Cheating at contests - Ed Kleinhammer

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by simonbassbone, Jan 25, 2008.

  1. simonbassbone

    simonbassbone Member

    An odd pairing cos as far as I know Ed Kleinhammer never played in a brass band contest, although its quite possible he did some marching band stuff whilst at college.
    Anyway, I know the subject of what constitutes cheating/getting the best musical performance crops up regulary on here (Mods please feel free to move this if you think it needs moving but I couldn't find an on-going Thread on this subject). Opinion seems to be split between the "Every note should be played as written on the score" camp and those who believe " As long as its sounds right anything goes".
    I came across this in Ed Kleinhammers book "The Art Of Trombone Playing" and thought it was worth sharing the experience of a top proffessional bass trombonist.
    "The write had occasion once to play the Schubert Ubfinished Symphony under extreme pianissimo conditions. Woodwinds and brass were having difficulty throughout the symphony with tones not "speaking," and with anxiety I awaited the passage near the end of the second movement where the bass trombone plays the bass figure ppp for five bars along with only two clarinets and two bassoons. It was an extrememly nerve-shattering experience, to say the least. By the next rehearsal the problem had been solved by cutting a three-inch square of cotton from an undershirt and placing it over the mouthpiece receiver before inserting the mouthpiece. The passage could then actually be played louder technically and yet sound very soft. This safety margin can be increased by doubling the cloth before inserting the mouthpiece. A small tuning slide adjustment will overcome the fact that the mouthpiece protrudes a bit farther from the instrument."

    Any thoughts?
  2. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    Fantastic idea - can't wait for the areas, watching all the players cutting up their shirts, taking out their mouthpieces, placing material, replacing mouthpiece, adjust tuning and hey presto "where are we?, where? oh God Biigger, missed it"
  3. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Wouldn't it have been easier to have used a tenor trombone with say, a 4G, throughout instead? Much easier to play clean and quiet on than the very large equipment that, as I recall, Ed Kleinhammer moved to later in his career.
  4. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Surely that would compromise breadth of sound? And yes, it is something I'm going to try where neccessary.
  5. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Not really, a bass trombonist will usually make that equipment sound much larger than a tenor player does.

    But anyway - Schubert (1797-1828 ) lived in Vienna. It's attested that Viennese trombone sections of that period a) played on much narrower bores than we do now, and b) used three similar instruments (all in Bb) despite calling them "alto", "tenor", and "bass", varying only the mouthpiece size. So I think that using a modern bass trombone on this piece would make an inappropriately tubby sound both absolutely and relative to the other two trombones.

    What is it that people are so fond of repeating over on the trombone forum...? "Get the right tool for the job" - he was making life far too hard for himself, I reckon.
  6. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    I've an even better idea; Learn to play quietly!
  7. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    How condescending!

    And if a Bass Trombonist can make that equipment sound much larger than a tenor player, why bother with the larger bore in the first place?

    I don't know about you, but as a Bass Trombonist I can definately make a larger sound on a .562 and a Schilke 58 than I can on a .547 and a 4G. Also, I can play just as quiet on the bigger gear as I can on the smaller, and therefore don't think much to that solution.
  8. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    How condescending? I wasn't being condescending - can you let me know how I came across as being this in order that I can avoid sounding like it in the future? Who do you think I was being condescending to? You? Tenor trombonists? Bass trombonists?

    My statement is based on observation - I, and other bass trombonists that I have heard try the same thing, make a larger sound on .547+4G than a large majority of tenor trombonists who make what is thought of as a full sound on tenor. This is mostly true for the low register, where the bass trombonist's specialist technique of huge air + not much tongue is more at home. Hence Ed Kleinhammer could have used this equipment on the 3rd part, and still sounded tonally larger than the other two players, even if they were using the same instrument+mouthpiece combination.

    Part of the reason why a bass player makes a bigger sound than a tenor on a large tenor is that they are used to filling a larger tube and expecting a larger sound. Playing the same instrument, the bass player looks for different results than the tenor player - because they are emulating a larger bore sound.

    In answer to your question - because it is easier to make a larger sound on a larger bore instrument than one of the same bore.

    Indeed I find the same...

