Archive for the ‘General’ Category

I’ve got a screw loose

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

I opened my closet door a month ago and found that the handle was loose.

Looking closer I see that the screws are a bit loose and need to be tightened. Today I went to open the closet door, as I have every day for the past month, and guess what? It’s still got screws loose. The handle wiggles, and it’s exactly the way it was last month when I discovered this. Maybe it was six months ago, to be honest I’m not sure how long it’s been this way. It’s my own lack of motivation that keeps this problem from changing. I know it’s not going to fix itself but for some reason I can’t bring myself to change the situation.
Two weeks ago I was in Bern Switzerland listening to Ian test equipment I’d hand carried over from Elkhorn WI. Comparing equipment I started hearing a click, or maybe it was a clack. We continued to play test and the click and clack continued from the depths of his 4147IB. It was not going away!

Knowing that I’m the guy that’s supposed to be able to fix things I decided to stop ignoring the sound and I dove in.

Looking over the instrument carefully, I quickly decided that the issue was not from anywhere but the rotor area. Ian was clear in saying that it’s been doing “this” for a while and he’s not sure where the sound is coming from. After two minutes I find a rotor screw that holds down his stop arm has backed out a couple thousandths and is making the annoying noise. After grabbing a screw driver and remembering that old principle “righty tighty” the sound magically goes away.

What was left after this turning of the screw was nothing but music, and resonance. Sometimes all it takes is the initiative to not ignore the problem.
Please don’t tell my wife I wrote this blog, she might make me actually fix that closet door.

Raw Vs Refined

Friday, September 16th, 2016

Man, I can’t get rid of the sugar references but I promise this will be the last…

Yesterday I was picked up by a friend in a Subaru WRX STI which is a small little rocket ship of a car that handles like a modified go cart. As we accelerated onto the interstate I was pushed into the door from the G forces of the all-wheel drive connecting us to the road. The road noise could be heard, and every little road inconsistency felt through the car. I started comparing in my head this ride to a BMW 335D I get to ride in.

Both are capable, performance wise, of doing more than you could ever do on the road legally. They both get the job done quite well, but the BMW is a bit more refined in the approach.

Thinking of instruments that people play, and what they are after brought this full circle in my head. Many times the instruments that people want handle like these sport cars, but how they get there can be quite a difference in experience during the performance.

The handling if a bit tight can lead you exactly where you put the note, for better or worse. If the response is a bit soft in the handling the excitement of the experience can be lost as well.

Maybe it’s time to go for a drive and think about this a bit more…

Decompress

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

When your leadpipe-to-mouthpiece relationship is correct, a couple of magical things can happen.

The lips inside the mouthpiece can actually relax and buzz more freely since the leadpipe and mouthpiece are providing the correct amount of compression for your body.

This allows the resonance to be more complete and relaxed. Imagine if you could just focus on the music and decompress…

No more sugar!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

I’m a coffee snob, but I haven’t always been. I used to buy my coffee based on fancy labels. I’d load it down with sugar and creamer, masking the acidity, the lack of flavor, or the burnt aftertaste.

Then I started roasting my own coffee beans. I quickly found that I had a better product than anything available to me in southeastern Wisconsin. I now drink my coffee naked. It has flavor without the fillers.

I never knew that what I’d been drinking for decades was of such low quality.

I think a lot of musicians can experience the same thing with their instruments. When a horn doesn’t work for them, they add creamers and sweeteners, trying to overcome their instruments’ underlying problems. Tension creeps in. Intonation suffers. Sound quality and resonance are less than what they could be.

They’ve never experienced what is possible with an instrument that is completely natural for them.

Our main goal is to fine-tune instruments for our customers. We strive to achieve a balance of sound, color, resonance, and clarity. Many times this can be accomplished in a single visit. But we do have customers that visit from more regularly, staying on top of their changing needs.

It might be time to take a look at your horn and everything you’re adding to it to make it work for you. I’m not saying sugar is bad. Well, yes I am.

First Date

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

I see people having their first date with a new instrument, if not daily, certainly weekly.

From the time an individual walks through the Edwards door you can almost sense their anticipation, for that first look .

Walking into the room can be a bit intimidating at first, until you realize that it’s not a big deal to have this first date. You can always walk away without any emotional or bank account scars.

Now it’s time to play. First instinct is to push the boundaries and see what this new relationship can be, but alas first the customary warm up to find the boundaries of sound and partial feel. Too wide? Too narrow? Too much Compression? Too little and all of a sudden you’re falling into the horn wondering if you’ve wasted your day travelling to all places, Elkhorn Wisconsin.

