Dem bones, dem bones, dem BRASS bones!

Jack E

Well-Known Member
Fix yourself a brew, ladies and gents - this could be another 4 page essay . . .

I've had some serious breathing problems for about the last 3 / 4 years, which an inhaler has kept manageable up till last winter - when it all went pear-shaped. I had to quit playing baritone completely for a bit, but as the weather warmed up, I found I could play it - just not for very long, and even a short piece would leave me panting at the end.

But noticing that I could still play my clarinet, which depends far more on air pressure than it does air volume, and bearing in mind that the CAT scan my doctor has referred me for may take months (years?) to happen, and may still not result in any cure / palliative (especially next winter), I thought I'd explore other options. One was to buy a tenor horn on Ebay, which cleaned up quite nicely, but you'd have more chance of fitting a biblical camel through the eye of a needle than getting it through the mouthpiece that came with the horn. Back to Ebay, got a Sonata 5 (which appears to be a fairly stock recommendation for beginners). Well, yes, I grant you my embouchure is used to a Wick 6BS, but, even so :rolleyes: If it was a rifle, my guess would be about .177 calibre!

Back to Ebay, again - but second hand, decent nick tenor horn mouthpieces are very thin on the ground, and as for anything larger than a No.5 - "Fifty sovs to you, guv!" So that will have to wait till pension day. Just out of curiosity, I dug out another one in the fleet - a John Packer 132R trombone (8.5" bell, 0.547" bore), which, like my baritone, was an ex-demo jobbie at a very favourable price, and in perfect nick.

It's not only a large bore, it takes a large shank mouthpiece, too - currently a Sonata 5G. I was expecting it to take vast quantities of air compared to the baritone, and for myself to run out of puff very quickly. I spent 20 minutes or more re-learning the slide positions, as I haven't played a trombone for years, and was very much a novice even then. Then I realised that I wasn't out of breath at all. 🤔

I spent a while chatting about this last night with an old friend, who's been playing trombone for over 40 years (and with some good bands, too). We didn't come to any firm conclusions, but one point he mentioned was that the air flowing through a trombone only goes round two curves, both of which are Motorway standard as compared to the maze of 'single track with passing places' tubing in and around the valves on a baritone. Could that plus the bigger bore account for the difference in ease of playing, which I assure you was very noticeable?

It may be that the docs do find some way of improving my breathing - preferably short of recommending a permanent move to the French Riviera! - though from my research, it appears that the damage done by phosgene isn't actually repairable, short of a lung transplant. I won't sell my baritone, though, until and unless it is clear that I'll never be able to play it again - and the way I take care of my instruments means I can keep it for decades without deterioration. Whilst I haven't ruled out making a switch to tenor horn, it wouldn't be my first choice; they're just a tad too sweet for my taste, whereas the much gutsier sound of a large bore trombone would suit me down to the ground (if I can carry on playing it even in the winter).

D'you know the most sickening part about all this? I met the friend (mentioned above), and his sister (another trombonist) in 1981 - and I'm damn sure that if I'd expressed the slightest interest in trying brass then, they would have given me all the help and encouragement they could. Sadly, earlier experiences on piano, violin and guitar had convinced me that I would never be a musician - so I never even asked them, and only tried brass out of sheer boredom in 2015, after I retired!! 🤬 That's over 30 years of making music that I've missed out on, and it's nobody's fault but my own.

So if anyone is dipping into The Mouthpiece, and idly thinking "I'd like to have a go at playing brass - but I'm too old . . . " - I started on baritone aged 68, banjo aged 73, and clarinet when I was 74; so whaddya mean, you're "too old"??

And if anyone else is wondering about "Is it worth me trying to re-start on brass, when I haven't played for 40 years?" - of COURSE it is! So stop faffing around and dive in, or - when you do - you'll be kicking yourself for not having done it years before, just like I was when I got that first gorgeous note out of a baritone horn, and realised "Hey - I can do this!"

