Pedal Notes

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by B(r)assBone, Apr 18, 2011.

  1. B(r)assBone

    B(r)assBone Member


    here is a more Bass Trombone specific question: Unfortunately, I have some difficulties to play loud pedal notes, even a Pedal Bb!

    Extremely, when I played for a while and then have to play a loud pedal Bb, for instance coming from mid range with a couple of notes and and then play the pedal note or when having a pause noted before and then have to play the pedal in ff.

    Sometimes my lips won't vibrate with the flexibility that is needed in these registers or sometimes it is only not loud enough, even when I push a lot of air in. I is not cutting through enough for what it is needed on such parts.

    What do you think, what might be wrong? Do you bring more of your lips into the mouthpiece in such ranges or do you more or less go for a wider embouchure, so that less meat is in your mouthpiece?

    Is there anything, I could practice and improve this to be prepared for the next ff pedals? ;)
  2. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    It's very difficult to be accurate without seeing you play, but it sounds to me like you're trying to push the air in too quickly. You won't get the results you want straightaway, but I suggest trying to keep the corners of the mouth pulled down and tight whilst keeping the middle of the chops relaxed and loose. Don't try to push air in too quickly, think about blowing warm air in.

    You are of course much better advised to go and see a teacher if you can, so they can set you off on the right track. Then it'll be mostly down to you to practice.
  3. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Seconded. For two reasons:

    i) The possibility of misdiagnosis of this kind of problem over the internet approaches 100%.
    ii) The advice you get is (hopefully!) guaranteed to be good when you go to a pro. You'll get a lot of well-meaning but ultimately insufficiently informed remarks here, and sorting out the wheat from the chaff is worth the few euros you'll spend on a lesson.

    FWIW, I have been wondering recently what's been up with my lower register. It's always been the biggest strength of my playing, but lately it's felt uncertain, fluffy, and lacking power. It occurred to me last night that I've gradually forgotten to 'grip' the note properly with the lips - to get power combined with accuracy down there, one needs to rather muscle the note. Hey presto - instant fix. It's funny how one can drift into a wrong turn with playing sometimes. That might provide food for thought - but is only my recent experience - your issue is almost certainly different. A lesson with a serious pro is the way to go, definitely...

    p.s. A point worth making - I recall Doug Elliott (US maker of modular mouthpieces, general embouchure guru, and also pro tenor trombonist) once saying on the Trombone Forum that when it comes to getting maximum power into pedal notes, almost every bass trombone pro he's ever met makes some kind of embouchure shift. Not necessarily for quieter pedals, but just for power in that register.
  4. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    That's certainly true for me to get power from about a G down, that's roughly where the shift takes place. Then for the Gb and F the dynamic will dictate the embouchure placement, below that it's a shift regardless.
  5. Brassbones

    Brassbones Member

    I agree with the comments so far. The Bb no probs, the A tends to lose a bit and I find the Ab, G and Gb really need the 'bulldog' embrochure and plenty of practice to get properly loud (seem to remember there being a good thread on 'the bulldog' on Ben Van Dijk's forum). From the F down we can use the triggers and the extra back pressure actually makes these notes easier to play loud! So, pedal Eb's are (paradixically) easier to get waft on than pedal G's! I wont bother mentioning double trigger pedals ... they are for warm up virtuoso's ;)

    If you have double forte Ab, G or Gb isolated in the part you can always resort to a small shank tuba mouthpiece (I use a Wick Heritage 4) but keep an ear on the tuning! The tuba m/p option is also good for loud shock note double trigger C's and B's.

    Good luck
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2011
  6. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Not just me then, I use Rath's CB1B to the same effect when necessary.
  7. B(r)assBone

    B(r)assBone Member

    Thanks to all of you for your thoughts!

    I also made the experience that sometimes there is too much pressure on my mouthpiece and therefore the lips won't swing enough. This might also be a sign that the Bach 1-1/4 GM is too small for this range and I needed a bigger one for those registers.

    There is always a compromise between good overall mouthpieces and mouthpieces that are good for a certain range.

    @Bayerd: It also helped me to keep the corners pulled down and tight and to think about blowing warm air, as you said. The results are not too bad.

    @MoominDave: I think I to not properly understand what you mean by muscle the note. To me this sounds like pressure on the mouthpiece which doesn't sound right to me.

    Shifting is also an interesting topic, as for me shifting in this range means open my mouth thoroughly. At the time when I had more problems with pedals it just felt as my lips did not want to start vibrating, as if they were stuck or too tight. When I look at the anatomy of my lips, I would say that they are a bit bigger compared to others. But this also means, the need more flexibility and room for vibration in the pedals. So, either a bigger MP helped for that rage, or loose pressure on the MP.
    Are you going to bring more of your lips inro the cup, or more or less tend to bring more of your lips out of the cup`?
  8. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    By shifting we mean moving the placement of the mouthpiece on the chops. A 1.25 is plenty big enough to get right down low with practice. One thing you could try which has worked for me, stick your top lip on the upper rim of the mouthpiece, press the F valve in and blow. There's a half decent chance that a loud pedal F will come out with practice...
  9. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    You're in good company. Ed Kleinhammer did the same, before he shifted to the Schilke 60. It's something I've always preferred to avoid doing, though - what do you do if you've got a passage that requires monstering through several registers? I don't think I heard a single bass trombone player in L&SC last year nail equally every note of that line in 'English Heritage' that ends on a pedal F#.

