Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Eb Contrabass Flugelhorn

After a longer than expected wait... here is the Eb Contrabass Flugelhorn:

It came out well, though a little over-budget and overdue. Some of the parts that were sent to me weren't ideal and new parts needed to be found.

The flugel is the same length of an Eb tuba - roughly 13.5 feet - and it has a 10" bell with a ~.560" bore. The receiver accepts a standard American-shank tuba mouthpiece. The client wanted an instrument could still use a tuba mouthpiece, but had a more appropriate bore than the travel/trolley tubas. There were some limitations:

1. It needed to be as small as possible, both side to side and bell to bow.
2. Easy access to the left side to hold the instrument while playing.
3. Able to use a tuba mouthpiece.

The flugel went through a couple iteration to get the slides in the right positions and maintaining a small package. I had originally wanted two main tuning slides, one to serve as the main set slide and a second for fine-tuning like on Kanstul's marching tubas. Unfortunately, given the restrictions on space, I opted for on main tuning slide, though it could be modified later on (as you'll see further down in another picture) to serve as two slides.

As with most custom instruments, it has to be looked at as a prototype. As such, I expected there to be some odd intonation issues and some notes that would need alternate fingerings or lipping to bring these pitches in-tune. It sounds very much like a small-bore tuba - due, in part, to the nearly entire conical tubing. There are only a few parts that are cylindrical tubing. Some pitches still require alternate fingerings, but not unlike some tubas I play.

The receiver was kindly made by Kanstul Musical Instruments. All of the other parts were sourced from either marching baritones or, in the case of a crook on the third valve tubing, an HN White "KING" baritone bugle. The inner branches between the valve section and the two large branches before the bell were sourced from a junker tuba... that just happened to have the right bore and length...

Here are some more shots:

As you can see, the large W-shaped slide is the main tuning slide. This could be modified into two separate slides, one for the main set and the other for fine tuning. You'll also notice solder marks and other imperfections.... this is because I still lack the tools necessary to fix all the dents and a proper buffing machine to polish the parts. The best I can do, with what I have, is to give the finish a satin-look and wipe away excess solder.

The flugel might still be able to fit into a standard marching baritone case (with some interior modification) or in one of those aftermarket gigs bags from ProTec or Gard.

Here's a short-ish video of me playing on the Eb Contrabass Flugelhorn (it's going to take some time for the buyer to get used to how it plays):

With all the parts I've accumulated from this project, I will be building a couple of contrabass trumpets next. One will have four in-line pistons, while the other will have a thumb activated piston for the fourth valve. Since these will be trumpets, they will be roughly 2/3 cylindrical tubing, meaning if I built them in Eb, I would have almost nine feet of straight tubing - through valves and tight bends... not an ideal situation for a trumpet! So, I'm aiming for F - less tubing, lighter, and more in-line with the needs potential buyers.

Also on the docket:
- That Martin Eb (D) needs a fourth valve and maybe a fifth rotary valve for a slide-switch conversion to CC
- A custom JW York CC helicon (aiming to have this one bead blasted and silver plated), not unlike the famous Sellmasberger Buescher CC helicon:
- One or two more Bass French horns in CC and BBb
- Two or three more mini BBb and CC piston travel tubas, using a slightly larger body for a more tuba-like tone.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Some Updates

Recently, I acquired a number of instruments:

Three miniature sousaphones, a mellophone, a couple of helicons, a raincatcher sousaphone, and another tuba. Most of these instruments will be dismantled and turned into other instruments - like three more french horns and a few more mini-tubas.

On my move from Seattle, I came across a raincatcher Sousaphone at a TGIF restaurant. Sure, it had some holes in it and was considerably dirty/grimy, but how often do you find a raincatcher, let alone one you could buy because the restaurant was going to be remodeling the following week! Anyway, it's a Carl Fisher, probably late-1910s, maybe early 1920s. Definitely an import, but a nice example of a raincatcher Sousaphone.

I also bought a Martin Eb helicon, which may or may not be in the key of D - that's not a Low Pitch tuning, but the actual pitch of D. Evidently Martin made an extra long slide to place the key in D... for whatever reason. The helicon needs a little work, but is in quite good shape. The previous owner "suggested" that I convert it to CC and add a valve. I might, but I still need to find a Martin valve/casing and a whole bunch of Martin braces and tubing - it needs to look natural. On the other hand, I could add a rotary valve (with a thumb trigger) and make another set of slides to allow the instrument to play in CC or Eb. Harvey Hartman did this for one of his customers and I've heard of good results from others regarding such a "conversion".

Let's see... here are some quicks:

- Converted the bass trumpet to an alto in D (need to either cut to Eb or add a little more to C) with four valves.
- In the process of another alto in Eb with four in-line valves and a 7" Olds bell
- Attempting to sell the Bass Horn to fund a few more
- Bought a JW York Eb tuba in excellent condition... just needs a couple dents removed. Otherwise, it plays very well.
- Sold a couple of Getzen Eterna Bass trumpets.

The big news is I've got a customer wanting a contrabass flugelhorn in Eb. It's using a .560" marching baritone valve block and a considerable amount of conical tubing. The end result will hopefully be around the size of a standard marching baritone.

Coupled with that, I have enough parts and bells to make two contrabass trumpets in either Eb or F.

As for the Jumbo sousaphone, I sent the valve block off to NRE Brassworks to finish up the fourth valve tubing. There are some other small changes to the look, but I'll hopefully have it back in time for Purdue University's Homecoming. A friend of mine has a King Jumbo and another alumnus has one as well. Counting "Big Bertha" owned by Purdue, that's three Jumbo for their Homecoming. Once mine is up and running, I'll be bringing it down to Purdue to have one of the alumni players use it for the game, so that their will be FOUR King Jumbos in use - two three valve 1265's and two four valve 1266's! Just like the Pentwater Jumbo Summit of 2011.