Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

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Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by hyperbolica » Tue Jun 18, 2019 9:48 am

The bass trombone is kind of an anomaly in the families of instruments. Every other bass instrument has a different fundamental from the other voices. Bass trombone has essentially the same range as a tenor.

What if the bass trombone used nomenclature like the tuba? Wouldn't that make more sense? We used to have basses in different keys, now we are just trying to extend the range of the tenor with valves and bigger everything, and calling it a bass trombone.

Take the tuba family. The tenor tuba has essentially the same range as the tenor trombone. Eb tuba is called a bass tuba regardless of what bore it has (.6xx - .8xx) or how many valves it has. 3 valve .661 bore? Bass tuba. 6 valve .803? Bass tuba.

Why not call all 9 foot trombones tenors. 12 foot is a bass. 16-18 feet is a contra. Just like tubas. I know, you say the second valve on a tenor makes it a bass, but there are single valve basses, and Eb tubas with only 3 valves. Tubas have 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 6/4. Trombones talk about bore size like tubas talk about the x/4 (small, medium, large).

I have a feeling this will annoy some bass bone players (although I'm falling into that category more often these days), but the current situation just seems to not fit the nomenclature of other instruments, even when historically, we had bass bones in other keys that had a different fundamental length.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by LeTromboniste » Tue Jun 18, 2019 11:35 am

hyperbolica wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 9:48 am
The bass trombone is kind of an anomaly in the families of instruments. Every other bass instrument has a different fundamental from the other voices. Bass trombone has essentially the same range as a tenor.

What if the bass trombone used nomenclature like the tuba? Wouldn't that make more sense? We used to have basses in different keys, now we are just trying to extend the range of the tenor with valves and bigger everything, and calling it a bass trombone.

Take the tuba family. The tenor tuba has essentially the same range as the tenor trombone. Eb tuba is called a bass tuba regardless of what bore it has (.6xx - .8xx) or how many valves it has. 3 valve .661 bore? Bass tuba. 6 valve .803? Bass tuba.

Why not call all 9 foot trombones tenors. 12 foot is a bass. 16-18 feet is a contra. Just like tubas. I know, you say the second valve on a tenor makes it a bass, but there are single valve basses, and Eb tubas with only 3 valves. Tubas have 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 6/4. Trombones talk about bore size like tubas talk about the x/4 (small, medium, large).

I have a feeling this will annoy some bass bone players (although I'm falling into that category more often these days), but the current situation just seems to not fit the nomenclature of other instruments, even when historically, we had bass bones in other keys that had a different fundamental length.
Music evolves, so do instruments, and so does terminology, and the changes in one are not always reflected in the others, so contradictions and inconsistencies are unavoidable.

We did have bass trombones in other keys in the past, that's true. However, the original trombone was what we now call a tenor trombone, yet was invented as a bass instrument, to play the bass line in 4-part pieces. And even when there were basses in other lengths/pitches, a tenor size instrument could be used on bass part, and was sometimes called, a bass trombone. You'll find sources as early as circa 1600 (e.g. Virgiliano - Il Dolcimelo) that imply a bass trombone with the same length and nominal pitch as the tenor. Historically, we can find at various times tenors in C, Bb, A and G (using a whole tone bow/tortil), basses in Bb, A, G, F, Eb and D (and eventually C, with the use of a whole tone bow) and contras in F, Eb, BBb and AA. There is quite a bit of overlap, and nowhere to draw a clear line.

The trombone family is not the only one with inconsistend nomenclature, either now or historically. For instance, a treble cornet was a soprano instrument, the alto cornet was merely one step lower, and the tenor cornet was in reality an instrument that payed in the alto range, pitched only a fifth below the treble. A tenor horn is likewise an alto instrument, and a bass horn has the same tubing length as a tenor trombone, and so does a bass trumpet. Recorder sizes are named after the ranges they read, yet they actually sound an octave higher.

Generally speaking, historically, instrument names have derived more from the role the instruments fill rather than a physical measure of length or nominal pitch.

