Bass Trombone Nirvana!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by euphoria, Apr 11, 2014.

  1. euphoria

    euphoria Member

    This is my entry into this year’s most boring post contest. Well that is unless you have faced the same problem as me, in which case you might find it of some interest and perhaps even useful.

    I went back to playing 3 years ago after a 10 year break where I only did conducting.
    My previous weapon of choice was the euphonium, but I had for a long time wanted to try out the dark art of playing the bass trombone.

    The band supplied me with an old Yamaha 613 trombone, which made quite a nice noise and blended rather well with my colleagues on tenor, both of whom played Yamaha trombones.
    It had dependent valves with a rather peculiar layout where the 2 paddles for the valves were lined up side by side - both operated by the thumb. Needless to say that ergonomics was an issue and fast runs in the lower register was quite a hassle.

    I was therefore very happy when the band got me a new trombone last September. I liked the sound of my Yamaha horn, so I tried out another Yamaha - the Xeno with independent valves in the normal layout. It had a great sound and fantastic slide. It took some getting used to the new valve layout, but I found it much easier to do fast runs with different fingers for the two valves.

    Another problem arose though. When getting tired in my left hand, the trombone started sliding in my grip, making it harder to reach the Gb valve. In most music it was not a big issue. I could readjust my grip if I had a break for a beat or two. But in extended runs it meant adjusting my grip while playing which was almost impossible.

    I tried out a hand rest to solve the problem. It was supposed to support the back of my hand, but it didn’t work for me at all.

    I also considered the ergobone which is a device that is mounted to the chair or to a stand or even a harness and then to the bone, helping to carry the entire weight of the instrument. I dropped it again after speaking to some of my friends who have tried it. Their complaints were similar to those made by Douglas Yeo in this blog (which I only read a couple of days ago after I eventually found the solution to my problems) .

    Last week I visited my local brass instrument repair shop about another matter and we got into a discussion about ergonomics, when he told me, that he had a hand rest from Grenhoe which operated differently than the one I had tried previously. It is mounted just above where the slide is attached to the rest of the instrument and is basically just a hook that supports the hand between the thumb and the index finger. You can see a picture in the Yeo-blog mentioned above.
    It carries all the weight of the bone and it is absolutely brilliant!

    My grip never slips anymore no matter how tired I am and extended runs in the low register is no longer a problem (well at least not a problem caused by a trombone sliding around in my hand).

    A positive side effect is that overall tension in my body (most notably the shoulders) has eased very much after I have had this rest installed (I have so far just had it attached with a kind of hose clamp, but my band has very kindly allowed me to get it soldered on).

    Now you may start to think that I am employed by the Grenhoe Musical Instruments to sell their products, but that company is no more. Gary Greenhoe retired in December of last year, but I have since heard that similar rests are made by other manufacturers .

    I am now in bass trombone Heaven and I just wanted to share this info with all of you in case anyone else has the same problem (I am sure the more experienced users in here already knew about this contraption, but it was new to me - and bad news for my chiropractor :cool:).

    Cheers Erik
  2. Ianroberts

    Ianroberts Well-Known Member

    Eh ? You lost me after the bit about a post contest !

    The "only post contest" thing I am interested in is the "post contest pint".

    Just saying like.
  3. euphoria

    euphoria Member

    Sorry about that.

    Being so pleased with playing without pain in my hand and shoulders, obviously made me a bit overexited. I am aware that my opening post is of no interest to anybody unless they have had the same problem I had, which almost made me quit the bass bone bussiness.
  4. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Active Member

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Some Trombones can be difficult and even painful to hold at times. A badly balanced straight tenor with doubtful hand grip options stopped me playing for a couple of months. Mostly our friends with (axial) valves do not understand the challenges of playing a trombone, mind that's not to say other instruments are easier ..... though some may be ;).
  5. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I always feel a little sheepish when talk turns to aids to holding bass trombones, as I've been lucky enough never to struggle with this. Perhaps having smallish hands and an embouchure that doesn't work very well if I don't hold the instrument horizontally forced me to find a naturally ergonomic solution in some way? Who knows. Glad to hear that Erik has found an aid useful though, as do many players.

    But the point about balance is the salient one, for me. The heaviest bass trombone (and I do also play a Miraphone BBb/FF contra from time to time, which on weight grounds dwarfs any bass) is eminently supportable without aid, if it is well balanced and the valve levers are placed so that the instrument can be held on the palm of the left hand without stretching for them. But the lightest straight tenor can prove a strain on the wrists, forearms, and/or hands if it is front-heavy, as so many are. For me it is a necessity to have a counterweight on such trombones - indeed I go so far as to add counterweights to single-valved instruments such as my Conn 88H. The old Gs were the worst offenders in terms of balance - that long slide, coupled with no valve, no counterweight, and a bell flare that bent round so early that the bell is at 4th position; I don't know how anyone ever managed to play them sometimes!
  6. euphoria

    euphoria Member

    Thanks for your reply Dave. I have actually thought about getting a counterweight, since it is a bit frontheavy, but I believe it could not have solved all the issues. Like Douglass Yeo has mentioned, trombones are not designed for people with rather large hands (like mine) and I never could get quite comfortable with the grip on the Xeno bone (it was better with the old 613 horn). That has been solved now by this simple device which I am sure has prolonged my playing life. My predecessor as bass trombone in my band had to give up playing when his shoulders gave up, as has more trombone players than I care to think about.

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