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Removing/Moving Front Bracing on Early Fullerton Ambassador


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Brassman19
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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2020 9:45 am    Post subject: Removing/Moving Front Bracing on Early Fullerton Ambassador Reply with quote

Hi, it's me again. I have one more question in regards to a further modification I am considering doing to my 1955/56 Olds Ambassador.

I have read comments in several previous discussions here on TH how that removing, or moving the front tuning slide sleeve to bell brace helps to free up the bell to ring more freely, which I would like to have my horn's bell do too. Can any of you who have done this mod to your Ambassador (or if you know of someone who did either to their horn) tell me how well doing so worked, and how much of a difference doing it made to its sound and performance? Which of the two seemed to work the best in your experience, and opinion?

I would prefer to be more conservative in how I have my horn modified in this area, at least as can possibly be done, and still get noticeable results and improvement in its performance. My Ambassador has the original LA-made "stylized z", 5 piece bracing on it (which is apparently virtually stress-free), so my thought is I might have it taken loose only from the bell, and then flipped, to where it attaches further back on the bell, rather than have it removed completely. Do you know if this will possibly accomplish my purpose? Or would doing so instead possibly affect the horn's sonic "nodes" in some way, and actually lessen its performance? What are your thoughts?

Thanks.
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HERMOKIWI
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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2020 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My thoughts are that this is merely a "change" and not an "improvement."

40+ years ago the "fad" was to remove bracing to allow the bell to "vibrate." Then, years later, that got criticized because bell vibration became a "bad" thing in that it allowed the "energy to dissipate." So, then, bracing was a good thing and the "fad" evolved to sheet bracing the tuning slide, bell bow and anyplace else sheet bracing would fit. We went from 2 pound trumpets to 5 pound (or even heavier) trumpets.

Were these "improvements" or just "changes?" It depends on who you ask and what they want their trumpet to be.

Doing surgery on a trumpet to change its design and "improve it" is very unpredictable. To me, the ideal solution is to just find a trumpet you like in the configuration in which it comes and then focus on developing your skills so that you sound better on any trumpet.
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homebilly
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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2020 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i have 2 ambassadors that have broken solder on that brace and my bells
love going commando. they really sing and vibrate

i also have another fullerton without a brace nearest the mouthpiece.
i fabricated a custom (re)movable brace that i move around for that horn

i say do it
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royjohn
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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2020 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had the brace moved on a Besson 20-20 along with moving the tuning slide brace. The work was done by Rich Ita of Brass Instrument Workshop in Atlanta. Rich seemed to think this was a reasonable thing to do and he placed the bell brace by ear in what he thought was the best position. I'm no expert, but thought the results were good and that horn has been one of my favorites.

I think moving the brace or leaving it off are both possibilities. Also, there are movable braces which you can buy and move as you see fit, but there the position of the brace is straight across, whereas the standard brace can be soldered onto the tuning slide and then contact the bell way further towards its end.

I would contact one of the knowledgeable repair guys like Ita or Melk or Landress and see what they say about this. Ambassadors are modified all the time, so it's likely they have plenty of experience with this from which to make a decision. Far better than asking a bunch of us to speculate. Get an opinion from a couple or three of them and maybe a consensus will emerge.

While you're at it, consider another leadpipe, which is another frequent Ambassador mod...maybe a Pilczuk, which Rich sells...I've had them put on a couple of horns with good results. Good Luck!
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Divitt Trumpets
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PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2020 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Removing the front Z brace will allow the bell to vibrate more and give better feedback to the player, but at the expense of projection to the audience.
Modifications are always a comprise.
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Brassman19
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PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2020 11:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks royjohn for the suggestion to contact ptofessional brass repair shops who have done this sort of thing for their feedback. That is something I will do.

Thank you also Divitt Trumpets for your feedback. I guess my question or hope is that perhaps the more conservative option of loosening the front bell brace, and then flipping it back in the direction of the valve block and resoldering it to the bell there might be a viable compromise, allowing the bell to vibrate somewhat freer, but still have some projecting power on the audience side as well.

Thanks also, again, royjohn for the suggestion to replace its lead pipe too. My plan is to get a nice, used Bach 43 lp, and have my repair tech swap it out for me, ASAP. From all I have heard (including advice offered by others here on TH to use the Bach 43, who received the same advice even from from Zig Kanstul), it is supposed work especially well on an Ambassador, as a more standard replacement lp option.