You mention modern tuba nomenclature. Yet, the word 'tuba' in the modern sense is not directly related to the obvious latin etymology. It's more likely a contraction of 'Basstuba', the word used in Germany from the 1830's and into the 20th century to designate any tuba that had a bass function (wether it was in F or CC). You find parts even in the 20th century that are labeled 'Basstuba' but are clearly intended for a CC instrument. So yes, now, 'bass tuba' means specifically a tuba in Eb or F as opposed to BBb and C contrabass tubas, but there wasn't always such a clear distinction.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by mrpillow » Tue Jun 18, 2019 3:18 pm

The terminology is and always has been regional, idiomatic, and subject to changes. Even if you got Webster's to define a bass trombone as a trombone in 12-foot F, people would go on using the terms they've always known until for some organic reason the paradigm shifts again, just like it did in the late 19th century when bass trombone (largely in the US) became to mean a B-flat instrument, of a larger bore than the contemporary tenor, with or without an F or E attachment. Just as it shifted again in the mid-20th century to mean a B-flat instrument, of a larger bore than the contemporary tenor, with at least an F attachment and usually one more register valve.

So the story goes. We adapt and move on.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by bbocaner » Tue Jun 18, 2019 5:10 pm

saxhorn family had 9' bass, 9' baritone, and 9' tenor variants.

also how about soprano vs basset clarinet (not basset horn) which is essentially a soprano clarinet with extended range.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by JohnL » Tue Jun 18, 2019 10:44 pm

The only family where the names seem to be reasonably consistent is saxophones. I suspect that's at least partly the result of having been developed by one person over the span of just a few years.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by harrisonreed » Wed Jun 19, 2019 12:25 am

I thought it just meant the person holding it had no real chops. It's basically the same instrument right?
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by brassmedic » Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:41 am

Key is irrelevant for non transposing instruments. What key is the violin in? What key is the harp in? What key is the bassoon in? What key is the piano in? Doesn't matter. What key is the trombone in? Doesn't matter.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by mrpillow » Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:58 am

The question of note isn't so much about key but about acoustic length and compass. It would seem contradictory to have a bass instrument with a shorter acoustic length than it's respective tenor variant, regardless of what 'key' we label them as. Even though they aren't commonly thought of as having a native key, there are indeed bass violins and tenor violins and treble violins, a concept explored most readily by the works of Carleen Hutchins and her violin octet, along with various other now archaic sizes from the 16-19th centuries.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by bbocaner » Wed Jun 19, 2019 9:05 am

brassmedic wrote:
Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:41 am
Key is irrelevant for non transposing instruments. What key is the violin in? What key is the harp in? What key is the bassoon in? What key is the piano in? Doesn't matter. What key is the trombone in? Doesn't matter.
I believe bassoon is thought of as being in F, mostly as a historical curiosity because the fundamental pitch of the bass curtal or dulcian that was the forerunner to the bassoon was F, and the modern bassoon just extended with a longer bell section and some keys. Key is irrelevant? Tell that to a tubist who could drone on for hours about why they use a CC tuba instead of a BBb tuba. Recorders aren't transposing instruments, but they come in C, in F, and sometimes in G and D and sometimes Bb as well. Irrelevant? There are passages which are a nightmare of forked fingerings and suspect intonation on a F recorder that lie perfectly on a G recorder. Every wind instrument has a key, whether or not it's a transposing instrument and whether or not it matters in everyday usage.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by BGuttman » Wed Jun 19, 2019 9:18 am

I think what's sticking in Hyperbolica's craw is the fact that we have a 9 foot instrument with a valve that we call "bass trombone" when most of us play a 9 foot instrument with an F-valve that we call a tenor trombone.

There were longer instruments that were bass trombones but the ergonomics of handling them were really difficult. Most required an unwieldy handle to allow use of a 7 position slide. So a good compromise was to put the extra length in a valve and thus the "tenor-bass" in Bb with an F valve was born. It was then discovered that the F-valve made the tenor trombone more nimble and easier to handle so the tenor adopted the F-valve as well; much like French Horn players discovered that a horn that could play in Bb or in F was more versatile than one that only played in Bb or in F.

