What do I look out for when using slides and growls?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Andreas, Sep 13, 2011.

  1. Andreas

    Andreas New Member

    Maybe a weird question to ask, but because I am a composer and not a brass player, I don't have the change to try out these things myself. I am working on a piece for orchestra that includes 2 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone and 1 tuba. I would like to use slides on all and a growl on the tuba. Are there things that I should look out for that would make it unplayable? Maybe the range or registers?

  2. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Can't help you with the tubas, but there is an ok explanation of where the glissandi on trombone break here:


    A lot of us use gliss as an exercise to expand range, so don't be scared to push it a bit, as long as the first note is in a sensible range for the ability of player you will be working with. There are a lot more options if the trombones have triggers, if you're really keen I'll write something a bit more comprehensive.

    Have fun!
  3. Andreas

    Andreas New Member

    Thanks for the info. I will have a look at the link. Here is btw moment in the score where I use the gliss and growls, maybe it's easier when you see the score itself. It's the first time I use these FX so I want to be sure I do it correctly.


  4. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Some of those work, some of them don't. The tuba cannot gliss (slide) like the trombones can - valves make discrete pitch changes where the trombone slide can make continuous pitch changes. It can fake a continuous pitch change by half-valving, but the effect is relatively very weak when compared to the effect of the three trombones glissing together. Better to leave the tuba out of those glisses altogether, or just give it the first and last notes of the gliss.

    The C-F glisses are fine for trombones, but the others are not and would have to be faked by breaking the gliss into two parts - e.g. the D-G gliss you would probably start by hitting the D in 4th position, then flinging the slide out a long way quickly in order to come back to 4th position for the G. The effect will work reasonably enough, but may not be exactly what you want.
    Some glisses of a perfect 4th will work without faking, but no glisses of a perfect 5th will (e.g. your C-Gs) - the maximum possible successful gliss (from one end of the handslide to the other) is of a diminished 5th, and a careful composer will take care to keep glisses within each possible diminished 5th. For both tenor and bass trombones, these diminished 5ths run (from lowest upwards) from E-Bb (E one leger line below the bass staff - and skilled players may be able to produce this one an octave lower too), B-F, E-Bb, G#-D, B-F, D-Ab (nearly - the Ab is flat), E-Bb, F#-C, G#-D, etc. Note that as you go higher in the compass, more options become available.
    In addition, the bass trombone (and many tenor trombones too) has a series of glisses available of maximum length a perfect 4th, produced using the F thumb valve. These run from lowest upwards - C-F (C 2 leger lines below bass staff - there is also one an octave below this, but I would not consider using this), G-C, C-F, E-A, G-C, Bb-Eb (nearly - Eb is flat), C-F, D-G, E-A, etc. The first of these (from 2 leger line C) would usually be considered too low for the tenor trombone.
    Further, many bass trombones also have available series based on top notes of D or Gb, but I would not write these unless you specifically know that the player you are writing for will have the instrumental layout necessary to play them.

    I suggest taking at least the 1st trombone (and maybe both 1st and 2nd) up the octave for the C-Fs and D-Gs - because D-G does work an octave higher. Bass trombone could fake the D-G in the lower octave, and the tuba could add weight in the lower octave while omitting the sliding effect. The C-G glisses in the written octaves, although impossible, are actually quite realistically fakeable - easier than the written D-Gs, in fact. They will still make the players roll their eyes at you though!
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2011
  5. Andreas

    Andreas New Member

    Thanks for this detailed answer! I will check my score with it. The last thing I want is an unplayable score and players who eyeball me!

  6. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Btw, the writing of carelessly impossible glisses for trombone has a long history that includes various distinguished composers, and players are well used to faking such... It might be worth getting someone local to you to demonstrate how what you've written will actually come out in performance.
  7. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    When we took part in a community opera a few years ago there were a few unusual effects used in the brass writing, including some flutter-tonguing on the tuba. That could certainly produce the sort of growl effect you may be looking for, although if it is written too low in the range it can be a little tricky to hold the note.
  8. Vegasbound

    Vegasbound Active Member

    Just because an instrument can.....doesn't mean it should!
  9. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Do you really play trombone?!? :p
  10. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I like to hear composers use trombone glissandi in an original way - Hovhanness for example does it quite frequently and it can be very effective.
  11. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    By 'Growl' do you mean the term by which Jazz players refer to Multiphonics?
  12. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    No, he means the hawking noise in the throat effect that sounds rather like a fluttertongue - see the link to a portion of his score that he posted above (tuba part, 2nd page, 1st line). This is the usual meaning of the term.

    On an unrelated point, and in a thoroughly nit-picking spirit, it occurs to me that the simultaneous trill on those notes is actually technically miswritten, unless André really wants it between Gb and A natural?
  13. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Ah apologies. I can't access the score from work so wasn't sure.

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