Frequently Asked Questions #2: Does My Brand New Trumpet Need a Bob Reeves Valve Alignment?

Time and time again customers ask us the question, “Does my new trumpet need to have a valve alignment?”

The answer, surprisingly, is yes.

Bach Trumpet Valve Parts for Bob Reeves Valve Alignment

Trumpet valve parts from a Bach Stradivarius Bb trumpet with Bob Reeves Brass valve alignment pads.

Over the years we have done valve alignments on thousands of trumpets, and other piston valved brass instruments, and all of them have been out of alignment before we did any work. Whenever we do a valve alignment, we keep a record of the position the valves are in before we make any alterations — we measure the horn as it is when we get it. (When you get your horn back after an alignment, these are the measurements that we include on the yellow pre-alignment information card.) With all the data we have compiled over the years, we have created a chart that shows the average alignment of trumpets by manufacturer, which you can view by clicking here.

As you can see, all of the popular manufacturer’s instruments are out of alignment when they leave the factory, and that alignment is constantly changing. The only way to really know how your horn plays, and to keep it playing the same everyday, is to have a valve alignment done.

Why Did I Just Pay Several Thousand Dollars for a Mis-aligned Instrument?

Well, there are a few reasons:

“Close Enough” To Sell

First, even high-end trumpets are made in a matter of hours. It takes us at least 2-3 hours (and sometimes all day!) to properly align the valves. Instrument makers cannot add this amount of time and labor to their production costs. They do what they can to get their trumpets “close enough” to sell at a competitive price, but as we’ve found through the years “close enough” leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Accumulated Factory Tolerances

Second, valves are made of at least 7 parts:  the valve body, spring barrel, stem, upstroke pad, valve cap, downstroke pad, and finger button. Each part is made to certain specifications and can be passed through if they fall within a certain tolerance. A good factory keeps these tolerances to within a few thousandths of an inch. For arguments sake, lets assume that every trumpet is made in a great factory that produces parts to +/-.002″ (less than a human hair), and their quality control catches 100% of the parts that fall outside of this tolerance. Even in this case, you have the possibility of each valve being out of alignment by +/-.014″. We get this number by multiplying the 7 parts in a valve by the .002″ tolerance. For reference, we find that valves that are out of alignment by .008″ or more have a detrimental impact to the player.

The truth is, we have measured valve parts from the finest instrument makers in the world straight from the factory and their tolerances on these valve parts are considerably greater than the .002″ in our hypothetical situation above. One recent piccolo trumpet that was sent straight from a factory in the Midwest was out by over .040″!

If you have any questions about our valve alignment process and its benefits, we are always available for consultation over the phone and by email, and, if you are local to Los Angeles, you can bring your trumpet to our shop and we will measure it for free.

If you have any questions you would like to see answered in this series, email them to blog@bobreeves.com and it might be featured in a future blog post!

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