Trombone sound

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by The Wherryman, Mar 12, 2008.

  1. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    "For example, the trombone sound of bands is more symphonic nowadays than pre-80s. Certain players must have come into or through banding that helped change the way that instrument is played."

    I saw this in the "Pioneers" thread and it got me thinking. I'm rather new to contesting (and this forum), so forgive me if this has been thrashed out before, but I play 2nd trombone on a large bore instrument (YSL-681B) because that is what I was advised to get by my then tutor.

    Is it desirable that the trombone sound in brass bands should be symphonic or does that create just too much contrast with the brighter instruments? Should I be thinking of changing to a medium or medium/large bore instrument?

    The balance of the section would obviously be altered and my MD might well have something to say about that, but general comments would be appreciated.
  2. Vegasbound

    Vegasbound Active Member

    With Trombones, you have to fit inwith what the section use.

    I have said on other threads that a .525 horn i.e bach 36 is ideal for brass band as it is large enough for the straight work but you can then blend for the "PoP"/swing number

    another point as troms sound so much better in 4's (listen to any Nelson Riddle arangement) why do brass bands only have 3??
  3. Gorgie boy

    Gorgie boy Member

    You will find that much of the Salvation Army repertoire has almost constant use of 4 trombone parts (certainly at the top end of the repertoire). This is done by writing two parts on the first trombone stave.
  4. Martin Cordy

    Martin Cordy Member

    as already mentionted the overall sound of the section is crucial. Generally all brass bands use large bore instruments as they provide a warm mellow sound when used at medium to low range dynamics, but given the straightness of the instrument will still cut through as required at higher volumes.

    The only problem with medium bore instruments as they will tend to give a much thinner (and harsher depending on the experience of the player) sound which will tend not to blend well with the other players in the middle of the band.
  5. Vegasbound

    Vegasbound Active Member

    I disagree with the "thinner " sound, it will be a different trombone sound. And I have heard some fairly harsh sounds from players on large bore horns.

    A Fortissimo on a 2B is a different kind of sound from a 42B, but the most crucial thing is that the section is balanced, so talk to the other members of the section and the MD.
  6. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I echo the need to balance the section. If you're going to unilaterally change the size of instrument you play, you need to think carefully about what context you play it in.

    A slight simplification - trombones typically come in 5 bore sizes [ 1) .485", 2) .508", 3) .525", 4) .547" and 5) .562" ]. 4 is what almost all serious tenor players in brass bands and orchestras use these days, while bass players use 5. A few players go even bigger than this, using dual-bore instruments, where the second side of the slide is bigger than the first. We can label these by size 4.5 for the monster tenor variety, and 5.5 for the monster bass. Shires even manufactured bass trombones (known as "Bonezilla") in sizes 6 and 6.5 for a while recently. It was clear though, that these were simply too large to sound like authentic trombones, and the line has been dropped.

    The golden rule is that the bore size should not decrease as you go down the section in pitch - otherwise tonal balance becomes nigh-on impossible. Hence why basses are bigger than tenors these days - although note that in the days of G trombones, basses and tenors had identical bore sizes.

    So we can label a modern section (from top to bottom) as 445. You are considering making it into 435 - an unstable move tonally speaking. However, if you played 1st, that would generally work much better - indeed we used 345 at the Leicester contest last year, and won the trombone section prize.

    However, this difference is small when you look at the whole evolution of the band trombone section sound in the last 50 years. Then, tenors and basses alike played on tiny instruments of size 1 - the proverbial "peashooters". In orchestras, larger instruments were in use, similar to band instruments, but of size 3 (and were just about to be replaced by imports from the US of size 4).

    This means that the trombone sound concept in bands has changed radically since a piece such as 'Festival Music' (to pick a relevant example) was first performed. Previously, it was about fighting and sometimes embracing the tendency of the instruments to blart, trying to produce a mellow sound. Now it is about fighting and sometimes embracing the tendency of the instruments to woof, trying to produce a focussed sound. Polar opposites as concepts, I would say.

