I have always been an admirer of Cliff Blackburn and his superb trumpets. Interestingly, if you look at the price of factory (so called “custom made”) “professional” trumpets and the cost of a superb custom trumpet from Blackburn, I am not sure why a trumpeter with the funds available would not engage Cliff to make them a trumpet. Cliff is a great trumpet performer and he has decades of experience in designing trumpets. He understands sound and intonation regarding classic trumpet performance and his product is perfect in every way. He interacts with his customers, many of whom are the world’s greatest trumpet performers.

When we look at the development of the modern trumpet, several designers stand out as true innovators that responded to professional performer’s desires and tastes regarding the instrument. This includes Vincent Bach, Renold Schilke, Donald Getzen and Zigmont Kanstul. In my opinion, Cliff Blackburn has been able to improve upon the work of these great trumpet designers and is on the leading edge of trumpet design.

In the world of expensive custom trumpets there are a lot of strange horns that cost a lot of money. This includes horns that may be better named as “flumpets,” “crumpets,” “monetophones,” “flugelbones,” “cornetaflumpets,” or whatever. The truth is a trumpet should sound like a trumpet. If a person wants a specialty horn for jazz or solo work the previously mentioned horns are fine if you can afford them. For that matter, if you want a really funky horn, I can make you one for a few hundred dollars, instead of thousands or tens of thousands. Bottom line: When Gabriel sounds the final call it will be on a Blackburn TRUMPET, not some funky, weird-assed horn.

To get a really superb Blackburn trumpet, performers have to get over a few obstacles. First, it takes a while to get one (waiting period that can extend to months, year or more). Second, you have to be able and willing to make the investment. Sure, you can get a factory made “professional” trumpet in a matter of days for a few hundred less, but why? “Professional” trumpets are assembled by someone that can’t even play the trumpet in a factory that was out-sourced to save money on production. Quality is inconsistent. Cliff’s horns are made in the USA (Tennessee to be exact, Go Vols!) and are truly custom designed for his customers. Third, if you buy a Blackburn horn your colleagues will not like you because you sound better and play in tune much better than they do. They will be forced to buy a Blackburn trumpet to keep up with you.

Ok, point number three was a bit “tongue in cheek” but I have found that orchestra sections that I have played in really have an easy time when all of the players have a Blackburn instrument. The blend, intonation, and sound—superb! I have also really enjoyed playing chamber music with other trumpeters that have a Blackburn trumpet.

It takes so much time and detail to perfection to make a Blackburn trumpet that I am sure Cliff has a lot of confidence that no one is going to try to copy his designs and cash in on the success of his instruments. Time and attention is donated to each instrument—in my opinion this is something that you do not have to pay for when you buy a Blackburn trumpet. I doubt that he will ever be copied—if a large music company that out-sources production makes the attempt, they will charge thousands of dollars more to deliver an instrument that may be inferior to what they are trying to copy.

I would challenge my colleagues to research the information on trumpet design in the ITG Journals and other publications. The only contributors to this research are Cliff Blackburn, Renold Schilke, and a few other manufacturers that used to take the time to publish information about their product designs. There are an infinite number of ways to design a trumpet. Over the years there have been a lot of successful trumpets in production, many of which are yet to be copied or improved. The problem is that production has always been inconsistent, which means that you never know what you are getting unless you have the time, expertise, contacts, and perseverance to find a really fine instrument.

As a professional trumpeter with over 35 years of experience my goal with the Trumpet Design Studio is to help trumpeters get a horn that meets professional performance standards within a reasonable budget. I have a number of instruments that I play that have been through several modifications to reach the level of performance that I desire. I also own horns that were produced by other technicians that meet my performance desires. I do not compete with other designers/manufacturers. My goal is to help players avoid what I call the “in-between” trumpet that really has no function other than to make sure you want to sell it and get another horn. If you can’t afford a Blackburn trumpet, at least you can have a superb instrument until you can.

Blackburn horns are affordable because no one is being paid to endorse them. They are also affordable because Cliff simply does not try to cash in on his success. He is an honest person that cares about his profession. His instruments speak for themselves through the listener’s ears in public performances. Some of the finest trumpet performances I have heard were played on Blackburn trumpets. This includes performances by Terry Everson, Britt Theurer, Mike Tunnell, David Hickman, etc. These performers would play superbly on any horn, but they chose the Blackburn product. I personally think the Blackburn product is the modern standard when it comes to trumpet design and classic performance.