With best regards,
Jack
 

Vegasbound

Active Member
Jack

dive in and enjoy, my father is about to turn 90 and still plays his euph every day, at 87 he switched his large bore trombone (king 4b) for a Bach 36 .525 medium bore, if you put a small shank 4 or 5 sized mouthpiece, no one can tell the difference

but just enjoy your playing what ever you decide
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
To me it seems like anyone’s guess as to why Jack’s lungs aren’t liking his Baritone at the moment, hopefully the reasons will become clear(er) in time. That aside Jack please kept playing all your other instruments ‘cause you’ll have fun and learn lots.

With regard to (Tenor) Trombones the large bore ones (0.550”) are the best sounding (IMHO) but they do take a lot of filling, you’re basically blowing down an open pipe. If I were to play Trombone again then a 0.525” bore or smaller would be my target and I’d prefer one with a trigger too, unfortunately that might be beyond easy affordability (so maybe left in the shop). The Yamaha YSL446 really appeals to me, but the Bach 36 is ‘The Daddy’ - well, that’s my recollection. Trombones are also an ergonomic challenge to hold, but let’s not go there but rather say watch the weight and the balance.

Good luck with the recovery and in the meantime enjoy what you can do with whatever you can play.
 

Jack E

Well-Known Member
To me it seems like anyone’s guess as to why Jack’s lungs aren’t liking his Baritone at the moment, hopefully the reasons will become clear(er) in time. That aside Jack please kept playing all your other instruments ‘cause you’ll have fun and learn lots.

With regard to (Tenor) Trombones the large bore ones (0.550”) are the best sounding (IMHO) but they do take a lot of filling, you’re basically blowing down an open pipe. If I were to play Trombone again then a 0.525” bore or smaller would be my target and I’d prefer one with a trigger too, unfortunately that might be beyond easy affordability (so maybe left in the shop). The Yamaha YSL446 really appeals to me, but the Bach 36 is ‘The Daddy’ - well, that’s my recollection. Trombones are also an ergonomic challenge to hold, but let’s not go there but rather say watch the weight and the balance.

Good luck with the recovery and in the meantime enjoy what you can do with whatever you can play.
Many thanks for the encouragement, @2nd tenor - it helps. A lot.

Re. bore sizes on tenor trombones; it also happens that I have another lurking in a corner - a B & H Regent, Ser. No. 514723 (which I make 1971 - 72). I'm not sure where to measure the bore size, but the bell is only 7" diameter - so I think it's safe to say it's a lot smaller than 0.547"!

Overall, it's in pretty good shape, apart from one of the inner slide legs being very slightly curved. As it's a very gentle curve, rather than a bend, I think my local repair shop should be able to sort it for me; they did a nice job on another trombone I had a while back, where the inner slide legs were out of parallel - so if you put it on a flat surface, one leg was slightly tilted upwards. Oddly enough, the slide appears to work quite freely, but I don't want to play it before it's repaired, for fear of causing uneven wear in the outer slide. Once I get that sorted out - hopefully this month - it will be interesting to compare that with the 132R, in terms of my playing endurance, and on the sound.

Re. holding the 132R - yep, that was very tough on my thumb, as the joints where they connect to my palms are totally worn out; too many hard, physical jobs over the years, and there's nothing the docs can do about it. But I fitted it up with one of the Neotech trombone grips - and that really sorted it! Zero pressure on my thumb, all of the weight being a very manageable vertical load on my hand and forearm. A right fiddly job to get the Neotech fitted whilst getting the right shims in the proper place - resulting in a lot of stiffing and blinding on my part - but it's certainly paid off in the comfort of holding the 132R, which is no lightweight. The first time I tried it, my left thumb was still giving me gyp the following day, so without the Neotech, it just wouldn't be playable at all.

Interestingly, the weight of the clarinet goes on the thumb, but the load is sideways, rather than bending it outwards - and once my teacher showed me how to hold it correctly, it doesn't give me any problems (though, I grant you, a clarinet is much lighter). But who'd have thought a simple ball and socket joint like that at the base of a thumb could be so damn complicated?

With best regards,
Jack
 

Vegasbound

Active Member
Many thanks for the encouragement, @2nd tenor - it helps. A lot.