    With this in mind, I do feel that there is room to try to separate out the trombone sound in bands from that of the saxhorns and tubas, but we need to remember that the other instruments have also increased in bore size - though not so much, I feel, as the trombones have?
    I have tried playing an old G bass of size 1 in a modern band (in rehearsal!). It was very hard work trying to balance, even with a rather larger mouthpiece than the older players will have used [I wrote a review of the experience on here -]. This is plainly too extreme an adjustment.
    Recently, I have persuaded my fellow trombonists at Kidlington to participate in an experiment designed to bring out this tonal contrast while avoiding this balance problem. I have borrowed an orchestral-style G trombone of size 3, which, when paired with two Bach 36s (both size 3) on tenor, produces a crisp and clean section sound that can detach slightly from the modern band when needed. The downside is that the round sound that the modern trombone produces is no longer so easily available.

    I suppose what it comes down to is choosing the tool that is most appropriate for the task at hand. For band music written before people like Sparke and Wilby got onto the scene, the historic sound that was in people's heads was a small-bore one that sizzled. Using modern artillery pieces to play 'Life Divine' is as anachronistic as the Sealed Knot reenacting the Civil War using howitzers...
    For the orchestra, a lot of music works rather well on modern instruments. Some doesn't - e.g. Elgar, Mozart, and for these, one should think carefully about what kind of sound would have been expected originally.
    For jazz, small bores still rule (for now). Sizes 1 and 2 are very common for tenors, although a growing number of serious players seem to be using size 4s these days. A section of stepped sizes in jazz (e.g. 1235) is a very interesting thing.

    As a side note, what size of trombone you play affects what gigs you get booked for if the trombone fixer knows anything about the instrument. There are players in Oxford who are good players (and not jazzers), who I simply never book for the various orchestral brass sections I fix because I know that the smaller bore sound that their instruments will make won't blend well with the rest of the section, making the playing experience markedly less satisfying. I'd like to book them, as they are friends and good players - but they wouldn't bring the appropriate tool. Outside of jazz, a size 4 / .547" bore instrument is the safest thing to wield on tenor trombone.

    Flip me, I really should get a life...
  7. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    Wow, thanks for taking the time, Dave. It's much appreciated. That's given me a much better understanding of how I (metaphorically) sit in the band and the section.

    Thanks, too, to the other posters (and I hope there'll be more). IF I'm going to shell out a fist-full of £££'s, possibly for a Bb/F, I want to get it right, for my pocket and the band.
  8. BoBo

    BoBo Member

    You should be nominated as a tMP boffin Dave. Very illuminating, thanks
  9. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I think "BOC" is a more appropriate title...
  10. hicks

    hicks Member

    Yes thanks Dave for that interesting read.
    You mention that the smaller bore instruments produce a "crisp and clean sound". Did you prefer that? My own preference is for a warmer, full sound, and our section has the usual '445' configuration.
  11. Vegasbound

    Vegasbound Active Member

    As usual MoominDave a comprehensive answer.

    but still does raise the question do you lose the Trombone sound with in a brass band using .547 when during a concert programme you will have to play all styles.

    would a .525 be more flexable?
  12. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    It's all about context. A warm, full sound is nice. So is a crisp, clean sound. It all comes down to what sound is best in the context of the group - and I personally think that brass bands have gone slightly beyond the optimum in terms of trombone sizes.

    Sometimes I think that it's a question of player satisfaction (i.e. wanting to play large stuff because it feels pleasing) vs. audience satisfaction (i.e. wanting to hear small stuff because the sound is more clearly distinguished).

    Hmm... A large majority of the concert repertoire we play has been specifically scored for the big instruments (and also specifically for a bass trombone in Bb). The expected sound is the phat woofiness that we like to produce [leaving aside high dynamic barking] from a 445 combination.
    Would .525s work well on this repertoire? I suspect yes, in the main, they would, although there would be times when one would miss the big sounds of .547s.

