taught us a lot of lessons and brought several advancements. New people, ideas, techniques, and equipment are bringing us closer and closer to where we want to be. It’s been a long and costly endeavor, but we are committed to it. Remember, at Getzen we only have to answer to ourselves, not a board of directors or sea of faceless stockholders. Cutting corners could benefit us in the short term, but in the long run it’s just going to drag us down. After all, what’s the long term benefit of quickly delivering a piece of junk to a customer? We’re committed to providing you with the finest quality instruments you can find at an affordable price. Most importantly, we’re committed to making sure that every one of our instruments is worth the wait. It’s my name on every bell and I wouldn’t accept anything less.