Who makes the best bass trombone?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by arniesarnies, Dec 28, 2013.

  1. arniesarnies

    arniesarnies Member

    Hello everyone. Just putting a question out there in cyber space to see what make and model of bass trombone ( in your opinion ) do you feel fit to call the best. I have no favourite but I'm interested in what you bunch think.
  2. Brian Kelly

    Brian Kelly Active Member

    No such thing as "the best" bass trombone, or cornet, euphonium, etc. It's what's best for you. Everyone is different, with different lung capacity, different size throat and mouth, etc. Also people have different ideas of the kind of sound which they want to get. A bass trombone that you like may not be liked by someone else, and vice-versa.

    For what its worth, I use a Rath R9, which works fine for me.
  3. arniesarnies

    arniesarnies Member

    Hehe hello Brian. We talked a couple of years ago at the regionals. I agree with what you say Brian but I was hoping for a "I play on a .... And I like it because ....." Response. Thanks though and I hope to see you in a couple of months in Blackpool ;)
  4. Bass Bone

    Bass Bone New Member

    Some years ago I bought a single plug Kunhl & Hoyen 163 GF Bass Trombone. Initially I used a Dennis Wick 4 and a half AL but later switched to a Vincent Bach 1.5G and also use a Kelly 1.5G. Although I chose this instrument mainly for orchestral playing it has served me well in Big Band, Concert Band, Brass Band, Mixed / Trombone Ensembles and solo work.

    Initially my intention was to buy something second hand as I reckoned I would get more value for my limited budget however I was persuaded to try out the K&H. As soon as I got it out of the box and played a few notes it felt right and have used it ever since.

    That said I have used other instruments from time to time e.g. Holton TR181, Edwards and found them to be good, free blowing instruments with good sound. Haven't tried a Rath Bass yet but found the Bb/F tenor to be a nice instrument and I see no reason why their Bass Troms would be any different. I've also tried a Thein ContraBass and was amazed at how easy it was to play.

    As others have mentioned you need to be aware of what sound you are looking for and what type of work you are going to predominantly use the instrument for. However I firmly believe that a large percentage of the, "sound", "timbre" whatever is down to the player and a smaller percentage down to the instrument. A player with a good sound will produce a decent sound from an inferior instrument but a player with an indifferent sound will always produce an indifferent sound. An instrument has it's own sound but so does a player and they are both part of the whole.

    In general though you need to consider more than just the make or model as even within a given range you can find quite a variance so ideally once you have an idea of what you might like try out as many of that model as you can.

    Another important aspect is the ergonomics. There is nothing worse than holding an unbalanced double trigger bass for hours at a time, especially if you have smallish hands. It can cause quite a bit of pain and possible damage. For example I found the Bach's a bit of a problem in this respect however a good workshop should be able to sort this out for you.

    Good luck in your search
  5. arniesarnies

    arniesarnies Member

    Wow bass bone thank you very much for your reply to the thread. A lot to chew on there and much appreciated. I will bare your wisdom in mind. Thanks.
  6. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    +1 to Bass Bone. Makes good sense. Each instrument model (and to a lesser extent, each separate instrument) has its own character, but the dominant character in the interaction is that of the player. The thing is to work out what set of sounds you are trying to make, and to then find the instrumental set-up that makes it easiest for you to make those sounds.

    The 'hard machine' (i.e. the bone) is more reliable in response to change than the 'soft machine' (i.e. the player), and so it becomes tempting to fiddle endlessly with one's equipment rather than take the longer but more difficult route of sorting problems out by practising. In reality of course, most of us give in to the temptation at some point or another... And using the wrong instrument can really obstruct your development as a player - if you are fighting your equipment rather than playing it, then things will obviously feel a lot more difficult.

