Trumpet Research

Greetings! This isn’t a Parker-Sochacki simulation post. This is a post to discuss some trumpet research I have done when I was a student at James Madison University and then briefly at Brigham Young University.

Trumpet is hobby of mine. When I was an undergrad, two of my minors were Music and Jazz. During my time in school, I played in the marching band, jazz band, brass band, opera orchestra, pep band, and symphonic band. After school, I was a trumpet player for Busch Gardens theme park in Williamsburg, Virginia, and later a trumpet player on cruise ships with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. When I had my internship at Side Effects, I found groups to play with and I am doing the same out here in Salt Lake City.

I performed 3 trumpet experiments: submerging a trumpet in liquid nitrogen, putting different gases in the trumpet, and making 3D printed mouthpieces.

The first two are centered around these two equations:

where c is the speed of sound, theta is the temperature, f is frequency, and lamba is the wavelength.

1-ICE TO SEE YOU

In Marching Band, lower temperatures cause the brass instrument to be “flat” or have a lower frequency even if you are putting in the same amount of air(meaning the same velocity that you are used to). If you look at these equations see how the lower temperature would cause a lower velocity, which would cause a lower frequency lowering the pitch. This is important in band because when the instrument is “flat,” it is more difficult to be in tune. Frankly speaking, it can sound band. When it gets very cold, on the trumpet you can be a half step off. It is common in a performance outside for brass players to “put warm air through the horn” to avoid this from being a problem.

I wanted to know what would happen under much colder circumstances. I am in a room that is room temperature, trying to play an extremely cold instrument. How off will my actual note be from my desired note? So I did an experiment where I borrowed my band director’s trumpet, filled a trash can with liquid nitrogen(I tried a cooler and it exploded), submerged the trumpet for about 20 minutes, then every 30 seconds I would make a sound trying to play a specific frequency. This went on for 20 minutes. I did this with a plastic mouthpiece, special gloves, and thermocouples to measure the temperature.  The trumpet gradually reached room temperature with the following plot:

It roughly had a logarithmic pattern. The frequency changing was similar:

This means that my first attempt at playing, I was off by about an octave. I tried playing a concert F and out came  a concert F an octave lower. Then for a few minutes it was going from a C# to a D to a D#, After about 15 minutes, I hit a flat F until it went back to normal. This experiment was…COOL! Do you “snow” what I mean? Okay okay I will chill out.

I chose a concert F as my reference because this avoided having to mess with valves and possibly damage the instrument.

2- Helium and Sulfur Hexafluoride

When you breathe in helium, your voice is higher. When you breathe in Sulfur Hexafluoride, your voice is lower. I wanted to see if a different density of air would affect its speed and thus its frequency to get a different note. I tried this a few times by breathing in those gases and blowing air through the horn. I then stopped so I wouldn’t pass out. I did not notice a significant difference. Either it has little effect or there was an error in my implementation.

3- 3D Printer Mouthpieces:

I created two trumpet mouthpieces that are based off of the Bach 1 1/2 c mouthpiece. Actually, it is the same thing only plastic and in a different color. I just wanted to see how well it would sound compared to other mouthpieces. I could hear the quality diminish so I am picky but I can see it fit in the horn and played in tune.