Pocket Flugelhorn

Or “Fun Size Flugelhorn”

The first photo here shows an instrument that I put together in the 1980s for Patrick Delile, the late, great French collector of cornets and trumpets. He asked if I could make a pocket flugelhorn, and I explained that I wouldn’t be able to bend a full size flugelhorn bell much shorter than a standard length. Both of us were familiar with the short model flugelhorns that are about 12 inches long that had been made by European makers in the late 19th century (second photo) and sold in the US by importers such as Lyon & Healy and J.W. Pepper. These did not have full size flugelhorn bells and were typically of low quality.

I suggested another option, still with a smaller bell but more compact, would be to use an existing infantry bugle bell. This is from a Montserrat Spanish bugle that was about 9 inches long and the valve section was from a medium bore (.448” if I recall) trumpet that I had on hand that I put extra curves in the third slide to make it fit. The playing qualities of this instrument were a bit of a compromise that I would not want to repeat, although Patrick was satisfied with my efforts. I think that he traded me a couple of Besson flugelhorns for my work.

Decades later, another collector and jazz enthusiast, Jim Bell asked me the same question and I gave him a similar answer. However, I now have many years of experience bending brass tubing including bells and told him that I was confident that I could make a full size flugelhorn bell 13” long and would try to make it even shorter. When done, I was successful in getting it down to just under 12”.

I used mostly parts made for me by Kanstul Musical Instruments, including their “Chicago” bell and the bottom sprung, .415” bore valve section. The first branch (curved tube adjacent to the bell stem) could not be made from either the remainder of the bell stem or the standard branch for this bell, since it would have located the connecting ferrule in the center of the curve. I had to make that taper myself, carefully copying the original dimensions, before bending.

The rest of the design fell into place, once I had the valve section positioned where I wanted it. The third slide trigger makes it a more useful instrument and Jim requested the adjustable finger hook. This very clever design, intended for French horns, is available from several German makers, including Martin Seibold, who also makes these nice high quality little waterkeys in nickel silver. Visually, it is nicer without a waterkey on the first branch, which shouldn’t be needed in this design, which has two other low spots in the main tubing by the time the spit and vapor might get to that point.

Needless to say, this instrument has the same sound and playing qualities as the Kanstul Chicago model flugelhorn, but is about 5” shorter. When I sent photos of this instrument to my friends Nick DeCarlis and Mark Metzler, Nick called it “Flugette” and Mark, “Fun Size Flugelhorn”. As much as I normally prefer brevity, I think that I like the latter name more.