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The Enigma of Stradivarius Trumpets

Abstract:

Vincent Bach, born Vincenz Schrotenbach, faced an early dilemma between his musical passion and his stepfather’s insistence on engineering as a practical career. Despite pursuing engineering, Bach’s unwavering love for music persisted, leading him to balance his engineering career with his pursuit of becoming a professional cornet player. His journey took an unexpected turn during World War I, as he escaped to the United States, seeking new opportunities in the vibrant music scene of New York.

In 1917, Bach’s life took a decisive turn when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Serving as a bandmaster and bugle instructor, he identified limitations in existing brass instruments and mouthpieces. Combining his musical expertise with engineering skills, Bach began experimenting with mouthpiece modifications, laying the foundation for his future innovations. After the war, he embarked on a mission to revolutionize brass instruments, setting up his workshop in New York and introducing a logical numbering system for mouthpieces.

Vincent Bach’s dedication bore fruit, as he successfully communicated the significance of mouthpiece choice through an innovative advertising campaign. The birth of the Stradivarius trumpets in 1925 marked a milestone, with Bach’s instruments gaining widespread acclaim. Over the years, Bach’s factories produced thousands of trumpets, horns, and trombones, solidifying his instruments’ reputation for quality. The move to Mount Vernon in 1953 and subsequent innovations, including the iconic Stradivarius Model 180 in 1964, further enhanced the brand’s standing.

Vincent Bach’s legacy extends beyond his role as a virtuoso musician; his journey reflects a fusion of artistry and engineering. Despite facing challenges, Bach’s determination led to the establishment of the Vincent Bach Corporation, a pioneering force in the world of brass instruments. The transition to Selmer in 1961 marked a strategic move to preserve his legacy. Today, Bach’s instruments continue to be crafted with precision and innovation, maintaining their reputation for quality and contributing to the rich history of brass music.

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Publication date:

ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music

It is important to note that this is not a brief article and contains a significant amount of information that may be difficult to absorb in one reading. Stradivarius trumpets are known for their legendary reputation, which has been perpetuated by the lack of reliable information about them. Even among trumpet players, there are many unclear concepts and unknown aspects about these instruments. This article seeks to clarify all of these uncertainties.

Therefore, it is recommended to read this article at a leisurely pace and use it as a Stradivarius trumpet guide to reference when needed.

To comprehend the reason for the high quality of Stradivarius trumpets, it is necessary to understand their construction characteristics and the reasons behind them. This requires knowledge of the evolution of Vincent Bach’s original workshop and even his personal life, as everything is interconnected.

It is best to start at the beginning by exploring who Vincent Bach was.

Vincent Bach and the Stradivarius Trumpets

Vincent Bach, born Vincenz Schrotenbach in a village near Vienna in 1890, was initially trained as a violinist by his music-loving parents. However, at the age of seven, he attended a concert of the Tonkünstler Orchestra and was captivated by the sound of the brass. His parents bought him a bugle, which led him to develop an interest in brass instruments.

Musician or Engineer? Or Both?

Unfortunately, Bach’s father died in an accident when he was young, and his stepfather did not support his musical ambitions. Instead, he forced Bach to pursue engineering, believing it to be a more practical career.

Vincenz Schrotenbach, cornet virtuoso.

Despite his stepfather’s disapproval, Bach never abandoned his passion for music. After graduating from engineering school in 1911, he began working at an elevator company while continuing to play the cornet on the side.

In 1914, Bach was drafted into military service, and he joined the Navy band as a soloist. He quickly became known for his exceptional talent and decided to leave his engineering job to pursue a career as a professional musician. He toured Europe for three years as a virtuoso cornet player.

However, World War I broke out while he was on tour in England, making him an enemy of the country as a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Fearing imprisonment, Bach pretended to be a Swedish citizen and escaped on the ship Lusitania, which took him to New York.

The photograph captures the arrival of the Lusitania at the New York harbor in 1914. Notably, among the passengers aboard the ship at that time was Vincenz Schrotenbach, a 24-year-old individual who was seeking fresh prospects.

New Life in America (1914)

Vincenz arrived in New York on September 14, 1914, with only five dollars in his pocket and his Besson cornet. He promptly began searching for work as a musician and secured a gig as a soloist at the Loew’s Theater on Lexington Avenue, which had just opened that same year. However, Vincenz’s experience at the theater did not go well. The venue was a variety theater, not the usual classical theater where he was accustomed to performing, and his music was not what the audience wanted. As a result, the theater’s owner relegated him to playing background music as the audience arrived and took their seats.

With a Holton trumpet in his hands.

Vincenz found his job at Loew’s to be frustrating, so he decided to audition for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He passed the audition and became a new associate soloist alongside Gustav Heim, who was already a soloist with the orchestra. Vincenz began playing a Holton trumpet and eventually became an artist for that brand at Heim’s suggestion.

In 1915, Vincenz decided to try his luck as a soloist again, touring several cities on the Pacific coast. In 1916, he was offered a permanent contract with Diaghilev’s ballet company at the Metropolitan Opera, which brought him back to New York.

Unfortunately, Vincenz’s stability was short-lived. In 1917, the United States joined World War I, and he was drafted into the U.S. Army, along with all other foreign nationals residing there.

Vincenz was in the process of legally changing his name to Vincent Bach at the time of his draft, and his draft card reflects this change:

Vincent Bach’s draft card (1917).

Note well the signature, as it is the same signature he would later stamp on the bells of his instruments:

Vincent Bach’s signature on the bells of his instruments.

Vincent Bach’s conscription by the U.S. Army in 1917 appeared to be another setback in his life. However, his time in the military camp was another turning point in his career as a trumpet maker. Bach served as bandmaster and bugle instructor in the 306th Field Artillery Regiment on Long Island. There, while teaching the soldiers to play, he became aware of the limitations of mouthpieces and brass instruments. Despite being a musician, he had training and experience as an engineer and could not resist the temptation to experiment by modifying and building mouthpieces himself. He discovered the relationship between the diameter and depth of the cup, the grain, and the shape of the rim. By doing this, he helped the recruits to play more easily with mouthpieces that were suitable for each individual, achieving almost magical results.

