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Stuffy Response from Your Horn

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A couple of the previous posts have discussed common repairs/modifications that may sometimes be necessary to help a horn play as well as it should. There is another possibility if your horn seems to be in good shape but just has a stuffy response.


Brass instruments are soldered together rather early in their gestation. After that the horn is polished, cleaned, perhaps power flushed and/or chemically cleaned. In some cases these processes may cause a small leak to develop, usually because some of the solder is eroded along the way. It is also possible that during handling or subsequent shipping the tubes get stressed and a solder joint may break.


The leak will be most noticeable if it is within the smaller diameter tubes. There is a quick way to test for a leak (and possibly locate it). Take out the tuning slide, plug the smaller end of the tubing it came out of, and blow hard into the leadpipe or mouthpiece. It should feel like blowing into a bottle - no air should get through (actually, a very small amount can leak around the pistons, but you probably won't notice it unless your valves are seriously worn). You need to test this with the open horn, and also with each valve pressed down. If you have a 4-valve compensating horn, lock down the 4th valve and test it, then test it with each of th 3 main valves in combination.


If you hear a hissing sound, just feel around for the leaking air. Or have a friend put their head next to the horn and see if they can locate the hiss by ear. Usually the leak can easily be fixed by a good repair shop.

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