If you are a trumpet player, you’ve probably heard of Bach Stradivarius Trumpets. For almost a century professional trumpet players have considered Bach Stradivarius trumpets to be among the finest available.
Jazz musicians and orchestral performers love Bach Stradivarius trumpets. But which Bach Stradivarius is right for you?
Answering that question can be a huge challenge. Bach Stradivarius trumpets come in a dizzying array of keys, bell sizes, bores, and finishes. All those choices should make it easy to find exactly the trumpet you want, but they can easily leave you feeling overwhelmed.
To understand more about Bach Stradivarius trumpets, let’s start at the beginning.
History of Bach Stradivarius Trumpets
Although Vinzenz Schrottenbach wanted to play the trumpet, his family sent him to engineering school. But Schrottenbach went ahead with his musical career.
By 1914 he was a refugee in America, where he shortened his last name to “Bach” and played trumpet and cornet with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and later the Metropolitan Opera.
While the BSO was touring in Pittsburgh, a technician trying to modify Bach’s mouthpiece wound up destroying it instead. And so Vincent Bach’s engineering degree finally came in handy.
Mastering the techniques of hand-lathing and plating, Bach began selling brass mouthpieces from the back of New York’s Selmer Music Store in 1918.
Business was so good that in 1924 Bach began making trumpets and cornets. To set them apart from the competition, Bach gave his line of trumpets a name more commonly associated with violins. His Bach Stradivarius line became a favorite with trumpeters. In 1961 Bach retired at 70.
While other companies offered more, Bach sold the line to Conn & Selmer. Conn & Selmer still owns Bach and produces Bach Stradivarius trumpets in their Elkhart, Indiana factory from Vincent Bach’s original blueprints.
A look those original blueprints, and the changes Bach has made to its line since its founder’s retirement, will help you understand how Bach labels its instruments.
Vincent Bach’s Trumpet Designs
When you start shopping for a Bach Stradivarius, you might feel overwhelmed with the different letters and numbers for what appear to be nearly identical trumpets.
Bach Stradivarius Bells
In his 37 years of instrument Vincent Bach designed 72 different bells for B♭ trumpets. Today many of Bach’s bell designs remain available. They are still made in one piece and formed by hand-hammering around a mandrel (tapered lathe axel). The bell’s taper and flare shape its sound.
A fast taper produces a darker and warmer sound, while a more gentle taper gives the bell a more bright and projecting tone.
Bach Stradivarius trumpet bells come in a variety of materials: lightweight, heavyweight, lightweight gold brass, heavyweight gold brass, and Sterling Plus.
Gold brass contains more copper than the more commonly used yellow brass and has a softer, warmer tone. Sterling Plus bells are made with 99.9% pure silver for a bright, precise sound with sparkling overtones.
Lightweight bells have a better high register while heavyweight bells do better on dynamic passages where high volume is required.
You will find a wider variety of trumpet bells on the earliest Bach trumpets. After Bach moved from the Bronx to its Mt. Vernon factory in 1953, the bell sizes used today became the standard for their stock trumpets. Bach’s current lineup of B♭ trumpet bells is:
- 1: Vincent Bach’s first bell is used today on the Bach LT1901B. The 1 bell, also known as the 1T, has a beautifully resonant lower register and great agility in the upper register.
- 7: A standard taper first used by Vincent Bach on a 1929 trumpet, very similar to the 37 but a bit brighter.
- 25: The most gently tapered bell in the Bach Stradivarius line, the 25 bell is great for lead trumpeters but can sound shrill in the hands of less skilled musicians.
- 37: Many trumpeters consider the 37 to be Bach’s most versatile bell. It has the famously rich Stradivarius sound, with plenty of power and projection across the octaves and works well for solo and ensemble work.
- 38: The 38 bell is standard on Bach’s medium bore trumpet and has a warm sound well suited for smaller jazz combos.
- 43: The 43 is more gently tapered than the 37, and has a brighter, more forward sound that is well suited to jazz and rock.
