Pulling the Third Slide ?? Low Brass.

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Pulling the Third Slide - a pragmatic solution?

It’s widley thought that four valve compensating instruments are wonderful and three valve non-compensating instruments are significantly lesser beasts that ‘no proper’ Bandsman would ever play. Now let’s park those ‘facts’ and proceed with my question.

As well as playing the (magnificent) Trombone I ‘help’ the Band out by pushing values instead of a slide - someone’s got to do the job and being a good Bandsman I just get on with it, etc. My Band have lent me something much better but I have my own three valve non-compensating instrument and prefer to practice on it - that’s more facts to be put to one side. Back to the point, if the peddle notes are ignored then F# appears to be the lowest note available on a three valve instrument. To be honest I’ve rarely found need for lower than the F# but occasionally one’s part has ‘ghosted in’ notes for a possibly missing instrument of lower pitch. For those instances you can run into lower range problems and I have.

I wonder whether anyone has any knowledge of pulling slides, or even putting in crooks, to extend low range, and if so please share what you know. Through a bit of experimenting I discovered (seems to work) that the third slide on my non-compensating three valve instrument could be pulled to give a drop of an additional semitone (to two full tones). Using that arrangement I can play, with modified fingering, a chromatic scale from D directly below the stave to the F below that D. A handy feature I thought and then wondered both whether anyone else had managed similar, etc., and how far this adding extra length dodge or bodge could be taken?
 
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MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Hi 2T, you might recall that in response to another query a while back I worked up a spreadsheet that calculated fingering charts for different valve layouts. Here's what it returns for 3rd valve extended to two tones in this situation. First picture shows closest fingering to a note, second shows how out of tune it is (100 cents = 1 semitone).

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2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Many thanks to you both for your comments, some interesting insights.

The article on Arnold Jacobs (Jake) is one you could read a few times and still have more to learn from. I do like the concept of concentrating on the goal and not the method though; and that music is largely in the head, from which the player has to pull it to give that perfect performance (imagine and then do).

Yep, agreed, as shown in Daves charts intonation is an issue on non-compensating instruments and hence the use of triggers. I’ve sat down with a tuner and instrument to check things out, the first and third valve slides have been pulled to get the best intonation compromise that I could find. The bad news for me is that (as now judged by the tuner) my third valve inner slide needs to be extended by 50% so that it can be pulled far enough for me to get an acceptable if sharp low F, the outer slide appears to be capable of easily taking the additional length of an extended inner slide.
(Edit. Note to self, the maths says longer still so double the existing length to the maximum the outer tube will take)
Some modification should be possible but I’m uncertain who might do it and at an appropriate (for the infrequent use) cost.
Edit. Having experimented on my own instrument I have now tried the third slide pull trick on my Band’s instrument which has the traditional ‘full’ length third slide. Although barely engaged - a bit more length was needed really - I could sound a more acceptable but still sharp F with its longer slide and with 1+Long 3 you can get a really in tune F sharp :).

Low brass players in Brass Bands don’t adjust any slides whilst playing (well I’ve never seen or heard of it) but the players in other groups using Tubas with rotary vales either do or can. Of course, as a Trombone player, I know that valves are but approximate methods for adding more tubing and the right amount is achieved with slide technique (well that plus experience). We could divert into the use and pros and cons of rotary valve Instuments and they do inform discussion but, without meaning to dispel their merits, they’re background information when you’re focusing on getting more range out of the simple piston valve instruments that some of us use.

The degree to which intonation really matters is, I believe, a moving target. The higher pitched brass instruments don’t need low range extension because they have complementary instruments underneath of them: Cornets have Tenor Horns and the Tenor Horns have Baritone Horns. For low Brass who actually notices and then cares much if the Tubas (Euph’s and Basses) play some short and low pitched notes that aren’t in perfect intonation? Mostly no one and mostly the Conductors that I’ve come across would rather have some note than none (well assuming it’s in the right place, of the right duration and approximates to the intended pitch, etc). The Euph’s music is typically fast stuff so if a note’s imperfect it’s not readily noticed and the Basses grumble along making sort of rhythmic noises. Which kind of leads me back to the pragmatic solution suggested for getting the low F. To get a ‘decent’ low F the third slide will have to be pulled further than the notional semitone (the extra length adding some compensation for using the 1+2+3 valve combination).

We haven’t touched on putting crooks in yet or on adding a rotary vale into instruments - though I think the later over complex for most of us - but those features were/are occasional used on Trumpets and Cornets. I’m interested in what could be done with crooks though, as pragmatic solutions to help get around a requirement for range extension, insights and comments will be welcomed. IIRC Wyvern sell a small Tuba that can, with alternative crooks, be pitched in F or Eb - someone understands what’s possible and practical.
 
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PeterBale

Moderator
Staff member
Before the introduction of four-valved instruments, it was quite common for Bb bass players to play a low F on open, descending chromatically from there as required. Takes a bit of practice, and is more effective for low dynamics.
 
