Bottom 'C' on bass bone

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by merv, Jul 26, 2017.

  1. merv

    merv Member

    As a very recent bass trombone convert I'm faced in a test piece with bottom C on the second ledger line. My instrument is single plug and I am told that it will be difficult to centre on this note. Have tried pulling the F slide out to get an E but the slide is within 10mm of falling out and still can't hit below C sharp.
    Any advice on what I should do please? And don't say 'Go up the octave' please or 'lip it up' or 'buy a double plug'
    Looking forward to comments please
  2. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I tried bass clef, and on a single plug Trombone, but gave that clef up as too confusing. It's great if you can do it, and I did mange quite a lot on it, but it was always a struggle. 2nd tenor is a much nicer place to be, IMHO, and I find the music more interesting than the Bass Trombone's plus I got an end chair in one band too. :) .

    If you will persevere with the bass clef then send MoominDave a pm to request an answer to your question, if anyone knows he does. Stevetrom might also help and Basstiger looks in occasionally too. Nethers is a Tenor Trombone player but he's another who would know the answer but is likely just not on tmp for a while, however a pm might be forwarded to his email account. At the back of my mind I seem to recall that one of the lower notes is simply not available with a single plug Trombone and hence the E pull for the F section together with a long 6th on the main slide beyond what would normally be 7th in a higher pitched harmonic ..... other 'dodges' or 'enhancements' might exist too but could require an investment in modifying your instrument in some way.

    As an aside you might care to learn the bass clef for your BBb work, as the Bass Trombone is also pitched in Bb there is a lot of commonality. If you can master that clef then there is quite a lot of music that becomes open to you to play, wind band and classical stuff.

    I hope that the above bumps the question for you and gives you some idea of who to ask.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
  3. merv

    merv Member

    Thank you so much for your reply.
    I have spent a whole year now working on bass clef and am pretty familiar with it now. I just stuck at it. In fact now making mistakes on the treble clef which shows how familiar I am with the bass clef now.
    I started on tenor but gave it up after 2 weeks and traded in for a bass!!
    The trouble is that tuba music in a brass band is written in the treble clef. I would then run into the problem of not being able to get music.
    You're right the bottom C shouldn't really be available to a single plug bass bone. I can't get below C sharp even with the F slide pulled to E on my Rath R8 but I can get it on an old Yamaha 321 on 7th without pulling to E.
    Will follow up those contacts
    Good luck
  4. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    You're very welcome to whatever help I can give you, to me it's a way of returning help to the Brass Band community some of whom have supported me at one time or another.

    I'm sorry not to have made my point clearer about the value of being able to play the BBb in Bass Clef. As you say Brass Band BBb Bass music is in treble clef but there are (gulp) other places to play than Brass Bands and they all use Bass Clef. Additionally there is a wealth of music, mostly American, that can help with practice at home as either tutor books, exercises or solo pieces for your pleasure. There is a USA based Tuba site where you could learn more about that, and you could also get access to a wealth of bass clef Trombone music too for your enjoyment on your BBb .....

    Doug Yeo has an interesting site full of reference material. You might like to look at this chart that I extracted from it: . As you will know shift positions on the Trombone are variable in actual location on the slide dependant upon, amongst other things, which open harmonic they are associated with. For the lower notes 6th can be hanging off of the bottom of the slide and 7th has fallen off of it and hence isn't available.

    I'm hopeful that one of the experts suggested will give you some better guidance.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2017
  5. merv

    merv Member

    Thanks for all that 2nd Tenor. Yes I have a couple of local concert/wind band options and take your point.
    I'm new to this forum and trying to figure out how to PM someone!
  6. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Just checked myself as I don't do it often.

    Log in.
    Go to the in box tab in top right hand corner of screen and click on it to open it.
    Select start a new conversation and start typing in with who (screen name) in the recipient box - suggestions of the correct name will be appear after the first few letters are entered.

    Hope that gets you started or helps in some way.
  7. merv

    merv Member

    Thanks Second Tenor! Seems a very unfriendly way to address you
  8. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    I always thought that C was playable and only the B needed to be "faked" - if you can got it on a Yamaha 321 perhaps an instrument change is in order ?
  9. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Thinking 'sideways' or 'out of the box' Bass Trombone parts are sometimes marked up on the Eb Bass part, could you cheat and have one of them 'pop in' the necessary notes for now, etc.

