Behind-the-Scenes: Making the BfB Baroque™ Crooks

The idea of producing a new configuration for a Baroque trumpet came into focus in 2015. As with most things, it seemed pretty straightforward at first: with a shorter bell profile, we could change crooks at both ends of the trumpet, keeping the vents in the middle of the horn which would allow the instrument to play in more keys with vented yards (or without) than most historical replicas. The other overriding consideration was cost. Our mission was to bring the price point as low as possible to help trumpeters get a foot in the door playing the Baroque trumpet, so hand-seamed tubing and bells were out of the question. Our basic concept was first prototyped using vinyl tubing and cloth wrap (image below) which worked remarkably well, but there were durability issues, so we started looking into making the crooks out of brass.

In late 2016, we were introduced to Miles O'Malley, a young Chicago-based French horn player that was becoming known for repairing instruments and making natural horns. He had been inspired into this line of work having attended Richard Seraphinoff's natural trumpet making workshop in Indiana when he was only 14 years old. Without realizing what he was getting into, he signed up for the challenge of creating crooks for our trumpet.

The project presented countless unanticipated challenges, but over time we were able to design crooks for the trumpet to play in 10 keys, from low A to high G, covering most keys needed to play any Baroque or classical period repertoire.

Over the past 6 years Miles has tried many different processes. He started out filling the brass tubing with pitch (tar) and using forms cut from wood. In this case, the crooks had to be made in halves and then soldered together after bending. He then started using a specially formulated frozen solution which produced good results and was easier for cleaning. More recently, Miles began to use 3D printed forms which have facilitated making the crooks in one piece, and it turns out that pitch works extremely well to keep the integrity of the second bend. (Those 15th century instrument makers were on to something!)

Miles' company, O'Malley Brass Instruments manufactures complete instruments as well as components for other manufacturers of brass instruments. Miles continues to make natural, Baroque, and Vienna horns, which are marketed and sold by Hampson Horns. All this work is done at Miles' facility in Chicago which has a storefront called Beverly Music Co. (in partnership with Victor Yuen) where customers can play and purchase brass instruments.

We are really fortunate to be working with people like Miles that have a passion for quality and innovation!

Testing out bells at O'Malley Musical Instruments with Nikolai Mänttäri