The JoyKey

Ed Glick

A couple of months ago, I was having trouble with my JoyKeys – neither of the two were working – and I sent a rather anguished call for help to Dennis Houghton, of Houghton Horns, who had installed them.

Originally, I had asked Dennis to place the two JoyKeys – one on my leadpipe, the other on the F slide – where I had had two Amado water keys installed years ago. The one on the leadpipe worked for several months and then, for some unknown reason, quit. I tried a new WaterWick, cleaned the leadpipe, all to no avail. The problem with the second JoyKey was more serious. Even though it was in the same place as the Amado had been, no water ever dripped out.

Because I had mistakenly put my frustration on the entire list , I got an email from Andrew Joy, and at his suggestion, joined him in a video Skype call. I showed him where the JoyKey had been installed; he suggested a different location. I then got in touch with Dennis Houghton and brought my horn to him. I don’t know what he did with the leadpipe JoyKey, but it is now dripping merrily, as it’s supposed to. He then took off the F slide JoyKey, patching up the hole there and moved it to where Andrew had suggested – Dennis agreed that this was the better spot. I want to let you know that the two JoyKeys are now doing their job admirably and once again, I’ve taken to putting a small unobtrusive towel on my knee to catch the dripping. (It’s better not to have the small drips fall on your pant leg, especially if you’re wearing khaki or other light pants.)

I am now a JoyKey enthusiast, happy that I don’t have to keep emptying my horn while playing.

One final comment. I’ve posted my great satisfaction with the work Dennis Houghton has done on my 85-year old Kruspe over the past several years. I want to make note that he did the entire patching of the hole and moving the JoyKey (even though that was where I had asked him to put it) and also figuring out why the leadpipe JoyKey had stopped working, without any charge or even claiming that the problem was really my fault. That’s one of the many reasons why I keep going back to him.

Ed Glick, 16th of August 2011

Bruce Collings

I had the pleasure of playing tenor horn in LICHTER-WASSER, the first part of Karlheinz Stockhausen' s Opera SONNTAG aus LICHT, which was premiered by the Cologne Opera and musikFabrik in Cologne recently. After getting a new 4 valve tenor horn I realized, water is going to be a big problem.

First, the way I felt most comfortable holding the horn, the only water key was pointing up, meaning I had to rotate the horn every time to get the water out. Second, in this piece the musicians stand, spread evenly throughout in the hall, surrounded by the audience. Third, the part demands almost one hour of complete concentration. It is hardly possible to look away from the music or conductor for long, doing so would risk getting lost.

I decided I didn't really want to have the added stress of emptying water and had 3 JoyKeys® put on my tenor horn, one on the main tuning slide, one on the 3rd valve slide and one on the 4th valve slide. After this it was possible to play the whole piece without having to empty the water once.

The only negative point I have is at the same time one of the JoyKey's® strong points. The water in the 3rd and 4th valves would not drip out unless they were depressed. This wasn't a problem with the 3rd valve, which was used regularly, but I found I had to hold the 4th valve down during rests to let the water drip. This says a lot about the compression of the JoyKeys®. I found absolutely no deterioration in the response of the horn after having the Joykeys installed, a point I was a bit worried about.

Thank you, Andrew for making my life a lot easier!

Bruce Collings, 15 June, 2011
Trombone - musikFabrik

Andrew Bain

I have found the JoyKeys® to be fantastic and they have made a huge difference to my horn. Particularly for a piece like Mahler 5, I no longer feel concerned that the sound will ‘bubble’ in an exposed solo passage due to water in the horn and loud playing always feels solid and secure. The horn feels stable all of the time and to me sounds the same as always (except now there is no water noise or feeling of water in the horn!!)

I have 3 JoyKeys® on my horn and find that I can play an entire Movement of a Mahler Symphony without the need to manually empty the horn. I have no hesitation in recommending JoyKeys®. They are an excellent aid in removing water from the horn and keeping the horn feeling the same at all times.

Many thanks for developing such a fantastic product and I will be sure to recommend the JoyKey® to colleagues and students.


Patrick Smith

LOVE my JoyKey®!!!! Amazing product!!!!

It has made my recording sessions SOOOO much more efficient!!!

I highly recommend the JoyKey® to all horn players!!!! Thanks for the awesome product!!!!"


