Steep Learning Curve on Trombone

Jack E

Well-Known Member
Just bought a John Packer 132.R tenor trombone, and started playing with it today. It came with a JP.610 mouthpiece and it was only when I put that down next to the mouthpiece from my baritone that I realised it was a large shank mouthpiece - and there was me thinking that all tenor trombones were small shank!
(I just checked on their website, and the 610 is described as a 4AL euph mouthpiece - hmmmm . . . )

First thought that crossed my mind - "Have I accidentally bought a bass 'bone?" :oops: Second thought - "Will I have to learn bass clef??" 🤯 "And, if it is a bass, what key is it in?"

Checked back on the invoice. Nope, it's definitely a tenor, and in Bb, but it is a large bore; 8.5" bell, 0.547" bore. The mouthpiece is noticeably larger than a Wick 6BS, with a fairly narrow rim, but nicely rounded, and feels very comfortable. I've been experimenting with buzzing it, just to get the feel of it, and I must say that, so far, I like it a lot. Buzzing the lower notes in particular feels very easy, getting a really clean buzz, and I suspect it will give a really rich sound when played on the 'bone - especially as it appears to be intended for euph players.

Another learning point; I was browsing through the TromboneChat forum, and came across some advice which makes perfect sense, but which was never pointed out to me before when I was playing trombone a few years back. I quote:-

From SwissTbone: "I have my first position always out a little. How can you fine-tune your first position notes otherwise?"

What he's driving at is that he sets his tuning slide so that, to play a written C (concert Bb) in 1st position, his main slide is a fraction of an inch away from the bumper. When I had my Selmer 'bone, I noticed it particularly on one position (I think it was 5th, but not sure), that if I played a series of notes on 5th - Eb, Ab, C, high Eb - that to get one of them in tune, I had to slightly tweak the slide position. Thinking about it further, I was watching James Morrison a few nights ago on YouTube, and I noticed that when he was playing certain notes on 2nd position, he was slightly adjusting the slide position for some of them. Even though my tutor in the band pointed out to me the need to adjust the slide in 5th when playing certain notes, the need to be able to do that in 1st as well was never mentioned. 🤔

Moving right along . . . brief back story; I was born left-handed, but like many children in that era (before we learnt how to make fire) I was forced to use my right hand instead, and that was before I was even old enough to sit up in my cot - so I had no idea about it until my mum told me when I was 15. At about the age of 20/21, I tried to learn to play guitar - on a right-handed guitar. After 2 years fighting it and getting nowhere, I gave up. Fast forward to last year; after 6 months of the band being shut down, no horse riding, and living almost in solitary confinement, I was about climbing the walls. I found playing my baritone in isolation didn't cut it for me - one note at a time, instead of a number of instruments playing in multi-part harmony was just way too boring.

So I looked round for something I could do, which would sound complete in itself - and I plumped for banjo, played in old time Appalachian style, rather than the frenetic Earl Scruggs / Foggy Mountain Breakdown / Deliverance way (musical machine guns). And, as I was doing a bit of research before buying, I came across the argument on a banjo forum - "If you were born left-handed, should you go for a left-hand banjo, or just learn to play a right-hand version, which are much easier to find, and to sell on later?" Especially on this side of the Pond, banjos are thin on the ground, and left-hand banjos even more so.

Well, people argued both ways, with some left-handers saying they'd learnt on an RH banjo, no problem - but other southpaws saying they'd tried a RH, and could not make any progress at all, but took to a LH banjo like a duck to water. One thoughtful comment suggested that handedness in people is not a simple black / white distinction, but a spectrum - varying from extreme handedness (right or left) through moderate handedness to ambidextrous in the middle. Made sense. I noticed when I was a radio mechanic in the RAF that some right-handed blokes could use a soldering hand with their left hand if working in an awkward spot (not easily, but they could), whilst others couldn't do it left-handed to save their lives. So, while I was chewing this over, I was doodling around one day with an electric bass, and tried swapping it over to left-handed - it felt like swapping my shoes over from the wrong feet to the right feet! What a revelation! No wonder I got nowhere with a RH guitar . . .

After some searching, I found a little firm in Faversham which builds banjos from scratch, and will build you pretty much whatever you want, and I bought a left-hand banjo - and got on with it very well. It was my banjo teacher who found it confusing, as she said watching me play is like looking in a mirror, rather than watching another player! 😊

You're wondering where this is going, aren't you? Patience, dear heart. Just when I was thinking about buying another trombone, I came across another thread on the TromboneChat forum where several left-handed people said that they had assembled their trombones to play them left-handed! With a straight Bb 'bone, it's easy-peasy - though they did point out that, with the exception of one make (I think some Bach models), you couldn't do it with trombones fitted with triggers.

