What is a Flugel Horn and Do I need to own one?

The flugelhorn, also spelled fluegelhorn, flugel horn or flugelhorn has a long history in European countries but is relatively new to ours. Its popularity in the states probably dates back to the fifties through the use of such well known names in jazz as Shorty Rogers, Kenny Baker, Clark Terry, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Nat Adderley and Art Farmer.

The purpose of the flugel was to give the player an alternative to the edgy, powerful trumpet sound. During the Bebop period (1945-1960) the trumpet was king, but when cool jazz started to gain a following in the music scene, the flugel was just the instrument to give the performance a less edgy tone. The flugel and cool jazz were meant for each other. If you have not listed to the flugel in the hands of an artist, I recommend that you listen to the examples listed at the end of this post.

The acoustical design of the flugel is basically a conical construction and the trumpet is based on a cylindrical design. When comparing the two, you will find that the trumpet has the same tube diameter throughout most of its length which is the reason its tone is more focused than its closest cousin, the cornet. The cornet is in between the trumpet and flugel which is the reason the cornet is more mellow than the trumpet and the flugel is more mellow than the cornet. Conical instruments such as the cornet and flugel have increasing tube diameters from the lead pipe to the bell which makes the tone in each more mellow than that of the trumpet. This is the reason that the flugel is so popular with jazz musicians for it gives them an additional timbre to utilize during their performances.

Inherent in most flugel horns is the problem of intonation. Much time and expense has been given to the improvements in trumpets but because of less volume of sales, the flugel has continuously been lacking in improvements. This situation will improve only if the demand increases or we have a super star surface to bring back national recognition to the instrument as was demonstrated by the increase in popularity of the flugel shortly after Chuck Mangione, in the 1970’s. led the charts with his recording of Feels So Good.

If you are contemplating the purchase of a flugel horn, my first suggestion would be to find someone who has one and would let you play theirs or visit a music store which has one on display. Buying a flugel horn without trying it would be a very bad move for even though everyone seems to be interested in playing one, not everyone would have a use for one. Playing a flugel is different than playing your trumpet and many times players are disappointed with the tonal differences. The trumpet is generally bright as stated before and it takes some time to get used to the darker tone of the flugel. Where you plan to play the instrument should also be considered. If you are not a jazz musician, your use is more limited. I’m not saying that the flugel will not fit into the same circles where your trumpet is currently serving but if you plan to play lead in a jazz band, rock band or similar ensembles, the flugel will not do the job. As an inner ensemble instrument, it is ideal. To give you an example of where the flugel is best suited, listen to this arrangement of Over The Rainbow which was recorded with four flugels. Notice that even when the melody goes up to a written A above the staff, the tone is still rich and warn with none of the edgy qualities that a trumpet would exhibit in the same register.
The flugel is a very flexible instrument in an ensemble because of its conical character. When used with trumpets, the flugel takes on a character all its own as in this example of Begin the Beguine. The first and seconds parts are written for trumpets and the third and fourth parts are played on flugels. The trumpets carry the melody as the flugels play the repeated bass figure as well as filling in the harmony.

Here is another arrangement for two trumpets and two flugels- The Beer Barrel Polka. The fourth flugel plays the tuba’s roll as the third flugel is used to represent a French Horn which leaves trumpets one and two available for the upper two parts.

As I have shown, there are many areas the flugel can enhance a performance. It works well as a solo instrument as well as a harmonic instrument. If you are interested in hearing some of the best in flugel horn playing, visit the examples listed below.
In my next post I will assume that you have access to a flugel horn and would like more information on how to play it and that will be covered in my next post. Stay tuned for more information on the wonderful instrument called the flugel horn…

Here are a couple examples of some fine flugel horn playing-

Ed Trujillo

Solving your Jazz and Legit Mouthpiece Problems

On one day you are playing Brahms in an orchestra and the next you are playing Kenton in a club and the choice of sound is becoming a problem. One requires a soft and gentile timbre and the other a more edgy tone with an increased high range. One solution would be to change trumpets for each situation but at the cost of instruments today, who has that kind of cash. Another possibility would be to attempt to color your tone with your existing equipment but you will find this is only an act of desperation. This scenario was exactly what I was facing this past year. Performing classical music on the same mouthpiece I was performing our show in Branson was becoming a problem until I remembered my pair of Purviance mouthpieces resting securely in my endless collection of unused mouthpieces.

