In the first week of September I took a trip to the Stomvi factory in Valencia, Spain. I was long overdue a new trumpet (the subject of another upcoming blog post). This is the story of that day.
I had exchanged a few emails with Vicente Honorato in advance so when I arrived at the factory I was already expected. I was shown to a practise room in the recently renovated section of the building and then stood while people covered the table in front of me with instruments, bells and tuning slides. I was then left to my own devices.
I had a list of music to play on my laptop and had allowed myself to bring three mouthpieces with me (Warburton 4M/KT, Austin Custom Brass TA-Lead and Jerome Callet Superchops 3). The instruments I’d been left were:
- Titán 27/1
- Titán 27/3
- Titán 25/3
- Master (27 Copper, 27 Bellflex, 25 Copper, 25 Bellflex / 1,3 / Heavy and Titanium trim kits)
- VRII (a.k.a. Velociraptor), standard weight.
You may be wondering what all these numbers mean, so here’s a quick explanation:
The point of the Master trumpet is that it comes with interchangeable bells and leadpipes. The bells are the same size at either end, but the number refers to the its shape. The 25 bell has a more gradual flare and the 27 flares more like an exponential curve. Each bell is then available in silver-plate copper or gold-plate Bellflex. Bellflex is Stomvi’s proprietary brass alloy which gives the instruments a rich colourful tone. The no.1 leadpipe has a more open taper and no.3 is tighter. There is also a 23 bell, that is normally sold as the smaller option for trumpets in C – I chose not to test this option.
The Titán trumpets come in one piece, but are made from the same bells and leadpipes as the Master. Whereas the Master has a tuning bell and once-piece leadpipe that goes all of the way to the valves (in the way that Schilke suggested is the best design for a leadpipe in this article), the Titán has the more traditional style tuning slide but has the option of being rounded or half-square to adjust the feel.
After a bit of playing I was offered the chance to go on a free tour of the factory. This was a great opportunity that I’m glad I took. There are no cameras allowed in the factory so I cannot share any photos of that. We were shown all of the machinery and workstations where each part of the instruments are made. Various processes that I had read about or learnt about on the repair course last year I saw for the first time and it is much clearer to me now how these things are done. The processes that I found most interesting were the making of valves and bells. I was overwhelmed by the care and attention that went into every little step of hand-building every part of every instrument that Stomvi sells. I genuinely don’t believe that this is possible for larger, better-known instrument manufacturers and is one of the reasons that I am so happy with my choice of Stomvi. This is not a paid endorsement – I am not sponsored by Stomvi; I just believe in their work.
The rest of my day was spent playing various trumpets with various styles of music. Most of what I played was from the Trumpet Evolution book by Arturo Sandoval, 36 Études Transcendantes by Theo Charlier, and various pages from The TCE Training Manual by Bahb Civiletti. It didn’t take me much time to set aside the Titán trumpets – not because they were bad in any way, but because the Master was better suited to my needs.
My use case is a bit different from most. In my freelance work I could be playing with a rock band one night and a choral society the next morning (this happens more often than I’m happy about!). Whilst both of these could be achieved with the same middle-of-the-road instrument, that instrument would not be ideal for either situation. As a professional player I see my sound as my calling card and making a compromise on this is not really acceptable, particularly if I am spending €3000 on a new trumpet. With the Master you have effectively four instruments in one, and this made it the ideal choice for me. Unfortunately this wrote off the option of buying the VRII trumpet as well.
The Velociraptor trumpet is a special beast. It’s described as a great all-round trumpet, but I couldn’t shake the idea that it is really intended for commercial music. Attacks are super clean and the projection is outstanding, literally. I noticed that whatever I played on this trumpet was a noticeable degree louder than the others. That means it is more efficient. In the Stomvi catalogue the VRII is listed as Polybore, which means that the bore size varies throughout the instrument. In the past I owned a trumpet that was designed for orchestral playing and I struggled playing other styles of music on it. I feared that this trumpet would present me with the opposite problem and backed away. There are some video clips of me playing the Velociraptor and I think that in future I would consider a VRII for my next trumpet.
So, overall the point of this blog post is to share the videos that I made that day. Once I had homed in on the Master as my choice of trumpet I had to try the various configurations and decide which parts I wanted to take away with me. Part of the advantage to actually going to the factory is that I had a wider range of options for parts than if I’d bought this trumpet from a dealer. I chose to buy the 25 and 27 bells both made from Bellflex brass. I found that they had a warmer sound than the silver-plated copper, and that generally I could control the intonation more easily. I noticed afterwards, when editing the videos, that the clips of me playing with the copper bells and titanium trim kit have a few split notes and duff articulations that just didn’t happen with the heavy trim kit or brass bells.
After I bought my trumpet I had a chat with Luis Martínez Martínez (Trumpet player, Brilliant Magnus Quintet) about all of the instruments that they are developing at Stomvi. He showed me a four-valved Titán Cornet in B-flat and said that you can order an instrument in any standard key with four valves and explained how Stomvi believes that this will change the way composers will view trumpets in future. It’s an interesting idea, and I’m glad to be alive at a time when there are so many innovative instrument designers trying new things.
Disclaimer: Although I am generally happy with my playing in these clips, it needs to be pointed out that I was switching mouthpieces and instruments every few minutes for hours on end… This is really confusing for the face and because of that my co-ordination and consistency wasn’t what it usually is. I’m sure that by the standards of most it sounds just fine, but for the sake of the critics out there: this is not an accurate representation of my best playing.
As always, please comment below and share as much as you like. ~iii<0