Holding a Bass Trombone!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by flugelgal, Jan 20, 2009.

  1. flugelgal

    flugelgal Active Member

    I'm learning bass trombone just now - well trying to! The main problem I'm experiencing at the moment is holding the thing. Is it acceptable to rest it on the shoulder or should the left hand bear all the weight? I'm finding that my thumb is taking most of the weight and so I can't hold it for more than a couple of minutes at a time - plus this means I shift the weight a bit to use the triggers, which seems very wrong!

    I've looked on the internet and read some books and I can't really see how to hold it any differently. Does anyone have any tips? (Other than go to a teacher which I think I will do - but until then I need to learn the dots and it's slower when I can't play it for long at a time).
  2. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    Surely you hold it in the left hand and pull on the starter cable with the right hand ........
    ......................or is that a chainsaw?
    I've never really worked out the difference....they seem to sound the same ;)
  3. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Which make and model are you learning on?
  4. flugelgal

    flugelgal Active Member

    Ooo I didn't realise that made a difference. It's a King with 2 triggers, says 2106 and 6B on the bell. (Belongs to the band).
  5. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    The legendary King Duo Gravis. A great instrument (I play on one myself).

    The 2nd valve paddle in front of the first is pretty awkward. So much so that I took mine to Mick Rath to have it modified so that the 2nd valve is operated by the 'Saturday Night finger' as I couldn't get used to the way the paddles operated, yet loved the sound of the bone.

    Whilst I played it before modifying it, I used to hold the bone in the left hand, supporting the weight on the bottom of my palm and only used the 2nd valve when I had to for the low C or B.

    You could also look at either an Ergobone, which supports the instrument on the upper body, or a brace that helps you support the instrument on the back of the hand (I also use one of these).

    Here's a link to another forum where I explained my problems in a bit more detail. It also has several pictures to try and explained what's changed.


    You might also recognise one of the other contributors to the thread as well....
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2009
  6. Despot

    Despot Member

    Oh no.......you didn't!

    But since you have, all the weight is carried in your hand. (Played trom in a past life) It does take a while to get used to the weight. If the band has one, could borrow a straight tenor, preferebly a large bore. Spend a bit of time on that first, and learn your dots! Or leave the triggers alone for a bit.

    Get a teacher asap. Don't worry about not being able to read bass quickly. There's a mass of technique you have to learn that will keep you busy regardless! There should be a good few teachers about being so close to Dublin.
  7. flugelgal

    flugelgal Active Member

    That's really useful, thanks Bayerd. I don't feel quite so bad now that I know I'm not the only person who experiences issues (and am not just being a girly wimp!). I'll have a look into some of these accessories to help as it's a band trombone and I wouldn't like to ask them about modifying it!

    Also, it does seem like a good instrument, but it still sounds a bit "parpy" for now - but that's all due to my moving from high instrument to very low I'm sure! I've been playing it for less than a week and my bass trom mouthpiece hasn't arrived yet (using a borrowed large shank tenor mouthpiece to get me started). Hopefully the sound will fill out a bit when that arrives and I get my chops round it.
  8. flugelgal

    flugelgal Active Member

    :biggrin: I told you I was thinking about it! I can read bass clef, I just don't know the positions yet. I've been pencilling them into band parts at lunchtimes at work. It's one way to learn!

    And yes, some guy at band gets lessons from a trombone player, I need to get his number!
  9. Vegasbound

    Vegasbound Active Member

    Welcome to the section!! nice to see another convert moving into the light.... you have a fine instrument in the Duo Gravis 6B will do everything you need for playing in almost every musical ensemble you are likely to play in.

    A teacher is a must before you 'learn' bad habits much easier to get it right from the start, and also may I suggest you visit the British trombone Society website a good source of material and advice.

    As a newcomer to the section I would suggest you try to find recordings of the legend that is George Roberts aka Mr Bass trombone listen to his sound it will be a good starting point until you discover what we bone players refer to as 'The Sound in our head' that trombone sound each player is trying to achieve.

    So good luck and practice the long notes!!
  10. flugelgal

    flugelgal Active Member

    Thanks! I'm enjoying the challenge of something new. I love flugel, but detest cornet, so this is very exciting! (Sorry cornet players, just it's not my instrument at all.)
  11. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Well, you all seem to have this pretty well covered - just thought I'd emphasise that, however you end up holding it, it's important to end up doing it in the most relaxed way possible; if you start tensing up your whole arm too much, you can run into some nasty problems down the line. My bass (Conn 62HCL) is on the heavy side, and changing my hold to it wasn't as simple as I thought it would be - how I have settled is to have the load bearing diagonally across my palm, with most of it on the fleshy pad at the base of the left thumb - this allows my tendons and fingers to operate the valves in a relaxed manner - the only noticeable tension is further up the arm, near the bicep. Obviously the hand grips somewhat - otherwise the instrument would slide off the hand! - but using no more force than is absolutely necessary reaps dividends in terms of avoiding long-term physical problems and general playing relaxation. It's kind of like the embouchure in that way...

