05-12 concrete trumpet

[Image above] Mechanical engineer Henry Hanson demonstrates his new concrete trumpet. Credit: HnryHnsn, YouTube

When choosing an instrument, beginning musicians often focus on the type of instrument they wish to play. But for more advanced players, the material used to create a specific instrument is an important consideration as well.

Take, for example, the glass guitars featured on CTT last month. As I explained in that article, use of glass instead of wood significantly affects the guitar’s sound because, as is generally the case with string instruments, the body generates the sound that we hear. Thus, string musicians should pay close attention to the instrument’s material when purchasing.

In contrast to string instruments, the sound of wind instruments is determined by how the air is shaped, and thus the material plays a much less significant role. So wind musicians have far more flexibility in instrument material choice—a fact that mechanical engineer Henry Hanson took full advantage of in his recent project.

Hanson is a mechanical engineer at sportswear manufacturer Adidas in Herzogenaurach, Germany. His work focuses on product advancements and developing new materials and manufacturing processes, and recently he was involved with the launch of Adidas Boost shoe technology into space to investigate the flow of nonuniform foam particles in the absence of gravity.

In his free time, Hanson enjoys exploring his own ideas in the workshop. Most recently, he explored creating a trumpet out of concrete.

“You may be wondering, ‘why?’ This is much more of a ‘why not’ scenario. I’ve wanted to try it for a while and finally got the capability,” Hanson says in a video on the construction process.

To create the trumpet, Hanson created a virtual model of the instrument and then 3D printed it using a water-soluble material. He placed the model in a small wooden box and poured in the concrete. After hardening, he dissolved the printed material, leaving behind a trumpet shape in the concrete block.

The trumpet that Hanson designed does not have additional valves and so cannot change pitch. However, “the valves aren’t necessary for the basic note and the notes of the harmonic series. The harmonic series are a group of notes that have different fractions of some basic wavelength, which relates to the length of the tube itself,” he explains. “So, this block has just as many notes as a bugle.”

(A bugle is one of the simplest brass instruments. All pitch control is done by varying the player’s embouchure, i.e., use of the lips, facial muscles, tongue, and teeth in playing a wind instrument.)

The completed trumpet weighs about 12 kg (~26 lbs). “I have a few ideas for version two, and in the meantime, I need to strengthen my biceps and lips,” he says.

Check out the full construction process—and hear what the trumpet sounds like—in the video below.

Credit: HnryHnsn, YouTube