Vincent Bach: Mouthpiece Maker (1918)

After the end of World War I in 1918, Vincent Bach became convinced that his destiny was not just to be a musician but also to revolutionize the world of brass instruments. Once back in New York, he persuaded the authorities in charge of Selmer’s store at 11 East 14th Street to let him use the lathe in the back room, where he began manufacturing his first mouthpieces under his own brand name. For the first time in history, he established a series of mouthpieces based on logical numbering according to measurements. One of his models helped increase the trumpeter’s register by up to a fifth, leading to a surge in orders.

In 1919, he became independent, purchasing his own lathe and renting a workshop at 204 East 85th Street.

However, sales eventually slowed down. Rather than getting discouraged, Bach realized that his product was undoubtedly good, but his communication strategy was lacking. He then came up with the advertising campaign “How to Become a Wizard on the Cornet Without Practicing,” which explained how the right mouthpiece choice directly influenced performance on the instrument.

Bach’s “How to Become a Wizard on the Cornet Without Practicing” advertising campaign.

The advertising campaign proved to be successful as expected, enabling Bach to effectively communicate the significance of the mouthpiece in enhancing a trumpet player’s performance, consequently leading to a significant increase in sales.

The Birth of Stradivarius Trumpets (1925)

In 1922, Vincent Bach officially established the Vincent Bach Corporation, with 10 employees, and relocated his workshop to a building at 241 East 41st Street.

It was at this new location that Bach began to draft his first trumpet designs, one of which is featured below:

One of Vincent Bach’s initial designs for his Stradivarius trumpet.

By the end of 1924, he had assembled his first trumpet, and in 1925, he published his first instrument catalog.

Bach named his trumpets and cornets “Stradivarius” after the prestigious Stradivarius violins built by Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari. The use of this name was a declaration of intentions, as brass instruments did not enjoy the same level of prestige as stringed instruments.

Stradivarius trumpet in B-flat (from Vincent Bach’s first catalog, 1925).

In his first catalog, Bach stated his purpose with the lapidary sentence:

Among brass instruments the “Stradivarius Model” Bach Trumpet occupies the same supreme position as the genuine Stradivarius Violin among string instruments.

Vincent Bach, 1925
Description of the Stradivarius trumpet in the first Bach catalog (1925).

Over the next six years, Bach sold his first 1,000 Stradivarius horns and trumpets. In 1928, he expanded his product line by introducing a line of trombones and moved his workshop to a larger building at 621 East 216th Street in the Bronx.

Over 25 years, 10,000 instruments were built (trumpets, horns, and trombones) at the Vincent Bach Corporation factory in the Bronx.

In 1953, Bach relocated his factory to Mount Vernon, an industrial park located north of the Bronx, where he built his fourth and decisive factory at 50 South MacQuesten Parkway.

It was here that Bach instruments gained the reputation they maintain to this day. With as many as 35 workers at peak production periods, Mt. Vernon built 15,000 excellent trumpets in just eight years (mostly to order). Stradivarius instruments had become an institution in their own right, and Bach began to use the craftsman’s crest, with the motto “Instruments of Quality.”

Craftsman’s crest used by Bach.

By the early 1960s, Vincent Bach’s health had deteriorated due to hearing loss and stress from the business. With no heirs, he decided to sell his company to someone who could preserve his legacy. Although he received offers from several buyers, he ultimately decided to transfer his factory to Selmer in recognition of the help they provided him in his beginnings back in 1918. The sale of Bach to Selmer became effective in 1961.

Vincent Bach holding his final catalog (1961) in his hands.

Vincent Bach as a Selmer Brand (1961) and the Birth of the Modern Stradivarius Trumpet: “Model 180” (1963-1964)

Although he no longer owned the factory, Vincent Bach remained as a consulting engineer for Selmer for a few years. In 1962, Selmer registered his signature as a trademark, which allows it to be engraved on the bells of Stradivarius trumpets even today.

Selmer asked Bach to build a master set of mouthpieces, which would serve as the model for all future Bach mouthpieces.

Additionally, they requested a new and improved design for the Stradivarius trumpet. From December 1963 to December 1964, Bach worked on what is now known as the “Model 180,” which is the current iteration of the Stradivarius. The primary enhancement was a minor truncation of the leadpipe, resulting in the tuning slide extending almost an inch further under standard conditions, leading to improved centering of the instrument.

This is an early Stradivarius trumpet Model 180 that was manufactured in 1965.

Relocation to Elkhart and Retirement of Vincent Bach (1965)

In 1965, Selmer, which had recently acquired the Bach factory in Mt. Vernon and the Buescher factory in Elkhart, Indiana, made the significant decision to relocate the production of Stradivarius trumpets to the Elkhart factory situated at 1119 North Main Street.

The Stradivarius trumpet Model 180, which was designed by Vincent Bach and completed in December 1964 as previously mentioned, began to be manufactured by Selmer after the installation of the Bach factory in Elkhart in 1965.

Initially, Bach remained affiliated with the company, but his involvement decreased after 1966 due to his wife’s health. Vincent Bach retired permanently in 1971, and five years later, he passed away. He was buried in the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, located north of New York City.

Stradivarius trumpets are still made in a modern facility in Elkhart that Selmer moved to in 1970, in the city’s industrial park (600 Industrial Parkway).

The present Bach headquarters located in Elkhart.

One-Piece Valve Casing (1975)

Since the introduction of the definitive Stradivarius Model 180 by Vincent Bach in 1965, the major new change in the construction of Selmer’s trumpets was introduced ten years later, in 1975, with the implementation of CNC automation (Computerized Numerical Control), which was already in use in other industries.

The application of this technology had a significant impact on the production of valve casings, which were previously made of two pieces (the upper third – called baluster, was made of nickel silver, and the rest of brass). With the new machines, the valve casings could be made in one single piece of brass.

Furthermore, the valve guides were no longer made of metal but of a new material: nylon.

Valve guides for Stradivarius trumpets are now made of nylon instead of metal.

Historical Models of Bach Trumpets

Although the Stradivarius model was unquestionably the highlight from the beginning and still is, Vincent Bach understood the need to offer trumpets for all budgets. As a result, he designed four other models, three of which were named after mythological gods: Mercury, Apollo, and Minerva. The remaining model was named Mercedes, and the reason behind the name is unknown.

