Reporter 421, 27 May 1998


Home-made trumpets are unlikely to brass you off

Four decades after Ornette Coleman amazed the jazz world with his plastic saxophone University physicist Dr Robin Jakeways has come up with a rival - home-made trumpet, consisting of a piece of plastic laboratory pressure tubing, a plastic kitchen funnel and a brass mouthpiece. "It sounds just like a trumpet because it is, essentially, a trumpet, albeit a pretty poor one," says Dr Jakeways.

But his party piece has a serious point, by demonstrating that the critical feature of an instrument is the craftsmanship rather than the materials used in its construction. This supports the growing environmental concern about instruments being made from rare materials such as rosewood and African blackwood.

Dr Jakeways, a senior lecturer in Physics, says: "A wood flute and a metal flute might produce different sounds, but that is a consequence of the way they are made. Wood flutes have holes that are simply drilled. Metal flutes have holes enclosed in pipe. That is what causes the difference in sound - not the material."

When he performs with the amateur Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra, Dr Jakeways plays a silver flute. The orchestra hasn't invited him to play his home-made trumpet yet. "But it might be quite fun as a novelty," he adds.

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