Nick Kenney

Andrew, I love my JoyKeys®. It is amazing to play and not worry about gurgling! Superb invention!


Jeff McGuire

I have been performing with 4 JoyKeys® on my Alexander 103* for most of a year now and I would happily recommend them to anyone.

I have played solo concerti, chamber music, orchestra concerts, studio- and jazz gigs and cannot find a single negative thing to say about the JoyKey's® effect on my sound and playing!

For me, they have in fact made performing in most situations even more enjoyable, since emptying the water from my horn is mostly a thing of the past.

Now I can relax and focus more on the music–no more panicky calculations as to whether the next couple bars of rest are enough to yank out the slides, empty them and get them back into position! This has been most noticeable when playing concerts in cold places–horn and organ concerts in cold churches, for example–my colleagues have been genuinely envious.

Like many of you, I was initially dubious about these newfangled water keys. Let me clear up a couple of things:
- Yes, you have to have new holes made in your horn, but you probably had one or two already if you've got spit valves on your horn.
- Yes, your horn will dribble, but remember that the dribble would otherwise be making your horn go "blub" just when you didn't need that (like during your big solo), or making you stop and empty it when you'd rather be concentrating on the music.
- No, the Joy Keys do not affect my sound or the balance of my horn at all–seriously, not at all.

Important note: Be sure to take the time to work with your brass technician to position the JoyKeys® exactly right–in your normal playing position, they must point straight down on both axes (horizontal and vertical) for them to be effective. If they are too far off plumb-straight down, they won't help you much at all. On most instruments (not just horn), this usually means making new holes for the JoyKeys® because conventional water keys are not positioned in this manner.

* My JoyKeys® are placed on the main tuning slide, the F-tuning slide and both 3rd valve slides.


Jeff Nelsen

If brass players were singers,
emptying our instrument in concert would be perceived by our audience as spitting on the floor right before a phrase!

Emptying our horns is very distracting. Everyone has seen audience member's faces go from smile to sour when they see us dump out our "spit" for the first time. Even though "it's not spit!" loudly rings out in our minds, nothing can repair what was just shattered for our innocent anticipation-filled non-musician audience members. We've just walked on stage wearing our finest clothes, smiled, regally bowed, and then spit on the floor!

I've watched countless brass players reach for their spit-valve right after playing a beautiful phrase. Doing this breaks the magical moment, and brings something technical into it. Many players also unconsciously repeatedly go for their spit valve when they're nervous. Wouldn't it be better to just stand there with an obvious show (and feeling) of calm?

Now we can! The JoyKey® can make this potential negative concert experience moment magically disappear! I have had mine for 4 months now, and LOVE it! I have found a guilty (ok, not that guilty!) pleasure in standing/sitting still while my brass colleagues turn their horns around, dumping their condensation every-which-way.

With my JoyKey®, I have also found a better sense of calm and concentration in the practice room. I've always felt a little break in my focus and intensity when I empty my horn. Now that I don't have to stop to empty, I have been able focus on my work in a deeper way, and for longer periods of time!

Thank you Andrew! You've keyed in on something remarkable! These are a pure joy! :)


Geoffrey Winter

RE: JoyKey®

Hello Martin!
I would like to take the time here to tell you how much I appreciate the new JoyKeys® that you added to my horn last summer in Australia. These new water keys are a clever invention and provide a very convenient solution to the age old problem of emptying the horn of excess condensation. Over the last few months I have learned more about how useful they are. Not only do they allow excess water to drain continuously, but I have discovered that by stopping the horn and blowing hard I can empty the horn almost instantaneously- even moments before an important passage- a very welcome technological development that has long been needed. I appreciate this contribution to the art of horn making on the part of you and Andrew Joy very much, and I can recommend these new water keys without reservation to all horn players, both amateurs and professionals! (View original letter)

Tina Barkan

Regarding the JoyKey®, I have two on my horn. I had them installed about four months ago. I love them.
I play in two bands, the horns never stop and finding time to dump water was a challenge. Now I can get through most, if not all, of a rehearsal or concert without dumping water. I only have two on my horn, where the water keys used to be, so they don't catch all the water but what they do catch is significant. All I have to do is spin my horn around to get the rest of it out. I have not pulled slides out of my horn, other than to apply valve oil or slide grease, since I got them. The one downside is that they do drip, very slowly, on my pants leg. A simple cloth on my leg, that most of us have anyway, solves that problem.