Switching mouthpieces for some people can be a problem because of the different size of the rim. The rim is the only section of a mouthpiece to contact the lip and because of this fact, changing rim dimensions, to some people is not possible with confidence. Because of this issue, the Purviance mouthpiece manufacturing company decided to offer two very fine mouthpieces with identical rim size and contours to their customers. And this was the beginning of the Purviance 4* and 5* mouthpieces. Each mouthpiece had the same size rims but the cup, shoulder, throat and backbore were different to accommodate two different playing situations; namely orchestral and commercial settings. The 5* produced a darker and more broad sound and the 4* just the opposite; a more edgy and focused tone. The more shallow cup and tighter throat and back bore on the 4* also helped to increase the players upper register required in a more commercial setting.

To some players, switching back and forth from a darker to a brighter mouthpiece may not be an issue, but for those forced to change tone in two different setting, the use of identical rims on two different mouthpieces may be worth looking into.

With the advent of removable rims, came another possibility for comfort in playing and at the same time versatility in unmatched venues.

Shortly after the Purviance (two mouthpieces/ same rim size) offering came the removable rim. Removable rims meant that you could play on exactly the same rim and change the lower section to match the tone and range requirement. This was an even better solution for now you could keep your comfortable rim and change your tone as easily as changing your socks each day. Every mouthpiece manufacturer began offering removable rims in their catalogs and the trend took off like Maynard Ferguson playing “MacArthur Park”. Several of my fellow section players opted for this possibility and have stuck with it throughout their career.

One must face still two more decisions when performing on interchangeable rimed mouthpieces; whether you want your rim plated in silver or gold. This decision is something only the player can make for some players can tell the difference in feel and sound and to others, no difference is recognizable. To me, I can’t tell the difference and go with the silver every time. I will admit that a silver mouthpiece with a gold rim looks “way cool”. Also, people think you must know a lot to have something that different even though most people choose them because they look prettier. Another possibility of rim change would be more radical than just gold or silver. You may opt for a rim fabricated from something other than brass. Rims are offered in nylon, plastic and wood, just to mention a few. The thought of a nylon or plastic rim while performing with the Floyd Warren Orchestra at the Farm Progress Show in the middle of Winter in some unforgiving town in Iowa does sound more appealing to my now that I think back to that miserable job as the snow was blowing around us on a makeshift stage dressed in parkas with wind chill at 10 below zero!

I have reviewed the options of only the changing of rims but to add to the confusion, you also have the choice of changeable rims, cups, throats and backbores. If these weren’t enough choices, realize the possibilities if you wanted nylon rim, stainless cup, wood backbore in silver gold and polyurethane varnish!

No matter which option you decide, the possibility of “same rim/ different playing situation” may be in your future.

Are You Pushing Or Pulling Your Valves Down?

This may seem to be a strange question to be asking but the answer may determine the proper function and life span of your valves.

I have recently been added to the list of unemployed musicians in the Branson, Missouri area. Our show season runs from March through December and due to the fact that we now have some time off, I thought it time to check the condition of my equipment. Due to the fact that I have been experiencing some problems with my first valve, I decided to look it over for any unusual wear or damage. Unfortunately I found some.

After removing my troublesome first valve I noticed an unusual amount of wear on one side of the first valve. Most of my horns eventually develop some wear but my relatively new Bobby Shew, Yamaha indicated much more wear than I expected. This made me begin to question the reason for the early wear. After considerable thought (maybe ten minutes), I realized why my valve had worn so quickly and unevenly. Because of the constant and rapid mute changes during this past season, I was forced to support my instrument primarily in my right hand.

