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1097397 Posts in 72521 Topics- by 19563 Members - Latest Member: SlideThomson
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1  Horns, Gear, and Equipment / Instruments / Re: Best Bach 42 copy right now? on: Yesterday at 11:13 PM
The Courtois 420 are great horns, very well built and play and sound very good, but I don't think they're nearly as good a Bach 42 copy as the 440 is a good 88H copy. By that I mean that the AC440 feels much closer to some vintage 88Hs than most modern 88Hs I've tried and is basically a new vintage 88H not made by Conn, whereas I've never tried a Courtois 420 that I could have mistaken for a Bach 42. The ones I've tried felt much lighter than the average 42. Great horn, but more a thing of its own, much like the Courtois bass that has very little to do with the Bach 50 anymore. If I was going to buy a new horn and was specifically looking for the feel and sound I expect from a 42, I don't think I would buy a Courtois.
2  Teaching & Learning / Practice Room / Re: Open Mouth on: Yesterday at 08:19 AM
Perhaps best not to ovethink this too much, but basically if your mouth is wide open, your oral cavity will be much wider than the air column up to that point. Imagine water flowing through pipes and then suddenly into a pool. A good portion of the water (or air in our case) will to loose momentum and roll to the sides to fill the space, creating drag and distortion of the flow.

That affects your sound negatively and creates instability.

The idea of playing wide open is usually associated with pushing out the maximum amount of air into the horn, because you need to "fill the instrument" - which is nonsense, the horn is already full of air, you only need to make that existing air column vibrate.
3  Creation and Performance / Trombonists / Re: Jorgen van Rijen! on: Feb 23, 2018, 10:39PM
Just out of curiosity, what is "the DSO?"  Detroit Symphony Orchestra?  Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra?  Dallas Symphony Orchestra?  Dortmund Symphony Orchestra?  Des Moines Symphony Orchestra?  Dresden Symphony Orchestra? 

For that matter, what is "UNT?"

Dallas Symphony Orchestra, University of North Texas
4  Horns, Gear, and Equipment / Instruments / Re: Valve bone? Why? on: Feb 23, 2018, 10:37PM
For a long time in the 19th/early 20th C, it wasn't clear whether slides or valves would win. Valves were the hot technology of the time. Certainly, Verdi wrote for piston valves, and I still see them in Italian wind bands today. I've also heard claims that German low brass were valves in Wagner's day, which suggests a whole other sound world.

Most if not all of Italy used valve trombones, and it also saw some use in France, although it never supplanted the slide there. Undoubtedly there must have been areas in Germany where valve trombones became common, but I don't know anyone who claims that all German trombones had valves in Wagner's day. It is quite well documented that the slide was the standard. What is however also well documented is that the valve trombone became widespread in Austria, including Vienna. The Vienna Opera had valve trombones for a few decades in the 19th century and by the time they switched back to slides, they didn't have trombonists who could play a slide anymore. Much of Bruckner's music was most probably intended for valve trombones.
5  Horns, Gear, and Equipment / Instruments / Re: Valve bone? Why? on: Feb 23, 2018, 10:30PM
Many manufacturers produce valve trombone. Bach, King, Yamaha, etc.

No stock valve trombone has a trigger, though, as far as I have seen. But it is not a very difficult modification to do. Find a bell section with a trigger and a tenon that is compatible with the valve section, and done, you have 4-valve valve trombone.

4-valve trombones were not uncommon historically - except they usually have the fourth valve in the main valve block, so for your 4th finger, rather than a left thumb-operated valve in the bell section.
6  Horns, Gear, and Equipment / Mouthpieces / Re: sackbut mouthpiece Romera Daniel Lassalle on: Feb 23, 2018, 05:41PM
I have thus far resisted criticizing your slide trumpet.  Please don't tempt me. Evil

Of course you have! I bet you have a lot to say on the subject  Evil
7  Horns, Gear, and Equipment / Mouthpieces / Re: sackbut mouthpiece Romera Daniel Lassalle on: Feb 23, 2018, 11:43AM
Please forgive me for going there, as any debate that goes into pointing out each other's logical fallacies is doomed to become competent sterile very fast...but I can't resist taking the bait :-P

It's not a logical fallacy to question constructed orthodoxy.  I'll go ahead and put my Ph.D. in musicology behind that. 