    These days I personally play a Rath R9, which is not a complete description in itself. A decent way to think about the importance of the components that go into a modular trombone is to rank things in decreasing importance through the instrument from player to room - 1) mouthpiece, 2) leadpipe, 3) slide bore, 4) valves/gooseneck, 5) bell flare. In a distant last, place any effect of metal composition change. This is a simplification, but is quite a useful way to think about it. Many of us have a mouthpiece that we already get on particularly well with, so will after all that treat that as a fixed parameter anyhow. The leadpipe is a vastly underrated part of the puzzle; getting this right has almost as large an effect as getting the mouthpiece right. I'm personally at the moment trying a non-Rath leadpipe in mine, and am feeling positive about the effect so far - it's been selected as offering quick low register articulations while taking plenty of air happily. Slide bore - single .562" vs dual .562/.578 is the choice really, although Shires do offer an "oversized" .578 single slide option. It's my experience that anything larger than .562 single is too woofy for me to use, but some love dual bores, which tend to match well to very big mouthpieces and players with very large airflows. Valves - how much blowing resistance do you like? "As little as possible" is not as good an answer as many people think... If you are well used to playing on rotors, more open designs can throw you off your stride in unexpected ways (e.g. articulations - part of the reason for the leadpipe change I mentioned - essentially compensating for resistance lost elsewhere in the tube). Bell flare - bigger makes for greater directed volume at the cost of some loss of focus in the sound. 9.5" is the standard; 10" and 10.5" less popular variants. More and less open bell throats have an effect too (and, tracing back, so of course does a different bore profile through the valve area, in a similar fashion). It is often very hard for the player of the instrument to judge the exact effect of a bell change - it's more to do with the listener than the player.

    So modular bones, while they offer exciting opportunities for fine-tuning, do require detailed thinking about how the different aspects interrelate, which can prove endlessly confusing to players. I would not suggest buying a modular trombone until a player is clear in their mind on exactly what they want from their playing.

    There are various makers and models out there from the last half century or so that have their devoted followings amongst serious players. Among them are (in alphabetical order):
    Historically, one model, 50B, with variants with various rotor layouts and wraps, larger bell sizes, bell metals. More recently, also available with Hagmanns or Thayers. Used to be popular in bands, not so much these days. New models are priced astronomically for what they are. A good solid choice that will shout and cut through a band, but unsubtle in tone.
    Made the original modern bass trombones, with some 1920s instruments still very usable in modern ensembles. Various models made at the Elkhart plant (1920s-early 70s) - 70H (original model, up to 1955, single rotor, TIS, a lot of variety in specimens), 72H (1955-1968, standardised 70H, TIB), 71H/73H (1968-1979, single/double dependent rotors, 72H with valve layout remodelled), 60H/62H (1968-1972, single/double dependent rotors, 83H (briefly made early 80s(?), double independent rotor 73H version), 110H/111H/112H (80s replacement line for the older basses, not many are fond), 62H/62HCL/62HG (modern ("Gen II") take on the Elkhart 62H, offered also with Lindberg and Greenhoe valves).
    As you might guess, I am quite a fan of the colourful sound that comes from older Conn bass trombones, but have reluctantly concluded that their blow just does not suit my playing style. The Elkhart 62H has a legendary status among this bunch - the modern 62H is not the same instrument at all to play or listen to. These are instruments that aren't in their natural habitat shouting in the low register in a brass band - they can be made to do that very nicely, but it does require your playing to be in tip-top shape. The older instruments tend not to react well to large mouthpieces.
    As with Rath, modular, wide variety of options on the basic model, B454, which was the first on the market to use this approach. To my taste, though beautifully manufactured and easy to play, they tend to sound a bit bland. But I know plenty of very good band players love them.
    A funny one... Holton had it so so right in the 1960s with their TR169 model, which plays like a dream to anyone who has taken the time to learn to deal with the quirks offered by the later TR181. Very few of them around, so if you see one, grab it and cherish it. They were single-rotor, but the drop-in second valve option worked very well. The TR181 is popular in bands and well-suited to the medium, but those of us who've spent time of them will know their playing faults - a reluctance to speak at piano and a dull sound generally in the lower dynamics; some criticise the valve blow also - I personally like it.
    Another funny one. The "Duo Gravis"/6B model hasn't been made for years, but offers something that nothing else that has ever been on the market that I'm aware of has - a .562 bore through the valve section. This makes for a naturally very focussed sound, and they are great for cutting through anything, with well-designed rotors and a well-matched leadpipe. King replaced with the 7B (which had some popularity) and 8B (which didn't really) models, and no longer manufactures bass trombones (as with Bach, Conn and Holton, King have been subsumed into the giant Steinway/UMI manufacturing group). Those who like the Duo Gravis tend to really like it.
    As above, models R8 and R9 (really the same thing - 8 denotes nothing more than single valve).
    As with Edwards and Rath, modular. Not often seen in bands, but I think they'd work well. As with Edwards, the ones I've heard have tended to seem a bit bland in sound quality to my ears.
    Super-pricy German modular make. Lovely bones, hardly ever seen due to cost. Maybe a bit too much of a dark sound for banding, but I've only ever tried one, which is hardly a representative sample.

