Schilke B flat Trumpets


A note about the irrelevance of bore size: The trumpets are here grouped according to bore size for primarily arbitrary reasons. It makes more sense than grouping them numerically. The bore size is significant only relatively between various Schilke horns, and isn't much use in comparing Schilke horns with the products of other companies. The "blow" or feel of any trumpet is dependent upon an amazing number of variables, including the size of one's oral cavity, the size and shape of the lip aperture, mouthpiece pressure, lip compression, lip curl, tongue arch, corner tension, the mouthpiece cup diameter, shape, depth and volume, the mouthpiece bore size, the size and shape of the backbore, the gap between mouthpiece and leadpipe, the taper of the leadpipe, the weight of the materials, the shape of the tuning slide, the location and weight of the bracing, the number of braces, the bore size of the trumpet, and so forth. To treat the trumpet bore size, however, like a shoe size, i.e., determinant of whether the shoe will fit or not, is to oversimplify fatally. The blow of a lightweight Schilke B1 and, say, a Bach Stradivarius 180-37, is wildly different, even though they are both labeled as medium-large bore trumpets by their manufacturers. For example, when I purchased my Schilke C6Lb, a medium bore horn, I also played and was tempted by a large bore Yamaha Heavywall. For whatever reason, the Schilke felt more open than the Yamaha.

The bore size is often a useful way, however, of comparing various Schilke models between each other, as I describe below in a Strategy for testing Schilke B-flat trumpets.

Other helpful notes:

  • Model numbers which include an "L" (as in "B6L") are for trumpets that are built with tuning bells.
  • For detailed information on the bell labels, go here.
  • Although I have indicated the years in which each instrument was "introduced," this is an inexact science since the designs tended to be evolutionary and documenting specific years is impossible. The year used is most often the year of the first commercial sale.
  • Scott Laskey, formerly with Schilke for many years and reputed to be the designer of the S series horns, told me that the explanation for the model numbers of Schilke trumpets is chronological, meaning, that the B1 was designed first, then the B2, and so on. As the numbers reached B9, in Laskey's words, "it was decided that B10 would not look good so the Roman numeral for 10 (X) was used" for the more recently designed lightweight horns. Unlike Mercedes, BMW and Volvo automobiles, nothing of importance is revealed about the instrument by its model number.

Medium bore models

  • B7 - Large (A) bell, introduced in 1964
  • B6 - Medium large (B) bell, introduced in 1962
  • B4 - Medium (C) bell, introduced in 1964

These are the same based horn, differing only in the bell. They are each "step bore" designs where the bore of the horn expands through the leadpipe, tuning slide and tuning slide bow, and valve slide bows, opening up the horn and making it freer blowing. Although unadvertised, the B6 has a standard weight pure copper bell (not the lightweight beryllium bell) that it shares with the B5. The B7 and B4 have yellow brass bells. The B6 and B7 are among the more popular Schilke models and the very popular Yamaha YTR 6310Z is based upon this design, although the Schilke models are slightly larger in bore size than the Yamaha. They are easy playing and do not take a lot of air to fill up.

Bill Chase played a fixed bell B6 from 1965 through '68. Thereafter he played a B6Lb (a B6 with a tunable beryllium bell). How he came to play Schilke is an interesting story. Chase was romantically interested in a dancer who was performing in San Francisco. When Bill went to see her perform, he started talking shop, as is the habit among trumpet players, with one of the trumpet players in the ballet orchestra, a fellow for whom the original B6 was designed. After playing his, Chase had to have one. The ITG Journal for September 1997 contains a picture of Chase's mangled horn (pictured nearby) after the plane crash that cost him his life in 1974. There the horn is reported to be serial number 3917, a B3L, but that information is in error. In fact, Bill Chase's horn, according to the Schilke shop records, was a B6Lb, bearing serial number 3919, made for him in 1969. Schilke family members and longtime employees, as well as others who would know for sure, are certain.

Randy Brecker played a B6 on the first Blood Sweat and Tears recording, Child Is Father To the Man (the Al Kooper led band), and on the 1973 B, S & T recording No Sweat, Lew Soloff played on a B6L borrowed from Jon Faddis. The young Jon Faddis was Soloff's roommate at the time, I believe. Faddis himself played on a B6L from 1970 until 1985, when he got his first S42, below.

Medium large bore models

  • B1 - Large (A) bell, introduced in 1961
  • B5 - Medium large (B) copper bell, introduced in 1962
  • B2 - Medium (C) bell, introduced in 1961

The B1 and the B5 are among the most popular Schilke B flat models, as most players prefer a ML bore, though they are quite different.

