Many changes have been made in the trumpet in the past few decades and one of the earliest was the modifications on the simple condensation extractor (water key). Few changes were made until Getzen came out with the Amado water key. This revolutionary mechanism was designed to fill the gap made by the traditional hole extension and water key. This new concept worked extremely well if maintained properly. Unfortunately, few of us read the fine print in the manual and from time to time the valve would stick open or closed depending on your luck at the time. With proper oiling, the Amado water key functioned as advertised and made a big improvement on the trumpet it was mounted on. I remember having them also installed on my Cousnon Flugel horns and found them to improve their response as well as improve intonation. I have had them on a couple of my Getzen trumpets and have also enjoyed the improvement.
How did water keys evolve?
Before we had water keys, our predecessors emptied the condensation either by blowing a very hard blast of air through the horn or doing as horn (French horn) players do, pull the slide and dump the water. During a performance this was not usually acceptable to either the performer or their audience.
Condensation collects at the lowest point in a trumpets tubing (usually in the tuning slide) and unless this is extracted, the moisture will keep increasing until the air, sound waves or acoustics begin to move it which will cause a gurgling sound. Because of this buildup, the trumpet needs a way to extract it from the instrument. Due to the fact that the tubing must be closed from the mouthpiece to the bell, the only way to let the water out is to drill a hole at the lowest point while in a playing position. This hole must then be opened for releasing the water and close again when performing.
The most widely used design is a collar attached around the hole where the moisture collects and an add swing arm which could be alternately opened and closed to let water out while performing. Most instruments utilized a small cork to seal this opening and through years of use, the corks eventually crack and leak. Some manufactures began to replace the cork with rubber stoppers but there were no major changes until the Amado water key was first introduced on the Getzen trumpets.
The advent of the Amado key
The Getzen Company is given credit for this innovation and its original development seems to be clouded in mystery. The new approach has lasted for a long time and many additional trumpet manufacturers have added them to their trumpets. As stated before, the only complaints have been directed toward problems of sticking which is in most cases due to the fact that the valve was not maintained as recommended by the manufacture.
Leave it to the Germans!
Mr. Schilke came up with an alternative which can improve your instrument and will cost very little to implement. The original corks were flat where it contacted the opening and to correct the gap from that point to the actual hole in the tuning slide, Schilke started using and rubber stopper which has a small extension in the center which enters the opening and ends flush with the hole in the tuning slide. As with most geniuses, this improvement was made simple and effective. If you are interested in replacing your old cork stopper with the new and improved water key rubber, you can purchase them from Mouthpiece Express.com.
The newest improvement in water keys
After searching the internet for some time, I finally found something new and you might find it interesting. It is a redesigned key with apparent improvements to the basic Amado principle. Instead of a piston sliding back and forth, this key makes use of a spring loaded ball and water can be discharged by pressing from any direction. I have not tried this water key and do not endorse it at this time but as soon as I have one to try, I will give you my opinion. You can read more on this new development at The Saturn Water Key.