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Author Topic: Large bore obsession  (Read 2405 times)
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sirisobhakya
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« on: Feb 07, 2018, 05:40PM »

My school band director/teacher, whom I am looking forward to help in advising trombone students after I go back to my home country, has quite an obsession with large-bore trombone, or at least he seems to have. So now we have 6th-graders walking around with .547" horns, 1st trombone (8th- and 9th-graders) also with .547" horns, and a 9th-grade girl with a Bach 50B, which she has been using since 8th grade at least. He also prefer large bore when looking for a new (used) horn, so almost all the newer horns in the band are .547", and a few .525"/.547" dual.

Is there any reason to justify this? Conversely, is there any harm this can do to the students? If the latter is the case, I would like some strong arguement to convince him, because he might still see me as a student of him.

The students didn't say much (except the bass girl who sometimes says she has not enough air for the 50B, of which I'm not surprised), but maybe they just don't know if something's wrong or how to express it. I was like that when I was in the band in middle school.
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« Reply #1 on: Feb 07, 2018, 05:57PM »

This is a really common thing, although your teacher may be pushing the age lower and lower. Colleges tend to require students to use large bore instruments. That's ok for classical studies, but for anything else, any other bore will do. High school kids and younger should probably play a smaller bore so A) they don't get frustrated with how much work it is and quit playing B) There's no reason for casual players, especially young students to be stuck on large bore C) real trombone professionals play small bore too.

Some people make the argument that kids should be able to play large bore, because some kids play tuba. Ok, possibly lung capacity is not an issue (although I don't believe that), but most jazz/pop pros play small bore and one of the reasons is that large bore up high and fast is just too much work. If its too much work for a pro, how much more so for a young student.

You'll get a range of answers here, but starting kids on small bore horns is probably the best thing to do. Classical players in general are the ones who tend to get obsessed with 547+.

I moved to 547 when I was 13, and I thought it was too young. It was too heavy and required too much air. Even now, as an adult, the amount of time I spend playing 547 is like 5% of my total tenor playing time. If I can pick which size to play, I always pick 525.
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« Reply #2 on: Feb 07, 2018, 06:26PM »

Different viewpoint here.  I played a student .500 bore horn until I got a .547 pro quality horn starting my sophomore year of high school when I was 14, about to turn 15. My senior year I had the flexibility to sit between the first and bass trombone in jazz band and double whichever part was needed.  6th grade may be too early for a larger bore, but a good player should be able to handle a larger horn say freshman or sophomore year.  My opinion, for whatever it is worth...
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« Reply #3 on: Feb 07, 2018, 06:44PM »

It depends on the context.  There are bromides that go both way, e.g. 'large bores sound like slide-euphoniums/slide-tubas' vs. 'trombones should sound emulate the sound of a euphonium as much as possible'.  My high school bd was in the latter camp as it sounds your is as well.

I can understand the criticism when it is idiomatically incorrect. For example, hearing a big band with 4 Bach 42s has a very high bar to jump over compared to smaller instruments for the sake of style. Similarly, it can be easier for a section of large bores to get a characteristic, contemporary classical sound to blend with a wind band or orchestra so it does not cut through the other instruments despite not being played too loudly.

Weight is one physiological consideration. Typically large bores and basses have F attachments and they are not particularly ergonomic in their stock configuration.  There are devices that can help with this. This consideration continues well beyond the age that you are talking about. I'm in my 20s and I wouldn't dream of playing a bass unaided, though I'm shorter in stature than the typical person. That is a very legitimate consideration for someone of that age, though a straight large bore generally does not weigh much more than a straight small bore.

Beyond weight, I'm not convinced there are major physiological reasons that one would be incapable of playing a larger bore trombone.  Amanda Davidson was doing very well on a large bore when she was in middle school and she's obviously in the middle of a great career. One of the only people of whom I graduated with who still plays now is in one of the Army Field Bands in DC and didn't touch a tenor trombone until midway through college.  He started in 6th grade on a Bach 50B3 and is one of the best players I personally know around my age. And I'm aware of several great tubists who started on tuba around that age. 

One additional problem with large bores is the maintenance.  Students where I was from are known for doing 0 maintenance on their instruments. Literally oiling (yes, oiling, like with piston oil) once or twice a semester. It isn't their fault per se, since none of the BDs really made much out of making sure that instruments were properly functioning.  That is at least... kind of okay on a straight horn.  On a horn with a rotor though, you can get into all sorts of leaky trouble with an unmaintained valve.  And Bach horns tend to be on the larger size of the spectrum too, even of large bores. Though you mentioned 525/547 and I'm not aware of any stock Bach horns with that coniguration so it must be a... Conn 52H maybe?