    There's a video of someone on YouTube playing big fat pedal, double pedal, and triple pedal Bbs (the bottom one sounds like a helicopter!) - on a small-bore jazz tenor trombone with a small tenor mouthpiece. A Bach 1-1/4GM is a big mouthpiece by historical standards, and ought to provide the ability to hit most of the pedals with real power.

    Not what I meant - it's more like force between, above and along the line of the lips, rather than on the mouthpiece into the lips. But that's just my playing and way of thinking about it.

    I find I need to back off the mouthpiece, and consciously aim to make a greater length of lip feel as if it is vibrating - but then I play an instrument with more resistance than you do, with probably a rather different embouchure, and you may need to do the exact opposite. Truly, you need to find your own solution on this one.

    You might be entertained to see just how much I shift to get power in the very lowest pedals (Db or D on down)... It's rather similar to those BBb bass players that look like they're blowing up their own noses!
  10. Brassbones

    Brassbones Member

    Nobody has yet mentioned the obvious ... that the lower pedals are pretty darn rare actually written on parts. Very often its a player 'dropping the octave' because he can, or thinks its clever, whether tasteful or otherwise [another thread?]. Far more imprtant to make sure that the trigger range above the pedals is sound in all respects.

    This farting obsession seems to be rampant in bass trombonists. I don't hear tuba players having lengthy discourse about how to get mega loud pedal Zb's. I'm reminded of the great George Roberts saying something along the lines of the bass bone sounding at its best playing in the range that Frank Sinatra sings!
  11. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    This is out of my personal interest ... what is the most common lower range of the bass trom in current use? I asked some pro orchestral players quite a few years ago but no-one could give me a straight answer :confused:
  12. Brassbones

    Brassbones Member

    Everything down to and including the low C (on 2nd ledger under the bass clef) is common place then the frequency of requests drops off, with the low B being written less frequently than the pedal Bb. This is especially true in brass bands and big bands where the keys are almost always flat (even for the Bb instruments). Generally speaking orchestral parts are higher than brass band parts.

    All of the above is of course a generalisation as the question doesnt really have a definite (or 'straight') answer ;)
  13. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Cheers Paul. I've always been cautious writing for bass bone, rarely going below E.
  14. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    The trouble is that you can't be sure, even at quite a decent amateur level, that you'll be able to rely on there being a player on the seat who can reach down any further than a tenor trombonist.
    It makes me wince to see someone such as yourself state that they try to avoid writing below E, but I can understand why you do it.

    On the other hand, if nobody writes parts in common usage that go below the tenor trombone range, then people just won't learn to play those notes...

    I think a reasonable approach is to regard anything down to Db as fair game for pretty much any level - for a couple of reasons: 1) That Db was the lower limit on the old G bass trombones, so plenty of Ebs, Ds and Dbs exist in the band repertoire already, at all levels. Restricting yourself to E is rather retrogressive when this is considered.
    2) Low C requires either a longer stretch of the arm than many can manage comfortably on a Bb/F single-trigger instrument, or else two triggers. Low Db doesn't require either.

    Pedal Bb should be regarded as commonly available - not for beginners, but from say a decent 4th section level on up. A nearly the same, and Ab a bit less available than that. From G on down is where these notes start to get seriously rare. For a top section aimed piece, you can assume a pedal F.

    In summary:
    Down to 1-leger-line Db: I would write for all levels
    C, B: I would only write if confident the players have two triggers - say 3rd section level on up?
    Pedal Bb, A: I would write for decent 4th section level on up
    Pedal Ab, G: I would write for decent 2nd section level on up
    Pedal Gb, F: I would write for top section
    Pedal E downwards: I would only write for an individual player who was known to be capable of playing these notes

    Bearing in mind that nimbleness decreases with pitch - I would write a low Db minim happily for a 4th section piece, but not a semiquaver passage in that range...
  15. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    It's really quite easy to see why ... my early arrangements when proofread amounted to some complaint and then it was a matter of adjustment and slight change of role for bass bone. I do mean the ledger line E, not the octave above. The lottery funding allowed bands to buy double trigger beasts but not guaranteed that they are used to the full.
  16. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    E on one leger line, I assumed?

    A single trigger will take you comfortably to a Db, and uncomfortably to a C. Only a no-trigger trombone is limited at an E.

    I recall a discussion we had a while back where you talked about not compromising the quality of the arrangement by assuming substandard players. Limiting the bass trombone at a 1-leger-line E seems to contradict that? :confused:
  17. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I do tend to write for top section standard and try and choose material that is both a challenge for the players and myself as a writer. I did try and research from the best of bass bone players what limits are in place and feedback was disappointing. I still don't compromise on the music and if I had to, then I decide whether it is worthwhile carrying on. By no means do I consider myself a professional arranger, btw!
  18. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Hmm. Hopefully Mr Warder's better info can be put to good use now ;-)
  19. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member


    (Does Wilby come on here?)
  20. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    I remember doing a concert for Mr Wilby in Harrogate, and Mr Warder was, er, 'warming up' on whatever the bass trom-ese equivalent of F above top C (and higher!) Is.....Mr Wilby's wry smile was accompanied by "Hmm....must write that into the next one!"