Jazz Blog - March 22, 2004

Trumpet trial - Xeno, Eterna

I ordered these trumpets from music123.com. They have a 45-day return policy, so hopefully that will give me plenty of time to decide which, if either of these two, will become my new trumpet. I'm not even sure that I'll buy a new trumpet, but since my horn is pretty beaten up (slow valves, dents, airy sound -leaks?), and since I've never played another quality horn, I figured it was worth trying something new.

I've only had the horns for 2 full days, and I'm learning that this isn't nearly long enough to make a qualified decision (my mind changes each time I play). So, this post simply details my first impressions of these two horns.

GETZEN ETERNA 900S

click for larger pic

When I first picked up this horn, it felt small. As soon as I tried my normal trumpet grip, the reason was obvious. The bell is about 1/4" lower on this horn than on my Bach. As a result, the space between the 3rd valve slide and the bell is smaller. It's big enough to accommodate my normal grip, but my fingers feel a bit cramped.

I recall reading that Getzen valves are supposed to be really good. Unfortunately, the valves on this horn are sluggish and tight feeling. It's kind of hard to press down. Well, not truly *hard*, but it definitely takes more pressure than both my Bach and the new Yamaha. Even after a lot of oiling, I have to say the valves are disappointing... They are reason enough for me not to consider this horn. Hopefully, they'll improve over the next week or two.

YAMAHA XENO 8335

click for larger pic

In contrast to the Getzen, the Yamaha's valves are pretty speedy. After a single oiling, they moved nicely.

The Getzen wins out, however, in the spit valve category. The spit valves (are they Amado's?) on the Getzen are awesome. I remember seeing this type of spit valve for the first time while in high school several (13) years ago. I went to school near Lawler's old workshop in Florida and a few of the students had Lawler modify their Bachs with these spit valves. Honestly, I don't understand why anyone uses the old-fashioned style spit valves anymore...

Update 3/25/04: The final trumpet of my trumpet trial arrived. Click here to read about the Conn Vintage One.

Update 10/17/05: My flugelhorn also has the amado-style spit valves. I now know that unless oiled/moved regularly, they can get stuck in the open position. So, I suppose the requirement of having to oil your spit valves might be reason enough to favor the old-fashioned variety.

PLAY TESTS

I recorded a few bars from a Chet Baker solo on each horn to compare the tones. I don't want to influence your opinion, so these clips are comment-free.

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - My current Bach trumpet

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - New Getzen Eterna 900S

iwasdoingallright - audio clip - New Yamaha Xeno 8335

I almost forgot. There's actually one more horn on the way... a Conn Vintage One. Stay tuned!

Comment by Eric

Man... wait till you try the Conn V1. It comes with two tuning slides and a heavy valve cap system so you can really tweak the settings if you're into that sort of thing. It really doesn't need it. Out of case with no mods it is probably one of the best horns I've ever played (it replaced my Xeno). Great valves. I had the rose brass model. I'm anxious to hear what you think about it.

Comment by Eric

Oh yeah... I liked the sound on the Getzen best.

Comment by Ron H

I think overall I agree with Eric, the Getzen is the smoothest, although the XENO has an edginess I like.

Comment by Rick

Thanks for the feedback, guys!

When I first listened to the recordings (the original wav files), I thought the Xeno sounded the best. It was a little surprising, though, since I think it sounds the worst in person. The sound is fine when playing in the staff, but as soon as I get above the staff, the tone thins out and becomes a bit too piercing and brassy for my tastes.

I'm anxious to hear your thoughts on the Conn Vintage One recording (posted today).

Comment by Ron H

Don't like the V1. Sorry, I bet you do, I thought I would. It also sounds like you have to work harder for it.

On another note, I have been playing the the prototype of the new Eclipse Large Bore trumpet today and last week. Now that is one easy horn to play! Keep searching, don't settle. I have just found what I ahave been looking for, you will too!

Comment by Rick

You're right, Ron. The ConnV1 is harder to play. It requires more air support than any trumpet I've ever played. If I back off on the volume (i.e. play at my normal volume), the Conn sounds weak --noticeably worse than the other trumpets in the roundup.

I also agree with your advice not to settle. While it's tempting to buy the best of this group (maybe the Getzen), I'm having a hard time justifying the expense for little noticeable gain. Particularly since I don't *love* any of these new horns.

Comment by Eric B

Well so much for all my Conn V1 hype! LOL Did you try the rounded tuning slide? Might make a difference (good or bad).

When you mentioned the valves and how awkward is was to hold I knew it wasn't the one for you. Those are two very important factors. To me - the Getzen still sounds the best. The Xeno was too bright.

You definitely don't want to settle. You're gonna be spending a lot of time with the one that you choose and you have every right in the world to be SUPER PICKY.

On the mouthpiece tip - have you tried Curry?

Comment by Rick

Yeah, I tried both slides on the Conn, but I didn't hear a noticeable difference. I didn't even bother with the valve cap/weight system though.

The answer to the Curry question can be found in my recent 'mouthpiece trial' journal entry. I look forward to getting more bad advice from you there...