    ...but here I think you are looking at the wrong issue. When Ed Kleinhammer says "extreme pianissimo", I assume that he means a barely audible whisper; after all, he cites high level professional musicians having difficulty making notes speak. At this degree of pp, when I am having to really work hard to control the instrument with only a dribble of air, I find that a .562 loses a lot of its tonal colour in a way that a .547 doesn't, and that the note response on a .547 is much more reliable than on a .562. If I were in this particular professional performance situation, I would value the ability to be confident on every note coming out and sounding like a trombone at all over a greater breadth of sound - particularly since a .562 is very much larger than the instrument the part was originally intended for.
    Indeed, I wonder if he was on a .562 at all? But then his career occurred mostly before people became keen on using trombones of appropriate sizes for older repertoire, so I suspect he probably was.
  9. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    My original question asked about breadth of sound. You answered as if I knew nothing about the instruments in question, or the techniques involved. Look to the left, you will see that my instrument is Bass Trombone. I don't doubt that a Bass Trombonist will create a larger sound on a tenor due to technique in lower register, but he'd create a larger one still using a bass trombone hence a compromise in sound. Now you could argue that the biggest sound is not neccessary for the music. Not knowing the music I wouldn't know. My query was coming more from a technical point of view than a musical one. Then again, you did say that you can also get a larger sound from the bass set up than the tenor, isn't that a compromise on breadth of sound if you choose to use the tenor set up rather than the bass?
  10. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I glossed over it in my first post, because for me my second point was more important - you don't need that modern breadth of sound for this repertoire, and so your question seemed a bit of a digression.

    Sorry if I came across as insufficiently respectful by that; I hope my second post was more useful in considering that question. To my ears, a trombone used as a bass doesn't need to sound as much bigger than the tenors as it often does - some bass trombonists, in all musical spheres, sound more like contrabass trombonists.

    I'm well aware of who you are and some of what and where you play, although it did take me a while to fully link up "Bayerd" here and "Birdy" at the trombone forum...

    It is a compromise if you think the larger sound is more appropriate, but are using a smaller one because you can't make the larger sound work in the situation. It's not a compromise if you don't think that the larger sound is more appropriate in the situation in the first place.

    It must be said though, that the idea of using "historically correct" instruments is a compromise in the first place unless the whole rest of the ensemble is doing the same.
    Sometimes the greatest value in the exercise lies in giving your ears a slightly different perspective!
  11. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    I'm with you on the 'historically correct' thing, I'd like to see the G trom being used on music that was written for it, however (as I'm sure you'd agree) trying to make it work with modern instruments is very difficult to do.

    FWIW I did try the cloth over the receiver and came to this conclusion, either

    a) Shirt cloth used to be much more porous years ago,


    b) Kleinhammer was fibbing

    Apart from the tremendous resistance (as you'd expect), the notes don't slot at all and the sound is nearer to a practise mute sound than a real one. Perhaps we won't see so many shirt tails at the areas after all;)
  12. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Interesting! I haven't got around to trying it yet, I'll see if I have a suitably knackered old lightweight summer shirt around. He did specifically say "undershirt" - perhaps he was a man who demanded only the finest of vest materials???

    I am totally at a loss to understand what the conductor of that performance was trying to achieve. "Hey, I've got a great idea, let's play a whole symphony so quietly that the audience can't hear it"...

    There were two flavours of G trom - the one that bands used was .484 bore, whereas the one that orchestras used was .527 bore. The first really doesn't work in a modern band, but the second has a lot more potential (especially if the tenors go down a size too). I hope to demonstrate this at Stevenage in March...
  13. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    I've got an old Besson Prototype Bass pitched in High pitch F, tried that once with the band and just could not get it to blend at all. I think that must be one of the .484 bore ones. Shame really, I fancied using it down the street on Whit Friday night.
  14. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Now that does sound like a fun instrument. Are there any pictures online? Playing an instrument in F and compensating for high pitch at the same time must cause a headache... What kind of groups ever used it?

    When I often played with Rolls-Royce (Coventry) a few years back, Maurice Bale (chap in his 70s, and father of Peter Bale on here, who used to play all sorts of instruments with the band) suggested to Dave Lea, the conductor, that we could go to Whit Friday with him covering the bass trombone part on his G, and me playing it all down the octave... I think he got an abrupt answer!

    Will be missing WF for the first time in about 15 years this time round :(
  15. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    I don't know much about the instrument. It was bought for me as a present by my other half as a suprise. It was sold on ebay as a G. When we got it, you could see that it was longer than a G. Pitch wise, it actually plays as a quarter tone flat G. I was thinking of shortening the instrument to today's G, but there's not really any point as there isn't really a use for it in the modern setting. I blow on it at home occasionally, it has a lovely sweet tone at quieter dynamics, and the trademark bark at loud!
  16. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    I hope you're not taking my G trombone on the march;)
  17. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    'Twould be fun. But no...
  18. Valvecap

    Valvecap Member

    Thats just what I was about to say Duncan! Why be complicated about it! And look at it another way... 10 contests down the line you would end up looking like a bunny girl / bloke as u ran out of shirt to cut up! :eek:
  19. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Only these;)

    I've put it next to the regular bass to give an idea of size.

    Attached Files:

  20. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Wouldn't that make it in a high-pitch F# by the old UK standard? Deeply weird...
    I wonder if it was made for a different pitch standard - maybe French? Perhaps someone like the venerable Ed Solomon might have an idea what market it was made for.