tenorbone tree

dean at ranch

Oh the Mysteries of playing Trombone


The Horns I play and a problem I have been trying to find a solution for.

I have owned a lot of tenor trombones over the years. When I came up to college I was playing a Conn 88H and I had a 8H bell that I used when playing principal in the Northern California Junior Symphony. But when I got in school I needed a smaller horn, so I bought a Williams 6 when they were still made by Earl Williams. But the horn would back up on certain notes mainly in the G Ab and A range above middle c. So I ended up setting aside the Williams and playing a King Silver Sonic 3B for most of my college career. I bought several Conn 48H's but never quite liked the way they sounded and when I started playing in the Reno/Tahoe house bands I switched to a more appropriate King 2B. The 2B always did exhibit my G/A backup properties but when I was playing six nights a week it was never a real problem.

I played the 2B for many years because I thought it had the right sound for the type of playing I was doing. Playing in a section with 2 or 3 trombones. I played this horn for so long that I actually wore a hole in the slide. I sent it off to be fixed but didn't get it back for over six months and so in the mean time I started playing a Bach 16. The 16 was a horn I had traded my Williams for. What I discovered was that the Bach didn't back up in the G-A range like the Willams and the 2B. This started me on my quest to see what was causing me a problem that nobody else seems to have. I concluded that the real problem was caused by my emboucher some how, but that since there were horns that didn't cause me problems and other horns that did, there should be a way for me to fix the problem with all of my horns. And yes if I worked and worked to get those notes to play, they would. But if I don't practice them constantly, they are always problematic.

Lead Pipes:
Thoughts on lead pipe modifications. I bought an Edwards slide on ebay, an early 1990's 547/562 dual bore slide.  The lead pipe was a lot shorter then the new lead pipes that Edwards makes. at least for the 525 bore slides. And the funny thing is that it seems to play really good for me.  That got me thinking about how the length of the lead pipes effect the sound.  I tried to research them on the Internet but there is not much out there. The brass Edwards pipes are a little over 9 inches, the silver ones are around 10 1/2.  I have an original pipe from my Bach 16 and it is a little over 7 inches.  I then started figuring out the wave length of different notes, especially G, Ab and A and the length I figured is between the length of the Bach pipe and the new Edwards pipes.  The old Edward pipe was just longer then 8 inches, which is on the short side along with the Bach pipe of the G node wave lengths.  So I called Edwards and had a conversation with their production manager, Ron, thank you, and he told me that there is no acoustic reason for the lengths, just tried and true lengths developed over the years and the latest is going for the longer pipes that seem more focused.  So I asked him about shorter pipes and he said he would make me one, but since I had several extra pipes, just cut them off and try them out.  I proceeded to cut one of my pipes to approximately the same length as the old Edwards pipe (8 inches). It did seem a little more flexible, so I then took another pipe and cut it to the same length as the Bach 16 pipe (7 inches).  This one plays the best of all of my 525 pipes.  I think I could optimize by trying some variations on the 7, but for now the seven is the one I am trying it does pretty good for me. But for now, I don't find that lead pipes have much effect on the accoustical properties of trombones, they do modify the sound properties of the horns but not is a major way.

Next I started looking at bells and with Edwards offering many variations of bell thicknesses I started testing different bells. I played with bells ranging from .20 to .23 gauge. I didn't find any real difference here either in playability.

I have been using gold plated Schilke mouthpieces for some time. Some years ago, the legendary Art Sares came up and played at Harrahs Tahoe for a couple of months and I had a chance to talk about mouthpieces with him.  At that point I was playing a mouthpiece that Burt Herrick had made for me. This was a mouthpiece that was loosely based on a Bach 4c, which was the required mouthpiece at my college.  Art convinced me that the funnel shaped Schilkes were the greatest things on earth, and I started a long career playing a Schilke 42b on my jazz tenors. On my Edwards I was playing a Shilke 47, but I have been trying other mouthpieces lately, looking for a better match. I have a 51b that I really like on a Holton 159, but it doesn't seem to match up well with my Edwards. I tried a copy of an Al Cass mouthpiece for a while, lately I have been switching back and for between the 51b and a Mark Curry 5c, but life still isn't perfect. On  my TR180 Bass Trombone I switched from a Bach 1 1/2 G to a George Roberts Model. I played in a band with George for a couple of years when he was still playing Bachs, but he signed with Yamaha and the horn they made for him was more like his original Olds that made him famous. Although I have now been told that his original horn was a Conn 70H. The mouthpiece that he had made for his Bach didn't work as well on the Yamaha.  So he gave me the last of his Bach sized  mouthpieces and started using ones that worked better with the new horns. The one I still play with is the one that he last used on his Bach. Mouthpieces also don't seem to modify the accoustical sound properties either, mouthpieces and lead pipes are closely related and I need ot do more exploration with the mouthpiece/lead pipe combinations.

Alto Trombone:
Conn Alto Trombone, 35H  1970 Vintage, it has the tuning in the slide. I had Burt Herrick build a mouth piece for the horn and Mark Curry has given me a couple to try out. At this point I am used to the Herrick but every time I get out the alto I try everything.

Tenor Trombone (small bore)
King 2B (Urbie Green Model made in the early 70's) - King made a series of these horns when they wanted Urbie to be one of their guys. He must have never signed up because this never became an official model. The horn is I think a basically standard dual bore 2B but a light weight version.  This is the horn that I played for years when working in the show rooms in the Reno/Tahoe area. It is the perfect horn for playing lead in a small two or three trombone section and has the perfect sound.

