January/February 2007

Yamaha YTR-8335 LA Custom Bb Trumpet

Air. Every trumpet player conceptualizes air in a different way. We all know how important it is. As trumpet players, it is our life force, rivaling blood, bones and newfangled mouthpieces. We have exercises and techniques for increasing our lung capacity and for using our air more efficiently. Our instrument sometimes reflects our respiratory prowess by enabling or disabling our air to do the work for us. More controlled horns can feel stuffy; open horns can feel overly cavernous. With its new YTR-8335 LA Custom Bb jazz trumpet, Yamaha has achieved great success with this remarkably free-blowing, versatile, great-sounding horn.

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Yamaha YTR-8335 LA Custom Bb Trumpet

This instrument, developed in part by West Coast trumpet great Wayne Bergeron, is certainly for the big-air lover. It features a medium bore (.459”), but with a large bore tuning slide. The leadpipe is also tapered in order to give the player “maximum response,” or a feeling of comfortable backpressure while allowing room for intense airflow. Another special feature is the large bell with variable wall thickness, providing the means for an overtone-rich sound.

I have to say that my experience with the horn was more or less exactly what it was supposed to be. The first thing I noticed far and away was the openness. It’s a good thing I had just prepared for a gig with my big-lunged friend Sean Jones so I was on top of my breathing exercises! This horn allowed for all the air I could muster, without leaving me feeling hung out to dry. There’s room for the air, but it is not consumed within the space of the horn. It is easily translated into projected tone, and I can only assume that’s due to this tapered bell/large bore slide concept.

The horn is also remarkably even, with fantastic intonation. The free-blow feeling corresponds to playing through the range of the instrument. There is sufficient room for notes in the low register to ring, and enough backpressure for notes in higher registers to be controlled and in tune. The horn also responds much better than most horns suitable for high-air lead playing when playing at softer volumes. There is a real richness there, playing quietly in the middle register—just don’t forget your air supply!

In terms of feel, the horn is a little lighter than many popular modern horns: comfortable and efficient, not encumbered by the thickness, density or weight of the instrument. The horn comes in two finishes, silver plating or a gold lacquer, the latter model being the horn I tested. This finish provided both tonal and visual warmth. The monel valves are heavy and precise. The look of the horn combines modern and classic designs and some old-fashioned braces and details. It’s an attractive horn, but its aesthetic assets don’t undermine its rich sound and pervasive playability. In other words, this horn speaks for itself as an instrument.

My only criticism is that the trumpet is not as flexible in terms of timbre as some of the great instruments. It does allow for much more personality than most new horns, but I did find it hard to play brightly, for instance. The sound is rich and plenty dark at all volumes, if you supply sufficient air. However, getting beyond that sound was a bit of a challenge; it can feel a bit stiff or unrelenting.

All that being said, Yamaha has a hit on their hands. Young players will be able to get the modern, darker sound they’re looking for, with much more resonance than most new horns. Seasoned studio pros (like Bergeron) will find it tremendously accurate and a joy to play. The YTR-8335 LA Custom Bb trumpet is a well-thought-out solution to the problem of balancing tone, projection and, last but not least, freedom of airflow.

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