More Options for Customizing Your Horn

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Not everybody has the cash – or the need – for an expensive custom horn.

While in my dreams an Engelbert Schmid quintuple horn floats down from the heavens basked in a halo of angelic light, I really have no need for anything beyond a standard double horn in my current practice.

For years I have owned a Yamaha model 667 and a Conn 8D. They have both served me well and while at one time I did play on a custom Steve Lewis horn, I have no strong desire to invest in another custom horn.

This is not to say that customization has been been ruled out. I have written previously about how even making small changes to a factory stock horn can make a big difference.

While some of these articles are geared more towards younger students, anyone can make little changes like these in order to improve playing comfort and ease.

Hybrids/conversions

Other options for customization involve a bigger commitment:

  • upgrading a horn with a custom lead pipe
  • screw bell conversion
  • a new bell flare
  • lacquer removal
  • valve work
  • re-assembly to correct factory mistakes

Any one of this upgrades can make a big difference. When I added, for example, a custom Houghton lead pipe (a Myron Bloom copy) to my Conn, it took on a new life. David Griffin too has spoken of how his Alexander flare added more substance to the middle-low register of his custom Lewis horn.

For a custom horn, changes with the bell flare might be all that is needed. For a factory-made instrument – a Conn, Yamaha,  Jupiter or Holton – more worked may be required in order to make a bigger difference.

If you are feeling particularly frisky, you might decide for a complete overhaul and get several things done at once.

I have recently opted to do this with my old Yamaha 667, sending it off to Patterson Hornworks for a complete overhaul. Years ago I played on a Yamaha that was customized by Steve Lewis and it was a nice little horn.

It’s my birthday!

I am happy to report that the upgraded horn arrived yesterday via UPS. I opted to keep a fixed bell (for now), but every other option in the bullet list above was covered. A more complete review will be coming in the future, but for now I can only convey much gratitude to Jim Patterson and the great work he did.

The horn looks well-crafted and it plays beautifully. This reminds me of  another nice thing about customization. You call fall in love all over again.

University of Horn Matters