Instrument Blue it what you thought it was?


When a professional (whether a technician, musician, writer, or even educator) does not put an emphasis on the accuracy of their words, the customer is being done a disservice. And in the case of performance shops advertising “instrument blueprinting services to your average performer, at some point it will more than likely lead to miscommunication and disappointment from the owner of the instrument, the repair shop, or both.


A common problem within today’s performance enhancing subculture is that some of the vocabulary being used by the industry no longer accurately reflects the actions behind the word.  This has left many enthusiasts confused and misinformed, with one glaring example being instrument blueprinting.

If you’re an avid brass player, especially trumpet, you’ve more than likely heard the term “instrument blueprinting” thrown around on the web, in the shop, or in the rehearsal room.  Now, it’s important to first point out that the term itself has not lost its meaning to newer technology or instrument assembly practices, and it still has its place in the industry today. Rather, the problem seems to stem from how loosely the term is used by professionals and in how we educate the consumer.

The vocabulary being used by professionals and the education of the consumer is what we need to change as an industry. Without discounting the abilities of the performance shops that advertise this service, but sticking to its literal definition, using the term blueprinting in relation to instrument improvement or enhancement is a dramatic step in the wrong direction. To blueprint an instrument means “to prepare, specify, and document all of the instrument's tolerances, clearances, and materials based on a set standard.” The problem lies in the fact that currently the only standards you will find available to the public are the OE instrument specifications that aren’t even known or available from the manufacturer!

Instrument blueprinting is just showing you how to assemble an instrument, but that’s not the real challenge. The real challenge revolves around the concept of enhancement and improvement and knowing how to make changes and properly evaluate those changes — regardless of whether good or bad — and to be able to continue progressing and moving forward with the development process.

In the end, the important takeaway from this is that blueprinting in the musical instrument industry is a buzz term borrowed from the performance automotive engine building industry. Unless instruments are completely dismantled, accurately measured, documented, and reassembled to the strictest KNOWN standards, this touted process is nothing more than an expensive hunt for manufacturing flaws.