The B1 was the first horn that Renold Schilke designed and was his favorite (as well as mine). The B1, B2, and B5 are identical horns, differing only in bell. They are, like the B4, B6, and B7 models, step bore designs where the bore of the horn expands through the lead pipe, the tuning slide bow and the valve slide bows, but larger than the medium bore horns at every point. For more details about this, see a letter from Mr. Schilke to a customer in 1969.

The B1 is the most open and free playing of the three because of the more open conical bell taper. This also makes it the darkest of the three because of the more conical design. The B1 has what I think is a transparent brilliant sound. It balances the other elements of the design very nicely.

The B5 has more resistance and a more compact centered sound than either the B1. In fact, I've been told from more than one source that the B5 was designed to have a blow similar to a Bach 37, which is very different from the blow of the Schilke B1. Although completely unadvertised, the B5 (as well as the B6 and some cornet models) is made with a standard weight pure copper bell. Between the denser copper bell and the tighter bell flare, the B5 has more resistance that the B1. I think that generally if one tries a B1 and a B5, he or she is likely to have a fairly strong preference for one or the other, they are that different. My daughter has a B5, I have a B1. We wouldn't trade for each other's horn.

The B2 has a tighter yet bell flare and therefore slightly more resistance and an even more focused sound. It can be very bright for some players. It is the least popular of the three and is somewhat rare.

Althought this analogy is dangerous because the horns and bells are so different, it be slightly helpful to some folks: The Schilke A bell is analogous to the Bach 72, the B bell, the 37 (except in copper), the the Schilke C bell, the Bach 43. Don't run too far or too fast with this because it breaks down in a hurry.

Arturo Sandoval built his international reputation using a Schilke B1, in fact, one with a Yamaha valve casing. Lin Biviano, former lead player with Buddy Rich and Maynard Ferguson, and currently a teacher at Berklee, plays a B1L. Rick Baptist (one of finest Los Angeles studio players who has played on over 750 movies and first trumpet on the last eighteen Academy Award shows) plays a stock gold plated B5 model purchased new in 1965. He also plays a Schilke P5-4, P7, and E3L.

One of my students used to play a very nice old B5, which he bought used from a music store in Denver that sells few pro model brasses. When he went away to college he fell in with a college program where the expected trumpet was a Bach 180-37, so he sold his B5 to a fellow in California. That fellow sold it a fellow who frequently played with Rick Baptist who wanted to match Baptist's sound as much as possible. At one of the first gigs they played together, Baptist kept looking over at the other fellow's horn. Finally, he said, "give me that horn," and discovered that it was a horn that had been stolen from his car several years ago. It also goes to show what most of us intuitively knew: horns stolen in one city always show up in another city at least 1500 miles away.

Perhaps a new advertising slogan: Schilke Trumpets--Horns Worth Stealing.

Large bore models

  • B3 - Medium (C) bell, introduced in 1961
  • X3 - Large (A) bell, introduced in 1967

These horns are essentially the same, except for the bell. The B3 was first sold in 1961, the X3 was introduced in 1967. These horns are frequently favored by trumpet players who wish to have very free blowing horns. They have a large bore (0.463 inch).

Adolph Herseth, though widely recognized for his work with Bach C trumpets in the Chicago Symphony, plays a Schilke B3 B flat and is pictured playing it with Arturo Sandoval (playing his Schilke) in Paris 1988 in the tribute article to Herseth found in the February 1998 issue of the ITG Journal (page 11). Forrest Buchtel, accomplished engineer and former lead player with Woody Herman, Malo and Blood, Sweat and Tears played a B3 model. He is the player for whom the Schilke 14A4a was originally made. He is also the owner of one of Bill Chase's B6Lb models. It came with two bells, one that had been dropped or damaged and you can see creases in the silverplate where Schilke had repaired the damage.

Arturo Sandoval played an X3, after a few years on a B1. His modifications to the horn--adding Amado spit valves, a Spiri tuning slide with a tuning slide brace and the rounded first valve ring--tended to make the horn look more like an S series Schilke. He also added heavy valve caps. His newly designed LeBlanc signature model seems to be a virtual clone of his Schilke horn, down to the two little nipples on the second valve slide. Among the cosmetic similarities: reverse leadpipe, rounded tuning slide, tuning slide brace, finger rings all around, the Schilke/Yamaha screw third slide stop, and Amado water keys. The price however makes it difficult to accept a clone when the original, certainly made to much higher standards, is available for so little more. Accept no substitutes.

Extra large bore models

The Schilke X4, first sold in 1975, is an extra large bore horn with the large (A) bell. These are huge. Most Schilke B flat and C trumpets are built with what Schilke calls its "large" valve casing, even the medium bore horns like the B6 and B7. However, the X4, S22, the CX4 and the S22C have an even larger valve casing, which Schilke calls the X casing. They stamp an X on the valve casing so they can readily distinguish the different casings when assembling the horns.