    My personal idea is that a trombone of size between 3 and 4 would be perfect as a compromise instrument for general modern band playing. I don't think there are any single-bore instruments out there in this size [at least, I've never heard of one], but maybe a dual-bore .525/.547 instrument would be good? I know that, for example, you can get 88H slides supplied in these measurements.
  13. hicks

    hicks Member

    Just to add a little bit more to this, hopefully for the benefit of the OP. For a long time I played a King 3B, which I believe is a .508 bore instrument. Anyway last year I bought a large bore Yamaha Xeno (YSL88OG) and the difference is startling. Whenever I go back to the King, it sounds very tinny. There is no way I would consider playing this instrument in our current section, with the 1st trom on a Conn 88H. I can't see me playing the King again, as I also play in a wind band, for which the Yamaha is perfect.
  14. Vegasbound

    Vegasbound Active Member

    It's all about the horn to do the job.....

    your Xeno fits in with the section you play with, and it wouldnt fit in with a big band section if others are using 2B's or 16m's etc.....

    It all has to do with the trombone sound in your you think a trombone should sound.

    I havent played with a brass band in over a decade and dont envisage doing so due to the large bore!!
  15. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Hicks - don't write it off, the King 3B is great for jazz, you might join a big band...

    Had a ponder over lunch - and here's what I reckon is probably optimal for a band for modern concert work;
    1st trombone on single .525 or dual .525/.547
    2nd trombone on dual .525/.547 or single .547
    Bass trombone on dual .547/.562
    All combinations except for small 1st + large 2nd.

    This would stand out appreciably and easily from the band sound in a way that existing sections have to go nuts with volume to achieve. The only disadvantage that I see is those occasions when contest playing demands the "filthy ear-melting wall of sound" effect; other bands with bigger instruments would come across "better".
  16. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    This is quite uncanny - apart from very, very old and tired Bessons that I borrowed when I first started, I've only ever played my Yamaha 681B, so I know nothing about the merits/demerits of other trombones. However, I have been investigating another purchase and the 3B was in the frame, as was the Xeno, so this info is very useful.

    I've been very happy with my 681B, but I'm thinking perhaps I should get a Bb/F (Xeno 882 or Conn 88H) to give more flexibility in the lower range. At the moment, I sometimes have to "pass" on the occasional 1st-to-7th shifts I encounter. (Or perhaps I should just practice more :oops:)
  17. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    Like Don Lusher - I wish :(
  18. hicks

    hicks Member

    :) Yes I can well believe the Kidlington trom section is cabable of melting the rest of the band.
  19. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    A couple of other mainstream .547 F-attachment instruments worth looking at -
    Bach 42B
    King 4B/F

    The 88H and 42B are by far the most common tenors used professionally outside jazz [and the 88H is much more common than the 42B] - and for a good reason; each can reliably produce a great sound and neither will break up nastily at high volumes (in a way that you might have found that your Yamaha does if it is anything like the F-attachment version of the same instrument that Rob Marsh at Kidlington used to play?).
    Pros and cons of these two models are the subject of intense and futile ongoing debate...

    The Xenos are one of a number of high quality newer 'pretenders to the crown'. Others include Schilke, Getzen, Kanstul, and the various boutique trombone makers - Rath, Edwards, Shires, Greenhoe, etc.
    The difference is that you will certainly be able to pick up a really nice 2nd hand 88H or 42B for a lot less money than you would spend on a new instrument if you look in the right place. My 2nd-hand 88H only cost me £600, and that was when the dollar was a lot stronger.

    [p.s. With regard to 88Hs, the magic word is "Elkhart"...]

    Ah, yes, you know Rob and his "scorched earth" fortissimo policy...
  20. Vegasbound

    Vegasbound Active Member

    Has anyone played the Schilke trom??

    and Elkhart is the word for any conn.........I have a 6H (1958)

    Moomin Dave maybe we should start a Brass band alternative to the "Age of enlightenment orch" not sure about high pitch though!!.

    .464 tenors (as used by arthur Pryor) with your old G trom.......lion tamer jackets.... playing brass band pieces with tunes the public can whistle!!!

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