I think the concept of "bass tuba" and "contrabass tuba" to describe the Eb/F and C/Bb instruments respectively has fallen out of favor. Most tuba players I know don't worry about whether it's a "bass" or "contrabass" and just play the parts they are presented on whatever they happen to be using. There are some who argue the relative merits of (for example) BBb vs. CC, but they still call both tubas.

And a large bore instrument in Db (shorter than a Bb tenor) with a few valves to extend range could conceivably cover a bass trombone part and who's to argue?
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by bbocaner » Wed Jun 19, 2019 9:25 am

BGuttman wrote:
Wed Jun 19, 2019 9:18 am
I think what's sticking in Hyperbolica's craw is the fact that we have a 9 foot instrument with a valve that we call "bass trombone" when most of us play a 9 foot instrument with an F-valve that we call a tenor trombone.
I understand that but, as I pointed out in the saxhorn family example above, that's not unique.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by LeTromboniste » Wed Jun 19, 2019 9:48 am

mrpillow wrote:
Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:58 am
It would seem contradictory to have a bass instrument with a shorter acoustic length than it's respective tenor variant, regardless of what 'key' we label them as.
Another instance : the 6-valved French C tuba (no longer used but common until the mid-19th century) is one step higher than a Bb euphonium/tenor tuba/tenor or baritone saxhorn, but it is nonetheless a bass instrument despite having its fundamental pitch higher than the tenor member of the family.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by sungfw » Wed Jun 19, 2019 11:19 am

BGuttman wrote:
Wed Jun 19, 2019 9:18 am
I think the concept of "bass tuba" and "contrabass tuba" to describe the Eb/F and C/Bb instruments respectively has fallen out of favor. Most tuba players I know don't worry about whether it's a "bass" or "contrabass" and just play the parts they are presented on whatever they happen to be using. There are some who argue the relative merits of (for example) BBb vs. CC, but they still call both tubas.
I suspect that a few hours browsing Tubenet will disabuse you of that notion.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by mrpillow » Wed Jun 19, 2019 1:30 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Wed Jun 19, 2019 9:18 am
There were longer instruments that were bass trombones but the ergonomics of handling them were really difficult. Most required an unwieldy handle to allow use of a 7 position slide. So a good compromise was to put the extra length in a valve and thus the "tenor-bass" in Bb with an F valve was born.
As always it's worth noting that the term tenor-bass originally implicated an instrument with the acoustic length of a tenor but the bore and bell profile of a low bass such as an F instrument. The term was then applied to both B-flat and B-flat/F instruments starting in the mid 1800s.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by hyperbolica » Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:02 pm

Yeah, well, I guess it's the tbone forum way to shoot down any proposed idea that comes in, it's important to keep up with tradition.

But what I was really thinking is that you hear a lot of bass trombonists struggling with the lower end of the horn, and then a lot of tenor players criticizing the bass trombone for sounding less like a trombone and more like a tuba or euphonium, or 3 week old laundry, or whatever. Wouldn't it be helpful if bass boners just owned it, and embraced a real instrument that isn't a half measure. Coaxing a Bb/F/D instrument to play low is a chore, and the instrument is modified to make that easier, but isn't really built with that in mind. It's built on the same fundamental as a tenor, to make the transition from tenor to bass be a little bit easier. If you just gave every beginner/intermediate bass boner an F instrument with a C valve, it would make the intended range right where they have to play. And then call it an F bass, give it a big throat, and to hell with all the criticism. The ergonomics issue can be solved with valves, or with a euphonium-like compensation system or valve tuning slides. I'm not sold on the main slide being a beneficial feature for instruments in this range. "Valved bass trombones" are a real thing, aside from the cimbasso name.

Making the argument that the current nomenclature makes sense because you can point to another example that doesn't make sense really doesn't make any sense.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by Burgerbob » Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:21 pm

It's the music world. Things don't have to follow exact rules or conventions. That's kind of the beauty of it all.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by BGuttman » Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:37 pm

I'm going to disagree with hyperbolica simply because i think his idea is either dumb or misguided.

