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Elements of Brass Instrument Construction

Bellpipe
Leadpipe
Rims
Techniques for Decoration
Tab Seams

General Information about Valves
Piston Valves
Stölzel Valves
Berlin Valves
Périnet Valves
Double-Piston Valves
Rotary Valves
String Rotary Valves
Allen Valves
Disc Valves


Bellpipe

The tube segment which terminates in the bell. This may include the bow next to the bell (bell bow).


Leadpipe

The first section of tubing of a brass instrument extending from the mouthpiece receiver to the next joint. It usually tapers, unless it is equipped with a tuning slide.



Types of Rims Commonly Found on Brass Instruments*

In the construction of brass instruments, either an additional strip of metal called a garland (Nos. 3 and 5), an iron or brass wire (Nos. 6 and 7), or both (Nos. 1, 2, and 4) are used to create a rim to reinforce and protect the thin edge of the bell.   The wire may be soldered onto the top of the bell (No. 6) or onto the garland (No. 1).   Alternatively, the edge of the garland (Nos. 2 and 4) or the bell edge itself (No. 7) may be rolled around the wire.   The regional attribution of these rim types indicates the regions in which they were first or most frequently used; however, they are often found outside these specific regions.

 

  1. Nürnberg rim
  2. Saxon rim (see example below)
  3. Dresden rim
  4. Italian rim
  5. Bohemian rim (no wire)
  6. Mainz rim
  7. French rim

* Based on the research of Herbert Heyde, Trompeten, Posaunen, Tuben (Leipzig: VEB Deutscher Verlag Für Musik, 1985), p. 239.

Example of a Saxon Rim (No. 2)

Saxon rim on natural trumpet with internal crooks by Michael Saurle, Munich, 1806

A natural trumpet with internal crooks by Michael Saurle, Munich, 1806, features a Saxon rim--a bell garland rolled around an iron wire.



Techniques for Decoration

Engraving
Impressing or Embossing

Ferrules, covering the joints of tubing in brass instruments, often display some kind of decoration. The most frequently used decorative feature is engraved rings or lines. While engraving removes metal, impressing or embossing rearranges it. A sharp steel tool is used to engrave a ring, while impressing can be done with a rounded tool with no sharp edge. Embossing rearranges metal to certain shapes with the help of forms by using pressure; no metal is removed. Coins, for example, are embossed.

Engraved rings or lines (metal removed)

Engraved rings

Engraved rings

Example

Engraving

Rings engraved with sharp pointed and round tools, thereby removing material


Embossing or Impressing (metal rearranged)

Embossing

Embossed wire of a Nürnberg rim found on a natural trumpet by Johann Wilhelm Haas, Nürnberg, ca. 1700.


Tab Seams

Tabs or small notches may be cut into one side of the bell during its construction to strengthen the seam at the flare. These tabs are alternately bent upwards and downwards and linked to the opposite straight side of the bell's edge. The tab pattern often remains visible after the bell is soldered and polished; however, plating usually makes the tabs invisible.

Example of a Tab Seam

Example of a tab seam

For further information see:

Seraphinoff, Richard, Raymond Parks, Robert Barclay, and Jenny Nex. Making a Natural Trumpet: An Illustrated Workshop Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University, 2003.


Types of Valves Commonly Found on Brass Instruments

Valves on brass instruments are mechanical devices that alter the tube length by a fixed amount in order to change the pitch while playing. The first valves were invented in Germany about 1814; subsequently, valve designs have been altered and refined in many different ways. The normal valve order today lowers the pitch a whole tone (first valve), a semitone (second valve), and a minor third (third valve). In the course of valve development, other sequences were also used, as described in the various brass instrument checklists on this website.

The following valve types are described and illustrated on this website:

Piston Valves:

Stölzel Valves
Berlin Valves
Périnet Valves
Double-Piston Valves

Rotary Valves:

String Rotary Valves
Allen Valves
Disc Valves ("Patent Lever Valves")

For further information see:

Heyde, Herbert. Das Ventilblasinstrument. Leipzig: VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, 1985.

Tarr, Edward H. "Valve," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Second Edition, edited by Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan, 2001. (Vol. 26, pp. 228-234.)

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