There are plenty of people who want to be amateurs and are quite okay doing just band. For those people it's probably just as fine as picking a small bore up.  It has  been  done    pretty  successfully  before. (That was a cursrory search of youtube while I procrastinate on doing my homework where I saw at least 1-2 large bores in a section of elementary, junior high, or high school bands).

EDIT: On the other hand, obligatory mentioning of trombone shorty at 13 playing with Wynton...
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« Reply #4 on: Feb 07, 2018, 08:17PM »

I知 at a rehearsal of Planets. I知 going to need a bigger horn (than my .525).
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« Reply #5 on: Feb 07, 2018, 10:08PM »

This topic comes around every so often. I have a different take on it. I've seen junior high students do excellent on large bore tenors as long as the mouthpiece is not too big. A Bach 6 1/2AL on a Conn 8H can work very well. If you think this is too big, consider that in the same band class other beginners will be using a Bach 6 1/2AL on a Yamaha 321 euphonium, which has a bore which is larger than a large bore tenor. In fact the common beginner euphoniums have a larger bore and bell than the bass trombone, and yet beginners handle them without anyone telling them it's too large. And then there's 6th graders on tuba...
I don't believe you should put the students on a bigger mouthpiece than they can handle, no 5g or larger for beginners please! And many young players would do better on a straight horn as a lighter horn is easier for beginners to hold up, and they really do need to learn 6th and 7th position!
 I know many band directors want them on an F attachment horn, and since many parents won't buy a step up horn later, they will push the large bore F attachment horn as the first and only horn. The misconception of some educators about the F attachment is a topic unto itself, but if the weight of the instrument is a problem, it would be better for the student to play on a straight tenor, at least for the first year or so.

If the F attachment is misunderstood, the situation is far worse for bass trombone. Once I was touring with a service band and we arrived at a high school and had an hour or so to kill before our concert. By luck it was time for the HS band students to come in to band for rehearsal. The first trombone player I saw has a double trigger bass trombone. I thought, "well this looks interesting!" Then a second player came in with an another identical bass bone, and I thought, "this must be an exceptionally good situation, two double trigger bass trombones in the same band. By the start of band class, all eight of the trombone players in the band had double trigger bass trombones! Later I asked about this and was told the band director proffered the sound of the bass trombone to the tenor trombone, and all the bass trombones were school horns that the kids were required to play! This of course is the ultimate expression of the "the best trombone sound is a slide euphonium" The band director in this case, may have many virtues, but understood nothing about the sound of either a tenor or bass trombone, how to teach it, or how the trombones should blend in an ensemble sound. Trombones sound nasal? the easy fix, if you have more money in your budget than any idea of how to teach low bras,s is to put them all on bass trombones, easy  broad mid range, although the high range is nothing to brag about, and no need in typical band parts for them to ever play actually low! More common is the situation where the kid without a horn, or the worst player in the section is given the school double trigger bass trombone, into which he sticks his  6 1/2 AL or 5G clone, and has no clue what to do with the instrument and just uses it as a big heavy tenor to play regular parts in band. I've seen quite a few school horns where the second trigger levers have been ripped off, no doubt by students who never use them, got tired of them getting in the way and just tore them off.
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« Reply #6 on: Feb 08, 2018, 05:43AM »

I escaped the tyranny of 547 horns years ago and now my go to horn is a Bach 36 for just about everything. Then again, I don't play in a symphony very often. Then again, when I got my Bach 42 in 11th grade, I didn't know anything about bores and I just played the horn and loved it. I think it has more do do with physical maturity than age. And also, most non trombone playing band directors don't know squat about trombones and they associate large bore with being a professional instrument.
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« Reply #7 on: Feb 08, 2018, 05:50AM »

I知 at a rehearsal of Planets. I知 going to need a bigger horn (than my .525).

Note that it was written for instruments that were at the very largest that size - and quite possibly a lot smaller.
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« Reply #8 on: Feb 08, 2018, 06:45AM »

Note that it was written for instruments that were at the very largest that size - and quite possibly a lot smaller.

This is a common argument, but I doubt the composer or trombonists knew anything other than what the trombone section had.

If the 88H had existed at that time, I bet everyone would have adopted it rather quickly.

We have better designs today. There's a reason why nearly everyone plays a Bach 42 clone or 88H clone in the orchestra or wind ensemble outside of historical reenactment groups. There's a reason why we don't use muskets on the battlefield outside of historical reenactment.