A strawman (nobody said questioning orthodoxy is a fallacy, merely that some of the arguments you have presented are) and invoking your PhD are also logical fallacies  ;-)
8  Horns, Gear, and Equipment / Instruments / Re: My new Helmut Voigt alto bell section on: Feb 21, 2018, 09:27AM
A German bell with a very large bore slide? Doesn't it make it very flat in the upper partials?

Beautiful bell!

Real alto sound indeed!!  Evil

Looks great. How is that bell brace working? Looks like it would be uncomfortable to hold being so tall? Would like to see a picture of how you hold with your left hand

Historical trombones most often have braces that are flat and/or too far to use the standard modern grips, plus that grip puts torque on the joint, which can be problematic when it's friction fit - there are several other ways or hold a trombone that are comfortable and efficient, just varies from person to person based on hand size. I would hold this horn the same way I hold my sackbut and my Conn peashooter.
9  Teaching & Learning / Pedagogy / Re: Why is tenor clef used for trombone work? Composer preference? on: Feb 19, 2018, 04:32AM
One reason is to have the high notes within the staff. Less lines above the staff compared to if the part would have been in bass clef.

Then sheet music tradition is from church music and trombones began to double the parts in church choires, that is the alto, tenor and bass parts were doubled with alto, tenor and bass trombone and the singers had their parts written in alto and tenor clef, for the same reason to be within the staff. This is what I've been told. I have often wondered what instrument doubled the soprano. I long hoped to find that the soprano was doubled with a soprano trombone but have not seen any evidence of this, which means it must have been another instrument. For what I've heard the soprano trombone was very rarely used. Was it ever used in old music? Any proof of this?


Trombones would play with various soprano instruments (shawm, violin, even recorder and transverse flute), but the most common pairing for a long while, at least in colla parte, or generally playing with or doubling singers, was the cornetto. The permanent group of the Basilica di San Marco was based on voices, trombones and cornets, with strings gradually joining in and then replacing first the cornetto and later the trombone as well - so for a while there (and elsewhere), you would find violins as a likely treble to a group including trombones. The cornetto saw continuous use until later than most people think - not only did Bach write for cornetto in most of his cantatas with trombones, but there are both colla parte and virtuosic chamber music parts for cornetts in the Habsburg courts well into the 18th century. Bruce Dickey has recently found in the Kromeriz archives new repertoire for cornetto by big names like Caldara and Ziani and even as late as Michael Haydn. So Gluck using cornetto was probably not a reintroduction of an old instrument that had died out as is generally thought, but the continuation of a long tradition that at least in some parts of Habsburg Austria and Bohemia was still alive (just like his use of the trombone in fact). 

As far as I know the soprano trombone was a late 17th century addition and saw very limited use (geographically and in what kinds of music it played). You will have a lot of trouble finding more than a few pieces for it outside of the Moravian tradition.

As for the clef tradition, in orchestral music the ATB clef combination for trombones is mostly found in German ice (or germanic-inspired)  music and German editions of other music, most of all because their use of trombones in orchestras evolved directly from its use in church doubling voices, which by the 18th century was quite standardized in terms of the clefs used. But you can go back much further than the church association and colla parte writing. Early on, everybody used moveable clefs (and all of them were moveable, not just the C clefs), as Tom said so that there was never any ledger lines or only a single one very occasionally - not just for church music but for any music written on a staff. It is not uncommon to have clef changes in the middle of a vocal part, and very virtuosic instrumental music that has a wide range would often switch between 2,3 sometimes 4 clefs. The very first known solo piece for trombone is full of clef changes as it spans two octaves plus a 5th. There were also clef systems used to indicate a piece had to be played in a different pitch position (or transposition if you wish, although they didn't think of it that way).