Piston valves on brass instruments are made to go up and down and if this direction is altered in any way, rapid wear begins to show as excessive worn spots on the side of the valve. The location of this area can be seen in the accompanying photo. You may now be wondering why changing mutes has anything to do with valve wear and that is why I posted this material.

Here is an undisputed fact,

“Your hand and finger position will determine the direction your valves travel”.

The ideal hand and finger position is indicated in the next photo. Notice that the arch of the fingers supports an up and down movement of each valve. Also notice that I have my little finger in the hook which was necessary only because I was holding the camera in my left hand to take the picture. In this position, the valves can smoothly travel in an up and down direction. The problem I ran into while playing the show was that most of the time I had to support the trumpet only with my right hand while picking up and inserting/removing my mutes. This unusual holding practice was the cause of the premature wear on my first valve. Instead of push the valve down, I was repeatedly “pulling the valve down and eventually wore the finish off the valve piston.

This week I will be dropping my favorite horn off at an instrument repair shop to rectify my problem and once it is returned, I will give you an update of what was done in case you might be suffering from the same problems with malfunction valves.

Saying Good Bye To An Old Friends


After several decades of working with this great cup mute, it may be time to retire him (her), for newer and more improved models are now available.

Your corks have been replaced at least a dozen times.

Your bottom has been epoxied at least twice and you colors have faded.

The number of scratches, dents and scuffs show a well-used history which includes some of the best (and the worst) bands around.

You have performed on concert stages performing contemporary as well as classical compositions, and if I remember correctly you actually were used to warmup in front of Aaron Copland many years ago.

The many bands you have played for would include the following- Anita Bryant, Barnes Rodeo, Billy Williams Orchestra, Bix Biederbeck Dixieland Festival, Blackstone the Magician, Bob Anderson, Bob Hope, Bob Over Orchestra, Bobby Vinton, Branson All-Star Jazz Band, Brass Transit, Bye, Bye Birdie, Carmen Cavalero, Cedar Basin Dixieland Festival, Derwood Cline Orchestra, Des Moines Big Band, Don Jacoby Orchestra, Farm Progress Show, Ford Motor Corp., Greene Jazz Festival, Holiday on Ice, Ice Capades,International Recording Industry Studio (Dallas), International Shriner’s Circus, International Trumpet Guild, International Water Follies, Jerry Murad and the Harmonicats, Jerry Presley, Jim Nabors, John Davidson, John Deere Corp., Laurence Welk Orchestra, Les Brown, Lipizzaner Horse Show, Mal Fitch Orchestra, Mary Lou Turner, Massey Ferguson Corp., Missouri Trumpet Guild, Orchestra de Salsa, Ray Nobel.Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus, Roy Rogers/ Dale Evens, Royal Canadian Air Force Mounted Police, Sound of Music, State Fair Band of Texas, Steve Lawrence/Eddy Gourmet, Steve Samuelson Big Band, Ted Weems, The Four Freshmen, Tommy Amador Orchestra, Warren Covington Orchestra and are currently doing you job with the “All Hands On Deck Show” in Branson.

What a dedicated friend you have been and to just chuck you for another seems cruel and heartless. But we do have to keep up with the times…. Don’t we?

On second thought, a dedicated friend needs to be justly appreciated and for all the many years and “clams” we have shared, it seems impossible for me to replace you with another. NO! YOU DESERVE TO BE TREATED MORE HONORABLY! I CAN’T DO THIS TO YOU MY OLD, TATTERED AND ABUSED COLLEGUE!

We will be together to the end and when I am at last returned to the ground, it will be my wish to play our last gig together, as true friends should.

You are salvaged once again and for that reason, I have written this memorial to you my original cup mute.

I once had a cup mute that served me well.
It rested so warmly at the end of my bell.
With every note played, as all there could tell
my bettered old mute….Dang! It fell out again!

How To Place Your Mouthpiece In Your Horn

Have you ever heard or read something that does not make any sense to you at all and then you set out to prove it wrong only to find that it is actually true? This happened to me this past week and even though it is an embarrassment, I will swallow my pride for the betterment of the brass world.