First, if you want to make a trombone in F with a 7 position slide you need something to help reach the outer positions. In most cases it's a handle, and we have learned over the years that they are cumbersome.

If you want to make it work with valves, you have now reinvented the Tenor/Bass. An instrument with a 7 position slide in Bb with a valve to achieve the notes in the F instrument range.

There are trombones with 4 rotary valves pitched in F. Some people call them "cimbasso", but they are not really cimbassos. And having tried to play one I can verify that they are an ergonomic nightmare to hold. So an instrument that is an F tuba in a trombone shape is not the answer.

The instrument we currently use as a bass trombone has a wider bore than a tenor trombone and as such is more appropriate to provide the deeper voice of a bass trombone.

Incidentally, I have a friend who has a set of 3 instruments all the same length, but differing bores. They are a Tenor horn, a Baritone horn, and a Bass horn. And yes, they do sound different.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by imsevimse » Wed Jun 19, 2019 11:56 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:37 pm
I'm going to disagree with hyperbolica simply because i think his idea is either dumb or misguided.

First, if you want to make a trombone in F with a 7 position slide you need something to help reach the outer positions. In most cases it's a handle, and we have learned over the years that they are cumbersome.
Yes, or a double slide like a contra. It is not a bad idea at all but would be a trouble to learn. That would still be a seven position slide.

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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by BGuttman » Thu Jun 20, 2019 5:02 am

Big problem with double slides is that they aren't twice as hard to align as regular slides -- they are more like 8 times as hard to align.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by Basbasun » Thu Jun 20, 2019 6:29 am

I have played bass trombones with handles a lot, I do own three F Eb D trombones, I have tested double slide BBb trombones.
I am happy to play the basstrombone parts on a wide bore tenor-bass, and call it a bass trombone because that is what it sounds like.

I do own a largebore F trombone, with a handle of course, I am very happy not to play any advansed music on the best.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by hyperbolica » Thu Jun 20, 2019 7:16 am

BGuttman wrote:
Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:37 pm
I'm going to disagree with hyperbolica simply because i think his idea is either dumb or misguided.
Aww, didn't know you cared :wink:
First, if you want to make a trombone in F with a 7 position slide you need something to help reach the outer positions. In most cases it's a handle, and we have learned over the years that they are cumbersome.
The instruments currently exist. It's not like I'm inventing a bass in Db or something. :horror: They exist with slides and with valves. It sounds like you're agreeing with me, I'm kind of ambivalent about the usefulness of a slide on that size instrument. There's no way to be dainty with the positions a foot apart.

There are trombones with 4 rotary valves pitched in F. Some people call them "cimbasso", but they are not really cimbassos. And having tried to play one I can verify that they are an ergonomic nightmare to hold. So an instrument that is an F tuba in a trombone shape is not the answer.
The trombone itself is an ergonomic nightmare to hold, with hundreds of years of history supporting my pain. The valved bass, contra or cimbasso has been making a strong showing in the past decades. I think it's building steam, and I wish it well. As movie music moves to displace classical styles as the new classical music, I think we'll continue to see more. We need a more cylindrical voice down low.
Incidentally, I have a friend who has a set of 3 instruments all the same length, but differing bores. They are a Tenor horn, a Baritone horn, and a Bass horn. And yes, they do sound different.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by brassmedic » Tue Jun 25, 2019 10:24 am