  • The Mercury model, launched simultaneously with the Stradivarius in 1925, was intended for conservatory use and built with imported prefabricated parts to cut costs. However, it did not initially succeed, and only became popular among students after Bach raised its price in 1940 to use better manufacturing components.
  • The Apollo model was intended to cover the intermediate space between the Stradivarius and Mercury models, but Bach stopped making them after producing only about a hundred.
  • The Mercedes model replaced the Apollo model in 1927 as an intermediate trumpet and was essentially the same as the Stradivarius but without the typical nickel silver elements of the Stradivarius and with only one bore option.
  • The Minerva model was a new student model designed by Bach in 1958, but it did not last long.

After taking over the factory in 1961, Selmer maintained and enhanced the Stradivarius model as the flagship of the Bach brand but stopped producing Vincent Bach’s original intermediate and student models. Instead, Selmer has introduced trumpets in these ranges that aim to offer the best possible performance at the best possible price through modern manufacturing technology. These instruments correspond to the TR series.

Bell of one of the first Stradivarius trumpets manufactured by Bach in 1925.

We have already learned about the life of Vincent Bach and the evolution of the Stradivarius trumpets. It is now essential to discuss bores, bells, and leadpipes since there is a considerable lack of understanding about these aspects.

The Importance of the Bore

The bore of a brass instrument refers to the internal diameter of its tubing, and the second piston valve is typically used as a reference point for measurement.

A common misconception is that the bore diameter significantly impacts the timbre of an instrument. Nonetheless, this is not the case, as the taper of the tubing is what determines the darkness or brightness of the sound produced.

The bore size does affect the volume that an instrument can produce, with larger bores being capable of producing greater volume. However, this increase in volume comes with a trade-off, as playing larger bore instruments typically requires more effort.

Vincent Bach wrote an intriguing text on this topic:

HOW TO SELECT THE PROPER BORE

One cannot properly say that an instrument is “easy blowing” or “hard blowing” without considering the size of bore and the relative amount of volume or carrying power that is obtainable from it in comparison with a certain amount of effort. Just as a heavy 300 h.p. Cadillac automobile consumes more gasoline per mile than a light 40 h.p. Volkswagen, a trumpet or cornet which has a tremendous volume of tone cannot at the same time be as easy blowing as a very small bore instrument. A player who wishes to produce a large volume of tone has to put the equivalent volume of air into vibration and for this purpose he needs a large bore instrument. Those who have a more delicate embouchure or who tire easily should give preference to the resistance and correspondingly less volume of tone and carrying power. In other words, ONE HAS TO PUT INTO AN INSTRUMENT WHAT HE EXPECTS TO GET OUT OF IT. Any BACH, however, is so well designed and so carefully constructed that it offers a maximum volume of tone at a minimum of effort.

Because of the great advancement of musical art throughout the world, musicians and the public are becoming more tone-conscious. For this reason, there is a strong tendency to favor instruments of a larger bore. If a player performs in a large symphony orchestra, he will need a medium-large or large bore trumpet; those who like the European style Teutonic tone prefer the Vindobona bore. Musicians alternating between symphony and dance work may select a medium-large bore Bb trumpet for concert work in large orchestras and may order in addition an extra tuning slide of smaller telescopic bore or a medium bore tuning slide which will offer resistance like a medium bore trumpet suitable for radio or smaller entertainment orchestras.

Vincent Bach, 1961

Bore Sizes

Instruments’ bores are typically measured in inches or millimeters. As time passed, several measurements were standardized and assigned a letter to indicate their size:

  • S (Small): diameter of 0.448 inches (11.38 millimeters).
  • M (Medium): diameter of 0.453″ (11.51 mm).
  • MP (Medium Plus): diameter of 0.456″ (11.58 mm).
  • ML (Medium Large): diameter of 0.459″ (11.66 mm).
  • L (Large): diameter of 0.462″ (11.73 mm).
  • XL (Xtra Large): diameter of 0.468″ (11.89 mm).

In the beginning, Bach provided only three bore options: S, M, and L, with the M being the most popular. However, evolving musical preferences led to the acceptance of larger bores, and eventually, the ML became the standard for B-flat trumpets, while the L was established for C trumpets.

For those who desire more power and possess the ability to blow a significant amount of air without fatigue, Stradivarius trumpets are available in an XL bore.

The “Vindabona” Dual Bore

Bach’s “Vindabona” dual bore features a medium-large valve section and a small inner diameter located at the top of the main tuning slide. The transition occurs within the main tuning slide crook, producing a sound that is more akin to that of a conical bore instrument, with a warm, dark quality highly valued in German musical traditions. The name, “Vindabona,” originates from the name for Vienna during the Roman Empire, Vindobona, which is not surprising given that Vincent Bach was born near Vienna. Currently, two sizes of the “Vindabona” bore are in use:

  • MLV (Medium Large Vindabona): diameter growing from S to ML (.448″ to .459″ / 11.38 mm to 11.66 mm).
  • LV (Large Vindabona): diameter growing from ML to L (.459″ to .462″ / 11.66 mm to 11.73 mm).

The Confusion Surrounding Bell and Leadpipe Numbering

The intricate numbering system used by Vincent Bach to identify the bells and leadpipes of his Stradivarius trumpets is a source of confusion for many trumpet players. Bach deliberately designed the system to obscure his methods from competitors. Initially, he used a simple letter to differentiate between bell models based on the mandrel used for shaping. For example, he labeled his first model as ‘T’ and the second as ‘B’, without following a discernible pattern.

However, in the 1930s, Bach began experimenting with bells made from metal sheets of varying thicknesses and started assigning a number from 1 to 73 to distinguish between them. Notably, he omitted the number 15 without explanation, resulting in a total of 72 different bell numbers.

Shaping a bell in Bach’s factory.

What is the Significance of the Bell Number on a Bach Trumpet?

Contrary to popular belief, the bell number of a Bach trumpet is not related to its diameter.

Throughout history, the numbering of Bach trumpet bells has varied, employing different criteria. During his time in New York, it appears that Bach started developing a numbering system that correlated with the thickness of the sheet metal utilised.

To assign a number to a bell, Bach converted the thickness of the metal sheet used from inches to millimeters (1 inch = 25.4 millimeters). For instance, if a sheet was 0.018” thick, it equaled 0.4572 mm, and Bach used the first two decimal numbers of that measurement as a code. In order words, the #45 bell was named after a metal sheet that was 0.018” thick.