This past week I read a post on one of the brass bulletin boards which stated that this person claimed that the rotation of the mouthpiece could actually change how the instrument responded when played. Just the thought of someone claiming this conclusion made me want to grab them by the neck and shout, ARE YOU SERIOUS? What a stupid assumption, and to make my point, I proceeded to try to prove this person wrong, only to find that I was wrong and they were correct.

The assumption- “By rotating the position of the mouthpiece in the mouthpiece receiver, you will affect the response of the instrument”.

The author of this information (unfortunately I have not been able to find this post in order to give due credit to it’s original author) stated that some days when we play our brass instrument, it is our friend and other days, even though we feel the same and have been practicing the same material, we can not get the instrument to be consistent in its performance. I have experienced this many times and have not been able to explain why this happens. The assumption made by this person sounded interesting even though I had a strong predigested opinion even before trying to prove the assumption false.

My test to prove it wrong

We all assume that the mouthpiece is consistent in all respects- summitry, dimensions, tapers, material, mass, weight and because of these assumptions, we would seriously doubt that the amount of rotation, no matter how little or how much, could affect the response of the instrument when played. My friends, after completing my tests, I was amazed and I was forced to eat my doubting words.

I marked my mouthpiece on the shank and the mouthpiece receiver with lines indicating the original position. Around the entire mouthpiece receiver I added lines every 1/8 of an inch and began to play a series of exercises and consciously evaluated the sound, ease of response and feel of the instrument. As I continued to play and rotate my mouthpiece, I first noticed that there was indeed a difference in some of the positions of the mouthpiece. My first thought was that I may be inserting the mouthpiece with different tension in the mouthpiece receiver. I inserted the mouthpiece with the same force each time and still I felt and heard a different response at some positions. After completing the 360 degree rotation, I redid the exercise and this time I indicated where the best sound and response was located on my horn. After this test I concluded that at every eighth of a turn, I was pleased with the feel and sound and at the other positions, the horn felt stuffy and unresponsive. It was at this point that I began to mentally apologize to my original poster of the article.


From my exercises, I found that the position of each mouthpiece did in fact have a noticeable affect of the sound and response of all of my horns.

I had been proven wrong and if you ask my wife she would not have been surprised, for she experiences that situation on a daily basis. This finding is very important and again I would like to thank the original author. We have all found during our daily practice that some days it works, and other days it doesn’t. There is only one way for you to decide whether your mouthpiece rotation makes a difference and that is to do the experiment yourself. It only takes about thirty minutes but the possible outcome may change the way you approach your instrument each day. For me, I have marked my horn and mouthpiece so that they will line up the same way every day. After a week of doing this routine, I have not had one of those, “it doesn’t feel right days”. That’s enough proof for a skeptic like me.

Put A Spring In Your Playing

With all the advances in trumpet materials and design, you would think someone would do something to improve our valve springs. There is one thing that you can do yourself to possibly improve the performance of your instrument. And the answer is inside your valve casings.

Valves are made to go up and down when we perform and in most situations, they work well. Sometimes they stick and in most cases a good cleaning will solve that problem. But if a nice warm bath and cleaning has not improved your valve action you might consider changing your valve springs. After years of playing, even the best springs will loose their strength to some degree and replacing them might be just what you need for a better playing instrument.

Another possible improvement in valve spring replacement can be made when you want to improve your finger strength on your valves. Valve springs are in most cases designed about the same. If the spring fits into the spring holder without touching the inside walls, it will work on your horn. Some springs are built with more resistance than others and for that reason; you could replace your original set of springs for more resistance. By making this switch, you will be adding to increase the resistance in each of your valves and train your fingers to push the valve down with more force. This is a great way to learn to bang the valves down as “Doc” Severinsen used to preach in his lectures. I also remember my former trumpet teacher Don Jacoby saying, “when you push your valves down, you should hear a pop”. Adding stronger springs will help strengthen your fingers and when returning to your original springs, you will be amazed at the increased strength and speed you will have developed.