bbocaner wrote:
Wed Jun 19, 2019 9:05 am
brassmedic wrote:
Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:41 am
Key is irrelevant for non transposing instruments. What key is the violin in? What key is the harp in? What key is the bassoon in? What key is the piano in? Doesn't matter. What key is the trombone in? Doesn't matter.
I believe bassoon is thought of as being in F, mostly as a historical curiosity because the fundamental pitch of the bass curtal or dulcian that was the forerunner to the bassoon was F, and the modern bassoon just extended with a longer bell section and some keys. Key is irrelevant? Tell that to a tubist who could drone on for hours about why they use a CC tuba instead of a BBb tuba. Recorders aren't transposing instruments, but they come in C, in F, and sometimes in G and D and sometimes Bb as well. Irrelevant? There are passages which are a nightmare of forked fingerings and suspect intonation on a F recorder that lie perfectly on a G recorder. Every wind instrument has a key, whether or not it's a transposing instrument and whether or not it matters in everyday usage.
But that really makes my point, doesn't it? A bassoon that is longer, but is still in the same "key"? Then "key" refers to the fingering system, not the actual physical length of the instrument. Have you ever heard a tuba player say, "I can't play this part because it's a BBb tuba part and I have a CC tuba"? No, because they have a fully chromatic instrument, and they are basing their choice of which one to play on perceived differences in pitch and tone quality, not the nominal unvalved length of the instrument. And when you think about it, a lot of CC tubas, having so many valves, are actually longer than BBb tubas.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by bbocaner » Wed Jun 26, 2019 6:44 am

brassmedic wrote:
Tue Jun 25, 2019 10:24 am
But that really makes my point, doesn't it? A bassoon that is longer, but is still in the same "key"? Then "key" refers to the fingering system, not the actual physical length of the instrument. Have you ever heard a tuba player say, "I can't play this part because it's a BBb tuba part and I have a CC tuba"? No, because they have a fully chromatic instrument, and they are basing their choice of which one to play on perceived differences in pitch and tone quality, not the nominal unvalved length of the instrument. And when you think about it, a lot of CC tubas, having so many valves, are actually longer than BBb tubas.
I recently played a brass band transcription of the marriage of figaro overture in Eb. Brass band contrabass tuba parts are meant for BBb tuba. The familiar opening lick, played very fast, fingerings on BBb:

1-12-1-12-1 1-12-1-0-12-0-12-1-0-2-0-2-0 0-2-0-12-1-0-1-12-0-2-0-12-1-12-0-1-12-1-0-1-12-0-4-12-1

fingerings in CC:

23-4-23-4-23 23-4-23-1-0-1-0-23-1-12-1-12-1 1-12-1-2-0-1-23-0-1-12-1-0-23-0-1-23-4-23-1-23-4-1-0-4-23

Of course, it's playable, but it's significantly more difficult, especially at that tempo. And those notes are more susceptible to needing intonation adjustment.

On some instruments with simpler fingering systems, though, this kind of change can make things unplayable.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by hyperbolica » Wed Jun 26, 2019 10:12 am

Look at the Dream Trombone thread. A lot of people want a contra. I think there's momentum behind basses longer than a tenor.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by brassmedic » Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:52 pm

There are a few orchestral works that call for contra, and that's been the case for quite awhile. Contra actually started being used in movie scores because the trombone players were tired of the trumpets getting all the doubles, so they started bringing contras to sessions to get the composers interested in writing for it. and it worked. It's another tone color in the palette of the brass section, but it's never going to replace the bass trombone.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by Basbasun » Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:54 am

The contra was used much in Wagners "The Ring", the forth trombone part was written for Kontrabass posaune/Bass posaune. It was actually a bass/contrabass part. What was the differens? The sound. The bass trombone today can easily play both what is written for contra and bass, the contra is used for its weigth in sound.
The contra could play most basstrombone parts but would often sound to heavy.

A question, when is a Eb horn altohorn and when is it a tenorhorn? The same instrument
When is a wide bore Bb horn a bariton and when is it a euphonium?
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by JohnL » Thu Jun 27, 2019 10:50 am

Basbasun wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:54 am
A question, when is a Eb horn altohorn and when is it a tenorhorn? The same instrument
When is a wide bore Bb horn a bariton and when is it a euphonium?
Not a question of "when" so much as "where"...

In the UK and many Commonwealth countries, the Eb instrument is a tenor horn, the narrow bore Bb is a baritone, and the wide bore Bb is a Euphonium. This usage has gained some traction in the USA as British-style brass bands have become more common.