That is until, you find something that’s intriguing.

“Wait, this feels so natural my face is relaxing”. There’s depth of sound in the low register, while my face is not aching with fatigue in the upper register. Where have you been all my life? Why haven’t I had you in my arms before today?

One of the saddest things, is to see the look on the player’s face once this moment has happened. Often, they will glance sadly at their previous relationship sitting on an instrument stand as it has, so faithfully, in the past. The two try not to look at each other knowing it’s for the best, that this new relationship, that started with this innocent first date, has turned into something more. More that was never possible in their previous relationship.

Appointment request page

Friday, December 27th, 2013

If you are trying to book an appointment please check that your email is entered correctly and the entire form is filled out.

I just had a Tom fill out the form, the email will not go through to your entered email, and there is no phone number entered to call.

Please either resubmit or call me at 800 562 6838.

Customer Feedback from Bill

Friday, May 10th, 2013

I love receiving emails from satisfied customers.

Bill:

I wanted to let you know that the Alessi T-396A I bought from you at ETW this past March is the best horn I have ever played on and I am starting to reap the benefits.

Sometimes with a purchase this large there is a fear of buyer’s remorse. Not so here, every penny is worth it!

Thanks for making such a great instrument!!

William (Bill) McDowell

Me:

Thank you for the kind email.  Can I use this on our blog?  I’d love to share….   If not I’m happy with just keeping it inside…

Bill:

No problem, in addition some of those benefits were:

  • My attacks are more punctuated.
  • My legatos are a lot smoother.
  • And for reasons I can’t explain, the horn seems to know what I want it to do.

What Apple, Samsung and RIM have done for the cell phone, Edwards has done the same for the trombone, they made it better.

I just call it the smartbone.

Thanks again,

Bill

Thanks, Bill!

My Nightmare Trip to Edwards

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Elkhorn TripIt’s taken me eighteen years to finally be able to put this story to ink (even if it’s only digital). The year was 1995 and I’d had a tragic accident with my Holton TR158. The outer slide fell off when I was coming out of a practice room while on crutches. The slide was damaged terribly and needed new outer tubes. My Professor, Don Lucas, told me, “well, maybe it’s time for that Edwards you’ve been wanting to buy for so long.”

I paid my way through college by teaching private students and brass masterclasses in the high schools of Lubbock, Texas. I was not flush with cash, so I had to get creative in order to scrape together enough dollars to be able to afford the upcoming purchase. Not only was I going to get an Edwards, I was going to fly into Midway airport in Chicago and travel to the factory to be fit by Jonathan Winkle. Don worked it out so that our visit would coincide with Joseph Alessi’s visit to the factory during the summer. Chris Branagan was also going to buy a horn.

Flying into Midway saved us a lot of money, but it meant we were 2 1/2 hours from Edwards. Once in Elkhorn we stayed at the Americinn hotel. It’s a nice place, but there are no restaurants around the joint so we just settled in for the evening. The next day we all piled into Jonathan Winkle’s car and went to the factory. The fitting was everything we had hoped for. The sounds we were able to make were heavenly. Those horns were destined to take us into the next phase of our careers as elite orchestra musicians.

Joseph Alessi did come in during our fittings and was very complimentary, even with me playing every third and fourth position note out of tune. I did this only because the T350 was very different from the Bach 42 closed wrap I was borrowing from Chris since my Holton’s demise…

That evening we went back to the Americinn but had a problem. There was no food nearby and we had no car. Jonathan lived in Milwaukee so we were out of luck there. We had our new Edwards trombones with us, so I went downstairs to talk to the local native behind the desk. We talked about what we were doing in Elkhorn and she was amazed that we were travelling in for instruments. I asked if there was a way to go to Lake Geneva, and she offered to loan us her pickup.

I went upstairs and told Chris and Don. We decided that we had to play for her. The only duet we had was Don’s arrangement of Three Emily Dickinson Songs by Michael Hennigan. Don Lucas was wanting to premiere it later that year, but Chris and I stole that opportunity and did the world premiere at the Americinn in Elkhorn, WI. We then left our trombones as collateral and were off to Lake Geneva for dinner.