In this time, it seems that the trumpets and cornets commonly utilized bells numbered #45, #48, and #50. These numbers corresponded to bells with thicknesses of 0.018, 0.019, and 0.020 inches, respectively. Among them, the bell marked as #48 was regarded as the “standard.”

Tapering of Bells and Leadpipes

Bells and leadpipes are not strictly cylindrical pipes, but instead have a conical shape. As previously discussed in The Importance of the Bore, the taper of the tube is a determining factor for the timbre of the instrument. Therefore, bells that gradually expand produce a mellower sound, whereas those that expand abruptly create a brighter tone.

The widening of the bells may occur progressively (represented by a solid line) or abruptly (represented by a dashed line).

Standardization of Bells and Leadpipes

Over time, the thickness of the sheet metal became standardized, and as a result, the numerical code assigned by Bach to each bell and leadpipe began to be linked to its taper (i.e., the mandrel used).

In the early years, Bach predominantly employed bell models #1 (also known as ‘T’, introduced in 1925), #7 (introduced in 1929), #25, and to a large extent #45, #48, and #50, as well as leadpipes #6 and #7.

Starting from 1947, Bach embarked on a period of extensive experimentation to discover new combinations. During this time, he initially introduced the #229 bell for L-bore trumpets in C. It is worth noting that for the bells of trumpets in C, D, and E-flat, he added a ‘2’ at the beginning of the number. Therefore, this specific bell in C was referred to as #229 rather than #29. Additionally, he introduced the #25 leadpipe, which eventually became his preferred choice, initially for ML-bore trumpets also in C.

In the Mt. Vernon era, which began in 1953, several noteworthy events occurred that would shape the essence of Stradivarius trumpets forever:

  • Bach stopped experimenting with new leadpipes after creating 43 of them. He was satisfied with the performance of the #25 leadpipe, and to a certain degree, also the #43 leadpipe.
  • When testing the #239 bell in C trumpets, he never produced anything other than that, both in L and ML bores (although he also had a preference for the #229).
  • In B flat trumpets, he standardized the #38 bell for the M bore, the #37 for ML, and the #43 and #72.

Current Bell Models in Use for Stradivarius Trumpets

Prior to examining the current bells used in Stradivarius trumpets, it is important to note that the bell number is not indicative of its diameter. All Stradivarius trumpet bells have a uniform diameter of 4-13/16 inches or 122.24 millimeters, except for a few E-flat and piccolo models with smaller bells and some special models with larger ones.

As mentioned previously, nowadays the bell number is associated with its taper, which refers to the mandrel used to shape it.

B-flat bells:

  • ML-bore trumpets:
    • #37: This bell is considered standard due to its ease of playability, good tonal quality, and ability to produce a compact sound with sufficient projection, making it suitable for various types of performances.
    • #43: This bell has a more sudden widening compared to the #37, resulting in greater projection and a brighter sound. It may be suitable for lead playing but could be overly bright for a classical orchestra.
    • #72: This bell has a more conical shape and a progressively wider opening than the #37, resulting in a much bigger and darker sound. However, it requires more effort to play and may be more difficult to control for soft dynamics.
  • L-bore trumpets:
    • #25: L-bore trumpets have this additional bell option, apart from the previously mentioned #37, #43 or #72 bells, which has the most abrupt opening and consequently produces the brightest sound (even brighter than the #43). This bell is likely the optimal choice for lead, but inexperienced players may find it sound shrill.
  • M-bore trumpets:
    • #38: This particular bell is exclusively used for M-bore trumpets, producing a sound that is slightly warmer than the #37, which makes it more suitable for small ensembles.
  • XL-bore trumpets:
    • #43: This bell model, previously described, is exclusively used by XL-bore trumpets.
  • Other special bell models:
    • #1: In its origin, this bell model was developed by Bach in 1925 under the name ‘T’, and it is a blend of the present-day #37 and #72 bells. It offers a pleasant low register while remaining light in the high register.
    • #7: Bach designed this bell model in 1929 in his New York workshop, and it offers a slightly brighter tone than the current #37 model.
    • #65: Vincent Bach designed this bell for the first time in 1958 during his years at Mt. Vernon. It produces a large, deep, and resonant sound that is highly suitable for playing with a distinct German musical style.

C, D and E-flat bells:

  • #239: In the realm of these trumpets, the #239 bell is deemed the standard. Its opening is conical and progressive, thereby resulting in a sonorous and ample sound. Opting for the #239 bell is a safe bet when playing in a symphony orchestra. Nonetheless, it should be noted that this particular bell necessitates substantial endurance.
  • #229: It features a sharper opening than the #239, resulting in a more direct and powerful sound. This type of sound is capable of cutting through the orchestra like Herseth’s trumpet. However, if the instrument isn’t filled with enough air, the high notes can sound overly sharp and shrill.
The process of manufacturing bells at the Bach factory.

Current Leadpipe Models in Use for Stradivarius Trumpets

Similar to bells, the numbering of leadpipes has nothing to do with the diameter of the tube. Bore indication such as M, ML, L is used for that purpose. Instead, the numbering reflects the conicity and thickness of the leadpipe.

B-flat leadpipes:

  • Standard:
    • #25: Bach ultimately deemed this leadpipe perfect for all types of work due to its exceptional ability to produce and center sound. The #25 provides sufficient airflow while offering just the right amount of resistance.
  • Other B-flat leadpipes:
    • #43: In his later years, Bach utilized this particular leadpipe, which has an increased openness and reduced resistance in comparison to the #25 model. This design provides a greater sense of freedom to the player, albeit at the risk of diminished control in the absence of proper mastery. As a result, this leadpipe remains a preferred choice amongst many lead trumpet players.
    • #7: Bach designed this leadpipe during his early years. It has a greater air capacity than the later standardized #25 model, which results in a darker and rounder sound quality.
    • #25-O: This particular leadpipe design was created specifically for XL-bore trumpets and lightweight trumpets with a #72 bell. Its design offers even greater openness and reduced resistance compared to the #43 model. To provide a clearer understanding, the #25-O model is 0.004 inches more open than the standard #25 when it reaches a diameter of 0.349 inches. The ‘O’ in the title denotes its increased openness. Although the difference may seem minor, it is noticeable in the resulting sound.
    • #44: This leadpipe, made of lightweight nickel silver, features a distinct taper from that of the #43 model, resulting in a brighter sound quality. Presently, it is exclusively available in the 2023 19072V trumpet model.
    • #26: The Selmer team has specifically retrieved an original design by Vincent Bach for their 2023 19043 trumpet model. This is due to its remarkable efficiency, which has been proven through testing when used in conjunction with the #43 bell.