If you're in the USA, the Eb instrument is an alto horn. The narrow bore Bb was historically referred to as a tenor horn (but vanished in the early 20th century). We have (had, at this point - they've largely fallen out of use) an instrument that falls between the tenor horn and the modern euphonium that was generally call a baritone (three valve) or euphonium (four valve), and then there is the modern euphonium (similar in size to the historic Bb bass, but not used the same way).

I'm less familiar with the nomenclature in mainland Europe, but it looks like the Eb instrument is an althorn, the narrow-bore Bb instrument is a tenor, then there's a Bb baryton (medium-ish) and a Bb Kaiser baryton (larger, but not as large as a British euphonium).

Confused yet? It gets worse. If you're in the USA and you're playing in a British-style brass band, you use the British nomenclature. If you're playing in a German-style brass band, you use the German nomenclature. If you're playing in a Civil War reenactment band, you use the historic American nomenclature.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by Posaunus » Mon Jul 01, 2019 12:03 pm

JohnL wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 10:50 am
Confused yet? It gets worse. If you're in the USA and you're playing in a British-style brass band, you use the British nomenclature. If you're playing in a German-style brass band, you use the German nomenclature. If you're playing in a Civil War reenactment band, you use the historic American nomenclature.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by ExZacLee » Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:50 pm

hyperbolica wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 9:48 am
but the current situation just seems to not fit the nomenclature of other instruments, even when historically, we had bass bones in other keys that had a different fundamental length.
Nomenclature doesn't carry across all instruments equally... sometimes nomenclature fits in a more or less absolute sense (alto saxophone being generally an alto instrument despite crossing into the tenor and soprano registers, bass saxophone is definitely a bass register instrument although no one owns the beast and composers can do just fine with the baritone having a low concert C), sometimes in relation to other instruments in the family (bass trumpet is more of a tenor register instrument, bass flute's lowest note is C below middle C so definitely more of a tenor or baritone voice.)

Trombone has a lot of fundamental differences to other instruments, even in the brass family. The bass trombone actually functions as a bass register instrument much of the time. Give the wide definition of the term "bass range" in music, and its differences depending on voice and instrument ranges, the term is hardly a misnomer when applied to a trombone that has been modified to function as such a voice. The modern bass with 2 triggers is definitely easier to play than, say an older G bass with a .485 bore.
As far as history, well, things change. Things evolve. The evolution of the trombone is quite wonderful - the Bb trombone - "tenor" if you will, has proven quite a perfectly adaptable beast. The orchestral tenor in the hands of an intermediate-advanced player has a three octave range that would be the envy of any medieval sackbuttist. The small bore tenor is more of an alto instrument judging by its use in jazz, salsa and other popular forms of music - and possibly used more often than an alto for alto repertoire because of their ubiquity. The bass trombone is a different instrument from these others in sound and use.

Traditional male bass range is two octaves - low E to E above middle C. Bass trombone easily encompasses that range, and then some, as it is designed to do.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by imsevimse » Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:32 am

ExZacLee wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:50 pm
Traditional male bass range is two octaves - low E to E above middle C. Bass trombone easily encompasses that range, and then some, as it is designed to do.
I'm a quite experienced choir tenor singer and I would say that E to E is closer to a baritone singers register. In a choire they often gets the first bass part or the second tenor part. Most male voices have that register. If the voices are inexperienced and you let all men sing the same part this is the register you choose. It will be a little high for some low voices and little low for some high voices but together the part will be covered. Quite often in professional repertoire all parts in the choire are divided in first and second. When this happens the second bass part regularly go as low as D and occasionally to C. A Russian piece we sang by Rachmaninov ended on a sustained Bb-flat in the second bass part. That is very rare. One singer in our choire out of eight gets that note loud and clear. Even if it is a single bass part the C happens. Tenor voices in a choire go from C in the bass staff to A in the treble and sometimes higher. Most tenors to my experience use the falsetto before they have reached their highest notes. The secret to successfully cover the tenor part completely is to be good at switching flowlessly between the falsetto and the normal voice. Professional soloists can have any register.

