A "brass band" bass trombone

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by MoominDave, Aug 20, 2008.

  1. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Saw this in a thread that was just revived, where it received no replies, and thought that it deserved a thread of its own:

    In regard to generalising about bass trombone makes:
    I think there's a lot of interesting questions hiding in this idea, revolving around the central one: What makes a "good" brass band bass trombone sound, and how does it differ from a "good" bass trombone sound in other ensembles?

    Band playing on the bass trombone presents a set of challenges that I haven't found duplicated anywhere else while playing that instrument - you have to be able to roar and whisper, and maintain a degree of stamina that isn't necessary elsewhere; you have to be aware of a wide range of different playing styles.

    I've found some of the comments that people have made in the currently dormant "Who's the best bass trombonist?" thread very interesting - in particular, the way so many of the contributors have eulogised the ability to play extremely penetratingly above all else. Is this really what defines a great band bass trombone sound? It seems to me that there is a lot more to it than this, but this is what apparently exclusively grabs many listeners' attentions.

    For me, the best instrument to use in a brass band is one that offers more weight of tone than a tenor (not excessively so), but will 'focus' in that characteristic trombone way at dynamics from approximately a loud mf upwards. I don't mean the coarse 'edging out' a la the old tiny bore G trombones, but a more controlled version.
    This is where some difference from the ideal orchestral model appears - edge is used more sparingly there.

    I wonder if anyone has specifically sat down with, say, the people at Rath, and produced 'ideal' bass trombone designs for symphony orchestra and brass band?
    Here are some of the possible differences that I would consider when moving from orchestral to band designs:
    - Tighter leadpipe - more 'focus'
    - Larger mouthpiece - more power (but a little less focus at medium dynamics)
    - Maybe a smaller slide bore - .547/.562 dual instead of .562 single, perhaps - more focus at medium dynamics

    Essentially, the instrument is needed to do both a 'symphonic' job and a 'big band' job (to generalise crudely) - both giant sonority and biting edge have to be easily available. What do you think?
  2. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    Oh no ------ another bass trombone thread!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Isn't it possible to have a thread about ............... err , I don't know......... err something like sausages for example :biggrin:

    Don't worry Dave, some kindly mod will probably consign this off topic post to the back burner :eek:
  3. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    It's okay, Senor B, it'll all turn out to be a metaphor for sausages in the end.


  5. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    Going back to the original question, I would suggest the following, not by way of an explanation, but by way of an example:

    Paul Applegarth: One of the greatest classic brass band bass trombone players (albeit, possibly a little "dated" in style by today's standards ... ? )

    Would one book him for a "classical" orchestral gig? Probably not.

  6. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I don't know him, Gareth, I'm afraid... Are you suggesting that he uses a lot of edge? That can often be altered with instrument/mouthpiece choice - or indeed with the face... Just because somebody rips it up in the band doesn't mean that they don't know how to behave in the orchestra.

    Worth noting that this thread is intended to be primarily about instrument design - although obviously playing styles have a bearing on that.
  7. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Strongly believe that it makes no difference, it's how you play it. There are certain conventions in the orchestral world, as has been discussed before, but the brass band cocoon has thus far avoided these.

    I think it would be a dangerous notion to assign a particular instrument a 'brass band' bass trombone.
  8. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I totally agree that a good enough player can make any instrument work in a given context.

    But there is an optimum for a given context - there are instruments which are happier in the band than in the orchestra, and vice versa. As an example of an instrument that's happier in a band than an orchestra, I'd cite the Holton TR181, and as an example of the opposite, I'd cite the Edwards B454 [standard options, I think - but certainly when fitted with bigger than standard options].
    The fact that lots of people happily play both of these models in all genres shows merely that we are talking about the fine scale. As an example of an instrument which approaches the brass band sound from the other direction, I'd cite the King Duo Gravis; good for big band jazz, but nobody uses these in the orchestra anywhere...

