June 20, 2018 at 7:47 am #4326
Sooo i thoroughly enjoy the compact size, and more efficient slide on an alto, but I’m really a bass bone guy. So it hit me, why make a bass pitched in Eb? Long story short, i finished the alto sized bell, and will be making the shorter slide this weekend.
Its all normal bass bore, and a 9.25″ bell. Tuning has to be moved to the slide to make it work, but the sound of the bell married to a normal bass slide, pitching it in C, is identical to a Bb horn. I strongly believe shortening the slide will not change this. Ill keep this updated, as after the slide, i will add a valve and screw bell conversion. Heres a few photos.
Attachments:June 20, 2018 at 9:11 am #4329
Very impressive Jeff! I don’t possess your mechanical talents so I’m stuck with buying other people’s construction!!
You wrote that you’d be making a horn pitched in Eb but then say it’s pitched in C. What will your first position fundamental be, Eb or Bb? As a straight horn, will you have access to all the notes without a trigger? What will be the advantage of this interesting horn?June 20, 2018 at 9:43 am #4330
Thanks! If this works out as well as i believe, i do plan on producing a them, i very much see a market for it!
So the answer is ultimately the horn will be in Eb once i cut a slide down this weekend. With a normal length slide its pitched is C, as pictured for testing the bell only. With one valve added, it can have every note throught the bass register available, it would have to be an Ab valve.June 20, 2018 at 9:50 am #4331June 20, 2018 at 10:06 am #4332
Great question, to me there are 3 main benefits.
First, i have seen bass players spend upwards of $1200 on a flight case, wheres as the form factor of this horn will allow for a case within tsa regulations for a carry on, eliminating the chance of a damaged horn all together.
Second, the utility of a shorter slide allows for greater proficiency as a player. It be comes less necessary to ulilize alternate positions with valves in the lower register, and as a result only 1 valve is needed rather than two for most bass players. This in turn makes it a more affordable instrument.
Lastly, i cant be the only guy who has a hard time with 7th position on a Bb horn. This limits my own ability as a player to utilize the natural horn, needed to use a valve more readily. With this setup, 7th is of no issue to the players who share this challenge.
There are many other benefits associated with the reduced size, but the main takeaway should be, this change in dimension is not changing the sound of the horn. It still has the robust sound of a bass bone.June 20, 2018 at 10:12 am #4333June 20, 2018 at 10:30 am #4334
Fantastic! I should also mention i am going to incrementally cut down the slide, pitching the horn in Db and D along the way, to see the effect it has to playability. After thoroughly talking this over with several instrument makers, there is a chance for intonation issues between partials as the horn gets smaller, but as none have them have ever done it, they are saying this in theory.
I was also told there was a low chance the bell would sound like a bass with the changes i made, however it sounds no different than my Bb bass at this point. I guess I’m rolling the dice a little, but isn’t that new and exciting things happen??June 21, 2018 at 12:20 am #4335
Thanks for letting me know about this, Mike.
Jeff, this is a very interesting idea but in practice, I don’t think it can strictly be called a contralto trombone.
Organologically speaking, a contrabass instrument is one that sounds one octave lower than the “ordinary” instrument in an instrumental family group. Hence, the contrabassoon is in BB-flat, one octave lower than the bassoon. And the contrabass trombone is in BB-flat, one octave lower than the (tenor) trombone. The fact that we call trombones in F contrabass trombones is a bit of a misnomer; strictly speaking, they are simply large bore bass trombones in F, not contrabass instruments. But how we got there is another story . . .
Your instrument, Jeff, if I’m reading you right, will, once you cut down the hand slide, be the same length as an ordinary alto trombone, about 6 1/2 sounding feet. If that’s the case, what you’re making is a large bore alto trombone in E-flat, not an instrument that is the contrabass to the ordinary E-flat alto trombone. If it was going to be a contra-alto trombone, it would need to have about a 13 foot long sounding length, which would make it the same length as the old bass trombone in E-flat. Praetorius, in his Syntagma musicum (1619), has drawings of two bass trombones, in D and C (this is Herbert Meyers’ calculation based on Praetorius’ ruler that he drew next to the instruments and the conversion from his foot (Brunswick foot) to a modern foot). Bass trombones in the 17th century were usually pitched in 12-foot long F or, even longer, in E-flat. These were bass, not contrabass trombones. So your new E-flat trombone would require an instrument of this length – which would also require a handle so the player could reach the outer positions – to be considered a contra-alto trombone in E-flat. Which, of course, would also be called a bass trombone in E-flat as well.
