Which trombones to roadtest?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by DRW, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. DRW

    DRW New Member


    My band is considering upgrading the principal trombonist's instrument. I'd be glad of some advice on which ones we should try.

    Assume no budget limit although we'd expect to not be looking at those that are more expensive than the 'normal' top end group of instruments.

    Thanks in anticipation.
  2. cockaigne

    cockaigne Member

    Does the player get a say in this? Something like this often comes down to the player's individual preferences and style of playing.

    I'd offer just two general points; firstly that Besson Sovereign trombones don't generally cut the mustard, and that 'bespoke' instruments (Rath, Edwards et al) can become a bit of a minefield, though it sounds like these would be above the price-range you're anticipating.

    In summary, let the player try a few out, and look for feedback from them. The higher-end production models from Conn, Bach and Yamaha could be a good starting point.
  3. DRW

    DRW New Member

    Thanks for your reply Jack. Absolutely the player has a say and will be the one trying them out and making the final choice. She is a competent player but neither she nor anyone else in the band are really knowledgeable on the right candidate instruments.

    Thanks for pointing us towards Conn, Bach and Yamaha. I have some fundamental questions that will hopefully help narrow it down further.

    1. Should we be looking at Bb/F instruments or just Bb tenors? The instrument will only be used for the principal brass band seat so I'm not sure the extra low range is needed. Also, it seems that smaller bores are available in the standard Bb ranges which will presumably help the upper ranges needed from that part. Clearly the trigger can be used as an alternative to slide positions, but is that good practice or should it be used when essential to assist e.g. in quick passages?

    2. Are there bore sizes which generally suit the 1st trombone part or any that should be avoided or is this purely down to player preference?

    Thanks to you and anyone else that can give views on these points.
  4. cockaigne

    cockaigne Member

    1. The Bb/F instrument is more useful; the 'trigger' is virtually indispensible to most players that are familiar with it. Some Bb/F trombones come with an open-wrap design for the F section - this is usually more expensive, and may be a false economy as it leaves this part of the instrument more vulnerable to knocks and scrapes. I'd say it'd be a good idea to opt for a Bb/F instrument if neither of the [tenor] trombones is currently playing on such an instrument, as most 'busy' writing becomes much more playable with the extra plumbing; it's absolutely good practise to use it if it makes life easier for the player

    2. A smaller bore does make higher register playing easier, but gives a thinner sound overall, particularly in the mid/low registers. Anything smaller than a medium-large (0.525") bore would probably sound too thin, and most brass band players now use large bore (0.547") instruments, though these naturally require a lot more air to fill them. What is the standard of the band/player in question?

    Sorry for using a lot of jargon; the same terms/bore sizes will be quoted in most catalogues, online or in hard-copy. Just to clarify, you can get Bb/F trombones which are not large-bore - the Bach 36 being a notable example, which works well as a lead instrument
  5. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Jack is talking a lot of sense here.

    The 'industry standard' is the Conn 88H, which is a .547" bore with trigger and a nice design. I hardly ever see tenor trombone players in brass bands on either part in any band that is at all serious about their music-making playing on anything smaller (or larger) than this - the large-bore is the expected sound these days, although the .525" bore instruments do make a fair amount of musical sense on the principal seat. I would disregard anything smaller than this as not producing the sound that bands want to hear - buying a King 3B say, fine instruments though they are, would paint the band into a corner equipment-wise.

    Like Jack, I would always want a trigger. No, the 1st part does not often descend below low F# (it does happen occasionally, but the part is almost always reallocatable down the section), but the extra utility of having D and C# in close positions is very much worth it - you just know that if you buy a straight instrument, the next contest piece you play with have a solo slur for 1st trombone from C-C#! Some players hate playing an instrument with a trigger on response grounds [this is fixable with a free-flow valve], some on weight grounds, and these are reasonable grounds for objection, but it's definitely worth trying it out. I could even attempt to estimate how many times I have heard D and C# played very sharp in 6th and 7th positions by players who do not want to use a trigger...

    What does the player play now? That could have an important say in what is preferred.
  6. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    It's only a trombone, wouldn't one of those plastic Pbones do? :cool:
  7. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    You jest, but they are pretty good. Though of too small a bore to be useful here.
  8. DRW

    DRW New Member

    Excellent advice from both of you. Exactly the sort of info I was after and has clearly steered us away from some potentially uninformed routes.