    You don't blow the instrument with quite the same approach in the two traditions. This is less true for the tenor trombone, I think.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2008
  9. Andy Tasker

    Andy Tasker Member

    I think the sound of the Bass Trom is down to what the individual conductors want or what the particular piece demands. I think its then down to the player to adopt that style. For example if you are playing "Mood Indigo or Li'L Darlin' "then you have to produce a fat round sound as wide as the M1, but if you are playing a March you need to have the "Bass Trom Crack !!!" (I cannot believe i've just typed that:oops:)

    I have tried playing on a standard Bb/F Trom and it's really difficult to produce a fat sound, hence why I think these symphonic Troms are a bonus in creating that fat sound.

    While i'm on could anyone explain what the notes/positions etc are on my old G Trombone with the handle?

  10. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Just move all the positions down three semitones.

    Or do what I did at first and move everything down a line and a space, add a flat to the key signature, and pretend it's transposing treble clef in G while making the accidental on anything that turns into a B one flatter.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2008
  11. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Or you could try rocket science...:tongue:
  12. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    What's a B one flatter?

    It's no wonder I've struggled with G trom playing;)
  13. Andy Tasker

    Andy Tasker Member

    Understanding G Trom

    Cheers for that Dave

    I've had a lie down in a dark room to warm up my brain cell i'll read your explanations again and try toapply them.


  14. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    It sounds more complex than it is - it's just the same principle as people use when they read bass clef concert on a Bb instrument, but changed to work for the G.
  15. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    I don't play the G very often, being a tenor player, but I just learned a new set of positions instead of trying to relate them to the tenor. Funnily enough I found the G very easy to learn, but then did some work on an F sackbut and had a hell of a time. I think there were too many similar positions to the tenor so I was going into auto-pilot too often, then getting lost!

    Sorry mods, there's enough chat about G troms elsewhere. Back on topic.....
  16. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member


    Sounds like you need stronger braces mate.... ;)

    I agree entirely about having both styles of playing in your locker but 'crack' is perhaps a bad word to use, as cracking a note implies poor production.

    Maybe 'bark' would be better - implying the harder, sharper note production without compromising quality?

    This is not entirely specific to bass trombone either. Am I correct in saying that within a brass band, each player has to have a number of styles and sounds, from the agressive to the lyrical, in their armoury? And that as such our instruments have developed as a compromise to be able to do all that is required, rather than streaming into more specialised groups as are apparently found in other ensembles.

    For example (Falling back on what I know best) an orchestral tuba player has an entiely different musical niche than a brass band tuba player. An orchestral player can expect to play higher than a band tuba (in most situations) and have very little need for his/her pedal register. The sound is also expected to stand out from the texture as a different tone colour. It's almost exactly the opposite of what's required of a band Bass player, where low register is far more important than high register - and where playing is generally all about the blend of the four players sounding like one.

    Consequently, the design of instument favoured (or in the case of most band contest rules DICTATED) by the different ensembles are very different - so maybe a different construction of bass trombone could potentially aid band players in the versatility required by the music.
  17. DobX Dave

    DobX Dave Member

    Dave, I remember him, in his GUS days he played a Bach 50B3 closed wrap ~ well that is what this programme shows him holding, from what I can remember he had a very big sound and could, if required, apply 'edge' when required.

    As for him playing in an orchestra ~ I imagine he would get bored and if my memory serves me correctly his sight reading was not that good (I know he cannot read this (thank goodness) because he was 'banned' from this website (his pen name was PHA161) for his forthright views ~ typical bass trombone player !!
  18. Tredegarboy

    Tredegarboy Member

    Conn 62HG

    An interesting subject this.

    I think the instrument can make a substantial difference to the way you sound. I currently play on an Edwards and have done for many years. Our 1st Trom player (a fantastic freelance player currently on trial with a number of Orchestras but who had played with bands all his life) has been "on to" me for some considerable time to get a Conn.

    I finally gave in recently when with news that a Greenhoe 62HG was available from Prozone Music. Having "read up" on the trombone it sounded very good. I went down to Prozone, tested the trom and came away with same on approval pending a try out with the band. This trombone is smaller than my Edwards with a 9 1/2 inch bell and single bore .562 slide.

