The secret of the trumpet's traditional tone: small impurities!?
The Vienna Philharmonic brass section has long been famous for its unique timbre. This timbre is a result of using very old instruments from famous instrument makers that have been passed down through generations. However, the brass instruments suffer a lot of wear and tear, and the symphony has often been faced with the pressing need to introduce new instruments to replace the old. To retain their characteristic tone, they asked Yamaha to find a way to reproduce their tone with modern production techniques.
Trumpets and other brass instruments are made from yellow brass (an alloy of copper and zinc) or gold brass (also an alloy of copper and zinc, but with a higher percentage of copper).
With modern production techniques, it is easy to produce yellow brass or gold brass. However, trumpets made from such materials have a different tone to more traditional instruments.
Yamaha analyzed the materials of these old instruments in Vienna, and to our surprise we found that the instruments were not yellow or gold brass, but contained small impurities-less than 1%-of iron, lead, nickel and other elements. However, it was difficult in the extreme to craft instruments using yellow brass sheets that had trace amounts of impurities such as lead intentionally introduced. After many long hours and much trial and error, and careful selection of materials, we were at last able to create a special edition Vienna Philharmonic model with a combination of materials that contain these impurities. When played, these new instruments produced a timbre that is extremely close to that of the instruments on which they were modeled, and just like those older instruments, did not sound overly brassy when the musician played fortissimo. With this, their traditional tone was preserved, and the Vienna Philharmonic brass section was able to put in a special order to Yamaha when they need instruments made from materials with these impurities.
* Current production is complete.