Schilke has also made X5 and X6 trumpets in very small numbers, and could probably fabricate another if you are interested. Back in the early 80s' those horns were in the catalog. The X5 was the same as the X4 (0.468 bore throughout) but has the medium C bell (the same as the B3) and the bore expands to 0.472 through the tuning slide. The X6 is the same as the X5 (0.468 explanting to 0.472 through the tuning slide), except it comes with the medium large (B) bell and the bore also expands to 0.472 through all the valve bows. Big mama.

In case you were wondering, there was an X1 and an X2. They were prototypes and only one of each was made.

The S Series

Schilke makes three "S" Series B flat trumpets. All three S series B flat trumpets share the same bell (which is different, however, from any of the B and X series bells) but come in three different bores:

  • S22 - Large bore, all introduced in 1985.
  • S32 - Medium large bore
  • S42- Medium bore

The Schilke catalog attempts to describe the S Series as follows:

The 'S' Series trumpets were developed to accommodate the requests of a number of leading professional trumpet players who were [sic ] for a certain 'feel' or 'sound quality.' while retaining the same response and excellent intonation that has been characteristic of the 'B' and 'X' series of Schilke trumpets.

Telephone calls to the Schilke factory to get a more satisfactory explanation virtually always fail. They simply won't commit to any more specific or illuminating information, and I've tried.

Though that description is not very helpful, it appears to me that the goal of the design was to produce a horn with the sound of a Bach, i.e., a solid core, very opaque and dense, while trying to maintain the unequaled responsiveness and intonation of the lighter weight Schilke trumpets. I suggested this in correspondence with Mike Vax, who played a prototype S32 for many years and was, he said, involved in the design process, and he said the comparison with Bach was never made to him, however Vax admitted he generally dislike Bach horns so the fact that it wasn't mentioned to him may have intentional. For me, it seems so obvious that it would be hard for it to be otherwise, especially given the popularity of Bach trumpets in the Midwest United States and the influence of the Chicago Symphony brass players in Chicago. The 'S' Series horns are made of heavier gauge materials, have additional bracings and a squarer tuning slide, and are even designed with a larger mouthpiece gap. All three models share the same bell. It is true that the horns sound more Bach-like, but it is equally true that they are not as responsive and nimble as the Schilke lighter weight B/X series. Whether the compromise is valuable depends on the feel and sound the player desires. However, since their introduction in 1983, these horns have become very popular and among Schilke's best sellers.

Jon Faddis currently plays a modified S42L, after having played a B6L until the development of the S series. Faddis gave Dizzy Gillespie a gold plated S42 that Dizzy played during the latter part of his career. Alan Rubin, Mr. Fabulous of the Blues Brothers, the Saturday Night Live band and New York studio player, also plays an S42. Alan Wise, formerly of the Maynard Ferguson band, plays what he believes is the original prototype S42. Noted lead player Roger Ingram (Ray Charles, Tom Jones, Harry Connick, Jr., and others) also plays the S42.

In something of a departure for Schilke, Schilke now sells a Faddis model S42L, which is modified with all but one of the custom touches of Jon Faddis's personal horn, including a custom tuning slide (with a slightly different radius and a tighter bottom leg), no spit valves, no nibs on the second valve slide, heavy bottom valve caps, and an adjustable sound post connecting the tuning slide to the bell. It lists for $2590 in silver, $800 more in gold, which is Jon's choice. This is $140 more than the list price for a stock S42L. For a page of pictures of Jon's first S42L click here.

The one modification Jon has on his personal horn that isn't included on the Faddis model is an adjustable third valve slide ring like your old student model. Faddis has large hands and changes his grip frequently and likes the adjustability of the ring.

A Strategy for Testing Schilke B-flat Trumpets

With twelve different models available, where do I start? The B5 is a great horn to try first because it is the most middle-of-the-road. It has a 0.460 inch bore and a ML bell, which is more focused and compact than the large bell found on the B1 and X3. If you find that it is a little stuffy or wish for a more open clearer brilliant sound, the B1 would be the next one to try. It is a 0.460 bore, but the bell is larger with a more open throat. If you wish something with even less resistance, the X3 is a straight 0.463 bore, with the large B1 bell. Larger than that? the somewhat rare but huge X4 (at 0.468).

If the B5 doesn't seem focused enough for you, try the B2. It is is the same horn but has a smaller tighter bell for more focus and core. Still too much air? try the B6 and the B7. They are medium bore horns (0.450) but expand into ML bores at certain spots, causing them to play easier with less resistance than other ML bore horns. The B6 has a ML bell (same as the B5) and the B7 has the large bell (same as the B1).

If the sound of the B5 (or the B1 or B7) seems to lack a certain opague-ness and core to your ears, you should try the S32. More resistance, the S42; less, the S22.


The Schilke Loyalist


© 1999 - 2007 by James F. Donaldson
All rights reserved