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Author Topic: Holton Superbone?  (Read 5278 times)
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tbnjazzer
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« on: Mar 24, 2012, 05:51AM »

I really wanna buy a Holton Superbone, but I definitely need to look into it more. Would anyone that's ever used one, or know's someone that has used one, or has heard anything of it please give a full review? Pros AND cons, please. Thanks!
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BGuttman
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« Reply #1 on: Mar 24, 2012, 06:06AM »

Read my reply to your Jim Laabs question.

I would STRONGLY suggest you try one before you go buy one.  You may not like the ergonomics and you may find the way you have to play it is uncomfortable.

There have been a couple of good players of the Superbone; the most famous being Maynard Ferguson (when he wasn't playing his combo valve/slide trumpet).  Never saw one used in Concert Band or Orchestra, though.
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« Reply #2 on: Mar 24, 2012, 06:38AM »

http://www.musiciansbuy.com/holton_tr395_mf_superbone_tr395.html
Here is one.
Holton does not make this horn any more for a good reason.
Of course I have tried some superbones, I have heard many superbones.
The slide positions will be different when the valves are used, the valves will be out of tune if the slide is not on the first position.
The sound is not as good as a trombone or a valve trombone.
For me the instrument is not a very good idea, but if you really want one, by a cheap one,  Maynard Ferguson got paid to play one, you wont.

A much better idea is to learn to play the euphonium and bring both horns.
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« Reply #3 on: Mar 24, 2012, 07:15AM »

My teacher, Ashley Alexander helped develop it and I know more about it than most...FIW

It's a small bore large bell valve/slide trombone...meaning it's darned heavy.  It doesn't blend well with other trombones, pretty much only suitable for solo work.

To make the thing work you need to be a very good valve player AND a very good slide operator...and then learn how to use then together.

Before you can really play it, the ergonomics must be addressed.  The left hand pinky supports the entire horn in a stock configuration, which severely impacts the function of the 3rd finger.  Ashley used a bridge over the left hand to support the weight of the horn, freeing the digits and making it possible to play for more than 10 minutes.

Yes the valves and slide combinations are out of tune...good thing the slide can fix it.   Yes the bore is small and can be obnoxious if not played well.  Of course, if it were engineered with a bigger bore and a smaller bell...it would just sound like a valve trombone and not be unique.
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« Reply #4 on: Mar 24, 2012, 10:35AM »

I would definitely agree with the comments about ergonomics and blend.  The small bore / big bell is a bit wacky.  The horn has a limited dynamic range because it behaves mostly like a pea shooter.

But having said that, I don't think it has a particularly bad sound when played within a comfortable dynamic range.

Unquestionably it is a novelty.  I would definitely not recommend it if you are thinking about playing it as your main instrument.
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« Reply #5 on: Mar 24, 2012, 03:45PM »

if you really want one, by a cheap one, 

But do not consider the "cheap one" you see on eBay nowadays, like this one:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Cecilio-4Series-Bb-F-Trombone-Super-Bone-/320874105687?pt=Brass_Instruments&hash=item4ab5964b57

I tried one out because a seller offered me one cheaply.  It was so bad, I returned two of them.  Somewhere on this website is a thread where I reviewed it.
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« Reply #6 on: Mar 24, 2012, 04:44PM »

Yeah, I know to stay away from those thank you. I have actually read your review a few times, it really helped me, thanks a lot!  Good!
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« Reply #7 on: Mar 26, 2012, 08:04PM »

I'm a valve trombone player, I was excited to try one, nearly bought one myself.

Put my lips to the mouthpiece, buzzed, did a double take and said, nope!
RIDICULOUS back pressure.
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« Reply #8 on: Feb 07, 2018, 02:02AM »

My teacher, Ashley Alexander helped develop it and I know more about it than most...FIW

It's a small bore large bell valve/slide trombone...meaning it's darned heavy.  It doesn't blend well with other trombones, pretty much only suitable for solo work.

To make the thing work you need to be a very good valve player AND a very good slide operator...and then learn how to use then together.

Before you can really play it, the ergonomics must be addressed.  The left hand pinky supports the entire horn in a stock configuration, which severely impacts the function of the 3rd finger.  Ashley used a bridge over the left hand to support the weight of the horn, freeing the digits and making it possible to play for more than 10 minutes.

Yes the valves and slide combinations are out of tune...good thing the slide can fix it.   Yes the bore is small and can be obnoxious if not played well.  Of course, if it were engineered with a bigger bore and a smaller bell...it would just sound like a valve trombone and not be unique.
I got a Superbone recently and have been thinking about its usability. It's got a different feel and tone to the tenor which is my main instrument; it's also got two lead pipes, one a conventional narrow-bore and the other a rather more narrow narrow-bore.

I'm increasingly of the opinion that it's excellent for doing extremely wide leaps at very fast tempos, with a lot of slide glissandos and lip legato. Otherwise neither the slide nor the valves get used to their potential, hence dissatisfaction, hence disuse.

Very good for playing Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie solos, also for playing Paganini and Liszt transcriptions. Not the instrument for playing second trombone or for playing three to ten measure orchestral sound effects.
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« Reply #9 on: Feb 07, 2018, 02:21AM »

Holton, or something else? I've never heard of a Holton with interchangeable leadpipes.
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« Reply #10 on: Feb 07, 2018, 04:42AM »

Holton, or something else? I've never heard of a Holton with interchangeable leadpipes.