    The player is currently playing an intermediate Yamaha (not sure which model off-hand) and we might actually discover that upgrading isn't the right move. We do want to ensure that we give her the best possible opportunity for further development as well rewarding her for loyalty and dedication. The Conn 88H will be on our list to try as well as others with a similar bore size and F trigger.

    Thanks for your help. Any other views also welcome.
  9. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    One other thing... I would take along a local trombone pro to the shop when she does the testing to give their opinion.
  10. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Conn 88h is the best choice, but quality control is not great so it's best to try out a few. The Yamaha Xeno is well worth a punt too.
  11. DRW

    DRW New Member

    Thanks Duncan.
  12. cockaigne

    cockaigne Member

    By the law of averages, it had to happen eventually ;)

    My personal preference is for the Conn 88H, but I didn't want to sound biased. The Yamaha Xeno is good, but VERY heavy - both to hold, and on the slide. It was quite an exercise regime when I played one for a few months - it does have a lovely big sound though.
  13. Space Cowboy

    Space Cowboy Member

    Having recently tried a 8h thin wall instrument if I was buying now it'd be top of my list but as Duncan says try as many as you can get your hands on.

    This is despite me owning and playing a rath r4 with a detachable trigger. I mostly use it as a straight Bb trom and only use the trigger if the piece I'm playing absolutely needs it. Personal taste - I just prefer it straight.

    I recently used a Yamaha Xeno from band for almost a year. - good instrument, excellent slide and build quality but prob a bit on the heavy side for me - and I'm no 5ft weed.

    Unless you're sure the player is going to be around for a good while try not to let them persuade you into something too personal or obscure.
  14. classicbrass

    classicbrass Member

    Bought the son a Conn 88H closed wrap last year after consulting the trombone teacher at Oldham music centre. We were advised to try this, the open wrap 88H and the Xeno, so travelled to Band Supplies in Leeds.

    He didn't like the Xeno and preferred the closed wrap 88H as it felt 'better balanced ' than the open wrap i.e the extra length of the wrap felt like it was pulling the horn up in the air.

    Teacher pointed out the that the open wraps trended to sustain more damage to the F loop as it stuck out the back and was the first thing to get damaged in tight spaces. Didn't advise to go for a Rath as they were 'like a Ferrari' - excellent instruments but needed a very good player to bring out the best in them.

    Can't beat the try before you buy advice
  15. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    Talking to my friendly shop owner, they're selling more 88H's than ever.
  16. Spanky Rear

    Spanky Rear Member

    Why not try the JP/Rath 332Bb/F? Read the review on 4Barsrest.At about £900 it costs considerably less than a Conn or Yamaha.
  17. DRW

    DRW New Member

    Thanks for this. The reviews do look good, but in the context of a student instrument. Of course this is not reason to not give it a try and if we can get our hands on one easily we'll certainly do so.

    Thanks for your input. Much appreciated.
  18. Spanky Rear

    Spanky Rear Member

    Further review by 'Stewbones' at Trombone Forum is worth reading too.Some respected players highly recommend these so-called intermediate/student trombones.
  19. SteveT

    SteveT Member

    Can I just add a couple of points.

    Used older trombones can often be better than their modern counterparts. Look around for good condition instruments on the net. Also, at least with a bespoke instrument, you can get rid of things you don't want, and get things you do want.

    The Conn 88H has been the accepted standard that many other manufacturers have copied and tarted up! But that's for a reason, from the 40's onwards the Americans tried to make trombones which are all rounders, in other words, can be used in Orchestral, Big Band, Symphonic Wind Band and other genres, and allowed the player enough flexibility in the way they played. In other words a compromise instrument.

    The other point is that they can take a good player putting weight down them, where earlier examples of other instruments, i.e. early Yamaha trombones, couldn't.

    At the end of the day, the trombone is simply the amplifier of what the player is doing at the mouthpiece end. However, there is no doubt the amplifier can be modified / improved and altered to suit all types of playing.

    That's why I play a 36 year old King 4B with all the gold plating removed and then re-lacquered straight onto the brass bell. It beats all the new stuff hands down... even boutique instruments.

    Anyway, good luck and my advice would be stay American.
  20. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    I have had a few new trombones down the years (I had a bach, yamaha and modern conn 88h at different points) until someone put me on to old instruments.

    I now play a 44 year old Conn 88h, a bargain compared to a new instrument, and in a different league for quality.

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