Some may say that C clefs are outdated and we shouldn't have to learn them - we can just transpose every piece ever written in bass or treble clef. To me that's like saying we should just stop reading music and instead make recordings of every piece ever so we can learn by ear and memorization. There are plenty of reasons,  historical and practical, why clefs are still very useful and a valuable tool. So by all means if you find no use to them, go ahead and don't learn them,  but don't be surprised when you find that those of us who are fluent in clefs become more versatile players and are better equipped to play the gig well :-P
10  Teaching & Learning / Schools, Colleges and Conservatories / Re: Trombone study at the Université de Montréal on: Feb 18, 2018, 12:00PM
I highly recommend prospective students consider this option. Dave is a fabulous teacher, the orchestra is very high level with an outstanding conductor, the theory department is very strong. The big band is strong but is always looking for trombone players so classical majors get to play in it if they wish. Sackbuts available (including very good Egger alto and bass) for those interested to try early music.  Plus, Montreal offers tons of playing opportunities for students outside of the universities. With three major music schools, that's a lot of good music students, so there are several high level student orchestras and projects going on all the time.
11  Creation and Performance / Musical Miscellany / Re: 20 cellos compared in one minute on: Feb 17, 2018, 12:18PM
Wasn't Dillons trying to sell Arthur Pryor's trombone for $200k at one time?

250K IIRC.
12  Creation and Performance / Musical Miscellany / Re: 20 cellos compared in one minute on: Feb 16, 2018, 03:55PM
Yikes, Rob!! But still (potentially) a steal at $79, if she plays alright Way cool I've been considering taking up violin... but I have too many issues in my brass and piano playing to feel like I should put time into yet another instrument  :/

It's interesting to me how blessed we are with brass. Even the absolute highest-end horns don't come CLOSE to the costs of some strings and wood winds (right? Not too many sackbuts out there that compare in "value" to some of the priciest antique string instruments?)

The fact that I can walk to one of my local music stores and pick up a mouthpiece for $40 that'll last me my WHOLE career, while reed players, saxes especially, are constantly buying, wearing out and breaking reeds and spending a good amount every year on new ones in addition to their mouthpieces costing oftentimes $50+ for decent student models, WITHOUT a ligature, is just remarkable in my opinion.

Indeed and trombonists are blessed among brass players because of instruments are also usually the cheapest.

You wouldn't find many antique trombones that are worth as much as antique string instrument, because very few of comparable age have survived, and fewer still are anywhere close to being in good playable condition. The vast majority are already owned by museums and have been for quite some time, and there is very little market and demand for them (if anything, because while most of the prestigious string instruments have been vastly modified and updated to modern set ups over the decades and centuries, it is not possible to make a historical trombone into a modern trombone) and very little prestige for rich people in owning them (nobody cares about trombones to start with, and almost none of the historical ones have been owned or played by any legendary or even recognizable name), so any attempt to put a price on them would be very arbitrary.
13  Horns, Gear, and Equipment / Mouthpieces / Re: Nickel plated mouthpieces on: Feb 16, 2018, 03:19PM
My first trombone teacher had nickel plated mouthpieces, as well as solid titanium ones. He had a quite large mustache that was supposedly so harsh that it would wear completely  through silver plating in a matter of a few months. Having standard mouthpieces nickel plated by a local industrial plating shop was cheaper than getting the titanium or surgical steel ones (although he did have some of those as well).
14  Teaching & Learning / Practice Room / Re: Best strategy for learning tenor and alto clef on: Feb 09, 2018, 06:24AM
The best is to just learn to read them without relating them to other clefs you know. Just sight read and practice music set in those clefs. You learn from getting used to them. Plus one of the most useful aspects of clefs is they allow you to transpose (for example reading tenor clef when playing Bb treble parts, or reading mezzo-soprano clef when horn in F parts).  If you already need transposing to read the clefs in the first place then you can't use them as a transposition device.