4th Chair, Riverhead Community Band
4th Chair, Shoreham Wading River Community Band

Tina Barkan

Mike Rafalczyk

An article about the JoyKey® in the german musician´s magazine “Sonic” caught my attention. Usually, I’m very sceptical when someone claims to have invented the wheel newly. But, from what I’ve read, this little gadget seemed to be convincingly well developed. Also, why should a water key that was originally developed for the French horn (an extremely sensitive instrument) not work on the trombone as well? Because the water hole is so far away from the trombone player himself, there would be no issues with water dripping onto my suit. Additionally, the price for the JoyKey® is by no means higher, than that of a regular rocker- arm water key with all of it’s parts. I decided to try out the JoyKey®, knowing the change could be reversed, i.e. no risk involved.
So I ordered the JoyKey® and had it mounted on my trombone slide by a master craftsman. The whole “operation” took him approximately 5 minutes.
Since then, I’ve played several concerts and I’m totally enthusiastic about it!
No loss of air, no difference in the sound or response of my instrument, but stunning amazement whilst playing!
The movement, that had accompanied me for more than a quarter of a century now (especially before solo passages), the movement towards the water key, the bashful turn- away from the audience, so no one could watch the disgusting amount of fluid leaving the instrument, this all is history as of now! I didn’t count the times my arm still went down the slide, just to find that this is obsolete - for ever.
The trombone is held (whilst playing) in such a way that the water key is more or less at the lowest point of the slide, so the water can easily drain out through the JoyKey®. The drops themselves are so small that no one can really see them, and they vanish within short time. After the show, when the instrument is on its stand in an upright position, a small amount of humidity collects in the slide and has to be removed. But that has always been the same and- once the concert is over- who cares?

My conclusion:
The JoyKey® is well made and works brilliantly. The price is definitely fair and I happily recommend it to all trombone players! The JoyKey® is in fact a key to joy!

I studied jazz trombone at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen, Germany and finished my studies with my diploma in 1993. Although I’ve been a regular band member of Albie Donnelly`s Supercharge for 11 years now, I also play in various other groups with differing styles.

Mike Rafalczyk

Evan Williams

Here is my experience so far with the JoyKey®.

Basically I had heard a bit about them and in spite of an initially skeptical feeling, I was a little curious. Anyway, I'd heard that Christi Chapman (hornist who I sometimes work with in the contemporary music ensemble 'musikFabrik' in Cologne) was using the JoyKeys®. Christi is someone who I've always felt is open minded yet not fooled by cheap gimmicks or the 'latest brass device that promises to make you better yet doesn't help much'. So after hearing that Christi had bought some JoyKeys® and was very pleased with them, I decided they were probably very effective. Still, it wasn't until I spent a few days playing alongside Christi in the 'musikFabrik' that I felt I really wanted to buy some for my horn. I'd noticed instantly that Christi's sound was just as beautiful as it had been before she got the JoyKeys® put on her horn. In fact, I actually thought Christi was sounding even better than her usual very high standard of playing, maybe because she didn't have to spend any energy or disturb her focus having to quickly empty water from slides and lead-pipe.

So I ended up getting some JoyKeys® for my horn and it was much more relaxing playing the Stockhausen 'Hymnen' with 'musikFabrik' because I could concentrate fully on the music or watching the conductor instead of emptying water. But the actual proof that the JoyKey® has no negative impact on sound quality/articulation etc. came the day after the enjoyable Stockhausen concert.

At 10am the following morning I had an audition for a job in a German orchestra. Surely the fact that I won this audition means the JoyKey® has no discernable negative impact on the sound/articulation/dynamics/'feel' of playing etc. But not only do I believe winning the audition to be more than sufficient proof that the JoyKey® doesn't have any negative effect on sound/articulation/dynamics/'feel of playing' etc, what I also would like to mention is that it was much easier for me to concentrate during the audition because I never had even the slightest thought or feeling, (while playing or in the 'short breaks' between the different excerpts or in rests during a concerto) that I might have water in the horn. I just let the JoyKeys® take care of the water for me.

