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Topic: Why can't a trombone B natural?

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  1. #1

    Why can't a trombone B natural?

    I've just joined the class rather late (having just bought GPO and then spent some time getting up to a moderate speed on it).

    I've got a question arising out of Lesson 2. In the note to Table C (Ranges of the Brass Group), R-K says that the low B natural does not exist on the trombone. I always thought that you could get it in 7th position. Did they just have shorter slides in R-K's day?
    Martin
    Canberra, Australia

  2. #2

    Re: Why can't a trombone B natural?

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Ward
    I've just joined the class rather late (having just bought GPO and then spent some time getting up to a moderate speed on it).

    I've got a question arising out of Lesson 2. In the note to Table C (Ranges of the Brass Group), R-K says that the low B natural does not exist on the trombone. I always thought that you could get it in 7th position. Did they just have shorter slides in R-K's day?
    Martin,

    First of all, WELCOME to the RK area!! Enjoy!!
    B nat. IN the bass staff is fine in seventh pos. or trigger-2nd pos, but the B nat 2 lines below is way too sharp, even with a basic trigger. Same holds true for a four-valve euphonium without the compensator. The slide or trigger tuning slide simply can't be extended enough, and no valve tuning slide can be pulled long enough to sound the B nat 2 lines below in tune. A modern bass trombone with dual triggers would have no problem with the B nat. 2 lines below the staff, but no such instrument existed for RK.
    Trombone without the trigger and three-valve euph stop at E nat. one line below the bass staff, for all practical purposes.

    In R-K's day, trombones were peashooters compared with today's horns--the biggest "bass" trombone in R-K's day might have been as big as today's "symphony tenor." The standard tenor of the time was 2B size, maybe smaller, and mouthpieces were ABSOLUTELY smaller, leading to a brighter, more nasal sound.

    I've talked about this and other brass issues in the brass lesson area...right now I gotta run down to Bloomington to see Harvey Phillips, so I can't locate that thread now...
    Cheers,
    Jim
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  3. #3

    Re: Why can't a trombone B natural?

    Well, I learn something new every day. Since joining this forum it seems to have gone up to every hour!

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply Jim. I think I should have been more specific -- I was thinking of a plain vanilla tenor trombone, no triggers etc. But I imagine that everything you wrote applies to a tenor if transposed up an octave.

    R-K, in the note, writes "trombones" (plural), so I suppose he is referring to both tenor and bass. This sent me scurrying back to Kennan, and I find that he does mention the low B problem for the bass, but he explicitly states that low B natural is playable on the tenor in 7th position. Is Kennan wrong here?

    You've given me something else to chew over too: if 7th position gives a good B1, but B0 in the same position is way too sharp, doesn't that imply that the overtone series of the bass trombone is severely out of true? At least in 7th position. Something to do with the shape of the bore?

    BTW I did a search for your earlier writings on brass but couldn't find them. I'd be interested if they're lurking somewhere.

    ("All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us" -- that must be about the innest joke I've ever heard!)
    Martin
    Canberra, Australia

  4. #4

    Re: Why can't a trombone B natural?

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Ward
    Well, I learn something new every day. Since joining this forum it seems to have gone up to every hour!

    Ain't it fun?!?!

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply Jim. I think I should have been more specific -- I was thinking of a plain vanilla tenor trombone, no triggers etc. But I imagine that everything you wrote applies to a tenor if transposed up an octave.

    Triggerless trombone and three-valve euphonium stop at E nat. below the staff for all practical purposes. There are so-called "privileged tones" on these instruments and three-valve tubas, but they usually sound lousy.

    R-K, in the note, writes "trombones" (plural), so I suppose he is referring to both tenor and bass. This sent me scurrying back to Kennan, and I find that he does mention the low B problem for the bass, but he explicitly states that low B natural is playable on the tenor in 7th position. Is Kennan wrong here?

    It may be a problem of nomenclature. On a "bass" trombone, which is the same fundamental tube length as a tenor, he may refer to "low B" as the one that's two lines below the bass staff. On the tenor, he may refer to B in the bass staff as "low B." I'll have to look at Kennan again about that

    You've given me something else to chew over too: if 7th position gives a good B1, but B0 in the same position is way too sharp, doesn't that imply that the overtone series of the bass trombone is severely out of true? At least in 7th position. Something to do with the shape of the bore?

