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.

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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.


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.

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