O.J.'s Trumpet Page Interview

Eclipse Trumpets

Leigh McKinney
Leigh McKinney at Hotel Opera, Oslo (Nov. 28-2004)

An interview with Leigh McKinney

When Pan Lydstudio in Norway started as dealers for Eclipse Trumpets, the maker, Leigh McKinney, came over from England to present his instruments. I met him at the exhibit in Oslo and we had a long conversation about his design philosophy, his background, etc. It was so interesting that I asked him for a more formal interview. A few days later we did this (via email):

Before we start talking about the trumpets, could you tell us a bit about your background as a repair man and instrument maker?
At the age of 16, back in 1987, I started to work for a British company called Sterling Musical Instruments. I didn't come from a musical family background but was good working with my hands and decided that making brass musical instruments sounded interesting.

In 1994, I decided to go and work as a teacher in Moss, Norway and worked there with brass students for 2 years before moving on to work for Meinl Instruments in Marknuekirchen, Germany. I returned to England to again work for Sterling but felt that the time was right to start my own company.

John Yianni and you started a repair business in 1999. Tell us about that?
I asked John to join me in starting a new company around July of 1999. We were both working for Sterling at the time but both had our own ideas of how to make instruments.

In November 1999 we left Sterling for the last time to set up our own business First Class Brass Ltd with £800 in our pockets.

What made you decide to start making pro level trumpets in  2001?
It was always my intention to manufacture trumpets, cornets and flugels from day one.

Back when I was 19, I had many ideas for a new trumpet but was not taken very seriously, so I kept the ideas drawn out on paper for a time in the future when I could maybe build them myself, 13 years later I did.

Was it a difficult start?
Yes the first 6 months in business were terrible! We simply sat by the telephone waiting for it to ring, hoping that someone wanted some repairs done or anything really.

After this time we started to get regular repair work from all over England and now do repairs for customers from all over Europe and as far as Korea, Australia and the USA.

Ok, let's start talking about the trumpets:

main tuning slide
Leigh holding a trumpet, showing the main tuning slide.

The first thing you notice when you see an Eclipse trumpet is perhaps the placement of the main tuning slide. Why did you move it?
I am a firm believer in air flow. I wanted to get as much of the players energy and power into the valve section as quickly and economically as possible. I have always thought that to have the tuning slide at the traditional point wastes so much energy and changes the air column which then affects the intonation or slotting of the horn.

Placing ours at the back of the horn (after the valve section) allows our air column to be undisturbed by steps on the inside of the leadpipe and bend so that it is free flowing and creates fantastic response and slotting.

On the trumpet shown in the picture there is also some extra metal on the bend. Why is that?
This is the XLR or Xtra Large Red Model.

The bell diameter of this jazz horn model is very big (140mm diameter) The bell is also much thicker on this model (0.7mm) which makes the instrument unbalanced and what we call bell heavy. We put a counterweight at the back for balance as we believe that the horn must also feel good and balanced in the players hands as well as sounding great.

This is the only Eclipse model that has this counterbalance.

Tell us about some of the custom options.
When a player visits our workshop and orders a horn they can have the finger rings in any position they want to suit their hands. Traditional waterkeys are a free option instead of amado's if the customer prefers those. The finish options are endless. If a person asks for a certain design then we try our best to do that for them. We also personalise some customers horns with their initials cut from 5mm thick brass sheert by hand.These are soldered into the horn instead of the bottom bracing and look very nice.

You showed me how you place the brackets and how important it is to find what you call the "sweet spot". What about that?
Yes that is correct, we spent many many months just moving around the different bracing on our horns maybe only 1mm at a time to find the place where they gave us the best performance of sound.

Moving bracing even a little can either badly affect a trumpet or vastly improve it, so we experimented to find the best positions for our particular horns.

On the exhibit, we had the great pleasure of hearing two great English jazz players, Noel Langley and Henry Lowther. What about classical players using Eclipse?
Large Yellow models are a favourite with classical players.

Ian Balmaine is principal trumpet with the Royal Opera in London, he plays the Eclipse ML bore C trumpet.

What is the current product line?
For the Bb trumpets, main models are:
Medium Yellow or Red Bell
Large Yellow or Red Bell
XLR (Xtra Large Red)

Specialist Bell models:
Medium Yellow Classic
Medium heavy Yellow
Medium heavy Red

C Trumpets:
Medium Yellow or Medium Red Bell

Yellow, Red or Copper Bells

A shorter more cornet length Bb trumpet with a large red bell

Eclipse Flugelhorn
Eclipse Flugelhorn (Audun Waage uses this model)

Finally, what are some of your future plans?
In development at this time are the Large Bore C trumpets and the new Eclipse Large Bore Cornets.

We will in the future build a 4 valve piccolo trumpet, but that will not be looked at until well into 2006. Other than this we plan to continue making our instruments with quality and care, we will also continue to expand our repair business further.

More info about Eclipse Trumpets here:

o.j. 2004