Historical accuracy be damned, so to speak.
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« Reply #9 on: Feb 08, 2018, 06:49AM »

Note that I wasn't advocating historical accuracy; rather I was suggesting that feeling that one needs a large bore to make it work is probably a feeling worth re-evaluating.
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« Reply #10 on: Feb 08, 2018, 06:59AM »

Note that I wasn't advocating historical accuracy;

Note that it was written for instruments that were at the very largest that size - and quite possibly a lot smaller.

I can only interperet that as, "you should use something small because obviously the composer intended it to be played on a small bore".

rather I was suggesting that feeling that one needs a large bore to make it work is probably a feeling worth re-evaluating.

Trombones aren't the only part of the orchestra that isn't playing the way the composer's orchestra might have, or using equipment that might have been used when the piece was composed.

The orchestra has evolved. Trying to pidgeonhole small bores into that because we think we know better is unfair to the rest of the orchestra, which has its own ideas about how the trombones should sound.

It's not unreasonable to default to equipment that is used for nearly every period of music that the modern orchestra plays. It's not surprising at all that a medium or small bore trombone wouldn't cut it on Planets.
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« Reply #11 on: Feb 08, 2018, 07:03AM »

I think Ellrod's already using a .525" bore in his orchestra? Correct me if I'm wrong Ellrod. If it's working generally in that context already, it's unlikely not to work for The Planets.

I thought this was a pretty simple and straightforward observation; didn't realise I was going to fall foul of the large bore police... :-)

Was originally written as
That's how that reads
then edited to
I can only interperet that as, "you should use something small because obviously the composer intended it to be played on a small bore".

Ah, in that case let me help you out: It isn't what it says, and it isn't what was meant.
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« Reply #12 on: Feb 08, 2018, 07:18AM »

I think Ellrod's already using a .525" bore in his orchestra? Correct me if I'm wrong Ellrod. If it's working generally in that context already, it's unlikely not to work for The Planets.

I thought this was a pretty simple and straightforward observation; didn't realise I was going to fall foul of the large bore police... :-)

Ah, in that case let me help you out: It isn't what it says, and it isn't what was meant.

It did read kind of snarky. To the point of wether it should be working or not, we can only really defer to Ellrod, since none of us have heard the orchestra play.
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« Reply #13 on: Feb 08, 2018, 07:29AM »

Where I live, church conductors think (I guess) that a trombone should sound like a slide Euphonium. Wanting to fit it, I decided to "get with it"; bought a King 4B/F and now use it with a Bach 4G mpc. I tried a vintage 88H but I didn't like the feel of it in my hands even though I liked the sound. But anyway, now I have a warmer tone than the Euphoniums & baritones I sit next to.

My vintage King 2B is now for sale. I personally think the small-bore sound is nice, but as far as I can tell - at least in my neck of the woods - it is a dated sound that is not currently in fashion, even for lead.

I don't expect anyone to quote me or anything. I'm just venting my personal realization (maybe it's a misconception) that - as far as trombones are concerned - it's a large-bore world. At my age, I don't think I will see that pendulum swing back much, if any.   

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« Reply #14 on: Feb 08, 2018, 08:08AM »

Last night, a few weeks before the concert, we had a bunch of people show up to play that I've never seen before, including a wall of bassoons (4, including contra), 4 trumpets, and all kinds of strings. The rehearsal hall is full to the brim. At FFF the .525 is beginning to sound a little shrill. I'll probably give the .547 a try at the next rehearsal.

Note that it was written for instruments that were at the very largest that size - and quite possibly a lot smaller.

It does do nicely in VW's Folk Song Suite. Was this originally for band, and then adapted for orchestra or the other way around? I love this piece.
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« Reply #15 on: Feb 08, 2018, 08:11AM »

This is a common argument, but I doubt the composer or trombonists knew anything other than what the trombone section had.

If the 88H had existed at that time, I bet everyone would have adopted it rather quickly.

We have better designs today. There's a reason why nearly everyone plays a Bach 42 clone or 88H clone in the orchestra or wind ensemble outside of historical reenactment groups. There's a reason why we don't use muskets on the battlefield outside of historical reenactment.

Historical accuracy be damned, so to speak.

"The Planets" was written in England by an English composer. A very good English composer. Your statement "I doubt the composer or trombonists knew anything other than what the trombone section had" is perfectly true, although they damned well would have known how they wanted the music to sound.

I don't know about this one, though. "If the 88H had existed at that time, I bet everyone would have adopted it rather quickly."

I have played absolutely wonderful Conn large bores from the early 1900s and even earler. The late Jack Nowinski had several. Not 88Hs, but with many of their tonal and playing characteristics. Good .547 horns were indeed available at the time that "The Planets" was written. Why didn't everybody play them? Why did it take another 30+ years before great players like Gordon Pulis switched from Conn 78Hs to 88Hs? Why were most of the orchestras...at least in the U.S. and France...using .525 and smaller horns?