The next day, while driving to the airport, Don opened his mouth and what he said would make this trip the stuff of legend: “Guys, we gotta stop for Giordano’s deep dish pizza. It’ll change your life.” Against our better judgment, we stopped and ordered three personal deep dish pizzas. Deep dish takes longer to bake, so we thought getting the personal, smaller size would speed up the process. We kept glancing at the clock nervously, but the manager told us not to worry. After 45 minutes (45 minutes!), the order was ready. We sprinted to the car, pizzas in hand, and floored it for Midway.

If the pizza delay wasn’t enough, we hit the dreaded Chicago freeway summer construction. We couldn’t have been going more than 25 mph. To say we were nervous was an understatement. We got to the airport with 8 minutes (8 minutes!) to spare. Since this was pre-9/11, we were able to go directly to the gate. I took off in a sprint, leaving Chris and Don to be the luggage and trombone mules. I got to the gate in time to see the door closing. I told them to wait, that we are there and ready to board. “Sorry sir. The plane door is already closed. We can’t let you on.” I pleaded desperately (I was sure that after getting a loaner car from a hotel manager that getting on this plane would be easy). Chris and Don showed up just in time to see the plane pulling back from the gate. My mouth was open, but no sounds came from it.

Don and Chris had plenty of questions, but the only thing that mattered was this – there were no more flights to Lubbock that day. Midway Airport at the time was a dump and incredibly hot, so staying there the night wasn’t an option. We got on the phone and found out that Jeff Kurka was in Houston. He was planning on driving to Lubbock later that night after picking up slides from Bob Hester, who is/was our slide doctor.

We had a little time to spare – and I was starving – so I dug into the pizza while Don and Chris got us on a Houston flight. Chris was so distraught over the events that he couldn’t eat his, so he put it in the trash in disgust (the pizza had become a symbol of what was wrong in the world). That box sat there for .01 seconds before I tore into it. No food went to waste in my college years.

We got to Houston and Jeff picked us up. He owned a white Geo Prism that was hardly big enough for two people, let alone four trombone players, four trombones, eight additional slides, and luggage. Jeff’s parents had bought him a luggage rack to go on top of the car so we could make everything fit. If you are curious, the trip takes 8 hours 11 minutes according to our friends at Google.

And the trip was dark. In every way possible.

Chris was the music hall manager at Texas Tech. There was a recital happening that evening that he was responsible for. He made calls to make sure the hall was open and the recording was made, but he wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy to be sweating and stuffed into the back seat of a Geo Prism for 8 hours and 15 minutes (8 hours and 15 minutes!).

But Don was fine.

In fact, he decided to stop for a recruiting opportunity. AAAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!

Chris and I were furious. Jeff was Switzerland. But Don won. We stopped at a high school student’s house so Don could convince him to come to TTU in the fall. Just this past year I was amazed to find out the student was Bruce Faske who will be performing at this upcoming years Alessi Seminar.

The trip seemed like it would never end. It stuck with me for a long time, but I’ve never been able to put it down in ink until now. In spite of all the craziness of that trip, I did learn a lot:

  • The instruments here are amazing.
  • The people in Wisconsin are great and will help you if you ask.
  • The new Hampton Inn is closer to food so you won’t have to test your “skills” or do a world premiere of a piece to get a ride.
  • Chicago style pizza will change your life. Maybe not enough to make a 3 hour trip into an 18 hour trip, but it’s pretty good.

The T350 I bought that day had a 384CF bell, rose single radius tuning slide, tenor bass crook slide, and a T2 custom silver leadpipe. This trombone sits next to my CNC and I play it every day when I’m making mouthpieces. It’s been modified a bit since, though.

If you were to ask, “would you do it again?”, my answer would be yes. And I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s taken me eighteen years to be able to say this.

Edwards Featured in Milwaukee Paper

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Ginseng, toilet paper, rat poison, and high-end trombones. One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong. But they’re all manufactured in Wisconsin.

A few weeks ago, Rick Romell of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel interviewed Christan for a story on the high level of brass manufacturing in Wisconsin (Elite trombonists lead parade to local custom instrument-makers). Christan was described as “a 39-year-old with a soul patch and a rapid-fire speech pattern sprinkled with musicians’ slang.” Sounds about right.

Romell’s article also discussed Gary Greenhoe’s role in Edwards’ history and his current job as owner of Greenhoe Trombones. It’s worth a read. Also, you can watch a video featuring Christan’s rapid-fire speech and soul patch.

Christan Interviewed in Podcast

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Tim Heston from thefabricator.com recently interviewed Christan for a podcast on metal fabrication in brass instrument manufacturing. Soundtrack provided by Joe Alessi.

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