In the context of reverse leadpipes – which will be defined below – the leadpipe number is suffixed with ‘LR’. For instance, if one were to refer to the reverse version of the #25 leadpipe, it would be designated as #25LR.

C leadpipes:

  • The leadpipe models designed for C trumpets are identical to those used for B-flat trumpets, except for the addition of the letter ‘C’ in their names to denote their shorter length and suitability for C trumpets. For instance, the #25C leadpipe is intended for use with C trumpets.
  • Variants of the #25C leadpipe:
    • #25H: Playing with this leadpipe demands more air and greater pitch control, however, it can result in a huge sound. It is named after Adolph Herseth, whose remarkable sound is well-known.
    • #25A: Longer than the standard #25C.
    • #25S: Longer than the #25A (it has the same length as a B-flat leadpipe, resulting in the need to extract the tuning slide less).
    • #25CC: This is a unique leadpipe that is included with the Stradivarius “Chicago” C trumpet model, which was originally designed by Vincent Bach in 1947.
    • #25M: The Stradivarius “Cleveland” C trumpet model features this distinctive leadpipe that was developed in collaboration with Michael Sachs. The design aims to provide better support in tuning and to enhance the stability of each note.

When it comes to C trumpets, reverse leadpipes are identified with an ‘R’ suffix rather than ‘LR’. Thus, a reverse #25 leadpipe in C is known as #25R. In the case of E-flat trumpets, the reverse #25 leadpipe is referred to as #25ER.

Leadpipes in the Bach factory.

Other Constructive Features

Metal Composition, Weight Variations and Finishes

The sound quality of trumpets is significantly influenced by the composition and weight of the metal used in their construction, as well as their finish.

Traditionally, brass – an alloy of 70% copper and 30% zinc – has been the primary material used to craft trumpets. However, there are other alloys that incorporate a higher percentage of copper, such as golden brass (75-80% copper and 20-25% zinc) and bronze (85% copper and 15% zinc), which can enhance projection and strengthen sound. Bach’s Sterling Plus bells feature 99.9% pure silver, which enriches the harmonic spectrum of each note.

This image shows the various types of sheet metal utilized in Bach bells, arranged from left to right: brass, silver, golden brass, and bronze.

Moreover, the weight of the trumpet bell affects the instrument’s response and sound character. Lighter bells offer a livelier response, while heavier ones provide greater control in the treble and produce a darker sound.

Finally, the finish of a trumpet also affects its sound quality. Silver-plated trumpets have a brighter sound than lacquered ones.

In cases where a Bach trumpet does not feature the standard combination of brass construction, standard weight, and lacquered finish, but instead possesses any of the distinctive qualities mentioned earlier, a specific letter is included in the model name to indicate the variation:

  • “Sterling Plus” refers to silver.
  • G – golden brass.
  • B – bronze.
  • LT – lightweight.
  • H – heavyweight.
  • S – silver-plated finish.

For instance, the code LT180S72 stands for a lightweight (LT) Stradivarius trumpet (Model 180) that has a silver-plated finish (S) and a #72 bell.

Reverse Leadpipe

The leadpipe is one of the most significant factors affecting the playing experience of a trumpet.

The conventional leadpipe features a step inside that acts as a stop for the tuning slide when inserted. This design provides the appropriate resistance to enable the player to center the sound with ease.

In contrast, the “reverse” leadpipe is entirely smooth, with the tuning slide on the outside. This configuration facilitates an unobstructed airflow, resulting in a more open feeling while playing. This design is favored by many trumpet players, but it requires proper technique to take full advantage of it.

For B-flat trumpets, the leadpipes with a reverse design are identified by the acronym ‘LR’, while in other trumpets feature the ‘R’ designation.

A comparison between a standard leadpipe (top) and a reverse leadpipe (bottom), colored in red, with their respective tuning slides in green.

Rounded Tuning Slide

The shape of the tuning slide is another factor that influences the sensation of openness when playing the trumpet. Generally, the slide has a slightly quadrangular shape, which, similar to the standard leadpipe, provides the appropriate resistance and facilitates sound control with ease. However, some tuning slides have fully rounded shapes that offer frictionless airflow due to the absence of sharp angles. These types of slides are usually found in lightweight models intended for commercial music.

A comparison between a standard tuning slide (on the left) and a curved one (on the right).

Bell Rim

In earlier centuries, during the construction of brass instruments, the process of shaping and hammering the bells led to a decrease in the thickness of the bell walls (shown in yellow in the image below). To compensate for this, the rim of the bell was sometimes fortified with a metal strip known as a garland (depicted in orange), or an iron wire (depicted in grey) was fused to it. There have also been instances where both techniques were employed.

  1. Nuremberg rim
  2. Saxon rim
  3. Dresden rim
  4. Italian rim
  5. Bohemian rim
  6. Mainz rim
  7. French rim

There are seven distinct styles of bell rims, named after the regions where they were commonly used. The French rim (designated as no. 7 in the image above) has become the most popular type and features a wire wrap around the bell rim rather than a garland. This wire not only serves to reinforce the bell, but it also affects the sound properties of the trumpet. In fact, Stradivarius trumpets can have up to three variations of the French rim:

  1. French rim with completely cylindrical wire – this was the original design and was the first one used by Vincent Bach when he began building trumpets in the 1920s. He later experimented with other variations, and Selmer briefly revived the cylindrical wire when it arrived in Elkhart in 1965, but discontinued it again in the late 1970s. Today, the only Stradivarius trumpets manufactured with cylindrical wire are the new models launched in 2023.
  2. French rim with flat wire – Vincent Bach began using this wire, which is not cylindrical but flat, in the 1930s. Nowadays, Selmer applies it to the vintage models it released with the arrival of the new millennium.
  3. French rim with semi-cylindrical wire – Vincent Bach eventually worked more extensively with this type of wire, which is not flat but not entirely cylindrical either. As a standard, this is the wire used on the 180 Series (not in the vintage models, where the rim is flat).