/Tom
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by Basbasun » Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:16 am

" The orchestral tenor in the hands of an intermediate-advanced player has a three octave range that would be the envy of any medieval sackbuttist."

Well, I am sure there are some sackbuttists who don´t like to play that big of a range. I have no problem with three octaves on my sackbutts, I am sure that maximiliam play at least three octaves, Michael Praetorius describe a trombone (sackbutt) player who could make fast divisions in close to four octaves.

Not that this does fit in the above discouson.

Whe the F-attachment was invented, it was an improvement of the tenorbass-trombone.

A bass-trumpet is the same lenght and range as the tenor-trombone, same range as the tenorhorn and bariton horn and Euophoniume and French bass-tuba.

Is the issue about language or sound? Or length?

The modern basstrombone does sound like a true bass to the tenors, if played by a good musian. As all brasses it have the possibility to sound very bad also.

I don´t understand why this discousion is comming up now and then, it does lead to anything, there must be lots of intersting to discouss.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by ExZacLee » Tue Jul 02, 2019 8:48 pm

imsevimse wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:32 am
ExZacLee wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:50 pm
Traditional male bass range is two octaves - low E to E above middle C. Bass trombone easily encompasses that range, and then some, as it is designed to do.
I'm a quite experienced choir tenor singer and I would say that E to E is closer to a baritone singers register.
/Tom
It's been awhile since I spent much time in a choir, but I don't remember any baritones having a reliable low E worth singing. I think we may have a misunderstanding here.
Basbasun wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:16 am

Well, I am sure there are some sackbuttists who don´t like to play that big of a range. I have no problem with three octaves on my sackbutts, I am sure that maximiliam play at least three octaves, Michael Praetorius describe a trombone (sackbutt) player who could make fast divisions in close to four octaves.
Exceptions don't disprove the rule... and you're right, I'm not sure what your response fits the above discussion.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by imsevimse » Wed Jul 03, 2019 3:20 am

ExZacLee wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 8:48 pm
It's been awhile since I spent much time in a choir, but I don't remember any baritones having a reliable low E worth singing. I think we may have a misunderstanding.
It might be a misunderstanding so I try to put this in context.

Sweden has a very strong tradition of choires. From our population of 10 million there are 600 000 that sings in a choire, this is a high procentage. There are myriads of choires over here and every church has at least one choire. This means there are choires of great variances and we sing everything from easy folk songs to the major classical works and there are auditions and therefore some competition to be a part of the better choires even though the members are never paid. To limit the bass part to be between E below the staff and up the two ledger E is to adopt to the comfort register of untrained male voices. It is then neither a tenor nor a bass part but a compromise This is close to what I've heard described as the baritone register which is F to F. Maybe that half step is what causes the misunderstanding. This register is often the recommendation in a three part choire with untrained voices where you have one part for all men, and two female parts, one alto and one soprano.

Who cares about the baritone voice? Either you have sung barbershop and then it is one of the parts if I remember correctly, or you have studied singing for classical opera singers and have had lessons in methodology and pedagogy with focus on the voice. That's where you hear about the baritone voice. It is very rare an amateur male singer identifies himself as a baritone singer at least in our tradition. It is something that the teacher probably does at first. It has to do with register in the beginning but later more timbre rather than register which goes for all the voices. Soprano, Mezzo soprano, Alto, Contra Alto, Tenor, Lyrical tenor just to mention some examples of how to characterize different kinds of classical voices. Many of the best classical tenor singers are really baritone voices who have expanded their voice to go higher to become great opera tenors.

In most choires over here singers that can not sing the highest notes in the tenor part becomes bass singers even if they can not sing the lowest notes with a clear voice, and the ones who gets the tenor part are the ones who can get the high notes somehow. In a choire each part is a teamwork. Low and high voices within each part is what becomes the part. Not all singers in the bass part can sing the high three ledger g with full voice and not all the singers can sing the low C. The best choires are naturally paid and from the auditions they can pick the best voices. I guess they want every bass singer to be able to cover anything that turns up in the part. They probably will not except a bass who can not cover a range of two and an half octaves.