- 65: The most sharply-flared and darkest-sounding Stradivarius bell, the 65 requires a lot of lung power and is more often seen in symphonic settings. (The 65 bell does have some fans in the jazz world, however, most notably Wynton Marsalis).
- 72: The 72’s sound can best be described as “the 37’s big brother.” Its tone is stronger, it can go louder, and it requires more air.
Bach Stradivarius Leadpipes
The leadpipe, the small section of pipe between your mouthpiece and the first tuning slide, plays an important role in the instrument’s tone and pitch and in the feedback you get while playing your trumpet.
Stradivarius trumpets come with the following leadpipes.
- 25: Bach’s standard leadpipe, the 25 is open enough for blowing but offers enough resistance for feedback.
- 25-O: At 0.349″, the 25-O is .004″ wider than the Bach 25. That may seem like a tiny difference, but the 25-O leadpipe feels noticeably more
- 6: More restrictive than the 25, the 6 is good for trumpeters who like a lot of resistance.
- 7: The 7 leadpipe is more free-blowing than the 25 and also offers a darker, rounder tone
- 43: The 43 is a more open pipe with a bright sound that makes it a favorite of lead players. Some like the free-blowing while some find it gives insufficient feedback for challenging passages.
- 44: For an even brighter sound, the 44 replaces the yellow brass used in the 43 with nickel silver or german silver.
- 25LR, 43LR: The 25 and 43 leadpipes also come in reversed construction: instead of sliding over the tuning slide the 25LR and 43LR slide into it. Some players find reverse leadpipes give them better tone control, while others say standard leadpipes give them better articulation.
Bach Stradivarius Valves
Until the late 70s Bach Stradivarius trumpets used two-piece valve casings, with the bottom 2/3 of the casing made of yellow brass and the top 1/3 out of nickel silver.
After 1977 Bach began making trumpets with one-piece yellow brass valve casings. One-piece valve casings have less potential for air leakage, and are also less expensive to produce on a CNC machine.
But many trumpet players find two-piece valve casings provide better tone, quicker response and more feedback. Pre-1977 Bach trumpets with two-piece valves became highly sought after. Finally, in 2010, Bach introduced its 190 series of Stradivarius trumpets.
Their 190 series features two-piece valve construction, nickel silver outer slides, brass valve guides, and a steel bell rim wire. This traditional construction gives the 190 series a rich old-school sound many trumpeters love.
Bach Stradivarius Bores
The bore (interior diameter) of a trumpet’s tubing has a huge effect on its sound and responsiveness. A smaller-bore trumpet has a softer sound and requires less air.
A larger-bore trumpet can play louder and has more presence, but requires more lung power. The Bach Stradivarius line comes in M (0.453″), ML (0.459″), L (0.462″), and XL (0.468″) bores.
Current Bach Stradivarius Trumpet Models
Bach 180 Series
The stock Stradivarius 180 models in current production are:
- Bach 180: The 180 series comes with a 25 leadpipe, a ML (0.459″) bore and your choice of a 37, 43, or 72 bell.
- Bach LR180: The LR180 uses reverse 25 leadpipes and lightweight bodies for a brighter, more free-flowing sound and easier action.
- Bach 180MLV: The 180MLV has a tapered tuning slide that starts at 0.453″ and expands to 0.459″. It comes with a 72 bell and a 43 leadpipe for great intonation, accuracy and dynamic range.
- Bach LT180: The LT180 series is built with lightweight brass for a beautiful high range and great agility on difficult passages. LT180 trumpets come with a 37, 43, or 72 bell. The 37 and 43 bells come with a 25 leadpipe, while the 72 bells come with the 25-O leadpipe. The LT18077 comes with a 7 bell and 7 leadpipe, and has a larger 0.462″ bore.
Silver-plated trumpets have an S before their bell number (i.e. 180S37).
Bach 190 Series
There are fewer options in the Bach 190 series, but the trumpets Bach offers are all first-rate.