What can help sometimes is to really think about clefs as representing strictly one pitch, not a pitch class nor a visual position for every note of the staff. The F clef strictly shows F3 (it can't show F2 or F4 in theory), the C clef middle C, and the G clef G4. The grand staff has 11 lines, with the C clef right in the middle and the others a fifth away in each direction. A single 5 line staff can be comprised of any 5 of those 11 lines. The notes and clefs don't move on the staff, it's the staff itself (or in fact the choice of which 5 lines are shown) that moves around the notes. In other words, the clef is your guide, not the staff lines. You don't have to know that D3 is the first line in tenor clef and the 1st ledger line in alto clef and the 2nd ledger line in mezzo clef and the 2nd line in baritone clef if you know that D is simply always 4 lines below the C clef and 1 line below the F clef.
15  Horns, Gear, and Equipment / Instruments / Re: New slide trumpet! on: Feb 08, 2018, 05:04PM
beautiful! Let's hear it!

I'll try to post a short video next time I play with the alta capella group
16  Horns, Gear, and Equipment / Instruments / Re: New slide trumpet! on: Feb 07, 2018, 11:41AM
Damn!!!  That is TOO cool and BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

Great craftsmanship!!  Very interesting on the slide aspect & tolerances!!!


I do think you would need larger tolerances on a trombone since the tube is much longer and you have two, but the burnishing techniques we used do work and I'm convinced they would work great for a trombone as well.

The original trumpet is really cool and unique. It was found at the bottom of a well along with guns, for starters. All joints are friction fit, no glue or solder whatsoever. No sleeves either for that matter (or just one for the bell), the yards and the bows have matching tapered ends that just butt together. The original bell is very long and in two telescoping parts; you need to pull the smaller part through the flared part until they lock together.

The first image looks like the "after" pic of some mishap with the mechanical clock tower mechanism.

Hahaha yes :-P it's a rather silly wrap.

This is the fresco the idea is from (trumpets between 10 and 2 o'clock)
Francesco Padano, 1474

<Edit: Fixed Image>

17  Horns, Gear, and Equipment / Instruments / New slide trumpet! on: Feb 07, 2018, 09:10AM
Just home from spending a week with renowned historical trumpet maker Graham Nicholson, assisting him in making me a Renaissance slide trumpet. It is based on an S trumpet from 1442. We decided to make it into a rather elaborate wrap based on the fresco on the ceiling of the cathedral of Valencia. I am very, very pleased with the result and got to appreciate just how good and clever a maker he is.

The garland engraving (seen here right after I made it - it later received the traditional hole drilled through both garland and bell in the middle of that boxed X) attempts to more or less follow the original and is written in French "batarde" blackletter script. It reads "marcian guitbert me fit a limoges * lan * mil * cccc xlii" - Marcian Guitbert made me in Limoges in the year 1442. I personalized it by changing the crest from the original engraving (featuring a crude-ish medieval keep), which is both hard to engrave and quite ugly, for a more elegant (I think) fleur-de-lis which  I drew with square lines and angles to match the angular script.

The slide started out as those two flat pieces of thin brass, then rolled, brazed, burnished and thoroughly polished. It was not drawn and has very tight tolerance (only 0.1mm clearance around the inner!), yet it works surprisingly well. Entirely made with techniques that were available to a 15th century maker. The idea that they didn't know how or wouldn't have been able to make decent slides can be put to rest.

18  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: ‘German’ trombone sound concept on: Jan 29, 2018, 12:35AM

I play in an amateur symphony orchestra in Germany and recently became aware of the ‘German’ trombone sound. After a certain amount of hand waving it was clear the conductor was looking for a different type of sound to what I’ve been used to in my home country, the UK. I spoke to the 2nd and 3rd trombonists at the break and one (but only one interestingly, the other knew nothing of it) educated me about the traditional ‘German’ trombone sound. After a bit of reading up and contemplation I came to the conclusion that buying a new instrument is not the answer, I already have too many instruments to find time to get the best out of each!