    Like Andrew above I would have thought that anything possible on the Yamaha 321 (basic but well regarded) would be more readily achieved on a Rath (expensive and played by 'The Gods'), something seems to be 'not quite right'. Perhaps some alternating 'side by side' playing and testing might, in part or in some way, assist you to move forwards in resolving the difficulty. I still wonder about giving the problem (notes) to the Eb Basses if possible :) .
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2017
  10. merv

    merv Member

    The basses are also down there with me so if I only miss the final C maybe I shouldn't worry. Even jump up the octave if I feel I must play.
    I have discussed the issue with Raths and they consider that centering on that bottom C is likely to be not possible. As I said before I pulled the F slide to E and there was only 10mm of the F slide short leg remaining engaged. At that position I could still only get C sharp based on my Korg tuner. A very experienced bass bone colleague wants to have a blow at the instrument (he sold me his Yam 321) as he can't believe that Raths would produce a single plug with no clearly achieveable bottom C. After all it's one of the Gods instruments an R8
  11. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    If the Basses are already duplicating the C that you are struggling with then that's, IMHO, helpful. I suggest that you seek guidance from your MD as to what note to play instead, perhaps what you play is part of a chord.

    My own expectation of a Bb/F Trombone is that it should be able to cover a complete range of notes with the exception of the lower Concert B (as per the chart noted in my earlier post) and that that note should be available with the F section pulled to E. I don't claim to be an expert and would be glad to hear comments from those who are.

    It will be interesting to hear what your experienced Bass Trombone colleague has to say when he has tested your R8. At the moment you need to better establish and verify all of the facts, to my mind that would include what the generic performance specification of a single plug Bass Trombone is typically considered to be by expert players. No adverse comments intended.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2017
  12. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    Sometimes the more expensive option is not the best instrument for the less experienced player.
    There are reasons, besides price, that some instruments are regarded as student/intermediate models.
  13. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I personally think that the above is a very valid comment when in the context of all players and all instruments, it might apply more to Trombones than others due to the ease with which lead pipes can be replaced on some of them. Some instruments allow the player a greater flexibility in the sound that can be produced by the instrument, but you have to be an expert to control that flexibility or you can end up with what you don't want.

    As an inexpert player I'm happy to have a less expensive instrument that's set-up to cater for the less skilled and forgo the expensive 'clever stuff'. Others will almost certainly find that their mileage varies on that one, hopefully no one will be offended. I wouldn't want to pull the thread away from the original post: hitting a bottom Concert C on the second ledger line.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
  14. merv

    merv Member

    Thanks for the chart that's the one I use where it shows bottom C at T7 b. That's what I'm struggling with and only can get C#. Pulling to E does sometimes but not consistently let me hit C but the F slide and slide are both nearly falling out!! Risky.
    Will post what my colleague says.
    Point taken but sadly for me I'm committed and will have to persevere. Fortunately the only downside I've noticed is trying to get bottom C which as you say is the topic of the original thread. However I must say the R8 is a beautifully made English hand-crafted instrument which no doubt adds considerably to the price. I am very pleased with its 'playability ' and sound but then would I, also an inexpert', be able to hear the difference between it and a lesser model. I did start off with a 233 after all but that's a story for another day !!
  15. JimboFB

    JimboFB Active Member

    In my humble opinion-you won't get the note.

    In my experience of various instruments, I've never been able to get lower than a bottom Db (Concert) Eb (treble clef), but I'd always partially put it down to my own ergonomics... I've literally got fairly short arms! I can't really reach 7th position so other players I've kind of heard get these notes must have gorilla like levers to play a REAL flat 7th with just the one trigger down.

    That said, I hated that particular note on various double plug (Edwards/Rath/Holton) as found it a really stuff note to pick out with both plugs engaged.

    If it was a concert, I'd prob play up the octave; if it's a test piece I'd ask the guy in the middle what he'd rather; if it's a whole load of mayhem going on at a loud bit...leave it out.

    Work smarter not harder on that part, rest when you can and save your self for the bits that really matter.
    Jack E likes this.
  16. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Congratulations on your new position James, sounds a lot of fun...