With this knowledge, we can now review the current Bach Stradivarius models and gain an understanding of their design and operation.

180 Series

As previously detailed in the Vincent Bach as a Selmer Brand (1961) and the Birth of the Modern Stradivarius Trumpet: “Model 180” (1963-1964) section, the Model 180 represents the ultimate and perfected version of the Stradivarius trumpet that was personally designed by Vincent Bach and subsequently passed on to Selmer for production in Elkhart, starting from the year 1965.

A series of trumpets in B-flat, C, and E-flat/D were developed based on the Model 180 trumpet, all of which share the same defining characteristics, including:

  • A bell diameter of precisely 4-13/16 inches or 122.24 millimeters.
  • French rims and semi-cylindrical wire on all bells.
  • Customization options for finish, bore, bell model, and leadpipe model.

Let’s explore the 180 Series more comprehensively.

B-flat Models

Within the 180 Series, after determining whether to opt for a standard base trumpet, a reverse leadpipe (LR models), or a lightweight instrument (LT models), the following elements must also be selected:

  • Finish: lacquered/standard or silver-plated (S).
  • Bore: M, ML/standard or L.
    • You can also find XL, but it is not available for reverse leadpipe or lightweight models.
  • Bell: #37, #43 or #72.
    • XL bore only comes with the #43 bell.
    • Optionally, L bore can use the #25 bell.
  • Leadpipe: #25/standard or #43.
    • XL bore and lightweight models with the #72 bell only come with the #25-O (more open) leadpipe.

This feature enables you to customize your Stradivarius trumpet to align with your personal preferences.

Model 180 (Standard)

This trumpet is widely recognized as the most renowned trumpet in history, and for good reason. Its versatility and adaptability have made it a popular choice in a wide range of musical genres, including jazz, symphony orchestra, chamber music, and solo performances.

The model number of the trumpet is determined by the type of bell that is chosen. The available options include the 18037, 18043, and 18072. If the trumpet has a silver-plated finish, these models would be referred to as 180S37, 180S43, or 180S72, respectively.

Bach Stradivarius Model 180 (standard) in B-flat.

Model LR180 (Reverse Leadpipe)

There are two distinguishing features that set this model apart from the standard version, both of which contribute to a greater sense of freedom while playing and add brilliance to the overall sound quality:

  • Reverse leadpipe #25LR.
  • Lightweight body, while the bell remains of standard weight.

The LR180 trumpet, like the standard model, is identified by the specific bell selection. Available options include LR18037, LR18043, and LR18072. If the trumpet has a silver-plated finish, these models would be denoted as LR180S37, LR180S43, and LR180S72, respectively.

Bach Stradivarius Model LR180 (Reverse Leadpipe) in B-flat.

Model LT180 (Lightweight)

The LT180 model is the lightest of the three, making it an ideal choice for performances where a bright and prominent sound is required, such as in lead and commercial music. This model features:

Similar to other trumpet models, the LT180 trumpet is identified by the chosen bell. The available options include the LT18037, LT18043, and LT18072. In the silver-plated versions of these models, they are known as LT180S37, LT180S43, and LT180S72, respectively.

Bach Stradivarius Model LT180 (Lightweight) in B-flat.

C Models

Regarding C trumpets, the bore size is standardized to L, which is distinct from the ML standard utilized for B-flat trumpets. A noticeable aesthetic difference between the C Stradivarius and its B-flat counterpart is the 3rd slide stop. Unlike an adjustable rod stop, the 3rd slide stop on the C Stradivarius is a pin stop.

While the configuration process for a C Stradivarius is similar to that of a B-flat model, it requires its own set of components:

Model C180

The most renowned Bach Stradivarius C trumpet among orchestral players is the C180L239. This variant is distinguished by its L bore size and #239 bell and is available in a silver-plated variant known as the C180SL239. Nonetheless, some players favor the #229 bell, leading them to use either the C180L229 or the silver-plated C180SL229 variants.

Bach Stradivarius Model C180 in C.

E-flat/D Models

Model 189

Stradivarius has a splendid E-flat/D model, the 189 (also available in silver-plated form as 189S). The standard version of this model has an ML bore size (although the L bore size can be requested) and a 239 bell. It includes two sets of slides, one for E-flat and one for D. One distinguishing aesthetic feature is the presence of a ring for the right little finger. Like the C Stradivarius, this model also employs a pin stop as a 3rd slide stop.

Bach Stradivarius Model 189 in E-flat/D.

Vintage Models in C (“Chicago” and “Philly”) and B-flat (“New York”)

At the turn of the millennium, Selmer embarked on the creation of vintage Stradivarius models, which are not customizable, and each component is carefully positioned for a specific purpose. One distinctive feature is the use of flat wire on the bell rim – rather than the semi-cylindrical wire found in other 180 Series models, which was inspired by Bach trumpets made in the 1930s.

“Chicago” Model C180SL229CC in C

In 2006, the Vincent Bach factory celebrated a significant milestone – the 50th anniversary of a highly productive period of experimentation that took place between 1947 and 1956. This period of innovation resulted in the creation of the famous “Chicago” trumpets, which were the first Stradivarius trumpets in C ever produced by Vincent Bach. The superior quality of these trumpets earned them a spot among the preferred instruments of the trumpet players in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a reputation that still holds true to this day. In recognition of this anniversary, Selmer came up with a brilliant idea to design a unique trumpet model based on the “Chicago” C trumpets.

As its name implies, this trumpet is a Stradivarius model in the key of C (C180), with a silver-plated finish (S), L bore, and #229 bell. Its exceptional tonal qualities can be attributed to Vincent Bach’s innovative designs from that era, such as a unique #25CC leadpipe and a narrower-than-usual tuning slide, alongside a lightweight bell.

In terms of aesthetics, this model has several distinct features:

  1. The first slide has a ring instead of a hook.
  2. The small pull knobs on the three slides are hexagon-shaped.
  3. The slide joints are rounded.
  4. The braces between the leadpipe and bell section are wider.
  5. The braces between the leadpipe and valve casing, as well as between the valve casing and bell, are narrower.
Bach Stradivarius “Chicago” Model C180SL229CC in C.

