All S.E. Shires bells are handcrafted at the Shires factory using traditional techniques. Custom bell model names usually begin with a prefix made up of letter indicating instrument type:
- A: alto trombone
- S: small-bore tenor trombone
- T: medium- or large-bore tenor trombone
- B: bass trombone
For tenor and bass trombones, a roman numeral (I or II) may follow that letter; it specifies the shape of the bell taper. Because TI bells were the first that Steve made and have historically been the most common, that particular prefix is usually omitted:
- [unmarked]: TI, the original S.E. Shires tenor trombone taper
- TII: Offers a broader, slightly less focused sound than the original S.E. Shires TI orchestral tenor taper
- BI: centered bass trombone taper—strong core and easy projection
- BII: wide taper—broad sound
Construction and bead
Next, an arabic numeral describes the bell construction, and whether the bead wire is soldered (odd numbers) or unsoldered (even numbers):
- 1 and 2 represent traditional two-piece bells, made from separate stem and flare pieces that are brazed together, and then spun
- 5 denotes a traditional one-piece bell, made from a single sheet of brass with a continuous brazed seam running down its entire length.
- 7 and 8 indicate a modified two-piece construction—they are made to combine the best playing characteristics of both one-piece and two-piece bells.
- 1, 5, or 7: soldered bead—favors pointed articulations and centered sound.
- 2 or 8: unsoldered bead—favors broad, somewhat diffuse sound and softer, more covered articulations
After the construction, the bell material is indicated:
- Y: Yellow brass—70% copper, 30% zinc—clear, pure sound with strong fundamental, keeps a very consistent tone color and overtone structure throughout the range of dynamics
- R: Red brass—90% Copper, 10% Zinc—warm, rich sound with complex overtones, allows for a wide range of colors at different dynamics
- G: Gold brass—85% Copper, 15% Zinc—combines many of the characteristics of yellow and red brass for a very balanced and flexible sound
- SS: Sterling silver—very clear, dense sound, with prominent fundamental and sparse upper overtones—available for all bells by special order
Bell weight and other options
Other numbers and letters after the material signify a variety of options, and are sometimes combined. The most common include:
- LW: Lightweight—very resonant and brilliant, with quick, easy response and open sound
- M: Medium weight:—slightly lighter than standard weight, characteristics between standard and LW
- HW: Heavyweight—holds together very well at loud dynamics, more centered sound with less brilliance—can require more effort to play
- T7: Treatment 7—thinner in the flare—this provides easier response and lighter, less centered sound than the standard bell treatment
For orchestral tenors, the standard diameter at the end of the flare is 8.5 inches. 7.5, 7.75 and 8-inch bells are also available for tenor bells. For bass trombone bell flares, 9.5 inches is standard. 10- and 10.5-inch diameters are also available. Standard diameters (8.5 for tenor and 9.5 inches for bass) are not stamped; custom bell diameters are stamped at the end of the bell model name.
Certain custom bells, inspired by classic trombones of the past, are referred to by abbreviated model names that reflect their design lineage:
- 2RVE: (Two piece, unsoldered bead, red brass) Vintage Elkhart. The 2RVE and 2RVET7 are two of our most popular bells, based on the classic Elkhart models of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.
- TII 5YVNY and TII 5GVNY: (One piece, soldered bead) yellow or gold brass Vintage New York. Inspired by classic Mt. Vernon, NY model bells.
- 7YLW—Orchestral tenor TI (standard) taper, modified two-piece construction, soldered bead, lightweight yellow brass, standard 8.5 inch bell flare
- BII 1Y 10—Bass BII (broad) taper, standard two-piece construction, soldered bead, standard weight yellow brass, 10-inch diameter.
The S.E. Shires company slogan, Quality without compromise,™ is more than simply a marketing tool. It is Steve Shires heartfelt conviction and his fundamental principle for both manufacture and design. S.E. Shires Co. builds nearly every part on its custom instruments in its Hopedale, Massachusetts workshop, as it has since 1995. A member of the S.E. Shires team play tests every instrument thoroughly before it ships. Steve’s attention to design—and his keen understanding how it affects sound and playability—is unsurpassed by any other brass instrument maker. He has parallel commitments to the highest standards of modern manufacturing, which make his instruments consistent and mechanically superior, and to the old-world craftsmanship that gives them the distinctively resonant voice appreciated by players the world over. In May, 2014, Eastman Music Company purchased the S.E. Shires Company. Based in Pomona, California, Eastman is well known for the quality and value of its broad offering of band and orchestral instruments. With the backing of Eastman, S.E. Shires has been able to increase its instrument line, production capacity, and worldwide presence, while maintaining its core commitment to quality, in-house manufacturing.