    A few thoughts...
    - On the F trigger, most trombone slides are not quite long enough to place the slide for a centred in tune low C. The old Conn 72H etc. series models were a notable exception, made with an extra long slide specifically for this purpose.
    - It is common practice on single trigger trombones to (when needed) pull out the F valve tuning slide to bring low C and low B closer to practicality. This applies to tenors as well as basses - the valve slide on the ubiquitous Conn 88H large bore tenor model is designed to have a long pull stretch in order to get the valve down towards E on its own. Obviously all the positions on the valve come in a bit when one does this - it takes a bit of specific practice to get fluent at playing in tune while doing it.
    - With the 'E pull' engaged, low C is present pretty close to what would be 6th position on the open instrument - pretty comfortable to reach for anyone of near average armspan. I can't remember exactly how much of a pull there is on the Rath F valve slide (it's been several years since I sold the R9 I was then playing regularly), but I don't remember it being a particularly short pull. It should be eminently possible to bring low C in to a comfortable position by pulling the valve slide. Even low B is possible for those with long arms (mine are quite short too...).
    - Rath trombones follow the modern design philosophy of making note slots very centred; it is not as easy to bend notes about on them with the lip as it is on older trombones. I can well believe that the Yamaha 321 (a much underrated model, btw, a good design) made it easier to bend down to a low C.

    I would advise:
    - Test the tuning of what you are doing up the octave, in a more comfortable register; pull the valve to E (or as low as it will go), and find where C an octave up is on the slide with the valve down (it really ought to be in the same place as the octave down unless the instrument has some very strange problems). Note where you've pulled the valve slide to so you can replicate it again (a pencil mark is often a good idea). If you can find it the octave up, it's a question of training yourself to produce a low C rather than a matter to question your instrument over.

    For me, this is why I never play a single plug bass trombone by choice. Low C is too important a note for it to be safe to make it this awkward. Rare in brass band repertoire, but you don't want to be left embarrassed when it does show up. Even a stuffy double valve response is more convenient than shifting valve slides and straining the right arm to reach.

    One final observation - it is possible to obtain these notes as 'fake tones'. If you place the slide on this harmonic as for a major 3rd higher and grip the note powerfully with the lips, you can learn to produce quite a reasonable approximation to an acceptable tone quality - though this method will never produce particularly powerful noises - you work hard with the face to get a weaker result. For low C, put the slide and trigger as for low E. For low B, put the slide and trigger as for low Eb, etc.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017
    Blades4Ever and 2nd tenor like this.
  17. sober_phil

    sober_phil Member

    For what it's worth, I play a Rath R9 and my preferred way to play a low C is with the F trigger and the slide out as far as I can reach - this gives the best response and sound. Not usually practical in fast passages when I use both triggers and somewhere around 4th position.
  18. Daverose_691

    Daverose_691 New Member

    As a long time Eb Bass player who went over to the dark side of Trombone many years ago and is now really enjoying Bass Trombone (mostly Big Band though) I really struggled with Bass Clef at first because I'd spent most of my life looking at Concert bass clef and doing an easy conversion in my head into Eb Treble Clef by simply adding 3 sharps to the key signature and reading it as Treble Clef. I too am now so used to Bass Clef that I struggle to sight-read Bb TC Trombone parts, but use my old tuba trick in reverse to turn Eb Bass parts into Bass Trom (knock 3 sharps off the key sig and play as Bass Clef).

    You're quite correct that all the theory books say you can't get a low B natural without a second trigger, however in the 150+ pieces in my Big Band's pad I think there's only maybe 4 of these notes in all the scores put together.
    I also struggle to hit any note accurately with both triggers in, and TBH slightly regret splashing out on a brand new Holton TR181 double-plug as I can't actually remember when I last used the second valve in anger. When I first started in Big Band I was advised to always tune slightly sharp so that it's possible to do proper slide vibrato in 1st position, and this means that I can pretty much hit low B natural with my slide totally closed, as my normal 1st position is actually more like a short 2nd.

    Hope this helps.

    Dave Rose
    Newport Wales
  19. merv

    merv Member

    Thanks Dave that's interesting. I had a Rath R900 double plug and I also found it hard to get a good note with both triggers. They were rarely used and the instrument was so heavy that i decided to trade it in for a Rath R8. Now here I am needing bottom C for a contest piece. Murphy's law. I've done the 'pulling to E' on the F slide but can't get below C# still.
    I also have a much older Yamaha 321 which can hit bottom C using one valve. Typical
  20. merv

    merv Member

    Hi Phil see my reply to Dave where I had an R900 double plug for a short period but ditched it as rarely used and too heavy.