Standard King 2B - This is my backup 2B ( early 60's vintage), although I haven't been playing these horns lately.

Bach 6-VI - this is one of my current jazz horn, the serial number is 2003. and early 40's horn. This horn came from a retired Bach employee and has been through a lot. The bell section has been extensively rebuilt. the neck pipe is not a regular neck pipe, and the slide is a combination light weight slide and standard slide. The reason I am playing this horn and not my King is that in big bands with four or five trombones the King was too light weight. The Bach sounds spectacular in large sections, and this horn plays as good as it sounds. I have played other 6's but they didn't have the same sound, maybe there is something to the story I heard about the Chicago trombone section getting new horns that they then crushed the bells and then had straightened before they actually played them. Also like my Bach 16, this horn does not back up on the G-A notes. I always feel very secure playing this horn, it is my magical horn.

Bach 16 - this horn is my practice horn. It is the standard dual bore 16 with a custom leadpipe in a light weight slide and has the same great playing characteristics as the 6. The overtone series slots really well just like the 6. I would like to play this horn more but it doesn't seem to be able to blend (or project) into a big trombone section like the 6 can, but I like to play it in small combos.

King 3B (silver sonic) - This was a horn I used to play lead on when I was in college, but gave it up when I started playing in the small  trombone sections where the 2B was a much better fit.

I bought a Getzen 3508 dual bore horn which I loved, it was so reponsive. I was playing it at an outdoor jazz concert at Mamouth Lakes and found that the horn just didn't seem to project the way I wanted it too. When playing soft it was great but as soon as I was trying to lead a big trombone section the sound just kind of went away. I sold the horn, it just couldn't replace the Bach 6.

Tenor Trombone (big bore)
Edwards - I went to the factory a couple of years ago and ended up with a .525 / .547 dual bore horn. Yellow brass bell and the heavy weight slide. Recently I have added a single bore .525 slide for playing in a brass quintet and a different tuning slide. Now I have a Conn type, and a Bach type tuning slide. I use this horn for playing in the High Desert Brass Quintet and when playing in the Carson City Symphony or subbing in the Reno Phil. I think I have finally decided that the Bach style tuning slide works better for me then the Conn style. I also have bought two 81/2 inch bells on ebay. A 320CF which I really do like and a 266 (I think) which is a very heavy yellow brass bell. And the latest addition is a Edwards 547/562 slide that I have been using with the Symphony. It's really an old one ( for Edwards).

My latest updates on these horns is that I had my repair man add a Bach bell receiver on an Edwards neck pipe. So now I can put any of my Edwards bells up to my Bach 16 slide. The Edwards bell section is slightly shorter then a Bach so I have to pull my Edwards tuning slide out as far as it will go. I'm not sure yet if this will work this way, but I really like the the sound I get with the combination so it is still a work in progress. What I have found is that my problem with the G, A Ab notes goes away with the bach slide and the Edwards bell, so I now have some useful information. The problem I have is somewhere with the slide not the bell or the lead pipes. Now I am really confused since I have Edwards slides with Bach and Conn configurations. Maybe now I have to try their nickel slide. Not sure.

On the other front of having horns back up. The Edwards horns do back up for me, and that is why I have been trying different thickness slides and lead pipe lengths and different style turning slided and different bore slides. Nothing really made any difference. The Bach style tuning slide was a slight improvement, the shorted lead pipe in the 547/562 slide seems to be the most consistent set up for me. However when I put the Edwards bell on my Bach slide, all of the problems went away.

Bass Trombone

Holton TR180 - This is my bass trombone. I bought it new in the 60's to replace a Conn 88H. This is a nice horn that I can just pick up and play. At one point in my music career I was playing a lot of bass trombone, and I switched to using a Larry Minick altered Conn inline bass,  but  this was a horn that you had to play all the time to be able to make it sound. The Holton is a much friendlier horn and it is the horn I kept. Recently I swapped the original triggers for a setup from Getzen with the second valve trigger setup like a inline valve setup from the newer Getzen bass trombomes.

Also, I got hold of a Conn 1936 70H bass trombone. I had my favorite repairman in Fresno (the horn shop) replace the old valve with an inline setup from the new Getzen bass trombones. Since this has the tuning slide in the slide section not on the bell section we left the slide alone except to make it except a regular Bach style mouthpiece in order to keep the conical section from the original valve to the bell intact. I thought about whether I should use a dependant or an independant dual value setup, The latest trend is don't add more disruption in the air flow through the second valve unless you actually need the secord valve. However since I still have the TR180 I decided to go with the independant setup. When I was playing the Minnick Conn I used to get a lot of satisfaction from figuring out alternative ways of playing passages. When you were playing shows three weeks at a time by the second week you would usually be looking for things to help keep the show interesting

Misc Low Brass

Yamaha Baritone - this horn is the regular 4 valve brass bell horn. This must have been some test horn because there is no name or serial number on it.

Mirafone Tuba - this horn is a small  five valve BBb horn that I got from the factory in the early 70's. I played tuba for close to ten years in a brass quintet and used this horn in many shows. The horn has played Neil Sedaka, Burt Bacarach, Sammy Davis and many others.

Tally of horns I have owned with G/A problems for me

King 2B, Williams, Edwards, including the Getzen 3508 jazz horn.

Horns that don't back up for me

Holton 180 and the 159 (547/559) both play really good for me with no back ups. The Conn 70H also does not back up. All on my Bachs play good for me.