Re. bore sizes on tenor trombones; it also happens that I have another lurking in a corner - a B & H Regent, Ser. No. 514723 (which I make 1971 - 72). I'm not sure where to measure the bore size, but the bell is only 7" diameter - so I think it's safe to say it's a lot smaller than 0.547"!

Overall, it's in pretty good shape, apart from one of the inner slide legs being very slightly curved. As it's a very gentle curve, rather than a bend, I think my local repair shop should be able to sort it for me; they did a nice job on another trombone I had a while back, where the inner slide legs were out of parallel - so if you put it on a flat surface, one leg was slightly tilted upwards. Oddly enough, the slide appears to work quite freely, but I don't want to play it before it's repaired, for fear of causing uneven wear in the outer slide. Once I get that sorted out - hopefully this month - it will be interesting to compare that with the 132R, in terms of my playing endurance, and on the sound.

Re. holding the 132R - yep, that was very tough on my thumb, as the joints where they connect to my palms are totally worn out; too many hard, physical jobs over the years, and there's nothing the docs can do about it. But I fitted it up with one of the Neotech trombone grips - and that really sorted it! Zero pressure on my thumb, all of the weight being a very manageable vertical load on my hand and forearm. A right fiddly job to get the Neotech fitted whilst getting the right shims in the proper place - resulting in a lot of stiffing and blinding on my part - but it's certainly paid off in the comfort of holding the 132R, which is no lightweight. The first time I tried it, my left thumb was still giving me gyp the following day, so without the Neotech, it just wouldn't be playable at all.

Interestingly, the weight of the clarinet goes on the thumb, but the load is sideways, rather than bending it outwards - and once my teacher showed me how to hold it correctly, it doesn't give me any problems (though, I grant you, a clarinet is much lighter). But who'd have thought a simple ball and socket joint like that at the base of a thumb could be so damn complicated?

With best regards,
Jack
Jack the Regent, they are/were a student level trombone, very heavy to be indestructible and the one I played as a youth was .500 bore the earlier ones more .484 if your going to play it in a modern band setting you want to use nothing smaller than a 61/2 size mouthpiece otherwise you will cut through like a laser.

as I said earlier enjoy your music making
 

Jack E

Well-Known Member
Jack the Regent, they are/were a student level trombone, very heavy to be indestructible and the one I played as a youth was .500 bore the earlier ones more .484 if your going to play it in a modern band setting you want to use nothing smaller than a 61/2 size mouthpiece otherwise you will cut through like a laser.

as I said earlier enjoy your music making
Yes, my first own baritone was a Regent, and I do recall the weight of it as compared to another one I'd borrowed - but just out of curiosity, I've weighed the two trombones, and this is how they came out:

Regent:- Slide - 541.9g (1lb, 3.1oz.); Bell - 771.5g (1lb, 11.2oz); Total, 1.3kg (2lb, 14oz);

JP 132R:- Slide - 666.6g (1lb, 7.5oz); Bell - 956.2g (2lb, 1.7oz); Total, 1.6kg (3lb, 9oz).

As you can see, going from a 7" to an 8½" bell is what really makes the difference.

Re. the earlier and later bore sizes you mention; from the build date of 1971 - 72 (taken from table of B & H serial numbers, I think that must have been towards the end of Regent production - so I'd guess it's more likely to be a .500 bore; but that plus the small bell? Yep - I'd be surprised if that didn't make it sound a lot brighter in tone than modern 'bones, and probably more like the ones I heard the local Sally Army band playing around our street in east London in the 1950s. I think it was @MoominDave who put me onto a recording on Youtube, featuring Bert Sullivan's solo with the GUS Band. That recording was done around 1960, and I was struck by the huge difference between that sound (very much Sally Army, 1950s) as compared to the sound of modern bands. In particular, Bert's euph - if I hadn't been told, I'd have assumed it was a baritone!
(as an aside - the clarity of his articulation was breathtaking, even though every note was as smooth as silk; what a master!)

I'll keep you posted on how the two compare once I get the Regent slide sorted.

With best regards,
Jack
 

trumpetb

Member
Ok this will be lengthy due to its complexity,

I am not an acoustical engineer I was an engineer a lifetime ago, and I have worked in automotive.