    Not really. On a triggerless trombone and a three-valve euph, the lowest usable note is E below the bass staff. All the notes from Eb below the staff to the B nat. 2 lines below are missing (or priveleged tones, basically unusable). The overtone series resumes at "pedal" Bb, way below the bass staff, and continues down to the way low E nat.

    A trigger on a trombone operates similarly to the fourth valve on a euph--trigger plus 1st pos. yields an F below the bass staff, as does fourth valve on euph, and will play on the F overtone series, but the instruments are built on the Bb series. The slide can go out to 7th position, BUT that much tubing is insufficient to produce an in-tune B nat. below the bass staff. Similarly, on a four-valve euph without a compensator, pressing valves 1/2/3/4--equivalent to trigger+7th position--yields insufficient tubing to produce the B natural. On the euph, each valve by itself is in tune 1, 2, or 3 half-steps), but combinations run sharp, the worst of which is 1/2/3. On the trombone, one runs out of arm length or inside sleeve before there is enough tube to produce the B.
    I don't want to bore you with discussions of minimizing root-mean-square error of valve tuning, so the above will suffice

    PS-NO overtone series is perfect--the usual problem is on the way UP the series--some overtones are unusably sharp or flat and we need to use alternate fingering/position. For ex., Ab above middle C is theoretically part of the Bb overtone series on trombone or euph, but is way out of tune. We are better off considering that Ab to be part of the series on Ab and play it 2nd position or 1st valve. Each slide position and valve combination, as well as the trigger, has its own overtone series. When I play in the extreme upper register, it often makes no difference what fingering I use because the notes are part of several overtone series, and I am making the note with my lips and brain.

    BTW I did a search for your earlier writings on brass but couldn't find them. I'd be interested if they're lurking somewhere.

    I'll see...they may have been censored by marauding viola players.

    ("All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us" -- that must be about the innest joke I've ever heard!)
    Yeah, the intersection set of people who get both is pretty darn small. You are number 2 or 3. My son put me on to "all your base..."

    Hope this helps!!
    Jim
    10-character message here
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  5. #5

    Re: Why can't a trombone B natural?

    Well, I've learnt several things in the last hour! Not least is that I had some fundamental misconceptions about the bass trombone. I had just blithely assumed that it had a longer tube length than the tenor (as is the case in every other family of instruments I can think of offhand). Maybe if I'd read the section in Kennan more carefully, or even paid a bit of attention to the photograph of the two instruments there ...

    Now I think (hope) light is beginning to dawn. The bass is constructed in such a way that the pedal note(s) are usable, resulting in the large gap you mention above the pedal B flat. This can be filled in by use of the F trigger, which stands in for the 3rd partial when playing an octave higher. Trouble is, the trigger makes the basic tube length longer, so all the "positions" are now further out. (So I suppose if you try for 7th position now, the slide will fall off the end and land in the viola section.)

    Thanks again!
    Martin
    Canberra, Australia

  6. #6

    Re: Why can't a trombone B natural?

    Yep, you got it!!!

    G'night from Indianapolis, USA...

    Jim
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  7. #7
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    Re: Why can't a trombone B natural?

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Ward
    Well, I've learnt several things in the last hour! Not least is that I had some fundamental misconceptions about the bass trombone.
    I learned a great deal too. It is not only the stately Euphonium that is misunderstood, but also the Tbones.

    What would everyone think about a master class on low brass instruments lead by Professor Snorlax? We have some other low brass players on the forum who could also offer valuable contributions. I think it would not only be informative but a lot of fun. Let me know what you think of this idea.

    Gary Garritan

  8. #8

    Re: Why can't a trombone B natural?

    Yes, please. I would be interested in that.

    My only reservation is that, if I keep learning stuff at the rate I did over the last few hours, my brain will probably explode.
    Martin
    Canberra, Australia

  9. #9

    Re: Why can't a trombone B natural?

    Though I'm a horn player, I'd be up for that. The pedal tones of the horn is something I wish now that I'd learned more about when I played regularly.

    Oh, and I also got the All Your Bass S&S joke... just for some reason never got around to mentioning it.

    -Robin

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