What you have, if you end up with an alto trombone length instrument (about 6.5 sounding feet), is a large bore alto trombone in E-flat. I suspect when you cut down the slide from its current pitch in C, the sound will be rather different than your bass trombone in B-flat. That’s how acoustics work. That’s not to say that you’re not on to something very interesting. Certainly the argument for fitting in an airline overhead compartment is very compelling.
Interestingly enough, in 1816, Gottfried Weber developed another solution to the long slide problem. In that year, Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung reported that Weber had conceived double slide alto (E-flat), tenor (B-flat) and bass (F) trombones; they allegedly began production by Bernard Schott’s Söhne (Johann Andreas and Johann Joseph Schott) in Mainz, Germany, in 1818. I say “allegedly” because none of these trombones have survived and we don’t have concrete evidence that they made it from design to production. But here is the kicker: these trombones had NINE positions. Remember, this was before the invention of the Quartventil, or F-attachment by Sattler in 1839. So with a nine position trombone, you could, on a B-flat tenor trombone, play B-flat in both first and eighth positions, and A in both second and ninth positions. The double slide meant you did not need a handle on these longer instruments. Ironically, Weber did not think of using his double slide concept on a contrabass trombone; that waited until 1869 when Carl Wilhelm Moritz of Berlin made a double slide contrabass trombone in BB-flat for Richard Wagner who wanted to employ it in his four operas, Der Ring das Nibelungen.
Back to Weber’s nine position trombones . . . Two examples of Weber’s double slide trombones (bass trombones in F) have survived and are in a museum in Markneukirchen, Germany, but I recently asked my friend Rolf Handrow, retired bass trombonist of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, to go to the museum and try them out and he has reported that they have only seven positions, not nine after all. I really doubt that Weber actually made any of his double slide nine position trombones.
More recently (1903), Ernest Stuart and Clifford Grinsted of England patented a bass trombone in E-flat with a short hand slide that had a corresponding slide in the bell section that, when you moved the hand slide out, the slide in the bell also moved out in tandem with the hand slide by virtue of a series of pulleys, strings, and springs. This eliminated the need for a handle on the slide since the hand slide was quite short, but I played this instrument at the Salvation Army Heritage Museum when it was located on Judd Street in London many years ago and I confess that the constant “whoosh-whoosh-whoosh” of the pulleys and springs in my left ear as the slide in the bell moved in and out was more than a little disconcerting!
So it is interesting that people have been looking for creative ways to design trombones that are more compact. You’re on to something different, Jeff, and it will be interesting to see how this all turns out!
-Douglas YeoJune 21, 2018 at 3:28 am #4336
First of all, an immense thank you for taking the time to convey that information, it is most informative and interesting. As for the name, yes, I know its not a contra instrument by length, but based on the sound characteristics finding a category is difficult. It sure wont spund like an alto, and thus far the shortened bell section has had no bearing on the quality of the sound vs a Bb bass. Id be happy to produce a video if you’d like to hear it for yourself, its actually quite fun to play!
Part of what you are saying is why I don’t plan on just cutting to the chase and going straight to Eb. For all i know, this instrument will work perfectly in Db, or D, but terrible in Eb. This possibly means the slide I use is going to be a “sacrificial lamb”, since even if it works great in either key, I will keep going to Eb regardless.
I should get to the slide this weekend, and ill be sure to post the result!June 21, 2018 at 9:34 am #4337
This is a very interesting project, Jeff.