How wonderful and helpful it was to be able to put 100% of my energy and attention into the music and not into distracting mechanical things like emptying slides and the like. For me it was incredible, in a stressful situation like an audition, for it to be almost impossible for gurgling water to ruin my sound or even to have to break my musical concentration by emptying water.

So when one weighs the cost of the JoyKey® against the financial rewards of playing in a more relaxed, concentrated way, one would have to conclude that it's an EXTREMELY WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT. It is also not something so expensive that one has to sell his or her car/bach horn/computer to be able to afford it.

The only other thing necessary to buy once you have JoyKeys® is a nice towel or cloth to avoid having lots of little droplets of water on your pants!

Evan Williams, May 12 – 2010

Scott Young

I now have had the JoyKey® on the F/B mouthpipe side of my triple for over a month and have played a couple of symphony concerts, church gigs, and even an outdoor band concert with it. I pour oil right down the mouthpipe about twice a week to protect it from my acidic saliva, every week, and the WaterWick is still drawing water and oil from the pipe as efficiently as it did the first day of use. In addition to not having any water in that particular pipe, the water collection in the rest of the horn has noticeably slowed down.
The water key that it replaced was one of the water key types with a "well." Apparently the original "well" was placed on a nodal point because the horn was substantially easier to play (better center of pitch, smoother slurs, and more accurate in the middle range low F side) after the JoyKey was installed.

My only complaint is that I showed how it worked to another of my friends who plays a triple and one of the extra JoyKeys® I purchased "disappeared" into his case. I will have the last one I (still) have installed in the next few weeks and order a replacement for the"lost" JoyKey® in short order. To sum up, the metal in the WaterWick® is not affected by oil in any way; the capillary action continues to work.

Scott Young, April 23 – 2010

Christine Chapman

I've been using JoyKeys® for 4 weeks now, and am completely satisfied with the results. In the field of contemporary music - where the scores are often written through without a chance to turn a page or take a breath - composers seldom take into consideration the need to empty water.

I had 3 JoyKeys® installed, and was convinced right from the start. There is no difference in the feel of the horn, how it responds or sounds. Actually, I've noticed more stability in some of the longer valve combinations at the top of the staff, for example "A" and Ab." I gather that the lack of water build up in the lead pipe keeps those notes placing every time just where they should!

I am going to add a 4th key to on the "F" horn 3rd valve slide. Aside from an infrequent spin of the horn to get rid of residual water, that slide is the only place where water collects now.

I can highly recommend using JoyKeys® - I can't imagine playing without them anymore!

Christine Chapman, April 2 – 2010
Solo Horn
musikFabrik - Ensemble for Contemporary Music, Cologne

I would like to add to my testimonial after having survived the marathon KLANG weekend in Cologne, Germany where I performed Stockhausen's NEBADON for solo horn and electronics eight times. Please add that I never had water trouble once, even though the church I was playing in was only heated to around 18 degrees celsius and I had to play continually for 22 minutes with no chance what-so-ever to dump water - even if I'd had a chance to spin the horn, I wouldn't have been able to due to the microphone arm attached to the bell. On top of all that, the piece requires in the last minute of music that the performer picks off a row of high "G'#s," ending the piece with 2 high "Bb's" spaced 20 seconds apart! The JoyKeys® on my instrument enabled the world premiere of NEBADON!

Eldon Matlick

Last week I had two JoyKeys® installed on my horn. I want to tell you what a Godsend this has been!
My instrument collects condensation quickly and in copious amounts. The result is that I continuously had to empty slides, turn and twist the horn, and do all sorts of manipulation of the instrument to get the problematic water out of the horn.

Over the years, I have received some pointed messages from patrons and the orchestra management has fielded complaints from other vocal patrons. While I sympathized, playing a phrase while gurgling was not an option for me. Then I saw the add about the JoyKey® on my Facebook page.

Long story short, this has been a revelation! In the week following the installation of these keys, only rarely need I turn the instrument or remove errant moisture that doesn't collect. I've performed four concerts and have found that these keys make absolutely no difference in the performance of the horn. Even playing stopped passages, LOUDLY, has no discernible ill effects.

Installed correctly by a competent repair person, these JoyKeys®, will be a boon to any performing hornist.