Just kidding! I couldn't resist ;-)

Comment by Roman

hey Rick, whats the name of the song by chet baker that you played in your trumpet comparison samples? I'm trying to pick it up, it gets a bit hard to do during the fast part, though. I think your yamaha sounds best, it has a nice crisp jazzy sound, but not much better than the bach; it's a wize idea to stay with your bach until you come across an instrument that for sure dominates it. Thanks

Comment by Rick

The name of the tune is "It's You Or No One". You can find it on the album "She Was Too Good To Me". It's also on the Chet Baker compilation "Love Songs".

For my clips, I was reading the transcription of the solo from the book "28 Modern Jazz Trumpet Solos, Book 2" by Ken Slone. You can order it at jazzbooks.com.

-Rick

Comment by Mat

I liked this solo so much I bought the book. Perhaps you can help me.

I've been practicing this solo constantly for about 3 weeks and can not nail the fast phrases...

I completly stumble on the part starting with bar 14 - (e,f, c#, e) escpecially in moving from from f to c# to e.

Do you use traditional fingering for these notes or some alternate fingering? I do ok from this point on (no ways near as fast as your recording), but at least better than the first phrase.

Your story and website give me a lot of inspiration. I'm about 4 months into my comeback (22yr layoff). Thank you for sharing your journey in such great detail.

Comment by Rick

Hi Mat,

Nope, I don't use alternate fingering or any other 'tricks'...

Since you're having difficulty, I'd recommend taking that passage at a slow pace (where you can play it perfectly) and gradually work on increasing the speed. There aren't any secrets or shortcuts, it's really just an issue of dexterity and coordination. Clarke studies could help, and of course there are tons of Arabans exercises that address this as well.

But really, at four months into your comeback, I wouldn't put too much pressure on yourself. When I was at that stage, I barely thought about playing real music. I was strictly in the rebuilding stage...

Keep at it!

-Rick

Rick,

Here's my "too-sense" worth. I liked the jazz (C.Baker) sound on the Getzen the best for what you were playing. The Zeno is a great all-round horn if you're playing different styles (big band, combo, dixie, R&B) as it has that edge but if you back off, it will sound warm and intimate. It sounds like you're playing it the same way you would the Bach, which is understandable. For some reason I didn't care much for the Bach.

At various times I have owned and played the Schillke B1, Martin Committee (1942 model), Chicago Benge, Conn Constellation, Selmer lightweight, Yahama 6310B, Yahama Zeno 83385 (and other top end Yahama's), Bach 180, Schillke X3, Kanstul ZKT 1510 (wayne bergeron model), and my current horn the Yahama 8310 (the new Bobby Shew model).

After some "adjusting" by Bobby on the 8310, it is my hands-down favorite and I haven't regretted the change from the first note. You might want to give it a try as it's great for jazz and big band etc.

Just my opinion.

Dan J.

ps. I have some clips on my website of me playing with different horns over the years if you want to check them out.

www.danjacobsmusic.com

Comment by Silvan

I live in no man's land, trumpet wise, so I had to buy online sight unseen, based on other people's judgements to narrow the choices. I couldn't afford to buy three and send two back, so I had to maximize the chance of getting it right the first time.

I liked the sound of the Getzen on this site the best, even though you wound up sticking with your weather-beaten old Bach. It was a big deciding factor in making my choice, so I thank you for the resource.

Based on your experiences, I was a bit worried about having to break in my valves to get them running well. I think you got a lemon. I pulled mine out of the plastic wrap, put in my mouthpiece, and started playing right out of the box. I've never seen smoother valves, and all my other horns are 30-50 years old, and well broken in. I didn't break out the oil until I had been playing for maybe half an hour, and that was only because I started to have misgivings about possibly running them too dry.

I've only had it for a couple of weeks, but so far I have not had even the slightest twinge of a problem out of the valves yet. Getzen's reputation seems well-deserved to me. Smooth like butter that's just at the melting point, but still slightly firm. Not too stiff, not too loose. I don't think it can get much better than this.

I don't detect any "wow" difference in how it sounds either. Like a trumpet, just the same as my other three, go figure. However, it was worth the money just to have something in 100% condition mechanically. The slides are smooth as just-melting butter too, and that's really amazing to me. Every other horn I've played on, the third valve slide has been a real problem child. Probably because the previous owners of said horns never used them.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your comments and helping me with this decision.

Comment by Ron

I prefer the Bach - nicest sounding over all the range -- maybe 'cos I have a Strad tho.

Comment by Anshul

The three trumpet choices you have chosen to sample are all magnificent trumpets.

Valve-quality seems to be a factor in your decision; but, all these horns possess the finest quality valves and casings. Also, though the looks and feel of the instrument in your hands are required to replace an old horn, I feel focusing on the sound you are looking for is the key to proper instrumental selection.

I would say that the Getzen trumpet, though certainly a very different yet pleasing design (the spit-valves are certainly a plus) from the Conn and Xeno, simply does not have the tone warmth of these other trumpets. The Conn, especially with the rose-metal, is known for the dark, luscious tone. On the other hand, the Xeno, which does still posses that warm sound, is generally a bit edgier in comparison. So it is up to your desires in sound you are looking for. If you want a deep, bell-tone orchestral horn, go for the Conn. If you are planning to jam at gigs or in want of that big-band sound for jazz, go for the Xeno.

I play a Bach Strad, a great, all-around horn. If these selections don’t work out, I recommend giving this classic horn-choice a shot. Good luck!

Comment by Steve

The Yamaha, hands down !!

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