The other thought I have about doing that is if I would also want to have the front valve block brace entirely removed then, as I will have both it and the front bell brace in close proximity to each other, with the first mod done to it, which might cause somewhat of a deadening, or other kind of unwanted effect to my horn's sound?

I have plenty of things which I will need to ask about these 5hings when I email Rich Ita, Charlie Melk, and Landress Brass about doing it.
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royjohn
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PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2020 1:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Brassman19,
Glad my suggestions might prove helpful...few other thoughts. Nice to hope that just swiveling the brace will help, but from what I know of this procedure the idea is to try without the brace, if you can stand the increased risk to the horn of less bracing and then also to try the brace in various positions until the sound and the slotting are optimal. The chances that that spot is going to be right where you would swivel the brace are slim to none and then how would you know that was the best place anyway, without trying other places? So I would resign myself to trying various options and having that part of the horn retouched.My experience with the Besson I had moodded was that the brace ended up further down towards the bell rim and I thought that that was how it usually went.

I'm interested to hear about the 43 leadpipe being a great swap. I did not mention that if you work with Rich Ita on a swap to a Pilczuk, he sends you or your repairman up to 6 leadpipes to try. You can just tape them to the existing leadpipe and try them all out for intonation and tone and select the one that you like best. From having done this on a custom C trumpet, I can tell you that the Pilczuks really do improve the intonation a lot, it is not just a marketing gimmick, it does work. Notes are much more in tune. If you have a tuner, you can play each note in a random sequence to help to keep you from instinctively lipping them in and write down how far off each note is after several attemplts. Then you try another leadpipe and do the same until you find the one with the best intonation. Then you would check the tone and response on each and pick the one you like best. You send the unused leadpipes back to Rich and he refunds your deposit on the other pipes.

I hate to sound like a salesman for Rich, but I have found him great to deal with and the pipes really good...I have one on a flugel and one on the custom C I mentioned. They also come in copper and some in solid silver, too, I think. I think the standard brass pipes are about $100 each. There is a page about them at Rich's site and I'm sure he'd be happy to talk with you about them and about which ones most people use on an Ambassador...just another option. You could certainly trial the 43 next to some Pilczuks first, along with any other pipes you wanted to try.

I hope you'll report back here when you are done with the results. You might also want to search on here, because there are lots of Ambassador mod threads, I'm sure. Come to think of it, I have an Ambassador around here somewhere I was thinking of modding, so maybe I will look myself! Again, best of luck, I'm sure you will have fun and end up with a better, fun horn!
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Brassman19
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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2020 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, as an update to everyone, I have received to date only one response back from the three brass repair shops which were suggested for me to contact about my modifications questions (Rich Ita, Charlie Melk, and Landress Brass), which response came from Charlie.

However, Charlie wasn't too encouraging about making mods to the Ambassador trumpet, basically encouraging me that I would better off putting my money into a pro grade horn. His reason for that statement was that, in his opinion, the Ambassador is really only a very good student-grade horn, but not really worth the time and expense necessary to make it play better, and implied it could not be made to play like a pro-level horn. I respect his opinion, but have to also respectfully disagree with it at the same time.

I am a bit surprised at his response, as I have read in a number of places where it is stated that the Ambassador was originally designed identical internally in its specs, and of the same gauge of brass, plus virtually the same materials as those used in the Mendez pro trumpet (other than likely their lead pipes were somewhat different), and that both were developed together at the same time, both being based on the pre-WWII French Besson trumpet which Rafael himself played (in one spot, this was stated as such by no less than Dale Olson, the former Director of Research for Olds for many years. See some selected quotes from Dale which I took from the listed website URL below stating these exact things:

http://ojtrumpet.net/tpin/Olds_Ambassador.html

"Date: Wed. 28 Nov. 2007 22:19:19 EST
From: RDALEOLSON@aol.com
Subject: [TPIN] Olds Ambassador vs. Mendez Trumpets, An Assessment

Information regarding the relationship between the Olds Ambassador and Olds Mendez trumpets has recently appeared on TPIN, and I am posting in response to suggestions from several members.

For many years, I have gathered a now large collection of information concerning Olds instruments. Within the past year it has been my good fortune to have obtained an impressive amount of photographs, literature, and factory documents related to Olds....