Eldon Matlick, DM, March 27 – 2010
Professor of Horn-University of Oklahoma
Principal Hornist-Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra

Abby Mayer

My experience with the extraordinary innovation of the JoyKey® begins three years ago in 2007, when I first approached Scott Bacon for any possible solution to the problem of an overwhelming amount of condensation collecting in my relatively new custom made Engelbert Schmid Horn.

Already installed on my Horn were two rocker arm type water keys, nonetheless; the accumulation of condensation remained a detriment to my inability to avoid playing GLITCHES. I tried numerous tricks to try and absorb water from the water key on the lead pipe, and the second water key on the next extension of the wrap, by inserting, cotton, small sponges and Q-Tip ends, between the cork on the rocker arm, and the port opening of the water keys. All done with absolutely no success! I tried to persuade my son, an Electronic Engineer, to develop a thermostat control unit that would equalize the temperature of the Horn to room temperature, and thus diminish the ability of the tubing to generate condensation. Long discussions culminated with the realization, that: such an idea would be too complicated, and require a power source, along with extra parts attached to the Horn, thus: making the Horn bulky and clumsy to handle. In reality, the problem actually lies with removing the condensation before it can interfere with the air column that resounds and amplifies the vibration from the lips. At that point nothing existed to remove condensation before it could cause a problem of GURGLING, and/or causing Glitches.

Obviously, the only solution is to eliminate the condensation before it can cause a problem. Miraculously, that is accomplished with the JoyKey® by allowing the condensation to drip out instantly! On my Horn, Scott Bacon used the existing holes of the old rocker arm water keys, thereby; he avoided the risk of making additional revisions on the Horn. My first reaction after the installation of the JoyKeys® was that my Horn performed as well as ever. The tone remained warm, dark, flowing and expressive. There is also less collection of condensation in the valve slides; that happens because by the time the air moving through the Horn reaches the valve slides, most of the moisture is already eliminated by the JoyKey®.

The same day Scott Bacon installed my two JoyKeys®, I practiced for several hours without having to empty the Horn. The next day, my experience was very much the same. I had two students, one after the other, at the lessons I demonstrated numerous passages, and practiced later in the day. I did not have to empty the Horn at all. The next day I also had two students, and again; I demonstrated on the Horn and did some practicing with no appreciably collection of condensation. In fact, my performance seemed to improve, in terms of not missing, or GLITCHING notes, as previously experienced. Scott Bacon, explained to me that the installation of the JoyKey® lies flush, and smooth along the inside surface of the tubing, whereas; the rocker arm water key has a recess along the tube. Condensation collects in the recess rocker arm key and thereby; interferes with the vibrating air column, which can be blamed for the cause of several difficulties.

I am totally impressed and completely satisfied with the installation by Scott Bacon, of the two JoyKeys® on my Horn. In addition, I not only highly recommend the JoyKey®, with no reservation whatsoever, but also claim it as a great innovation and dynamic aid to Horn Playing!

Abby Mayer, January 26 – 2010

Ruth Funke (Die Blechharmoniker)

When Andrew Joy first told me about his idea for developing a water-drainage-filter system for the horn, I thought: “wonderful idea, but I don’t believe it is possible”. If it were to function, it would be a revolutionary innovation. I didn’t think it was possible to have a hole in the instrument that – contrary to normal water keys that are only open when emptying water – continuously lets water through without negatively affecting the sound quality and response of the instrument. I was very sceptical and yet curiously followed the various stages of development, all the while doubting that this system could be airtight. Now I have the JoyKey® installed on my instrument and have to admit to being unconditionally enthusiastic. The horn is unquestionably air tight and there is no change in the feeling when playing…….WRONG! There is one huge change: I had to give up automatically reaching for the water key.

I can simply play and remain focused on playing with no need to organize emptying water. Since most of my horn playing is on stage whilst acting, the JoyKey® now enables me to focus on my acting without the otherwise necessary technical interruptions. Prior to installing the JoyKey®, water removal had to be planned in advance: where and when will it be possible without disturbing the proceedings? When will I have enough distance to the audience to get the water out without breaking the spell? And with the external water catchment, my dress or costume remains dry……an important point for a woman. I believe the JoyKey® will soon become an integral part of brass inruments.

The JoyKey® system is a little like the ABS system on motor vehicles: it takes the danger out of otherwise critical situations and ensures a predictable handling response.