As a result I have gathered information from many sources over the years that may help understand what might be going on.

First of all the number of bends and the tightness of the bends should not affect the flow of air given that there is hardly any flow of air through an instrument.

It has been reported that air flow through a brass instrument is around 0.1 litres per second to around 0.8 litres per second. In my case I play at around 0.2 litres per second. Such values are unlikely to suffer from resistance effects caused by the tubing wrap.

Taking a trumpet as an example, with no valves pressed there are 2 curves in the tube both of large radius. Then with 3 valves pressed there are 5 bends 3 of which are very small radius.

If it were true that the number of bends and their tightness result in resistance to playing then I should see a significant increase in the resistance to playing when using valves to include first second and third slides. I personally do not notice any significant increase in resistance due to using the valves. In fact I do not notice any increased resistance at all.

Clearly something else is happening to explain the increase in resistance during playing than the curves in the tubing.

There is a related issue of valve clearance and resistance. Players report that valve wear increases the gap around the valves and this reduces the instruments ability to hold pressure. Pressure testing is a standard way of measuring valve wear.

An instrument should have no capability or need of holding pressure given that it is a tube open at the end like a hose pipe or a straw and I for one am not able to build up any pressure in a straw with an open end no matter how hard I blow into it. It is open to the atmosphere. But players clearly do have such a need of tight valves that can hold pressure. Players report that worn valves that cannot hold pressure badly affect playing, so something is happening but what is really happening here is any-ones guess.

I think the two effects are in fact related and I will explain why I think that.

In designing acoustic tubes like for example an exhaust system for a car, there is a pulse effect that affects pressure within the tube.

Each exhaust pulse sets up a standing wave in the exhaust system similar to the standing wave in a brass instrument, but not only is there a standing wave but there are pulses too and it is the pulses that cause additional effects.

I choose to use an exhaust as an example because the exhaust is a tube open at one end like a brass instrument and has to deal with both standing waves and a series of pulses from the engine in the same way that a brass instrument has to deal with a standing wave and a series of pulses created by the embouchure. The design constraints of one could perhaps be used as an example for the other.

In a car exhaust the pulses travel along the tube to the open end where they are reflected back and then travel to the beginning where they oppose the next incoming pulse. This is known by automotive engineers to cause resistance. And because it is an acoustic effect it does not appear when simply blowing a constant stream of air into the tube.

Automotive engineers design the length of the exhaust pipe so as to time the arrival of the returning pulse so that it does not oppose an incoming pulse and this improves scavenge and efficiency at a chosen engine speed.

Brass instrument manufacturers must tune their designs for good pitch and cannot therefore tune their deigns for efficient pulse handling within the instrument. If they did the pitch would not be optimal and the player would suffer less resistance but the instrument would not play in tune.

The inevitable result of all this is that complex instruments probably cause resistance that cannot easily be designed out of the instrument and is likely to be the cause of problems at the valve due to excessive valve clearances when the returning pulses arrive there, and excessive resistance to playing when the returning pulses arrive at the mouthpiece.

If I had to guess, I would say that the difference that you experience between baritone and trombone is perhaps due to the more complex baritone tubing curves creating multiple points at which pulses can be reflected back towards the mouthpiece.

I would expect more complex tubing wraps such as in a baritone to cause more reflected pulses at the mouthpiece and therefore higher perceived resistance.

This may be exacerbated and more acutely felt due to the bore size and the throat size in different instruments. For example with a larger bore size and larger mouthpiece throat the returning pulses might be stronger leading to more perceived resistance.

This of course is conjecture but it appears to be logical.

I hope I haven't caused more confusion by this long post

Brian
 

Jack E

Well-Known Member
Ok this will be lengthy due to its complexity,

I am not an acoustical engineer I was an engineer a lifetime ago, and I have worked in automotive.

As a result I have gathered information from many sources over the years that may help understand what might be going on.

First of all the number of bends and the tightness of the bends should not affect the flow of air given that there is hardly any flow of air through an instrument.

It has been reported that air flow through a brass instrument is around 0.1 litres per second to around 0.8 litres per second. In my case I play at around 0.2 litres per second. Such values are unlikely to suffer from resistance effects caused by the tubing wrap.