The development of the Mendez and Ambassador appears to have occurred simultaneously....

As part of their plan (that is, Reginald Olds [then President], Jack Levy [Sales Manager, F.E. Olds & Son, Inc.], and Maurice Berlin [then President of parent company, Chicago Musical Instrument Company]) to develop a student model trumpet, it was decided the new model would be called the Ambassador. It would essentially be the same as the Mendez, but would have to sell for much less. There was great concern among Olds management that the Ambassador could not be inferior in quality to any other Olds trumpet. The differences between the Ambassador and Mendez are largely observable, the Mendez has two triggers, the Ambassador has none; the Mendez has a more expensive claw type bracing system, and a more expensive case, etc., etc. The essential tapered sections which govern the basic musical characteristics are thought to be the same[/i]. [i]It is Zig Kanstuls' recall that the leadpipes may be somewhat different. Notwithstanding myth, both trumpets were constructed using the same thickness brass for the bell. The Mendez model did not have a thinner bell....

Olds was, for its entire history, a one-tolerance shop. That is, all instruments were made to the same level of quality. Therefore the Ambassador was subject to the same identical quality control as the Mendez. The Ambassador was never a lesser version of the Mendez, nor was the Mendez a sophisticated version of the Ambassador. Those players sufficiently astute to ignore the stigma of the Ambassador being a student trumpet are well aware of this...."

Based on these statements and assertions, I do believe that, at least the earlier, original versions (LA made, and early Fullerton made) of the Ambassador have designed and built into them the potential for them to play and perform comparable to the Mendez trumpet, or certainly on the level of pro trumpet at least, with the right modifications done to them.

Apparently my friend who promised to give me his spare Bach 43 lp has either misplaced, lost it, or no longer has his now, as he told me hasn't been able to find it yet. In that case, it looks as though I am going to need to buy a used, preferably raw brass Bach 43 lp in good condition to have done the first mod I intend made to my Ambassador. If anyone happens to know of someone who has such a lp and would be willing to sell it to me at a reasonable price, I am in the market for one (the one listed still in the Marketplace by J. Wagner for $100 is no longer available, as I emailed him about it earlier, and he replied back that it has sold). Please let me know if any of you know someone who has one.

Thanks,
Larry
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Dale Proctor
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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2020 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had the front bell brace removed on an early 1950s Ambassador years ago and I liked it. It seemed to liven the horn up a bit. I played it in a dance band at the time with good results. Those trumpets have 4 bell braces, which is more of a nod to damage control than anything else since it was marketed as a student instrument. I thought it opened up the horn, but it still wasn’t comparable to a top of the line trumpet for more legit types of playing.

That said, I agree with Charlie that dumping a lot of money into an Ambassador could make it better, but in the end it will still just be a better Ambassador. If you have the money to burn, enjoy the project, though.
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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2020 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've already commented on my thoughts for Ambassador mods...Charlie Melk has far more expeience than I do with horn mods, so consider his recommendations carefully. I would just say this. An Ambassador can be had for about $100 to $300 and the mods discussed were about $100 to $400, so we're ending up at about $700 max. A comparable pro horn, such as a Bach 37, would retail for about $1000 minimum, so that's the comparison. You could do several mods to the Ambassador and still come up short of $1K, the minimum price for a Bach 37. So it depends on what you want to spend your money on and what you want to risk. I would leave it to others to describe their mods and comparisons. I'd just note that the Olds valve blocks are very long lived and that you can start from there and design what you want.
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Brassman19
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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2020 6:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks again on the comments.

I told Charlie I already have an excellent main horn which I play (my B&S Challenger 3137S), so I got the Ambassador simply as a project horn, to modify it to where I can have it as a very playable, quality, but relatively inexpensive backup horn, or to play primarily in certain venues, or specific styles of music. I was fortunate/blessed, and got my Ambassador for under $65, so I have very little put into it sofar, and I therefore feel I can easily afford the addl. costs of having it modified, and still come out way ahead.

I still plan to have the mods I want done to it for sure.

What I would really like to try is get ahold of a lp and front + back bell braces from a salvaged Mendez trumpet, and try putting them on my horn. My guess is those mods would give me one which will play very similar to a Mendez, but wouldn't look like it, of course. That would be fun, but I don't think it's too likely I will find those parts, though you never know.

