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I've heard conflicting stories on this - some say that if you flick your trumpet bell and it rings (goes "ping") then it's the sign of a Quality Trumpet.

Others are horrified if the bell goes ping, insisting instead that their trumpet bell should not produce any sort of pitched or resonant sound when it is flicked.

Who is right? Should a flicked trumpet bell go thud or ping? Or does it not really matter?

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  • I'm not a brass player at all, so I wonder: How often does one encounter a trumpet with a bell that rings? The few times I've handled trumpets (and kin) they seemed to be made of a relatively soft thin brass that wouldn't really lend itself to ringing. Very different from the hard bronze percussion instruments (cymbals, singing bells, etc.) I have played.
    – Theodore
    Jan 4, 2023 at 18:12
  • I'm no brass player either, but one would imagine the last thing you want from a wind instrument would be specific resonant tones that continue after you've stopped playing. That would say 'dead is best'.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 4, 2023 at 19:18

2 Answers 2

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+50

Here's some discussion of the topic. Including a respected instrument maker who would deliver a ringing bell or a dead one to the customer's preference, without comment.

Bell ringing - does yours?

I also recall a report in Scientific American where bells made from various materials were compared. A stainless steel one proved unrewarding to play, one made from lead gave a bright sound (but obviously had practical disadvantages!)

There are basics of instrument construction - the physical dimensions and arrangement of the tubing, the flare of the bell - which I think can be agreed to be predominant factors in the instrument's quality. Then there are details which can border on being fads - heavy clamps to 'couple' the mouthpiece and mouth pipe, bell sections stripped of lacquer... I tend to put ringing/non-ringing bells in this category. Pay your money, make your choice.

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    I think the article on bell materials was authored by Dr Schilke - here's the link: everythingtrumpet.com/schilke/Brass_Clinic.html#Materials It specifically mentions tapping the bell... Also mentions tempering the bell to change its sounds. Jan 8, 2023 at 16:18
  • I wonder how far the current trend against lacquer is based on that one article, and whether Dr Schilke's results have been reproduced?
    – Laurence
    Jan 8, 2023 at 17:07
  • @BrianTHOMAS this article could be the answer IMO
    – Tom
    Jan 8, 2023 at 21:00
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Every object has a resonant frequency. If you suspend a trumpet from various points and tap the bell sharply (in engineering terms, a Delta Function), the trumpet will vibrate at its fundamental body frequency -- which is not in any way related to the airstream fundamental frequency! Whether that fundamental (or the first few harmonics) are in the audible range, I don't know. Further, since unlike, say, a glass harmonica, the trumpet is not a simple shape, I would suspect that the energy quickly breaks out into lots of local modes of very low amplitude.

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  • 3
    Does every object have a resonant frequency? What about a down pillow? Or a tree leaf? Or a burlap sack? Jan 4, 2023 at 21:12
  • Every object? My car has many, many resonances - proven by which bit rattles at what speed! I tap my mobile, and maybe its resonance is out of my hearing range - I can't tell. -1.
    – Tim
    Jan 5, 2023 at 10:17
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    I'm not going to quibble with the "every object" bit, but it does seem like this answers a different question: can the bell vibrate, vs is the sound of that vibration a mark of a good horn. Jan 5, 2023 at 14:39
  • @ToddWilcox yes. Trust me; I have an ABD in physics :-) Jan 5, 2023 at 15:45
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    @CarlWitthoft I think it's true for materials that have a non zero elastic modulus. Purely viscous material won't. Of course when is way greater than the former then it's so damped that's it's hard to define a "real" resonance.
    – Tom
    Jan 5, 2023 at 19:09

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