Because that's what worked best in those orchestras playing that music in those venues under those conductors.

Duh.

Just like now.

The orchestras were smaller; the venues were more resonant...more wood, less plastic and far less college-trained physicist...err ahhh, I mean"acousticians...screwing up centuries of successful trial-and-error-developed musical hall design. And...the rest of the instruments sounded different than contemporary ones as well. The musicians themselves...as has been and remains the case throughout recorded history...made their instrumental choices according to what they heard as they were coming up and what worked for them in their own playing situations.

Trombone bores have grown larger and larger...at least in the orchestral-style worlds...in an evolutionary
manner. Magically drop a few 88Hs from the future into hands of the players who premiered "The Planets" and they would not have been able to use them, just as if you got several pristine Conn 2Hs from the Pryor years and asked the tenor players in modern orchestras to use them in mainstream, every day performance.

Duh twice!!!

I guess that this all started when Ellrod said...quite simply..."I知 at a rehearsal of Planets. I知 going to need a bigger horn (than my .525)." If he was at a rehearsal of the same piece with an ensemble that tried to replicate the way that it was originally played, he might have written "I知 at a rehearsal of Planets. I知 going to need a much smaller horn, much different horn (than my .525), pitched much lower. Preferably the kind that was in vogue in English orchestras at the time."

Yup.

There's a reason why I keep 5 different sizes of tenor trombone handy. To fit the music, whatever it is. And if I was playing in historically accurate situations, I might need a few more.

So it goes.

Later...

S.

P.S. Ellrod...borrow a .547 if you don't have one. See if it works. Try everything; use what works. For you!!!
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« Reply #16 on: Feb 08, 2018, 08:13AM »

Holst played trombone (a little, skinny one probably) and knew exactly what it could do. You can hear/see/feel it in some of the parts he wrote. Ultra-trombonistic. F-G, a little triplet turn on A, back down. We noodle this stuff all the time.

Planets is absolutely brilliant. I cannot fathom a Victorian/Edwardian Englishman in his study, writing this stuff.

No 88Hs in England until the 60s or so, I think. Trade barriers protecting English instrument makers. Mr. Wick and others would smuggle 8/88Hs into the country. (UK customs officer: Is that a trombone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?)

[Not wishing to start an argument here, but] "If he was at a rehearsal of the same piece with an ensemble that tried to replicate the way that it was originally played, he might have written "I知 at a rehearsal of Planets. I知 going to need a much smaller horn, much different horn (than my .525), pitched much lower. Preferably the kind that was in vogue in English orchestras at the time."

I wonder. I bet Holst would have loved some big dark horns in this piece. There are so many moments that call for weight, that are ponderous and dark. (so he wrote in an extra bassoon, plus contrabassoon, plus euph. Think of Mars.) Edgy and dark (at the same time). Probably raised a few eyebrows first time out.
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« Reply #17 on: Feb 08, 2018, 08:14AM »

I play lead in a chamber orchestra where I use a Conn 88h with a 525 slide, or a Conn 79h (522 bore).
I play in a brass quintet where I use the Conn 88h w/525 slide and a 1936 24h (484 bore) for jazzier stuff.
I play in a trombone quartet where I usually play a Kanstul 1662i bass bone (562), and the 79h, and maybe a 48h (500) for solos.
I sometimes play in a big band where I have used 48h for lead, 79h for 3rd, and 1662i for bass.
When I play in any new group where I don't know what to expect, I bring the 79h or the 88h w/525.

I don't remember the last time I put my 547 slide on the 88h outside of the house. The only reason I'd do it would be if I really needed to overpower a large orchestra (which doesn't exist here).

There are many musical styles in the world. Classical is one of them. For most of us, it's not the only one, and even if it is, there are multiple colors in any ensemble. Why get stuck on one size? It doesn't make any sense. There is no positive reason to do it. If I could only have two instruments, I'd have the 88h and probably the 48h (I've wanted to fall in love with a 3b, but I just can't do it). I doubt anyone would object to my 525 horns in any supposed 547 situation. Really.

This forum can be so hypocritical. In one breath someone preaches that the hardware hardly matters at all, and in another you hear this unequivocal bias for large tenors. I like to use equipment that I have that I feel helps me fit the gig. If I ever do another recording of Bruckner equali, or other trombone and organ pieces, I'll pull out that 547 slide again. Until then, most of what I do is much smaller, and I feel needs a smaller sound.