What I plan to do for now is get a Bach 43 lp, as I said, and likely have the front bell brace removed from my horn (one other mod I will also eventually have done is have a thumb saddle put on its 1st valve slide, so I can adjust its intonation even better while playing).
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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2020 6:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brassman19 wrote:
... so I got the Ambassador simply as a project horn, to modify it to where I can have it as a very playable, quality, but relatively inexpensive backup horn, or to play primarily in certain venues, or specific styles of music. ...

--------------------------------
How does the horn fall short of those goals now?
It seems you have TWO desires -
1) Experiment doing mods on the horn to learn 'what happens', with hope for improvement.
2) Achieve having a good playing, inexpensive, backup horn.

It might be difficult to realize both!

Jay
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Brassman19
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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2020 7:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those are good questions, Jay.

Mainly, it is evident that the way the Ambassador was set up out of the factory was to make it much easier for a beginner or student learning to play to make a tone on it, plus to stay on pitch, as there is evident addl. resistance built into it (I can tell it as I go up in its range, starting with about the 4th space E on the clef up-- below that the blow, feel and sound is pretty easy, but from the E on upward the horn actually starts closing off on me). My mp size is a 1C, and I can put a good amount of air through a horn with control, so when I sensed the Ambassador starting closing off I knew it has addl. resistance in its design, likely in the lp/its taper they put on the horn, and how it interfaces with its bell (I checked my horn's valves, and their inner and outer felts, and they are all new, and look to be the correct thickness, so I don't think their alignment is off, which would cause a problem).

I said all of the above to illustrate that, as the horn is now (as it was set up from Olds' factory), it is not a valid playable option, given my level of skill and ability. It makes me work too hard to produce acceptable results (unlike my pro B&S Challenger horn, which has a very easy and even blow across its entire range). From all I have read on TH in past posts and comments by members (including those made by members in this discussion) there are two basic mods which can be and have been done to it to get it to perform much better: swap out the original lp to a Bach 43, or an Accusonic R45X, a Pilczuk lp, a Blackburn, etc., and remove the horn's front bell brace entirely. That is pretty simple to have done, not too costly, and then one has a horn which can potentially play on the level of the higher end horns put out by Olds.
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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2020 8:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brassman19 wrote:
... as there is evident addl. resistance built into it (I can tell it as I go up in its range, starting with about the 4th space E on the clef up-- below that the blow, feel and sound is pretty easy, but from the E on upward the horn actually starts closing off on me).

...(I checked my horn's valves, and their inner and outer felts, and they are all new, and look to be the correct thickness, so I don't think their alignment is off, which would cause a problem).
...

------------------------
thanks, now I understand your concerns better.

I wouldn't dismiss the valve alignment issue - especially if the felts are all new.
Who knows if they were installed to 'play better', or just to 'look pretty'?
I've posted my DIY valve alignment process here -
https://www.trumpetherald.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=1595394#1595394

The 'basic testing' part is easy and doesn't cost anything. If you find that alignment is an issue you can continue DIY, or have it done. In my DIY efforts, I've found that seemingly small changes can make a noticeable difference.

Jay
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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2020 10:38 am    Post subject: Brace placement Reply with quote

I spend a great deal of time on all my trumpets to determine the optimum spot to place the front "Z" brace. I also do not put a brace between the second valve casing and bell which I feel gives the bell more vibrance and projection when the front brace placement is determined. Fortunately I am a good enough player to feel the slight differences when placing this brace while using a moveable brace and playing the horn for a long period of time. Simply removing the brace can have a detrimental effect overall and I have had as many as six top flight players both listen and play a horn while determining the brace placement and the results were within an eighth of an inch with all players. It isn't magic and the Olds could benefit from this.

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PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2020 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Decades ago I saw the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, CA. The trumpet soloist played an Olds Ambassador all night. I don't know if that was his regular horn or not, but it didn't seem to hinder him at all.

I do think that the Ambassador is designed to play in a way the Olds company thought would suit beginners, but I have no problem accepting that those same playing characteristics might suit some much more accomplished players. I'm not one of them. I played a Recording trumpet for years, and still play a Recording cornet, but I never played an Ambassador trumpet (and I've played a few) I liked very much.