“Philly” Model C180SL229PC in C

The “Philly” trumpet, short for “Philadelphia,” is essentially the twin of the “Chicago” trumpet, with identical specifications, except for the standard weight bell.

“New York” Model LT18077 in B-flat

Selmer released the Stradivarius “New York” trumpet in 2009, featuring a lightweight body and bell (LT180) and named after the original #7 bell and #7 leadpipe designed by Vincent Bach in the 1930s at his factory in New York. The silver-plated version (LT180S77) is popular among trumpet players.

The “New York” is characterized by an L bore, and some notable features:

  • The adjustable 3rd slide rod stop is reversed compared to other Stradivarius models in B-flat.
  • It shares design elements with the “Chicago” and “Philly” models, including a ring instead of a hook on the 1st valve, rounded slide joints, and wider braces between the leadpipe and the bell.
Bach Stradivarius “New York” Model LT180S77 in B-flat.

190 Series

The year 2010 marked a significant turning point for Selmer. The company had already begun returning to the roots of Vincent Bach during his Mt. Vernon and New York eras. However, they took a major step forward by introducing the Stradivarius 190 Series, which incorporates certain traditional elements used by Vincent Bach that had not been used in the 180 Series since 1975. Notably, the 190 Series includes:

  1. A valve casing made of two pieces: baluster in nickel silver and the remainder in brass (in contrast to the all-brass construction of the 180 Series).
  2. Valve guides made of metal (as opposed to nylon in the 180 Series).
  3. A flat bell rim wire in the style of Vincent Bach in the 1930s (versus a semi-cylindrical wire in the 180 Series, except for the Vintage models). Furthermore, the six new trumpet models launched in 2023 feature a cylindrical rim that resembles the one used by Vincent Bach during the 1920s.

Similar to the Vintage models of the 180 Series, the models of the 190 Series are not configurable, but instead feature elements that are expressly designed for these instruments.

Artisan Collection

The year 2010 saw the introduction of the first models of the 190 Series: the groundbreaking “Artisan Collection.”



The Artisan crest used for this collection was originally created by Vincent Bach as a logo during his Mt. Vernon era in the 1950s. Selmer has aptly utilized this crest for its Artisan Collection, consisting of five exceptional trumpets constructed in the five most important tunings. They were designed to embody the artisan genius of Vincent Bach as it would have been in the 20th century, while also utilizing the most advanced mechanics of the 21st century.

These trumpets share several essential characteristics, which will be discussed below. However, they differ mainly in terms of their bell size and bore:

AB190 (B-flat): 4-13/16″ (122.24 mm) bell and ML bore.

AC190 (C): 4-13/16″ (122.24 mm) bell and L bore.

AE190 (E-flat): 4-13/16″ (122.24 mm) bell and L bore. The instrument comes with two tuning slides, one intended to provide greater resistance while playing and the other to enhance the instrument’s responsiveness.

ADE190 (E-flat/d): 4-1/2″ (114.30 mm) bells and M bore. The instrument is equipped with two sets of bells and slides, facilitating the transition between different tunings.

AP190 (piccolo in B-flat/A): 4″ (101.60 mm) bell and MS bore. The instrument is supplied with four leadpipes, two for B-flat and two for A, each featuring trumpet and cornet shank mouthpiece receivers.

Please exercise caution when viewing the pictures to avoid becoming overly enamored!



As evident from these images, the Stradivarius Artisan is an absolute visual (and, naturally, auditory) delight. The two-piece valve casing and bell featuring a flat wire are clearly visible in this set of photographs:



As part of the 190 series, the Artisan trumpets come equipped with metal valve guides, although a set of nylon guides is also included. With the exception of the ADE and AP models, the lower cap of the third valve features an additional ring to enhance tuning:



The third valve extension, which includes an adjustable rod stop for the B-flat model and a pin stop for the other models, enables the player to achieve the low F natural:



The valve joints are reinforced and the first valve features a split ring:



The braces are wider, and the pinky hook is vintage style, classic feel:



All five models of the Artisan Collection are also offered in a silver-plated finish (AB190S, AC190S, AE190S, ADE190S and AP190S):

Following the Artisan Collection, Selmer has proceeded to create additional models in the 190 Series, maintaining the aforementioned general characteristics.

New Models Launched Between 2013 and 2019

“Mariachi” Model LR19043B in B-flat

At the NAMM Show in 2013, a new trumpet model was introduced and given the nickname “Mariachi.” It was created in collaboration with Jose Hernandez, the renowned trumpeter and founder of Mariachi Sol de Mexico in the United States. This trumpet is a stunning Stradivarius 190 with a reverse leadpipe (LR190) and an exceptional 5-inch (127 millimeters) bell, model #43, which is made of bronze (B). It has an ML bore and, as is typical for reverse-leadpipe instruments, the body – but not the bell – is lightweight.

It is also available in a silver-plated finish, known as the LR190S43B.

Bach Stradivarius “Mariachi” Model LR19043B in B-flat.

“Commercial” Model LT1901B in B-flat

Selmer developed a fondness for large bronze bells and the year following the release of the “Mariachi” model, they introduced the “Commercial” Model LT1901B. This Stradivarius 190 features a lightweight body and bell (LT190) with a modified #43 leadpipe and a #1 bell – the first one designed by Vincent Bach – which measures 5″ and is made of bronze (B).

There are several noteworthy features about this trumpet, such as:

  • The instrument boasts a completely lightweight construction, comprising not only the body and bell but also the valve slide tubes and the valve casing.
  • The two-piece valve casing, which is a characteristic of the 190 Series, is made of bronze, like the bell, instead of nickel silver.
  • The valve slide knobs are crescent-shaped instead of rounded.
  • The 2nd valve slide is positioned towards the bell, rather than the mouthpiece.
  • It comes with two tuning slides, one normal for more resistance and another fully curved for increased response.

The standard version has an ML bore, but it is also available with an L bore (LT190L1B). It is offered in a silver-plated finish for both the ML (LT190S1B) and L (LT190SL1B) versions.

Bach Stradivarius “Commercial” Model LT1901B in B-flat.

“Cleveland” Model C190SL229 in C

In 2019, Selmer collaborated with Michael Sachs, the soloist of the Cleveland Orchestra, to introduce a new C trumpet model. The resulting instrument is called the C190L229, a Stradivarius 190 with an L bore and a #229 bell.