So, tonight I put the Packer together for the first time, and thought "I'll try it left-handed, and see how it feels." Result? It feels as normal and natural as playing my banjo left-handed, and far more comfortable than when I was playing my old Selmer trombone right-handed 🙂 I dare say it will look a bit weird to other people - but I can live with that 😎

Further bulletins will be issued as and when the situation develops - watch this space!

And best regards,
Jack
 
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Vegasbound

Active Member
you adjust in all positions, you should never have bad intonation on the trombone

yes 1st position Bb should be played away from the bumpers to allow the D a flat note to be played further in thus in tune also allows for use of slide vib in 1st

you play E in 2nd position but the G above in short 2nd

3rd position C needs to be played in a shorter 3rd for same reason, while the Eb further out etc etc

the bone you have is a large bore, even though you are a leftie, you could and maybe should play the conventional way makes section playing easier

if you play a 6bs on baritone, and happy with it then pick up a 6bl for the one, and imho lessons with a good trombone teacher will help you
 

Jack E

Well-Known Member
@Vegasbound - As I said above, I've tried playing the trombone both ways (and not just for 5 minutes), and there's no way I'd even consider playing it right-handed again. I don't see how playing left-handed could affect section playing in any way, whether I'm playing a small bore or a large bore trombone; what difference can that make to other players, or to how I play with them?

"you adjust in all positions, you should never have bad intonation on the trombone"
Yes, I do know that, thank you. The point I was making was that, when I was having trombone lessons before, the tutor never even mentioned the essential requirement to be able to adjust the slide position in 1st position as well as the others.

"1st position Bb should be played away from the bumpers to allow the D a flat note to be played further in thus in tune also allows for use of slide vib in 1st. You play E in 2nd position but the G above in short 2nd. 3rd position C needs to be played in a shorter 3rd for same reason, while the Eb further out etc etc"
Unfortunately, I can't make any sense of this at all, except that 1st position Bb should be played off the bumper.
You don't say which D you're referring to, but the only D played on 1st position on my slide position chart is the one above the stave - way beyond my reach - but that can also be played on 3rd position, so pulling in the slide to correct it is no problem.
You say I should play E in 2nd position but the G above in short 2nd - do you mean the E on the top space? The chart I have shows that E as either 1st, 4th or 7th position, so I don't understand how I can play it in 2nd? And my chart shows the G above the stave as 1st, 4th or 6th??
The only 3rd position C shown on my chart is the one above the stave - again, that's way beyond anything I can reach - and "Eb further out"; which Eb is that? I'd have thought that, if I adjust the tuning slide so that Bb is just off the bumper, all the slide positions will have to be moved slightly further out.

With best regards,
Jack
 

Vegasbound

Active Member
I am talking concert pitch not brass band treble clef

so please re read my initial post replace the notes with one tone higher ( although you do refer to Bb in first and not C which would be the brass band name for the note)

so C is brass band D 4th line played in a shorter third position than the Eb or brass band F on 4th line

D or brass band E 4th space is a naturally flat note so needs to be played nearer the bumper than brass band C 3rd space

so it is wrong to assume all other positions should automatically be further out, and I strongly advise you take a lesson or two this will help you understand
 
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Jack E

Well-Known Member
You were talking about concert pitch - without saying so - to somebody who has only ever played in brass bands, on transposing instruments? No wonder I couldn't make any sense of your post.

I don't need lessons to know the difference between concert pitch, and music as written for brass band, thank you - but I do know the difference having lessons from a good teacher can make to my playing, which is why I'm already having them.
 

Vegasbound

Active Member
I talked concert pitch because you referred to Bb in first position thus implying to me that you played concert pitch, so sorry for my mistake

my comment re lessons had nothing to do with reading music, but about trombone technique and slide positions, you would then have a better understanding on why and what James Morrison was doing in 2nd position

i will not reply further but wish you well with your trombone playing
 

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
I talked concert pitch because you referred to Bb in first position thus implying to me that you played concert pitch, so sorry for my mistake

my comment re lessons had nothing to do with reading music, but about trombone technique and slide positions, you would then have a better understanding on why and what James Morrison was doing in 2nd position

i will not reply further but wish you well with your trombone playing

I think it an easy enough mistake to make and experts, like yourself, can very easily loose track of the fact that knowledge and nuisances common to them don’t always register with less experienced people (eg. people like me). Sometimes I can inadvertently indicate more knowledge than I actually have, and then I’m sometimes caught out by / don’t understand the response. So six of one and half a dozen of the other.

As a Brass Band Trombone player (2nd Tenor) I never really needed - or got on with - Bass Clef, but if someone can manage it then IMHO it’s a skill worth having. I’m a better Tuba player now than I was a Trombone player - Eb Bass is ‘Home’ to me - but I gained so much from playing the Trombone and built on my experience of using one.
 
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