I believe Sandaun got one of the Mendini/Cecilio/Levante Superbones. They do come with two leadpipes, for reasons I'm not sure why.
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« Reply #11 on: Feb 07, 2018, 05:45AM »

I played in a big band here in Rochester with a guy named Pete (can't remember his last name) retired military musician who I believe at the time was a student at Eastman.  He played a Holton superbone on lead with the big band, and it worked very well for him.  From what I observed of him playing it he used the valves when playing fast passages or solos, and used the slide when he wanted to gliss or play legato passages with the section where he wanted to sound more like a trombone player than a small bore baritone horn.  I don't recall him actually using the slide and valves together much. I do think it is an instrument that is more suited as a Jazz solo instrument, I'm sure this wasn't the horn he used at Eastman for legit work.  If you want to pick up a used Superbone with the idea of using it in a jazz combo, it could work very well for bebop playing or faster jazz pieces, but it does have some serious ergonomic issues to overcome, probably take it along with a regular small bore horn as a novelty for a few fast pieces and go back to your regular axe when needed.  Of course if you are only going to use it as a secondary horn a valve trombone would work just as well (maybe even better).  As being a Euph / Tuba player before being a trombone player, I've consider getting one of these myself, but the bore is just too small for me to play well on without putting a lot of time into it, so it would probably turn into another item to sit in my closet and seldom be used.   
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« Reply #12 on: Feb 07, 2018, 08:29AM »

Have you seen the Shagerl version of the "SuperBone" played by James Morrison ?  Don't know how good the instrument is, but Morrison is one scary great brassman ! 
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« Reply #13 on: Feb 07, 2018, 08:31AM »

Have you seen the Shagerl version of the "SuperBone" played by James Morrison ?  Don't know how good the instrument is, but Morrison is one scary great brassman ! 

And that's one scary expensive horn! Eeek!
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« Reply #14 on: Feb 07, 2018, 09:10AM »

Ashley Alexander mentioned earlier in the thread is the best superbone player I've heard. Unfortunately he did not live long enough. I think he died in his 50'ies. The few recordings he did as a soloist with his own band prooves the instrument is a good idea.

I also have a Holton TR-350 Maynard Fuergesson Superbone. It is a fun instrument to play.

I have not solved the ergonomic issues with my instrument but I'm cooping with it either to have the horn rest on my left shoulder whenever I can, or I take support from the upper part of the left arm, from the shoulder to the elbow. I push that part against the chest. That helps to hold the horn and the balance is better. The arm and horn forms a triangle where one leg (upper arm) rests against the torso.

You need a stand when you are not playing, to rest the horn in between tunes and you need to use it in every rest you can. I have played at least as long as 40 minutes, the time it takes to play one Aebersold record. I think if I did a modification it would be no problem to hold the horn. The sound is unique.

/Tom
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« Reply #15 on: Feb 07, 2018, 09:31AM »

I recently got the chance to try out one of the cheap ones and have a similar review to most: awful ergonomics, stuffy valve section, etc., etc.

However, I did encounter one minor benefit... If you don't want to think so hard as to improvise a solo in the key of A or E, for example, just hold down the 2nd valve and pretend you're playing in a key a half-step higher.

That's about the only benefit I could derive. I won't be looking for one of those horns for myself. :-)
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« Reply #16 on: Feb 07, 2018, 09:38AM »

I recently got the chance to try out one of the cheap ones and have a similar review to most: awful ergonomics, stuffy valve section, etc., etc.

However, I did encounter one minor benefit... If you don't want to think so hard as to improvise a solo in the key of A or E, for example, just hold down the 2nd valve and pretend you're playing in a key a half-step higher.

That's about the only benefit I could derive. I won't be looking for one of those horns for myself. :-)

No unfortunately it is not as easy as this. You have to adjust your positions a lot when it is an instrument in A. It has seven positions when you play in Bb but in A you have only 6. When you hold down the first and third finger you have an instrument in the key of F, just as the valve on a trigger trombone. In F you only have 5 positions. All adjustments you do on every position while playing in Bb you also need to do when the horn is in a lower key except you need to adjust even more. I have tried to combine slide and valves. I think it needs lots of time if you want to play it like that.

My horn is not "stuffy". It is not as open as a valveless straight trombone but it is not a bad feel and the sound is good.

/Tom
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« Reply #17 on: Feb 08, 2018, 02:04AM »

I played one for several years and loved it.

I found despite its awkward design that it worked particularly well in the studio. Ie. it recorded well.
The small bore in combination with the big bell gave it a French horn like quality, and the stuffy valves sounded somehow cool too.

Eventually the weight just didnít make sense to me any more. Iím predominantly a small bore player and itís much easier to just grab my 2b for a gig..

I still have it but never use it because Iím no longer used to the more distanced slide positions.
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« Reply #18 on: Feb 09, 2018, 01:57AM »

I believe Sandaun got one of the Mendini/Cecilio/Levante Superbones. They do come with two leadpipes, for reasons I'm not sure why.
The narrower of the two takes a tenor horn mouthpiece. The bigger bore one comes with its own trombone mouthpiece.

Did Maynard Ferguson ever use two leadpipes? If he did, I assume he used the tenor-horn-sized one for consistent playing for long periods in the upper register.

And, FWLIW, I figured out that the Superbone is a slide trombone with a three-valve attachment, while the earlier Brad Gowan Valide (Valve-Slide) Trombone was a valve trombone with a slide attachment. Has anyone on this forum ever played a valide trombone?
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« Reply #19 on: Feb 09, 2018, 09:00AM »

Surprised it looks like no one has mentioned that Wessex has their own Superbone. How does that stack up to the Holton?
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