Taking a trumpet as an example, with no valves pressed there are 2 curves in the tube both of large radius. Then with 3 valves pressed there are 5 bends 3 of which are very small radius.

If it were true that the number of bends and their tightness result in resistance to playing then I should see a significant increase in the resistance to playing when using valves to include first second and third slides. I personally do not notice any significant increase in resistance due to using the valves. In fact I do not notice any increased resistance at all.

Clearly something else is happening to explain the increase in resistance during playing than the curves in the tubing.

There is a related issue of valve clearance and resistance. Players report that valve wear increases the gap around the valves and this reduces the instruments ability to hold pressure. Pressure testing is a standard way of measuring valve wear.

An instrument should have no capability or need of holding pressure given that it is a tube open at the end like a hose pipe or a straw and I for one am not able to build up any pressure in a straw with an open end no matter how hard I blow into it. It is open to the atmosphere. But players clearly do have such a need of tight valves that can hold pressure. Players report that worn valves that cannot hold pressure badly affect playing, so something is happening but what is really happening here is any-ones guess.

I think the two effects are in fact related and I will explain why I think that.

In designing acoustic tubes like for example an exhaust system for a car, there is a pulse effect that affects pressure within the tube.

Each exhaust pulse sets up a standing wave in the exhaust system similar to the standing wave in a brass instrument, but not only is there a standing wave but there are pulses too and it is the pulses that cause additional effects.

I choose to use an exhaust as an example because the exhaust is a tube open at one end like a brass instrument and has to deal with both standing waves and a series of pulses from the engine in the same way that a brass instrument has to deal with a standing wave and a series of pulses created by the embouchure. The design constraints of one could perhaps be used as an example for the other.

In a car exhaust the pulses travel along the tube to the open end where they are reflected back and then travel to the beginning where they oppose the next incoming pulse. This is known by automotive engineers to cause resistance. And because it is an acoustic effect it does not appear when simply blowing a constant stream of air into the tube.

Automotive engineers design the length of the exhaust pipe so as to time the arrival of the returning pulse so that it does not oppose an incoming pulse and this improves scavenge and efficiency at a chosen engine speed.

Brass instrument manufacturers must tune their designs for good pitch and cannot therefore tune their deigns for efficient pulse handling within the instrument. If they did the pitch would not be optimal and the player would suffer less resistance but the instrument would not play in tune.

The inevitable result of all this is that complex instruments probably cause resistance that cannot easily be designed out of the instrument and is likely to be the cause of problems at the valve due to excessive valve clearances when the returning pulses arrive there, and excessive resistance to playing when the returning pulses arrive at the mouthpiece.

If I had to guess, I would say that the difference that you experience between baritone and trombone is perhaps due to the more complex baritone tubing curves creating multiple points at which pulses can be reflected back towards the mouthpiece.

I would expect more complex tubing wraps such as in a baritone to cause more reflected pulses at the mouthpiece and therefore higher perceived resistance.

This may be exacerbated and more acutely felt due to the bore size and the throat size in different instruments. For example with a larger bore size and larger mouthpiece throat the returning pulses might be stronger leading to more perceived resistance.

This of course is conjecture but it appears to be logical.

I hope I haven't caused more confusion by this long post

Brian
That's a lot of food for thought, Brian - and I think you may have hit on the answer, with the back-reflected pulses. I had no idea that the flow of air through a brass instrument was as low as that - so it's clear that bore size alone cannot account for the very noticeable difference in ease of playing between my baritone and trombone.

One point did strike me, though, where you said this:
"Automotive engineers design the length of the exhaust pipe so as to time the arrival of the returning pulse so that it does not oppose an incoming pulse and this improves scavenge and efficiency at a chosen engine speed."