Two more thoughts:
As an E-flat instrument, the pedal B-flat will be in 6th position. That’s not an ideal place for a note that bass trombone players use frequently. As you said, in order to have a full chromatic range, you need a valve in A-flat; you won’t get a pedal B-flat on the valve to mitigate that 6th position open pedal B-flat. The same is true for low B-flat; it will be in 6th position. Given the large number of pieces that need that note frequently, this could be a little inconvenient. It’s not a note that every alto trombone player needs on every piece, but it certainly is something that bass trombone players appreciate in an inner position.
Also, as you lengthen the hand slide, notes will tend to get brighter. When you cut your hand slide down to make the horn in E-flat, don’t be surprised if that pedal B-flat in 6th position is a bit wild an wooly. That’s just the way the acoustics of a trombone work. It will be interesting to see how this all turns out!
-Douglas YeoJune 21, 2018 at 10:13 am #4338
Douglas, great point! You will undoubtedly like my alternate idea to use 2 valves in a dependent configuration. My initial thought would be Eb/Bb/Gb, which would add the desired utility you reference. I could do the valves independently as well, would just require me to machine a few more components. To be honest, I could really tailor that to whatever the player wants without any trouble, i just picked Ab on this prototype so its the least work for a fully chromatic horn.
As far as trying to prevent the large bore on a short horn from getting wonky, I am starting with a .562 nickel slide, rather than the .562/78 bore that Ive been playing it with. I havent ruled out a .547/562 slide either, though I am hoping its not necessary. I think a longer leadpipe may be called for as well. This I am basing on adjustments I made as Ive been playing it. A more focused leadpipe was needed for me to personally have the same sound as my Bb horn.
If this does end up sounding like a bass (which I really do believe it’ll be very close to), I think it’s going to be something people will have to play for themselves to believe, regardless of how many videos i put out!
I hope to start on the slide tonight.June 21, 2018 at 1:24 pm #4339
wow, I don’t have much to add after seeing that Doug wrote a novel, starting from when Moses left the desert..but seriously,
I’m just not into choosing a horn so it fits in the overhead. Maybe I’m lucky, but never had a problem with my Marcus Bona fitting in a plane, except for that one crop duster. Screw rim bell same thing. Choosing a horn for convenience, just not where I’d go. All things being equal, sure, but all things are not equal. I spent 40 plus years playing B flat, and then learning a Contra in F, so and E flat
would just mess up my mind beyond any need. (pretty messed up already) I’d have to say at this point, this dog ain’t learning any new tricks. But you have fun with that. I got enough to do sounding good, I’ll just stick with long tones, slurs, buzzing and keep working with this old relic of an Edwards. Just remember Gerry, blow in the small end…..
(I’m still trying to change the time on my VCR!)June 21, 2018 at 1:58 pm #4340June 21, 2018 at 2:07 pm #4341
Awe C’mon Gerry live on the wild side! I’m not saying to pick a horn based on an overhead bin, but if the horn sounds fantastic, and at the same time is designed for the pro on the go (totally making that the slogan) who can argue with added convenience?
I actually found out earlier a friend of mine takes a preacher model horn as a carry on all the time, so i asked him to measure the case. Low and behold its 29 inches long, giving me 7 more inches to work with than i thought. With that in mind, if i put the slide on an angle with a case that long i have 32 inches to play with. Figure 1.5 on each end for padding, and i can make the slide 29 inches (a normal slide is 32 including the receiver). Im not sure if Db is possible with another 6 linear inches removed, but D definitely is.
I guess my point is i can now limit the amount if tubing i need to reduce it by, and create less of a chance for issues.
Just something to consider I guess. Slide is here, chop chop time!June 22, 2018 at 2:43 am #4346
Well, first cut is done. 2.5″ removed from each side for a total of 5″ removed. At this point the horn is officially a carry on. I will assemble later today, eager to play it. It should be in the ballpark of Dd right now, and if its close enough, and sounds good, i can add the tuning in slide and call this part done. If not, onto D we go!
The valves i am using should ship saturday, so its conceivable by the end of next weekend to have a fully operating prototype. Since Doug mentioned the utility of the valves vs where commonly used notes will be on the open slide, I might try and do the 2 valves in a dependent configuration.
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