The Noise is “ON THE OTHER SIDE”

By Matt Walters (low brass specialist at Dillon Music, Inc. of Woodbridge, NJ)

So, the rotor valve on your trombone (French horn, or tuba) has become noisy.   Perhaps the person sitting next to you brought this to your attention, and now it has been driving you crazy like a raspberry seed stuck in your tooth.  Did you take off the valve cap, put some rotor oil in the center and screw the cap back on like you were told to do?  Good.  You should oil the bottom bearing point found under the valve cap on a regular basis (at least every two weeks).  However, I doubt that alone made the noise go away.  Most of the time the excess rotor valve noise is “ON THE OTHER SIDE”.

I’m constantly surprised how few people know that a drop of oil placed under the stop arm (the part that hits the bumpers) on the shaft of the rotor valve is VERY important for a quieter valve that works smoother and lasts longer.  Just like that bottom bearing point that you know is under the valve cap, there is a second bearing point “ON THE OTHER SIDE”.  Every time you operate a rotor valve via the linkage, there is a small amount of push-pull motion in conjunction with the obvious rotary motion.  A poorly lubricated valve will prematurely wear the top bearing hole wider, which will lead to noisier valves and premature wear in the casing.   At least every other week, you should put rotor oil under the stop arm right on the shaft of the rotor valve.  Oil more often if it looks dry before two weeks go by.

While you are there “ON THE OTHER SIDE” oiling the rotor shaft with a drop of oil on that crack just under the stop arm, take a look at the bumpers in the strike plate.  Work the trigger while you watch what happens when the stop arm hits the bumpers.  If the strike plate moves, the screws holding it to the casing are loose.  Gently tighten them and also check the big screw in the middle of the stop arm.  If the bumpers have deteriorated so that the stop arm is now hitting the metal of the strike (bumper) plate, you now know why the valve is making too much noise.  A more subtle, loud noise is heard when the rubber bumper material gets hard with age.   Has it been a couple of years since the horn was last serviced?  Bumper material that is either worn down or too hard with age needs to be replaced.  In the case of old worn bumpers, you may prefer to take it to the repair shop, as the average musician is not likely to have the correct material on hand.   There are plenty of other articles about servicing rotor valves if you are so inclined to replace the bumper material yourself. 

The linkage is the final excess noise causing item “ON THE OTHER SIDE” that I want to help you with.  I have a saying when it comes to rotor valves; “IF IT MOVES, OIL IT.”  When you push or pull the trigger, you move at least one hinge point.  Often, this is where the lever spring is.  That spiral wound spring is typically wrapped around a hollow tube that has a hinge pin going through it.  Put a drop of rotor oil on each end of the spring so it can work its way in to coat the hinge pin.   Depending on the exact model of horn you have, there may also be a linkage between the lever and the stop arm.  If there are moving parts there, OIL them.  Also, make sure the attaching screws are snug.

You can keep quieter and longer lasting rotor valves if you don’t forget to oil every moving thing “ON THE OTHER SIDE” too.


Brasswind Chamber Music in High School

By Seelan P. Manickam

I recently spoke at a music teacher’s conference about chamber music in the high school system. Something that struck me was how few brass and woodwind programs actually even tackled chamber music. It seems that, at the high school level, chamber music is only done within the strings program. Sure, the programs in well-funded districts might have a chamber music component, but one rarely sees it at the lower funded level.

The reason that this intrigued me was that, in many cases, music educators were fighting to keep their programs alive.  With barely enough musicians to fill out a small band, they still didn’t look at chamber music as a way to help rebuild their programs.  As this was not something that they had been taught while receiving their own music education, the teachers I spoke with were even at a loss as to how to start a chamber music program.

Chamber music, in particular brasswind chamber music, has always seemed to be an afterthought in many musical institutions’ eyes. Considered something that only the string players could be successful at, most schools tended to, and still do, focus on orchestral studies. Thankfully groups such as the Canadian Brass, American Brass, Empire Brass and New York Brass have helped to pioneer this art form and push it forward as a serious musical endeavor.

So how do we change this? We change it at the middle and high school level. In this time of budget cuts to our arts, starting a brass and wind chamber music program is, in my opinion, essential.  Not only are there are many resources out there for easy chamber music, but it allows those programs with smaller numbers a real chance at music making and their small size actually makes the task of arranging works much easier.