- Bach 19037: The Bach 19037 is identical to the 18037 save for the two-piece valves, nickel silver outer slides, brass valve guides, and steel bell wire. Trumpeters claim the 19037 has a more complex, resonant sound than the 18037.
- Bach LR19043B: The 19043 uses a bronze 43 bell and two-piece valves to set it apart from the 18043. Its bright tone makes it especially suited for mariachi and Latin music.
- Bach LT1901B: The 1901B has a bronze bell and can be purchased with a silver plate, silver lacquer, brass, or lacquered brass body. The 1901B’s dark tone and light action make it perfect for soft rock and chamber jazz.
- Bach AB190: Bach’s Artisan series of trumpets represent the very best instruments Bach can produce. The AB190 includes a tone enhancing ring on the third valve and an extended third slide rod stop that extends the AB190s range to a low F.
Other Bach Stradivarius Trumpets
While Bach’s most popular Stradivarius trumpets are in B♭, Bach also makes professional trumpets in the keys of C, E♭ and D/E♭, as well as piccolo trumpets, triumphal trumpets, and a B♭ bass trumpet.
Now that you know a little more about the many varieties of Bach Stradivarius trumpet, which Stradivarius is best for you?
The Most Popular (and best all-around) Stradivarius is the 18037
The 18037 works well with every genre of music and in ensemble or lead performances. If you find yourself doing jazz, classical and rock gigs, the 18037 will shine in every situation. If the 18037 is your first professional trumpet, it may very well end up being your last.
The Best Stradivarius for Lead Trumpeters is the 18072
The 18072’s sharply flared bell gives it the presence and projection you need to send your solos into the stratosphere and through the rafters of a large venue, while its quick action helps you hit every note of that solo perfectly.
The Best Stradivarius for Vintage Bach Trumpet Fans is the LT1901B
The LT1901B looks back to the earliest days of Vincent Bach’s career. If you want to play big band jazz or early 20th century symphonic music on a period instrument, the LT1901B will fit your needs beautifully.
If you’re just starting out, you may want to take a look at Bach’s less expensive student trumpets like the Bach BTR201. The BTR201 will hold up to hard use, and will hold its value.
You will have no difficulty selling a Bach student trumpet once you graduate to a professional model, or buying a good used Bach student trumpet at a reasonable price.
If you want to consider another trumpet brand, check out my lengthy review of Yamaha trumpets ranging from student to professional levels. Other trumpet makers to consider include Getzen, Schilke, and S.E. Shires.
Whatever your decision, you should choose the best trumpet you can afford. Cheap imported instruments are readily available today, but most suffer from serious intonation and mechanical issues and are not recommended.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]
Answer: Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) became wealthy and famous for his violin-making skill, but he never produced trumpets. When Vincent Bach started making trumpets in 1924, admiring musicians described them as “a real Stradivarius.”
Today the Bach Stradivarius line is admired by modern brass musicians the way 18th-century string players sought after Stradivarius instruments.
Answer: Bach’s student trumpet line will run you between $1,200 and $1,700 new, but you can find well-maintained used Bach student trumpets for $500 or less.
New Bach Stradivarius trumpets start at around $3,000. While you can find used Bach Stradivarius trumpets at a reasonable price, you may pay $10,000 or more for a Stradivarius made before 1977, especially a Stradivarius made before Vincent Bach’s 1961 retirement.
Answer: Bach’s Stradivarius instruments are highly sought after by professional brass musicians. While the Bach Stradivarius trumpet is most famous, Bach Stradivarius trombones, flugelhorns, and cornets are also superb instruments found in jazz ensembles and orchestra pits around the world.
Before you invest in a Bach Stradivarius, play a few different models to see which you prefer. While Bach trumpets are not cheap, the right Stradivarius will give you a lifetime of musical joy.
The time you spend researching now will ensure you get the trumpet that feels and sounds best in your hands.
Looking for more interesting readings? Check out: