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Author Topic: sackbut mutes?  (Read 4579 times)
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matthijs

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« on: Jul 14, 2015, 04:53AM »

Hi!
Since it's summer holidays now, I started to think about different approaches to the sound of the baroque trombone / sackbut. In modern trombone playing we are very often using different kinds of mutes to alter the sound. Does anyone of you know about the earliest mutes? When did trombonists start to use them?

I even read about an instrument maker that actually builds sackbut mutes, which transpose the instrument a half tone up. Looks like he got the idea from early trumpet mutes, I never heard about this for trombones. Or did I miss something, and were there actually similar things used for trombones?

The sackbut mutes that I meant are on this website: http://www.blasende-instrumente.net/pages/en/instruments/trumpet-and-sackbut-mutes.php?lang=EN

Thanks a lot, I'm looking forward to hear your opinions!
Matthijs
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sfboner

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« Reply #1 on: Jul 14, 2015, 01:30PM »

This isn't really what you're asking about, nonetheless I thought you might find it interesting. Modern practice mutes fit in sackbuts pretty well.  I use a Best Brass practice mute in mine.  The corresponding part of the flare on a Heinlein model appears to be exactly the same.  Drewelcecz and alto bells are a little tighter, but it still fits.
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matthijs

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« Reply #2 on: Jul 14, 2015, 02:27PM »

This isn't really what you're asking about, nonetheless I thought you might find it interesting. Modern practice mutes fit in sackbuts pretty well.  I use a Best Brass practice mute in mine.  The corresponding part of the flare on a Heinlein model appears to be exactly the same.  Drewelcecz and alto bells are a little tighter, but it still fits.
Good to know actually, I was wondering about that sometimes! Will it not be very bell-heavy when playing? I've got a Drewelwecz and alto, bells at 4th position, with some extra modifications (more historical, but less support to the bell), and I'm a bit frightened the bell will break off or damage..
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sfboner

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« Reply #3 on: Jul 14, 2015, 07:01PM »

Good to know actually, I was wondering about that sometimes! Will it not be very bell-heavy when playing? I've got a Drewelwecz and alto, bells at 4th position, with some extra modifications (more historical, but less support to the bell), and I'm a bit frightened the bell will break off or damage..

Are you familiar with the Best Brass practice mutes?  They weigh only a couple ounces.  There are also several cheaper knock-off brands.  I find it very useful, as most of the time I'm hired to play sackbut, it's in venues where there is no place to warm up without disrupting a choir.

A classic style practice mute would be too heavy, certainly.

Hopefully, one of the other sackbut enthusiasts on the forum might be familiar with the mutes you're asking about and the history of the genesis of mutes for trombone.  From the ad copy on their page, it sounds like they have simply scaled up a trumpet mute rather than copying one made for trombone.  If you don't get any good answers, I'd recommend messaging David Guion (his forum handle is dmguion) who has written several books on the history of the trombone, or Edward Solomon.
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HowardW
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« Reply #4 on: Jul 15, 2015, 12:30AM »

Hi!
Since it's summer holidays now, I started to think about different approaches to the sound of the baroque trombone / sackbut. In modern trombone playing we are very often using different kinds of mutes to alter the sound. Does anyone of you know about the earliest mutes? When did trombonists start to use them?
There is some evidence that mutes were used on trombones in the seventeenth century. Three pieces by Dieterich Buxtehude call for muted trombones: the "Amen" of Ihr lieben Christen, freut euch nun (1670?), BuxWV 51, calls for two muted trombones as does Auf! stimmet die Saiten (1672), BuxWV 116. Castrum doloris (1705), also demanded two muted trombones, but the music is lost.
That, basically, is the current state of knowledge. However, I recently found another piece and additional information that predates the Buxtehude pieces by several decades. I intend to write an article about it, so you'll have to wait a bit until I get it done.

Quote
I even read about an instrument maker that actually builds sackbut mutes, which transpose the instrument a half tone up.
The problem is that until now attempts to use early trumpet mutes have almost always resulted in a semitone transposition, although theoretically it should be a whole-tone transposition. And obviously a semitone transposition is not very convenient. However, I know of another mute maker, whose email address I do not have, who has figured out how to obtain a whole-tone transposition -- it seems to be a matter of matching the size and shape of the mute to that of the bell. The same would also be true of trombone mutes.

You might want to read the two articles about trumpet mutes in the Historic Brass Society Journal 2 (1990): Jindrich Keller, "Antique Trumpet Mutes" and Don Smithers, "Antique Trumpet Mutes: A Retrospective Commentary."

Howard
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"If you want to become phthisis-proof, drink-proof, cholera-proof, and in short, immortal, play the trombone well and play it constantly." -- George Bernard Shaw
sfboner

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« Reply #5 on: Jul 15, 2015, 02:05PM »

I'm embarrassed that I left your name off of my previous post, Howard.  Thanks for the good information.
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HowardW
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« Reply #6 on: Jul 16, 2015, 12:29AM »

I'm embarrassed that I left your name off of my previous post, Howard.  Thanks for the good information.
That's ok. I sometimes forget myself too.  ;-)

I should have mentioned that the wooden trumpet/trombone mutes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries do not merely make the instruments softer, but lend the instruments a completely different sound, a sound that could be described as "buzzy." It is not a sound that can be attained by any kind of modern mute, be it metal or practice or whatever.
A number of years ago I heard a performance of one of the Buxtehude pieces in which the turmpets and trombones used authentic mutes. The effect was fantastic. I was sitting at the back of the rather large church, and the muted trumpets and trombones were hardly softer than usual, but could be clearly heard. If you want to get an idea of the sound, listen to the opening toccata of Monteverdi's Orfeo in the old recording conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt -- if I remember correctly, the single muted trumpet is particularly prominent in the second of the three times through.

In the Baroque era, there was a wide-spread tradition of using muted trumpets in funeral music, that is to say, in Requiems and Miserere settings. A corresponding use of muted trombones does not seem to have existed.

Howard
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"If you want to become phthisis-proof, drink-proof, cholera-proof, and in short, immortal, play the trombone well and play it constantly." -- George Bernard Shaw
sackbut-Nate

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« Reply #7 on: Feb 11, 2017, 05:56PM »

Hi, Matthijs,

There's a maker near Basel (Annegret Schaub) who has recently come up with a functional full-tone-transposing sackbut mute.  I'll be going to her at some point in the near future to fit mutes to my tenor and bass sackbuts.  I can put you in touch with her if you're interested.

If you are careful, I don't think that the weight should be too problematic; however, on original instruments, you do often see a repaired break not far past the bell stay (see the Miler and 2 Ehe tenors in Leipzig, the Schnitzer bass in Kassel which I'm preparing to copy/reconstruct, etc...).  It is a critical point, although it's also possible that this breaking point was a result of one point in the bellmaking process...

My tenor has a long bell (4th-5th) and first impression was fine.

As for practice mutes: there's a brand of mineral water in Spain whose small plastic bottles make great practice mutes!  Can't remember the name, though...
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HowardW
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« Reply #8 on: Mar 31, 2017, 12:36AM »

That, basically, is the current state of knowledge. However, I recently found another piece and additional information that predates the Buxtehude pieces by several decades. I intend to write an article about it, so you'll have to wait a bit until I get it done.

As I mentioned two years ago, I intended to write an article about historical trombone mutes. Well, it is finally finished and has just appeared: "Trombone in sordino: Muted Trombones in the Baroque Era," Historical Brass Society Journal 28 (2016).

Howard
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"If you want to become phthisis-proof, drink-proof, cholera-proof, and in short, immortal, play the trombone well and play it constantly." -- George Bernard Shaw
sackbut-Nate

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« Reply #9 on: Apr 07, 2017, 01:22PM »

Just got the HBSJ: hats off, Howard, it's a great article! Thank you!
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