Some hints for a successful chamber music program:

  • Start early; it is essential that kids have a chance to work on chamber music right from the start. You can start with like instruments and then move on from there.
  • Use small combinations, duos, and trios before moving on to quartet or quintet. This allows a students’ ear to develop and get used to hearing the other instruments.
  • Make the music relevant. If the students do not recognize what it is they are playing, they are less likely to want to continue.
  • Have performances often. Try to strive for a recital at least every two months. The concerts do not have to be long, but it allows the students to set goals and see them realized.
  • Finally keep it fun!

In time, an educator who implements chamber music into their program will reap the rewards of a strong and vibrant musical environment. With programs that are more mobile and better able to reach a wider variety of audiences, the “stage is set” for a new generation to explore and discover music. 


Seelan Manickam began his musical studies on the trumpet at the age of ten. Seelan received his Bachelors of Music at the University of Victoria where he studied with Louis Ranger. He has also finished his Graduate work in trumpet performance at The Boston Conservatory where he studied with Steven Emery. Additional studies have been with Jens Lindemann of the Canadian Brass and Charles Schlueter, principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony. As a top prizewinner of several solo competitions, Seelan has appeared as a frequent soloist with the Boston Chamber Orchestra, Cambridge Choral Society, South Coast Community Chorale and most recently The University of Massachusetts Orchestra.


Brass Artist Feature - Dominick Farinacci

Brass Artist Feature – Dominick Farinacci

We are pleased to welcome Cleveland-born jazz trumpet artist Dominick Farinacci to the family of endorsing artists for Blessing Brass.  Mr. Farinacci has traveled around the world leading his own band performing at such prestigious venues as Lincoln Center, Severance Hall and the 02 in London.  In July, Farinacci released his second U.S. CD “Dawn of Goodbye,” receiving a stellar review in the New York Times.  This month Farinacci wrote an article for Jazz Times discussing the music of one of his main inspirations, Clifford Brown, who was also a Blessing artist.  He currently resides in New York City, and while performing around the world manages to periodically return to Cleveland where he has spearheaded an educational outreach movement involving some of the finest young jazz artists of today.  Mr. Farinacci recounts his musical journey below:

I’m quite fortunate to have been surrounded by wonderful mentors and performers from an early age.  One very special part of jazz culture is the tradition of encouraging and nurturing young musicians, and the gracious and dedicated mentors of mine in Cleveland helped me to gain the musical ability and confidence to move to New York City and attend Juilliard in 2001.  Leading up to that, I was so very fortunate to have met Wynton Marsalis in High School, who invited me to perform with him in NYC on a PBS special!  Shortly after, I moved to New York to attend school, and through various performances in the NYC area, I had an opportunity to record as a leader for a Japanese record label.  It went extremely well and I released 8 CD’s in Japan over the years, helping to establish myself out there.  In 2003 I had the honor of winning the ITG Carmine Caruso Trumpet Competition, and continued to travel with my band and develop my music in many of the clubs and festivals I’ve always dreamed of playing.  In 2009 I released my very first U.S. CD on the current record label I’m on – Eone Music.  It’s called “Lovers, Tales & Dances,” and I had the privilege of working with some of my favorite legends of this music – Kenny Barron, Lewis Nash, Joe Lovano and others.  While touring for that CD, I got to travel to London and perform on a concert with Jeff Beck and Jamie Cullum, and back here had the chance to meet and play for some people I never thought I would...including Quincy Jones!

All of this has been such an invaluable experience for me, and I’m constantly reminded of how important it is to support and encourage younger musicians.  We’re currently on the road promoting my latest release, “Dawn of Goodbye,” and I’m really excited about this new educational outreach program I’ve put together in Cleveland… it’s for Tri-C’s Center for Creative Arts, the place I grew up studying at.  There is so much musical potential in Cleveland, and we’ll be reaching out to these kids to help give them the opportunities I was lucky enough to have.

I’ve pretty much played the same horn since 6th grade… until now.  When I tried out the E.K. Blessing horns, I absolutely loved them.  While no horn in the world will make me sound good if I don’t put in the time and dedication to practicing, these horns help to make the type of playing I do a little easier.  So it’s a nice reward in the midst of an endless journey of practice and improvement.

Steven Wasser (left) and Dominick at E.K. Blessing, September 2011


Hear the new BTR-1585 played at MusikMESSE!

We had a great time at MusikMESSE in April, and our new BTR-1585 received lots of attention from players of all types. Check out this guy testing it out in the Blessing booth...

Googanelli's Video on Youtube!

We were browsing Youtube the other day and found this fan of our BTR-1580 trumpet...check it out! Thanks "Googanelli" for your great review!