If you are unsure as to how strong your valves springs need to be, just play something very slow and see if the depressed valves return to the upright position as quickly as your fingers. When you lift your fingers from each valve the finger buttons should stay in contact with your fingers. If your finger leaves the button as it is lifted, you need to add more strength to your springs. Sometimes you can slightly stretch the springs to give you more resistance but if you do stretch your springs, be very careful that you don’t over do it for you will not be able to redo any damage you have done by over stretching. You also need to be sure that when you stretch your spring, it must remain straight. If your spring ends up looking like the letter C, you had better order some new springs for a bent spring will not work as it should inside the valve casing.

Increasing the resistance can be taken to an extreme as a student and I found out many years ago. The student complained that he didn’t have enough strength in his fingers so we decided to increase the resistance from a set of 7 oz. springs to a set of 9 oz. He was not satisfied with the change so we tried 7 oz. inside the valve and added a second set of 7 oz. below the valve. He was satisfied with the added resistance and continued to practice that summer with the extra set of springs. When he returned the next fall, I asked him how it went and he proceeded to push his valves down with crushing speed. He was very satisfied and I was happy he was satisfied. For most situations, this would be considered a bit excessive, but for him, it did the trick.

While preparing this post, I checked every repair shop on line which offered trumpet valve springs and could not find one that offered springs in different resistances. That is unfortunate for I was able to collect at least three different resistances for my own use. Each set was interchangeable in my Schilke, Bach, Getzen and Yamaha horns. The best way to start collecting valve springs of different resistances would be to ask your local instrument repair shop to show you all the trumpet springs they have in stock and test each for different resistances.

With all of the money being spent today on custom made, ultra light, ultra heavy, extra fast, and titanium with mother of pearl insert finger buttons and special alloy valve caps which will increase you upper register by three octaves, it is a wonder that no one wants to offer the trumpet world better valve springs. Could it be that there would not be enough markups in price?

Trumpet Case Updates- Hard Cases

Winter trumpet flugelhor.
My first review of available trumpet cases was done over two years ago and since that time, some new manufactures have come on the scene and some products have been discontinued. Because of these changes, I thought it was time to update my opinions as to which features and which manufactures seem to be offing us the best products.

Be sure to check back to my earlier posts for I covered many issues at that time which will not be included in this updated review. This post will only include products which I feel are the best choice for anyone needing a new trumpet case.

My recommendation for the “best single, hard case for your trumpet.

1. None
All of the single cases available that I have seen do not offer enough extra space for accessories such as mutes, music, etc. without increasing the size of the case itself. You would be better off getting a double case which will give you better protection as well as more storage space.

My recommendation for the “best double, hard case for your trumpet.

1. Yamaha Double Trumpet Case

$245.00 Dillon Music

2. J. Winter JW 775 Deluxe Wood Double Trumpet Case

$249.99 Woodwind Brasswind

My recommendation for the “best triple, hard case for your trumpet.

1. J. Winter JW 776 Deluxe Wood Case For 3 TrumpetsStandard

$289.99 Woodwind Brasswind

My recommendation for the “best trumpet/ flugle horn, hard case.

1. J. Winter JW 777 Deluxe Wood Trumpet and Flugelhorn Case

2. You might also consider the J. Winter JW 776 Deluxe Wood Case For 3 TrumpetsStandard and remove the back divider to make room for your flugle which I do on my Schilke triple case. This option guaranties that your flugle will fit easily in the case.

$304.99 Amazon

The only difference between the Schilke, Yamaha and the Winter cases is that the outer materials on the Winter cases are a little less impressive.

Make Your Own Practice Mute

The Internet has become a wonderful place to share ideas and this post will direct you to a helpful do-it-yourself instructional video you really need to view. A very big thank you to ARMYstrong419 for sharing this information with us. I have tried this and it works great. Sometimes the cheapest can be the best.