    As we were on summer break, I had the opportunity of practicing with the trom for over a week. I also got together with a close friend of mine (my predecessor at Tredegar Julian Kerrell) and we had a testing session with his Thein, Rath and Kanstul, my two Edwards and the Conn. (A Bass Trombone-a-thon !!) That was an interesting few hours !

    I tried the Conn in band this Wednesday night.

    The Conn is brilliant and produces a warm and round sound. Where, in my opinion, it struggles is down in the trigger register. It produces a good sound but my Edwards is significantly better. This just may be down to my inadequacies as a player - who knows.

    In the environment I play in, I think that the larger troms are better. Mind you if I could afford to purchase the Conn and keep my other troms I would.

    I would add that there are far better players that myself who can make massive sounds in all registers with smaller equipment (I believe most of the pros use conns) but for those of more limited ability, like myself, the Edwards route seems to work. Obviously there are other variables like mouthpiece/lead pipe slide etc that have an effect.

    The Thein is also brilliant but is significantly more expensive that any other trombone.
  19. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Interesting input, Mark, which, to a certain extent, chimes with my own experience. I'd played a Holton 181 for a few years, and always got good reviews on sound quality, etc. But then, a couple of years ago, I tried an acquaintance's Gen II Conn 62H (dependent standard rotor version, single bore .562" slide), and the comment from my girlfriend (an RCM tenor trombone graduate) was: "You have to get one of these. Your sound on the Holton was good, but that sounds professional." From behind the bell, it was clear too; the blow wasn't quite as easy as on the Holton, but the sonic results had a richness at all dynamics and pitches that made the Holton pale in comparison.
    So I saved up, and when the opportunity arose, I bought one - in fact, I bought the version with Lindberg valves (62HCL), which was the only option on offer at the very low price I got it for at the time that I was able to look at it (if that sentence makes any sense...).
    The CL2000 valves are different, yes, and have taken a bit of time to work into, but now that I am accustomed to the way they blow, they are an improvement over standard rotaries. I'd be very interested to try the Greenhoe version, though!
    I've also replaced the dual bore slide that it was supplied with with a single bore version - I've never liked dual bore basses, finding them overly 'woofy' (down to the way I blow, I think).

    I suspect that the difficulty that you report in the trigger register is due to the change from dual bore to single bore slide - it does make things harder work at the bottom, but, for me, this is more than compensated for by the greater 'trombonicity' in the sound all over the range.
    You could ask Prozone to send you a dual-bore Conn slide for the 62HG to match your Edwards set-up; the difference between the way the two blow into a 62H bell section is quite marked.
    Playing around with the three supplied leadpipes is worthwhile, too; I've settled on the B (tightest), but C and D let you put a lot more air in.

    I find it interesting that you want an increase in slide bore for the brass band, contrasting with my wish for a decrease; you value ease of low note production, whereas I'm after a sound that's more distinct from the tubas and euphoniums.

    Interesting that your 1st trombone (Jon Pippen, I think? Please send him my regards if he's not lurking on here!) is urging Conn adoption - I know that professional large-bore tenor players fairly uniformly use Conn 88Hs, but professional bass players play a wider array of makes. I'll leave it to those with more professional experience than me to give details, but, I believe that while there are a few Elkhart 62Hs being used, there are a number of others on Edwards in particular (open to correction there...). It must be said that the 62H, when used with the single bore slide, does blend marvellously well with 88Hs.

    I'm envious of your testing session... I'd have loved to have partaken!
  20. Tredegarboy

    Tredegarboy Member

    Mr. Pippen (JohP) has not played with Tredegar for some time now. He is 1st Trom with our local rivals BTM.

    The gentleman I alluded to is Steve Turton. He uses a conn 88H and makes the best sound I have ever heard (close up anyways). Was due to play with us in Whychavon but has two weeks with the Philamonia now (Oh to be that good !)

    I meant to say earlier that the Kanstul is a great trombone as well. I believe that the one Julian has is based on a 62HI with CR Valves (oversized rotary).
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2008

Share This Page