One of the unique features of this model is its #25M leadpipe, which is a modification of the #25C leadpipe by Michael Sachs (the properties of this leadpipe were discussed in the section on leadpipes currently used in Stradivarius trumpets). The C190L229 is also available in a silver-plated finish, known as the C190SL229.

Bach Stradivarius “Cleveland” Model C190SL229 in C.

New Models Launched in 2023

Selmer has been working closely with a group of artists to create six new models of Stradivarius trumpets in B-flat, following in the spirit of Vincent Bach. These models include:

  • Two 190s:
    • 19037
    • 19043
  • Two 190Vs:
    • 19072V
    • 19065GV
  • Two 190Xs:
    • 190M37X
    • 19072X

One notable feature that all models share is their bell design. The bell is crafted from a single piece of brass, with the seam located on the side rather than at the bottom. Its thickness is comparable to that of the Mt. Vernon era, measuring 0.020″ (0.508 mm) on the 190 and 190X models and 0.023″ (0.584 mm) on the 190V models. Moreover, the bell rim’s steel wire is fully cylindrical, which was a characteristic of Vincent Bach’s early trumpets in the 1920s. Aesthetically, the bell boasts a beautiful laser engraving.

All of the instruments in this range feature 3rd slide stop rod and nickel wraps, and their nickel finger hook design is inspired by the New York, Mt. Vernon, and Elkhart eras. They are available in a clear lacquer finish, and in addition, the 190 models can also be obtained in a silver-plated finish.

Furthermore, several components that were previously discontinued have been reintroduced, such as the #26 and #44 leadpipes for the 19043 and 19072V trumpet models, the #65 bell for the 19065GV model, and an uncommon MP bore for the 190M37X model. For the “Vindabona” models, the MLV bore has also been updated, specifically for the 19072V model, and a new LV bore has been developed for the 19065GV model.

Model 19037 in B-flat

The Stradivarius 190 trumpet pairs the #37 bell with the #25 leadpipe, which Vincent Bach himself deemed a “perfect match,” but it boasts an improved receiver design and utilizes new construction techniques that enhance its efficiency. The trumpet’s bore size is ML.

Both 190 models feature nickel balusters, outer slides, and top and bottom caps, as well as a wide wrap. However, this particular model has a brace on the 1st slide, setting it apart from its counterpart.

The 19037 model is also available in a silver-plated finish as the 190S37.

Bach Stradivarius Model 19037 in B-flat.

Model 19043 in B-flat

The 19043 model stands out from the 19037 model by featuring a sizeable #43 bell that measures 5″ (127 mm) in diameter. In addition, it comes equipped with the #26 leadpipe, which we previously discussed in the Current Leadpipe Models in Use for Stradivarius Trumpets section, and does not have a brace on the 1st slide.

The 19043 model is also available in a silver-plated finish as the 190S43.

Bach Stradivarius Model 19043 in B-flat.

“Vindabona” Model 19072V in B-flat

The new “Vindabona” trumpet models are an improved version of the classic Bach “Vindabona” trumpet, which had a cult following. The new models include a large 5″ bell, which is .003″ thicker than all other Stradivarius 190 bells, a German-inspired “Vindabona” dual bore (as detailed in The “Vindabona” Dual Bore section), and a traditional French valve block. This unique combination results in a truly distinctive sound with a wide range of tonal colors. The gradual taper of the “Vindabona” bore allows for a sweet, cornet-like sound in soft dynamics, while the other components enable you to produce a powerful and bright sound when playing at higher volumes.

Additionally, both models include a standard-weight two-piece valve block with nickel balusters, nickel outer slides, nickel top and bottom caps, brass rings, and a brass finger hook.

The Model 19072V is a Stradivarius 190 trumpet, featuring #72 bell paired with #44 leadpipe in lightweight nickel silver (discussed in the Current Leadpipe Models in Use for Stradivarius Trumpets section). It has an updated MLV bore, which stands for ML “Vindabona,” gradually increasing in diameter from S to ML. Narrow wrap, no 1st slide brace.

Bach Stradivarius “Vindabona” Model 19072V in B-flat.

“Vindabona” Model 190L65GV in B-flat

The Model 190L65GV is distinct from its “Vindabona” counterpart in that it has a #65 golden brass (G) bell and a revised #43 leadpipe. The bore of this instrument is the innovative LV, which originates from L “Vindabona,” gradually increasing in diameter from ML to L. This feature is ideal for musicians seeking a bigger sound than that produced by the MLV. Wide wrap, with 1st slide brace.

Bach Stradivarius “Vindabona” Model 190L65GV in B-flat.

Model 190M37X in B-flat

The new 190X models draw heavily on the best aspects of the lightweight New York era. These ‘X’ variants are designed to be lightweight and come equipped with nickel silver inner slides, balusters, and bracing. Their bells that have been treated to produce a bright and electric sound while retaining the rich core of a standard weight instrument, making these horns the most responsive ones in the 190 Series.

The Model 190M37X features the highly sought after and rare MP (Medium Plus) bore, which is not as narrow as the M nor as wide as the ML. It also combines the #37 bell with the #25 leadpipe. Narrow wrap, with 1st slide brace.

Bach Stradivarius Model 190M37X in B-flat.

Model 19072X in B-flat

The Model 19072X boasts a larger size than its counterpart, featuring an ML bore and a wide #72 bell combined with a gold brass #43 leadpipe, which adds an extra touch of brilliance to its already impressive sound. Wide wrap, no 1st slide brace.

Bach Stradivarius Model 19072X in B-flat.

Conclusions

Vincent Bach was a remarkable individual who overcame numerous personal and professional challenges throughout his life. Driven by his passion and tenacity to create trumpets that would rival the renowned Stradivarius violins, Bach succeeded in building these marvels that have retained their well-deserved reputation for over a century.

Conn-Selmer is a company that recognizes and appreciates the value of Bach’s Stradivarius trumpets. The company has upheld his vision while enhancing the manufacturing processes by incorporating new technologies. While the 180 Series makes Bach’s creation accessible to a wider audience, the 190 Series embodies a wealth of intricate details that further enrich the Stradivarius experience.

Website: bachbrass.com

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