    The modern bass trombone is an ergonomic disaster, it must be said - all that weight on one side of the body; if the weight is a serious concern, I second looking at the Ergobone (link above) - the harness may be a bit fiddly, but I've met people who have been enabled to continue playing by their use.
  12. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Of the Bass Trombones that are out there, it is one that can become edgy really quick if you're not careful. I suggest plenty of long tones with crescs and decrescs to help you to learn how far to push the instrument with the sound you've got.

    I'd also be inclined to stick with the tenor mouthpiece you're on for the time being as developing your chops will take time and moving to too big a mouthpice will not give you a big sound and will make other areas of technique more difficult.

    Having said all that, try to find the best teacher you can and invest money with them, it'll be well spent.
  13. Red Elvis

    Red Elvis Active Member

    Don't know if this helps but I noticed on Sunday that young Mr Moore ( OK it wasn't a bass bone ) had some sort of strap device he slid his right hand into to hold the instrument ? rather than holding the instrument in the normal fashion between thumb and fingers it appeared to leave his whole hand flat against the tubing ? - tried googling for a pic but could not find one
  14. JimboFB

    JimboFB Active Member

    My only bit of advice (bar getting down the gym and beefing up that left bicep) is to not worry to much about holding in a way that you try to keep your finger over the 2nd trigger (not the one you operate with your thumb) too much.

    You possibly wont use it half as much as you think you will and on some instruments forces your hand into a really odd position that doesnt feel terribly natural. Added to that pretty much every single instrument is built slightly different and takes some getting used to. I'm currently struggling to get used to my new edwards after playing another make/model before.

    I'm not sure about the King, but most bass troms have adjustable paddles for the triggers so you may find that by slightly adjusting these it will feel more comfortable.

    That said, its probably just a case of getting used to the weight in general and the extra puff required as it can genuinely be a physically exhausting instrument to play at times. :redface::redface::redface:

    Dont worry tho, with enough practice and not trying to kill yourself to quickly you will be fine.

    Good luck - and welcome to the dark side :clap:
  15. flugelgal

    flugelgal Active Member

    Thanks for all the advice! I currently can't even fill my flugel at the moment, due to recovering from a nasty chest infection, so I'm not playing very much at all. Just as much as I can handle without coughing fits. I'll experiment with different methods of holding it!

    Also on the mouthpiece thing, I'm in two minds. First of all my friend (who's a brass teacher back home) recommended not using a tenor trombone mouthpiece, as this would be similar to trying to play a horn on a flugel mouthpiece. This makes total sense to me! However, trombone players keep saying "use a tenor mouthpiece first". I do wonder whether that's what they did because they were already using a tenor mouthpiece, and that the difference between flugel and bass trombone isn't that much bigger than flugel and tenor trombone, which is why I'm not sure what to do! Hopefully the person I get lessons from will be able to help.

    Anyway, thanks again for all the advice. I must admit that the ergobone looks really useful, although I can guess at the comments that would be made at band if I turned up with that on!
  16. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    If I were you, I'd just go straight to a standard size bass mouthpiece, probably a little smaller than the average - a Vincent Bach 2G, say, or a Wick 2AL. I don't think using a tenor piece will help - you say it yourself; the tenor trombone mouthpiece already feels foreign to you - you might as well bite the bullet now.

    You say your bass mouthpiece hasn't arrived yet - what size will it be?
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2009
  17. flugelgal

    flugelgal Active Member

    I looked up some sites and saw that Bach 1 1/2G was sort of standard, so I ordered that. I used to use Bach trumpet mouthpieces and have never ever gotten on well with Wick on the smaller instruments, so that helped my choice!
  18. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Bach 1-1/2G is an excellent choice - the standard among serious players, and for a good reason. Don't let anyone try to tell you that you need something bigger to play in a brass band...
  19. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Not really, and the reason I say that is because both tenor and bass trombones are pitched in Bb these days, the bass just has a wider bore and an extra valve. The tenor mouthpiece will help you establish the mid range of the instrument quicker and once you've done that, you can work on extending the range south of the stave and moving to a bass trom mouthpiece will help with this. As you've already ordered the bass mouthpiece, get the teacher to listen to you on both over all of the range you've got and ask their opinion as to which sounds best.

    (I've just seen you've ordered a 1.5g, a great choice for this instrument, the Duo Gravis doesn't really work as well with bigger pieces than this)

    As Jimbo said, you'll also be surprised how little you'll use the second valve so you could work on holding it in a way that's comfortable where your thumb doesn't reach as far as the second valve (I used to do this before the modification).

    Good luck with it all, and welcome to the dark side (you'll never leave..)
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2009
  20. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Worth keeping in mind that if operating the valves is at all cumbersome, your favourite repairer will bend the trigger levers to fit your hand for not much money...

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