Bell Shapes and Alloys and Their Effect on Sound
by Engelbert Schmid
With Engelbert Schmid Horns you can change back and forth between the sizes medium, wide, and extra wide just by changing the screw bell. The narrow bell is a special case, having a flare close to the middle size but with a narrower stem. Extra wide would normally only be used by a fourth horn for certain pieces. Most horn players will choose between medium and large.
Extra-wide (ew): A very large bell capable of generating an enormous amount of sound, especially in the low register. Blends well with Conn 8D sections.
With or without garland?
With a weight of only 3.5 oz., the tastefully decorated garland from Engelbert Schmid does not deaden the sound. The garland causes a bit more resistance, and a somewhat rounder sound that gets brassy later, but more suddenly. Without the garland the transition to a brassy sound is more even. About 50 % of hornplayers sound better with the light garland from Engelbert Schmid.
Spun or hand hammered?
Spun bells are pressed from a disk. The sound is good, healthy, you could say modern. If you
Our hand hammered bells are cut out of one piece of metal bent into shape and at Engelbert Schmid soldered on one seam without "Zwickel" (a triangular gusset). They are then hammered into the symmetrical shape. Only in the last operation are they put on the press bank and, by turning and pressing, fitted exactly to the bell form. Because of the necessary stretching of the material due to the flare of the bell it becomes thinner towards the edge of the bell. At the screw ring it stays thicker than a spun bell and therefore is more resistant to perspiration.
The crucial factor is that the material becomes thinner towards the end, farther from the energy source, and therefore vibrates better with the sound. A hand hammered bell sounds more old fashioned, darker, than a spun bell. The thin end of the bell produces a very warm center to the tone in piano, and at the same time a more pleasant brassiness in fortissimo. The hand hammered bells are available with or without garland.
Fixed or screw bell?
The fixed bell is aesthetically preferable, but is much harder to transport, is harder to repair, and robs the horn player of the possibility of changing the sound with different sizes of bells. There is almost no difference in sound because the hand dampens the vibrations in the area of the screw ring anyhow. Our screw ring weighs only 3.5 oz. and still is very stabile.
Lacquered or unlacquered?
It is not possible to say that lacquer does not affect the sound. With a thickness on the inside and outside of .0008", this plastic-like covering accounts for approximately 10 % of the total material.
Unlacquered sounds a bit more centred, which some people find brighter, some darker, some smoother and some harder. My observation and feeling is that lacquer dampens the high overtones, and also the extraneous noise in the sound, causes the horn to sound clearer, for some brighter, although it is acoustically darker. My experience is that the difference is minimal and that 50 % of horn players sound better on a lacquered instrument. The lacquer is more resistant to perspiration than the metal, and the horn will last longer if it is carefully polished when it is re-lacquered. It also prevents your hands from turning green. A shiny horn also makes a better impression on the audience. In my eyes the advantages of a lacquered horn clearly outweigh the disadvantages. The combination screw bell/lacquered sounds good, perhaps even better. It is definitely not important for a horn player's tone. The deciding factor is the players concept of sound.