Does anyone have a suggestion how I can make my playing more ‘German’? I think the main characteristic I’m looking for is a rich sound with constant timbre across all dynamics. At least, that seems to be what the conductor’s asking for. Perhaps categorising this into a ‘German’ sound question is too simple, it could apply more generally as well.

I’ll be playing on a Conn 88ht with Rath L5 mouthpiece or a 6H with a 6.5 VB Megatone. I don’t really want to make this a gear question, I’d rather focus on getting the best from what I have.

Any ideas?


From my limited experience playing German trombones and from what I hear and read, I would say playing with constant timbre in all dynamics is not really it. Traditional German trombones typically play very rich and mellow with tons of overtones in softer dynamics but deaden up if you try to push them with air alone. When playing them they usually required of me to brighten up quite a bit when playing loud. But it's not the slightly edgy "wall of sound" bright we're used to produce when playing American instruments, it's more a shining through bright, using vowel shapes to keep the air moving ("eeee"  to play brighter in louder dynamics - if I tried a very open "aaaaa" when playing loud, the horn would just suck the air out of me like crazy, sound barely louder and very unstable in intonation and response). Whenever I hear German orchestras the brass are shining through the orchestra without drowning everyone. It's brighter and cuts through while being less loud in terms of sheer volume of sound. It's hard to replicate exactly on an American instrument but you can at least aim for that sound.
19  Horns, Gear, and Equipment / Accessories / Re: Cronkhite (Torpedo) Bag thoughts. on: Jan 26, 2018, 12:27PM

no those straps are not removable.  in fact i asked the company, and they sent me very detailed instructions into what to tell a cobbler to do to make it a single sling bag instead of a backpack.  totally unexpected.  Nice folks at cronkhite.

and yes, user error.  flip the slide to the other side of the bell section.  all of a sudden the padding covers the zipper. 

Aah yes, slide has to be to the right when looking at the case with the bell end towards you.

Also true about the straps, but I prefer that - I always wear as a back pack and the permanent straps make it more comfortable than if they were detachable.
20  Horns, Gear, and Equipment / Instruments / Re: Trombone step/up on: Jan 26, 2018, 07:22AM
If you decide not to sell it having a good backup horn is never a bad idea for a student or pro who depends on their instrument.  

That 88H doesn't have to be a "back up horn", it can be the main axe for a college student or any professional player. I don't have anything against boutique horns, and I've tried some that were stellar, and yes they have been the trend for a while (and for good reasons). If you can afford them and the best (for your needs) horn you try happens to be a custom or boutique horn, by all means get that. But they're not inherently superior or better. Many, many professionals, some among the best in the world, play 42s, 88Hs or clones of these. The very best modern trombones (for my taste and my playing) I've ever tried were Bachs and Conns (including Greenhoe optimized) and the Courtois 88H clone.

Students getting told that they NEED a Shires or Edwards or whatnot and that a 88H or 42B is not good enough or serious enough anymore for a college student or for professional life is frankly one of the many things that are very wrong in the current trombone culture (particularly in the US/North America). First the horn doesn't have to cost 4-6K$ to be a good horn, second it's not about the horn, it's about how you play it.

Plus there are potential big downsides in getting a custom boutique horn as a student : when you're in high school you most often don't know quite exactly what you want, or know how to get it; and what you think you need at 19 vs you actually need once you're further in your studies or done with them are often very different. The nice expensive Shires with a very specific combination of parts you get at 19 might not be easy to sell when you want to switch. Many people are looking for a 42 or 88H, and so they are easy to sell, with a more or less predictable resell price if it's good and in good shape. People who buy custom instruments usually have a more specific combination they're looking for, and the chances of your horn fitting what the buyer wants are often slim. I see a lot of custom horns either taking months or years to sell, or selling for much less compared to the original price than stock horns do. I have also had many friends who bought nice Shires with weird specs in college, then switched to conventional stock horns by the end of grad school.
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