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.

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