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2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Before the introduction of four-valved instruments, it was quite common for Bb bass players to play a low F on open, descending chromatically from there as required. Takes a bit of practice, and is more effective for low dynamics.
Thanks, an overlooked point both on false tones and how Bandsmen of yesteryear strived to get more out of their instruments. False tones are there if you can find them, but try as I might I’ve never had much success with them myself.
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Hi 2T, you might recall that in response to another query a while back I worked up a spreadsheet that calculated fingering charts for different valve layouts. Here's what it returns for 3rd valve extended to two tones in this situation. First picture shows closest fingering to a note, second shows how out of tune it is (100 cents = 1 semitone).
Hi Dave, just relooking at you chart I see that the open notes are typicall considered to be in perfect tune - E is a known problem though. Then, armed with tuner off I go to pull that slide and see what can be done. First though it’s best to check that the instrument is in tune. Said instruments (I tested mine plus a very posh one from the band) were tuned to bottom C but on both instruments the G, C, E and G above it were all over the show - the C above the top G was well sharp but that one could be down to me. As I somehow recall from other posts that variation isn’t unusual and we all live with it. Perhaps it’s just my Tuner (though it’s from a well respected brand) and I’m not sure what’s regarded as tolerable or acceptable, but when the harmonics aren’t perfectly in tune it does make one wonder what chance one has of perfecting other notes. Is the logical conclusion that everyone should listen very carefully and play Trombones? :)
 
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Tom-King

Well-Known Member
You'll get away with roughly +/-10 cents without anyone noticing (most of the time).

On most instruments, you'd expect the top space E to sit flat and the G above to sit sharp (given an in-tune third space C).
These tendencies will be made worse with insufficient air support, and some instruments are worse than others.

As far as your best compromise for your valve tubing... Consider how you use them most, and what manipulations you find easiest.
So, for example, you'll rarely use third valve on its own (preferring one+two), so you don't need to worry as much about third on its own.
Many players will find lipping down easier than lipping up, and the more valves are involved the further out (sharp) the combination will be given a set of slides that are perfect in isolation (1st only good, 2nd only good, 3rd only good)... So you may want to tune your 3rd to a good 1+3 combination, so you can lip down to a 1+2+3 and still be able to get a 2+3 to work (then again, if a perfect 2+3 allows lipping down to 1+2+3 where needed, but you don't use that combo often, then maybe that's worth it).

End of the day, it's a compromise - the whole point of compensating systems is to remove the compromise by adding the extra tubing in for you... So where (with 1, 2 and 3 perfect in isolation) a 1+3 combo should be sharp, the compensation involves adding tubing for that combination so that it comes out much closer to in tune.

All the theory is interesting (and useful to know so you can trust yourself to do the right thing), but the key is still in listening.

All the best
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Hi Dave, just relooking at you chart I see that the open notes are typicall considered to be in perfect tune
No, this isn't the case, it accounts for that. e.g. ...

- E is a known problem though.
...this is shown as 13.69 cents flat on open, about 1/7 of a semitone.

Then, armed with tuner off I go to pull that slide and see what can be done. First though it’s best to check that the instrument is in tune. Said instruments (I tested mine plus a very posh one from the band) were tuned to bottom C but on both instruments the G, C, E and G above it were all over the show - the C above the top G was well sharp but that one could be down to me. As I somehow recall from other posts that variation isn’t unusual and we all live with it. Perhaps it’s just my Tuner (though it’s from a well respected brand) and I’m not sure what’s regarded as tolerable or acceptable, but when the harmonics aren’t perfectly in tune it does make one wonder what chance one has of perfecting other notes. Is the logical conclusion that everyone should listen very carefully and play Trombones? :)
As Tom says, the theory is great to have as a base to launch your understanding of your instrument from, but it's not a be-all end-all.
 

pbirch

Active Member
don't forget though, that if you permanently extend the third valve slide to compensate for sharp notes in the low range, you will then flatten the 2/3 notes in the mid range (and these are more frequent notes in the brass repertoire) you will be in a worse situation. All instruments have intonation problems to some extent or other, and interesting one I found on mine recently, when playing scales was that a Db was slightly flat in an Ab scale and the C sharp was slightly sharp in the A scale (both with 2nd and 4th valves), You overcome these issues by listening carefully and adjusting you your embouchure. A tuner will distract you and will waste your practice time on a problem that is best solved by playing and listening
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
Thank you Peter, your several points are a general help and appreciated. I can assure you that the long pull of the 3rd slide would be a temporary thing.

Thank you Tom. Prompted by your post I dusted off a second tuner and found a number of things worth sharing though they’re outside of what the thread was intended to be about - but divergence isn’t always bad.

Never completely trust measuring instruments and in this case Tuners. There’s now some question in my mind about their response to low(er) Brass notes, for a steady note the needle should stay in one place and every note should register but that’s not what happened. The second tuner tried did give steadier readings but notes below peddle C weren’t picked up, pity its display didn’t have an easy to read cents scale too. Both Tuners are from well know brands.

Anyway (with the second Tuner) the fudge that I went for was to set the 1st slide slightly long to give some perfect notes and others not at all bad, the second slide was left as is and the third slide was pulled (further than previously) to give a perfect low D. Eb next to it was slightly flat and C# was slightly sharp. The low G was perfect and the adjacent F# wasn’t far away, less sharp than the C#. Peddle C, bottom C and top C were all perfect, can’t remember about middle C and I think that middle G was out. Top G was well sharp but played on 1+2 became perfect again, I think that 1+2 might be better for the high E just below it too. By perfect I mean that the tuner’s green light typically shows. Playing over a few pieces afterwards I though that the slightly changed tuning must be an improvement because the music sounded slightly better - fractional gains but all improve is welcomed.
 
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