Ruth Funke
Hornist of the Blechharmoniker Brassquintet

Nicolai Frey (Duisburger Philharmoniker)

When I first heard of the idea of a permanent water drainage system, I was sceptical.

How should it function?
Does it affect the sound and response of the instrument?
After several conversations and trying an instrument fitted with several JoyKeys®, I decided to have seven of these keys fitted to my instrument. (This must be done carefully in a specialized workshop.) I was very curious as to how the keys would perform under normal working conditions.

I am quite surprised and relieved to experience how unobtrusively and reliably they functioned. I can play a whole opera performance or a two hour long wind quintet rehearsal without having to empty water even a single time. There has been no change in the sound and the feeling of having an instrument permanently free of water reduces the stress. The JoyKeys® remain inconspicuous apart from the odd drop of water.

I am very satisfied with the JoyKeys® and am happy to recommend them.

Nicolai Frey
Stellv. Solohornist
Duisburger Philharmoniker

Michel Boss

Boss, comme beaucoup de souffleurs de cuivres, a découvert JoyKey® chez Feeling et pensait qu'il s'agissait uniquement d'un système pour vider l'eau automatiquement. Comme beaucoup, il est aujourd'hui séduit aussi par les effets induits de cette pièce révolutionnaire sur sa trompette : amélioration acoustique, meilleure sensation de facilité, d'endurance... Boss est aussi le dessinateur talentueux de la musique, des musiciens, et particulièrement des instruments depuis plus de vingt cinq années d'amicale relation qui le lie à Feeling Musique.Boss, comme beaucoup de souffleurs de cuivres, a découvert JoyKey® chez Feeling et pensait qu'il s'agissait uniquement d'un système pour vider l'eau automatiquement. Comme beaucoup, il est aujourd'hui séduit aussi par les effets induits de cette pièce révolutionnaire sur sa trompette : amélioration acoustique, meilleure sensation de facilité, d'endurance... Boss est aussi le dessinateur talentueux de la musique, des musiciens, et particulièrement des instruments depuis plus de vingt cinq années d'amicale relation qui le lie à Feeling Musique.

Daniel Casimir

Reportage avec le tromboniste Daniel Casimir, l'un des tous premiers utilisateurs du ®... Musique contemporaine, Jazz, Daniel Casimir quand il ne compose pas, joue du trombone... Plusieurs heures par jour. Il est perfectionniste, attentif à éliminer tous les bruits parasites pouvant survenir, surtout lors de concerts ou de séances d'enregistrements. Sa découverte de JoyKey® est une véritable révélation. Terminés, les insupportables "glouglous" survenant systématiquement lors des interprétations des plus belles phrases musicales. Avec lui, nous avons tout, absolument tout testé. Le timbre, l'herméticité, les attaques, le jeu, le fonctionnement général du JoyKey®. En terme acoustique, aucune différence, à part la suppression des bruits parasites dus aux accumulations de liquides dans le tube.

Pianos, pianissimos absolument parfaits... Forte en pleine puissance, compression maximum sans que l'on remarque le moindre manque de la plénitude du son.
Tout en jouant, nous le voyons. L'humidité s'accumulant dans le tube de l'instrument s'extrait seule ; une goutte se forme... Elle finira par tomber sans que personne ne fasse rien, simplement. Elle n'aura pas perturbé le jeu du musicien qui n'aura eu qu'à se consacrer à la Musique et à elle seule ! Daniel Casimir est un fan absolu de JoyKey®. Chercheur continuel de nouveaux sons, de nouveaux instruments plus performants, cette découverte contribue pour lui à aller beaucoup plus loin dans son application à réaliser des phrases plus longues, des improvisations qui ne seront plus limitées par le geste nécessaire du vidage de l'eau... Souvent provoqué par le "glouglou" fatidique. Maintenant, cette contrainte n'existe plus ; c'est une révolution instrumentale.

Daniel a étudié avec André Muller (luthier cuivres de l'Atelier Feeling), l'idéal endroit pour poser JoyKey® ; c'est le point inférieur de l'instrument quand il est en position de jeu. Feeling Musique met à votre service son extrême maîtrise pour l'installation de ce nouveau dispositif qui devrait changer la vie de tous les joueurs de cuivres.