And for additional information

Two Essentials In Your Trumpet Bag

Now that you have your instrument and a few of the immediately required accessories, it is time to continue adding to your collection of great toys. The two pieces of equipment which I will address here would be your tuner/metronome and your audio and/or video recorder.

The importance of a metronome/tuner

It is essential that you own and use a metronome and tuner for these two accessories are vitally important to your success as a musician. If you play out of tune, no one will want to play with you. If you don’t know the tempo of a piece, you might be wasting time in your practicing. When I combine the tuner with the metronome, I am speaking of a device similar to the Boss Tuner & Metronome TU-80. Both this tuner/metronome instrument and the Korg are priced at $25 and would do a good job keeping you in tune and at the correct tempo. I have used my Boss for more years than I want to remember and have had no problems with it. The Korg on the other hand has a better consumer rating so you may be swayed to this unit. Although I could not find the dimensions of the two units, it looks as if the Boss is a little smaller. This might influence your decision. Boss fits in my shirt pocket easily and I doubt that the Korg would. Either way, if you don’t have one, you need to get one.

The importance of recording

We are involved with an art form which is based on sound. Also important is the visual perception while on stage. Because of these two important areas, I have divided this next piece of equipment in to two areas, i.e. visual recording and audio recording.

  • Video recording

When we perform, our audience is influenced not only by what they hear, but also what they see. Many times our perfect musical performance is marred by something on stage which detracts from the over all presentation. To illustrate my point, I will relate an occurrence which had a very profound affect on an educator. I was judging a jazz festival in Iowa and was faced with a very uncomfortable situation. The jazz band I was judging was very good but the director was distracting to say the least. This woman, to be politically incorrect, was huge. I had no problem with her size for this is something many people deal with. The problem I had was the fact that she –moved across the stage directing every entrance and ever note to the point of distraction, both to her band and the audience watching her. Even though the band was well rehearsed, the site of this large woman dancing and jumping up and down on stage ruined the performance. Finally I had had enough and questioned one assistant director of the band if they were aware of the problem I was faced with. He assured me that he had been mentioned this issue to the director but she was not concerned about the visual affect on the bands performance. The assistant director asked if I had any suggestions and I simply told him to video tape her programs and make her watch them. Later that year I received a message from the assistant director telling me that they had video taped her presence on the stage and after playing it for her to watch, she realized the problem and never over did her presence on stage again. How you present yourself to your listener can be as important as your musical performance, so consider using a video recorder from time to time to see what the rest of us see.

  • Audio recording

While we are involved with the mechanics of producing notes and making wide skips during our performances, we are many times unaware of how we actually sound. Sometimes when we hear recordings of our performances, we are shocked at what was actually played. To be a good musician, we must be truthful to our selves. Remember that when you ask your mother or mother-in-law what they thought of your solo, they are not going to tell you the truth. Tape recordings (sorry, old habits are hard to break). Audio recordings are the only truthful records of how you played. They don’t lie.

The price of Digital, hand held recorder has dropped considerably in the past few years and the quality has also improved. You should be able to purchase a reasonable good hand held, digital recorder for a price of  $100 to $300. One such recorder in the middle of that price range would be the Tascam

  • Combination video and audio recorders
  • If money is an issue and you would be content with something of lower quality and lower price, the best way to save money would be to find a deal on a video recorder which would work as an audio recorder also. Any time you try to do everything with one unit, you will have to sacrifice some quality and for that reason I am suggesting this possibility. Two years ago I purchased a JVC HD Memory Camera model GC-FM2 for video taping some of our concerts. When it arrived, I was most impressed. The HD video and image stabilizing features were better than I had hoped and as an added bonus, I found out that the audio recording quality was also impressive. If you check for sales on line you may be able to find a similar buy to what I found- Listed at $180.00, discounted to $92.00 and with a $10.00 coupon,- total price $82.00. Add in the memory which did not come with the recorder and you have a fairly acceptable recorder of both audio and video, AND IT IS SMALLER THAN MY TUNER/METRONONE. I love modern technology!