Tuesday, 28 September 2010

My Horns No. 1 - Yamaha YTR-634

(This is the first post in a small series about the brass instruments that I own and play. Probably a bit self indulgent, but I know I've scoured the internet looking for information on instruments, so hopefully someone will find these notes useful.)

The first trumpet I will write about is actually my second trumpet - that is, the second trumpet that I ever owned - the first was a Zenith, and the less said about that, the better.

The Yamaha YTR-634 was one of the first "professional" model trumpets made by Yamaha. In the late 1960s,the Yamaha Corporation made the decision to try and break into the high-end trumpet market, which at that time was ruled over by American companies.

They hired Renold Schilke, a renowned trumpet builder, to assist them with their project, and he designed a series of trumpets for Yamaha (and rumour has it that some of the trumpets built in America were actually put together in the Schilke factory, but that's another story...).

The YTR-634 was the medium-large bore trumpet designed by Schilke for Yamaha at this time. It's a lightweight horn, .460" bore, with a 5" bell, and a red brass reverse leadpipe and bell. There is no bracing in the bow of the leadpipe. According to the Yamaha USA website, construction of the YTR-634 ran from 1969-1978.

It is quite a free-blowing horn, with a wide ranging timbre, from breathy when played very softly, to syrupy and velvety in the middle register. It needs to be pushed to get a real bark out of it, but it can mix it in any situation.

As stated above, the YTR-634 shown in the picture below was the second trumpet I ever owned. It was purchased for me by my parents in 1980, after my new trumpet teacher suggested that the Zenith was holding me back. It was purchased second-hand, and had apparently been unused in the last couple of years before I got it, with an unknown build date, but possibly 1976-1977 [although see the comments section, where an expert explains my horn is about 9 years older than I thought!]. An interesting aside on Yamaha trumpets from this period is that they apparently did not give their horns sequential serial numbers, so it is impossible to tell the age of the horns from their serial numbers.

It was basically as-new when I got it, and has served me well for 30 years. During the rest of my schooling it was played up to five hours a day, from symphonic pieces, through concert band, big band, and small group work. After finishing school there were periods where it was put aside, but again covered me for more symphonic work, big band, and forays into rock, pop and ska.

It certainly doesn't look as fresh as it once did, and is starting to get a bit of the "grandfather's axe" about it. The lacquer has lasted remarkably well in comparison to other trumpets of this vintage that I have seen, but has largely delaminated from the leadpipe, and is patchy around the valve slides, with a few spots on the bell.

The bell has been repaired, after being bent when the horn fell off the back of my pushbike on the way home from school one day. The valves have been refurbished owing to them beginning to stick.

The biggest fix came after trying to show the horn some love - I took it to be chemically cleaned, and when it came back to me I found that the chemicals had made a small hole in the tuning slide near the water key. The brass around the water key has basically worn away from the inside, and unfortunately the tuning slide was a total loss - unfixable. Thankfully the good people at Brass and Woodwind in Ormond (Melbourne, Australia), were able to build me a new tuning slide, using the original slides and water key from my horn, with a bow from a newer Yamaha trumpet (6310Z). Good as new!

Overall I would say that the YTR-634 is a very underrated trumpet - it was underrated in it's time and it's underrated now. You can pick one up in good condition for under $700, and for that money they are magnificent. You can turn them to any style of music with success, and they are now just beginning to earn a niche in the "vintage" horn milieu.

Feel free to get in touch if you'd like to know more about the Yamaha YTR-634

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell


  1. I have the same trumpet. Just played it after years of storage. THis was the first trumpet I owned and will most likely be the last. Love it! Any other info you have would be great.

  2. Your YTR-634 dates from much earlier than you think. Most likely 69'. The 2 piece valve casing and shape, as well as the 3rd slide stop rod and Benge style 3rd slide brace, the valve buttons are unique to the very earliest production horns. These were changed to the style more commonly associated with Yamaha after a short period of production.

  3. Thanks for this - I've just dug mine out as I'm packing up to move over to Australia - any thoughts of selling it went out of the window as soon as I put it to my lips....any more info would be great!
    Again - my first trumpet, and I think probably now my last....

  4. Never realized I had a real gem... great information! Thank you

    1. Cloouxles, the more different horns I play, the better the YTR634 seems in comparison.

    2. I'm considering one of these if I can raise the funds does £600 Sterling seem a decent price?

  5. I am holding mine now...serial 0981. My grandfather was a jazz band leader for years and gave it to me back in 1984 when I was in grade 7, learning to play. I'm 41 now and still have it. IT is sooooo easy to play and has a real velvety tone. Not a brassy sound.
    He had it chrome plated and she looks great. (tho the repair on the tuning slide was done in brass)