    Any of these (and more that I've omitted through forgetfulness or lack of experience) could be the "best" bass trombone for some particular player.
  7. arniesarnies

    arniesarnies Member

    Thanks Dave, I don't think you missed anything there haha, no thanks for your reply. This is the kind off response I was looking for. Experience counts for everything, and your step by step thesis on evaluating your trusty bone was well put over. I will take your thesis on board Dave.

    Anyone else out out there want to post their experience or preferred weapons of choice?


    Besson pre1965 straight G Trom in high pitch with tuning slide pulled out to max.As used by Derek Roebuck at Brighouse in late 60s.....To date I have not heard a bass Trom sound as good as he did.
  9. Beesa

    Beesa Member

    There's a bloke in our band that picked up a black (ie solid brass but very...very, tarnished) Solbron Eb horn, that had been lying at the bottom of a bandroom cupboard for donkeys years. He made that instrument sound like a dream. He still rushed back to his Neo of course, but in those few seconds he made a good point.
  10. arniesarnies

    arniesarnies Member

    Thanks guys, all good points and noted. I agree to with the most important part of the equation being the player.

    Anyone else want to throw in some ideas into the pot?
  11. Gtrom

    Gtrom Member

    I firmly believe that a large percentage of the, "sound", "timbre" whatever is down to the player and a smaller percentage down to the instrument.[/QUOTE]

    "arniesarnies" you've often heard me play using my trusty Yamaha 613, my Rath R9 and my King DG - Can you tell me whether you've heard any real difference in the noise I produce depending on the trombone I'm playing at that time?

    As previously agreed most of what comes out of the flared end comes from within, the player may notice slight nuances from different instruments but by the time the sound reaches other ears it'll usually sound pretty much identical to the sound produced by that player on different breeds of the one instrument.

    Another point entirely is that players may wish to produce their preferred sound by the easiest means possible, they may want their lungs to last longer in the lower register or produce that "fizz" more consistently. Most of the modular trombones offer open wrap configurations with many valve options, Rotax, Hagmann, etc and in my opinion the more modern designed trombone is certainly easier to play out of the box. My R9 allows me to last longer on any note than my other troms and be able to hit a note "dead centre" almost every time, that said my preferred trom at the moment is the King DG although this suffers ergonomically due to the positioning of the second valve key.

    All in all it's down to personal preference and size of wallet but if you're single minded in producing what constitutes a good old fashioned bass trombone noise the odds are you'll produce it on pretty much any of the established manufacturers trombones out there.

    Good luck.
  12. arniesarnies

    arniesarnies Member

    Thanks Mark, I to prefer your sound on the DG and there are slight differences in sound between your collection. There was no difference on the 613 and the 613h, a proper fat longer lasting sound on your R9 and a more complete rounded sound on your DG with the occasional Quack. Maybe I'm just saying this because I want your rath haha. No it's your DG that's the winner for me.
    Thanks for your advice.

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