Personally, I think you're making too much of the last bell-to-leadpipe brace. The Olds Special was the step-up from the Ambassador and as far as I can tell the main difference was the elimination of the additional bracing on both ends of the valve block (and yes, the other bell-to-leadpipe braces were different). And just because a brace is "stressless" doesn't mean its mass doesn't have a dampening effect.

If I had the yen (and the disposable yen) to hot-rod an Ambassador, I'd set it up with Special-like bracing and try a leadpipe swap -- either a Bach 43 or one of Rich Ita's Pilczuk pipes. Like it or not, I wouldn't pursue it any further than that.
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Brassman19
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PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2020 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your input nieuwguyski. I appreciate your thoughts.

I have a new Bach 43 leadpipe ordered and on the way now from Mouthpiece Express (got a pretty good deal with them on it).

I have thought of perhaps also swapping out the front and back braces to something better, but I hadn't thought of the Special braces. Since the Ambassador and the Mendez trumpet were both developed together, based on the French Besson Rafael Mendez owned, and they are basically the same horn (other than its leadpipe, and some outward "window dressing"), I had thought of trying to get ahold of some Mendez braces salvaged from a horn somewhere, and putting those on it instead.

Several members on the FB group Olds Loyalists (which I am also a part of) told me it may be possible to get them new through my repair tech, using the Allied Instrument Parts catalog, or possibly I could even have them fabricated by my tech, or by MK Drawing and Bending, which may be an option, though either way will probably cost more than I am willing to sink into my horn.

What I will probably try for now is removing the front bell brace, as a number of TH'ers here on TH have written about and suggested in previous posts, and see how that works, and if it still needs further modding, will look for either some Special braces, or Mendez braces to put on it instead.

Thanks again.
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homebilly
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PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2020 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i just bought another LA Ambassador today. 81xxx from around 1952

the valves are fantastic and the horn plays great! i mean GREAT!

i will certainly use this horn on gigs and that is a straight stock Ambassador
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PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2020 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's great homebilly! I'm glad for you. Olds really did know a thing or two about making great horns, regardless of their "level" or degree of what they were marketed for, huh?

As an update regarding my 1955 Fullerton Ambassador (I just recently confirmed that it is indeed one made in 1955), I had the mods done to it by my tech, and picked it up today. He switched out the original lp and receiver for the new Bach 43 lp + receiver I bought, plus took loose and removed its back valve block brace (I decided to do that instead of having its front bell brace removed, as I didn't want to lose my horn's ability to project, plus homebilly in another, older post here on TH regarding Ambassador mods suggested doing that, as it still frees up the bell to resonate more).

As far as how those things affected my horn, I must say I am VERY impressed and pleased, as just those two mods changed how my horn blows, plays, feels, and sounds drastically, and all in a very good way! It now plays very freely and openly, plus evenly up and down its entire range, and its tone has an increased resonance, making its sound very full, and rich with color and overtones, and it just has a beautiful tonal quality now overall.

Don't let anybody fool you, saying that the Ambassador is just a good "student-level" horn. By making just these two mods, my horn now plays, sounds and performs every bit as well as a pro horn, and for a fraction of what it would cost to buy a comparably-playing pro horn. I HIGHLY recommend having these things done to the other Ambassador owners here on TH.

The only thing remaining, which I plan to still do, is to have a first valve slide adjustable ring put on it, so that I can tune while I play, using it along with my horn's third valve slide. My tech informed me he can do that for just an additional $100, which will really put me in business, and still at a total for under quite a bit less than buying a comparably-performing pro horn. Thanks for everyone's ideas and encouragement.
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Kanstul French Besson Classic Trumpet
1960 Olds Special Trumpet (tri-colored version)
D.E. Getzen Flugelhorn
Reynolds Medalist Cornet
Bach 1C mp (Trumpet, Cornet)
Mark Curry 1FL Flugelhorn mp
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homebilly
Heavyweight Member


Joined: 24 Dec 2010
Posts: 2017
Location: Venice, CA & Paris, France

PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2020 7:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hi brassman

now that is a story that i liked hearing. i have a damaged Ambassador leadpipe of which i will remove the outer tubing to put on a 43 so as not to have
to expand the upper leg on the tuning slide.

i have a tech that can do the work as soon as i source the pipe and decide
on which of my Ambassadors I'll do the mod.
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waiting for Fed-Ex to deliver a $50 trumpet to my door. shipping was prepaid by seller of course!
http://ronmeza.com
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