Music is full of nuance, shouldn't we teach that? Teach kids that every thing is a nail, and all they'll be able to do will be hammer.
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« Reply #18 on: Feb 08, 2018, 08:50AM »

Back to original question.  I worked low brass with an area school near me for 10 or so years.  The school bought instruments for all students.  For trombones, the Yamaha 400 Intermediate series (can't remember exact numbers)  For the beginners and Jr. High (6-8 grade), .525 bore.  For the High School (9-12 grade) .547 bore.  I do agree with modelerdc about mouthpiece choice with that.  6 1/2AL for all students.  If they took lessons or if it was appropriate after a couple of years playing (usually in High School) a 5G.  Nothing more, except for Bass Bone 1 1/2G.  No Bass Bone until High School.  The kids that weren't that serious usually never left the 6 1/2AL.  And yes, we had large and small shank versions of both.

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« Reply #19 on: Feb 08, 2018, 08:51AM »

I play lead in a chamber orchestra where I use a Conn 88h with a 525 slide, or a Conn 79h (522 bore).
I play in a brass quintet where I use the Conn 88h w/525 slide and a 1936 24h (484 bore) for jazzier stuff.
I play in a trombone quartet where I usually play a Kanstul 1662i bass bone (562), and the 79h, and maybe a 48h (500) for solos.
I sometimes play in a big band where I have used 48h for lead, 79h for 3rd, and 1662i for bass.
When I play in any new group where I don't know what to expect, I bring the 79h or the 88h w/525.

I don't remember the last time I put my 547 slide on the 88h outside of the house. The only reason I'd do it would be if I really needed to overpower a large orchestra (which doesn't exist here).

There are many musical styles in the world. Classical is one of them. For most of us, it's not the only one, and even if it is, there are multiple colors in any ensemble. Why get stuck on one size? It doesn't make any sense. There is no positive reason to do it. If I could only have two instruments, I'd have the 88h and probably the 48h (I've wanted to fall in love with a 3b, but I just can't do it). I doubt anyone would object to my 525 horns in any supposed 547 situation. Really.

This forum can be so hypocritical. In one breath someone preaches that the hardware hardly matters at all, and in another you hear this unequivocal bias for large tenors. I like to use equipment that I have that I feel helps me fit the gig. If I ever do another recording of Bruckner equali, or other trombone and organ pieces, I'll pull out that 547 slide again. Until then, most of what I do is much smaller, and I feel needs a smaller sound.

Music is full of nuance, shouldn't we teach that? Teach kids that every thing is a nail, and all they'll be able to do will be hammer.


If you want to play in top level ensembles with the best players I think your primary goal is to make music, but as a team,and blend with the players around you. If you are capable of doing this on any size trombone thats great! Some players can... but I think its rare. A lot of people would be really jealous of those who can. If you play in a section where you know each others playing really well and are capable of making a blend with each of you playing radically different size trombones then that is totally fine.

Most people who want to study performing on trombone want to be able to make some money doing so. Before you establish yourself as a professional player with a signature sound, you need others who have potential influence in your employment to deem that you are capable of working with others. No one starts as a soloist dictating to others what sound they should be making. In orchestra, it is generally easiest to blend a section of large bore trombones. In big band, you are going to probably find that blending will be easier on a smaller instrument. I think it is a good thing that university teachers encourage players to work on a size of instrument that is appropriate to the genre of music they want to make a living in. If you want to play in different styles and have the cash, get different size trombones and practice! But I would think it not in the students best interest if a teacher said "Be an individual. Get the smallest trombone you can, and change the orchestra world from the outside". Maybe that will change in future, but right now I strongly believe that to be a recipe for failure.

Once you have regular employment, then maybe is the time to explore creating your image of how YOU think the sound you make on the trombone should fit into the ensemble you play in. I disagree with your attitude that one size kind of locks you into a "specific" sound. Large bore trombones are not simply a nail. Good players are in fact capable of producing quite a large range of sounds on them. Same with the smaller bore trombones in the hands of good players. But no one wants to work harder than they have to to make good music, and no one wants to work with a player who sticks out and defends it by saying they dont agree with the sound the rest of the section make. Generally, playing similar size instruments is less work to blend. Generally!  :D

In a setting where your employment is not riding on how your playing can help enhance others around you, then play whatever. Who cares, make yourself happy.


As to the forum being hypocritical, sure it happens. But most people advocate "the right tool for the job" phrase when discussing this issue. The instrument doesnt matter phrase I think mostly relates to when someone is looking for gear to solve issues they should really be addressing in personal practice. Just because you own a small bore trombone does not mean you will automatically have a good high register or compact sound. Just as owning a bass will not give you a low register for free, or make your sound "bigger" with no work.
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