Oddly enough, two-stroke engine designers do the exact opposite! The breakthrough in exhaust design was down to the experimental work and inventions of a Hungarian engineer, Michel Kadenacy. As well as his work showing the importance of using tuned exhaust systems (rather than just 'something to quieten the thing down a bit'), he discovered what's called the 'Kadenacy Effect'. Basically, this says that if an exhaust port has a sufficiently large size, and opens rapidly enough, it will send a very high pressure pulse of exhaust gas down the pipe - and this in turn creates such a rapid drop in pressure at the exhaust port that the cylinder will be emptied of exhaust gases until the cylinder is actually below atmospheric pressure. As you say, this makes for very good exhaust scavenging, reducing exhaust pollution and increasing efficiency and power. But Kadenacy then went on to show that, in a two-stroke engine, where scavenging is never as good as a four-stroke, if you tune the exhaust system correctly, the Kadenacy Effect will improve both scavenging and cylinder filling.

The way it works is this; the large exhaust port opens, and the high pressure pulse heads down the exhaust pipe, followed by a large drop in pressure; if the inlet port is correctly timed, the fresh charge not only fills the cylinder, but some of it follows the exhaust gas into the exhaust pipe . . . but if the exhaust has a properly sized bore and length, followed by a well-matched expansion chamber with a very small outlet, this apparently 'lost' fresh charge runs smack into a high pressure pulse created by the exhaust outlet which is coming back the other way, and is rammed back into the cylinder - effectively, the tuned exhaust system acts like a supercharger! In his book 'Motorcycle Engineering', the late Phil Irving (designer of Vincent V-twin motorcycles), says:
"A curious fact is that the outlet area (of the tailpipe) may be less than that normally provided on a touring machine developing about one quarter of the power; that on the 250cc twin Adler racer is only about 5/8" (15.9mm) in diameter."
Thinking about all of the above, Brian, I think you've answered my question. Even the mouthpiece of a brass instrument is a very complex shape; if you look at a cross section drawing of one, the variables crammed into a relatively small item are astonishing. Starting with a large diameter opening, reducing in a very complex curve into a far smaller diameter, then opening out again to a larger diameter via a long taper - and even a tiny change in any one of those lengths, diameters or tapers can and will have a marked effect on how it sounds and how it plays. Ask anyone who's tried a cheap Chinese knock-off of a Bach or a Wick mouthpiece!

With best regards,
Jack
 
Last edited:

Jack E

Well-Known Member
Players report that worn valves that cannot hold pressure badly affect playing, so something is happening but what is really happening here is any-ones guess.
Brian

I think this is the same effect deliberately used by people who build model steam locomotives, and want to fit a scale model whistle which doesn't emit a scale model sound - i.e., something like the top note on a fife! What they do is to connect the bore of the scale whistle to a large chamber, off to one side, by means of a short connecting pipe. When the whistle is blown, this extra volume comes into play, as the pitch of the note emitted is dictated not by the resonant frequency of the small internal volume of the whistle, but by that of the volume of the whistle and the added chamber combined. This allows the model loco's whistle to look scale in size, yet sound like the real thing.

The same trick is used by blues harmonica players, who can flatten a note by flattening their tongue and dropping the jaw-bone; this extra volume can easily drop the pitch of the note they're playing by as much as a full tone. Just out of curiosity, I've tried doing that on a baritone horn, and it has the same flattening effect on the pitch. I suspect that when we adjust our intonation to match the rest of our section / band, we aren't just doing it by altering our embouchure, but also by altering the internal volume of our mouths - though we may not be conscious of doing so!

Many thanks for the trouble you took over your detailed reply, Brian - at least some baffling stuff has become a bit more clear :)

A highly regarded racing two-stroke engine tuner said that there were so many hard to assess variables in a two-stroke exhaust system that designing them was as much an art as a science - and I suspect that even designing a brass mouthpiece (let alone the whole instrument) is much the same!

With best regards,
Jack
 

trumpetb

Member
Now it is my turn to learn Jack,

Thank you for those well studied remarks and valuable information.

They say you learn something new every day well I just did thanks to you and I am pleased as punch.

kind regards

Brian
 

Jack E

Well-Known Member
Now it is my turn to learn Jack,

Thank you for those well studied remarks and valuable information.

They say you learn something new every day well I just did thanks to you and I am pleased as punch.

kind regards

Brian
Cheers, Brian!
Jack
 

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