Wah Wah Trumpet

From the age of nine (1981) to my motorcycle accident in 1991, although not particularly adept, I enjoyed playing keyboards and woodwind instruments, namely clarinet, flute, and saxophone.

The nerve injury sustained in that accident put an abrupt end to pretty much all playing of woodwind, so by February 1992, I was teaching myself how to play the trumpet.

Soon after, I re-joined my local community band, Chester Symphonic Wind Band, on 3rd trumpet. About this time, my trumpet was modified to have the little finger hook moved from the right side of the instrument to the left. This was intended to help hold the instrument while playing; previously, I had hooked my little finger under the bell pipe. The instrument was also supported by positioning the thumb under the main tube to the bell and the lead pipe and pressing it against the body of the first valve.

The only issue I had playing the instrument at this time was the frequent jamming of the three valves in the down position. I suspect this jamming was caused by me pressing the valves at an angle rather than directly straight down, which was a result of holding and playing the instrument with one hand. I attempted to resolve this issue my mounting each valve in a drill and polishing a small amount of material from each. This helped, but caused the notes to sound “breathy” or muffled when the valves were dry..... I guess I removed a bit too much material!

From time to time the band would play something that required a “wah wah” effect or hand placed over the bell to mute it, such as Pennsylvania 6500. This was not something I could do with one hand, so it got me thinking of a way to achieve the Wah Wah effect.

My philosophy has always been, "If you can't get what you need, try and make something that will do the job.".... So, with the help of a relative, some bits of Meccano, whatever bits of brass I could find, and a gas burner, the challenge was on.

The solution was a really rough, but working adaptation. It looked odd and added a lot of levered weight to the bell, making the instrument difficult to hold and play with just the one hand.

The attached pdf file shows how the various parts of this adaptation fit together and the more permanent changes made to the instrument in the process.

For other instrument adaptations, please check out the One Handed Musical Instruments trust website.

I welcome any comments or questions about this adaptation, and openly share my work in the hope someone can take it further.

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