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Brass Instrument Relaxation

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This is not about helping the player relax, but rather helping the instrument relax. Some repair shops are now getting into the technique of taking a horn apart and re-fitting the parts so they fit in a more relaxed manner.

Why is this necessary? The theory goes like this. When a horn is manufactured, tubes that were once straight are bent into the shape necessary to fit the shape of the horn. This can be done in various ways, taking more or less time to complete. If the tube is bent too quickly, it may tend to try to regain its original shape. Of course, once the tube is soldered in place it is not free to straighten out again. This causes a bit of tension in the tube and the joints and other tubes it connects to.

The tube can be hammered or heat-treated to help it be more comfortable in its new shape, but this takes time. Smaller manufacturers may take time to do this, but large-scale operations usually don't have the time.

A somewhat new technique to relax the tubing is to deep-freeze the entire instrument. Then it is brought back to normal temperature gradually. It is thought that this process causes the tubes to shrink and expand again, and in the process they become more comfortable in their shape. Some people have tried this and believe it helps; others think it is silly. You can find discussions of the cryogenic freezing process on various brass forums.

A simple and time-honored technique to accomplish the relaxation is to take the joint apart, work on the curved tube to make its shape more permanent, then re-assemble it. A good craftsman can do this easily enough.

This latter technique has the added advantage of letting the craftsman look over the joints and make sure they are fitted properly. While a horn may be mechanically sound, sometimes two tubes do not get fully butted against each other, leaving a small gap. The gap is hidden by the outer ring fitting that surrounds the joint, but it can cause a tiny disruption in the smoothness of the air flow.

If you are happy with your horn there is no reason to worry about these things. But if the horn is going in for an overhaul or other serious work that requires disassembly, or if the horn just does not seem to play as well as other similar models, you might discuss your options with the repair shop.

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