The register of the repertoire in a choire vary as choires can be of different levels of course but if you consider the professional repertoire we sing in our choire then the bass part spans from the low C to the three ledger g and this is just my experience from the repertoire I have sung.

The choire I sing in have auditions . All singers comes from a background with a lot of classical studies in singing but are not payed. We sing the major works by Bach, Haendel, Mozart as well as other works by for example Rachmaninoff, Poulenc and Messiaen and we are located in a church in Stockholm.

That's the context.

/Tom
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by LeTromboniste » Wed Jul 03, 2019 4:22 am

ExZacLee wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 8:48 pm
Basbasun wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:16 am

Well, I am sure there are some sackbuttists who don´t like to play that big of a range. I have no problem with three octaves on my sackbutts, I am sure that maximiliam play at least three octaves, Michael Praetorius describe a trombone (sackbutt) player who could make fast divisions in close to four octaves.
Exceptions don't disprove the rule... and you're right, I'm not sure what your response fits the above discussion.
Well to be fair, you're the one who brought up sackbuts in the discussion saying the "orchestral tenor would be the envy of any medieval sackbutist". I avoided responding because I don't even know where to start to express how this statement is just utter nonsense, and it would quickly go out of the topic of the thread.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by ExZacLee » Wed Jul 03, 2019 9:12 pm

[/quote]

Well to be fair, you're the one who brought up sackbuts in the discussion saying the "orchestral tenor would be the envy of any medieval sackbutist". I avoided responding because I don't even know where to start to express how this statement is just utter nonsense, and it would quickly go out of the topic of the thread.
[/quote]

If it's utter nonsense you owe it to community to call it out - or at least tell me what about that statement is wrong. I'm no expert on medieval music, but pretty much everything I understand about performance practice and composition as it relates to the sackbut up to the 15th century suggests that it was an instrument with a limited range and far inferior in many aspects to the modern trombone - or even later sackbuts. It is entirely possible I guess that composers of the era simply misused the instrument, but I don't think it is even remotely fair to compare modern sackbuts, much less trombones, to those instruments in doing so. If you'd like to argue that it is somehow superior to modern trombone and has a wider range you're more than welcome to do so. Maybe I'll learn something. If you want to compare the best players on both instruments I'm sure they'd all agree even the modern sackbut has its limitations, much less its limited, medieval cousin.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by LeTromboniste » Thu Jul 04, 2019 2:35 am

Well first off all if you intend to speak with any kind of credibility about how a sackbut is or is not limited and the kind of music it played, You might want to avoid saying things like "medieval sackbut" and talking of "medieval music" (it is not a medieval instrument; the medieval era in music ends around 1400 and the first trombones appeared we think around 1450. It's an instrument of the Renaissance) or talk about sackbuts "up to the 15th century" (it didn't exist until the 15th century), otherwise you sound like you don't know what you're talking about.

In not gonna argue a sackbut is superior, that's not the point. Any instrument has limitations and any improvement or change comes at a cost. 16th and 17th century sackbuts are perfect for the role they had in music at the time, for the type of playing that was required of them. They have less projection than later trombones, can't play as loud, and have a less compact, airier sound. By those are advantages for the music they played. Playing too loud in a church acoustic is useless, it just resonates too much and makes things blurry. Same with a sound that is very resonant - you don't need it when the church makes the resonance for you, and a fully resonant tone in a resonant church will just sound muddy. Also the counterpart to that more airy tone is, you get more room to color the sound, and you get a much finer palette of articulations, which were both essential in the music of the time, in the era of mannerism, at the time where rhetoric was omnipresent in music.

Yes, a tenor sackbut is missing a fourth in the low range but a) let's face it how often do we use these notes in tenor parts even as modern players? (I.e. If not having a valve was such a big limitations, why would so many players today play straight horns? Well they needed those notes even less back then) and b) when they did need those notes, they used falset tones which incidentally happen to be much easier on a sackbut. And for a part that features those notes more prominently well then they would just have used a lower pitched bass.

So I'm not saying sackbuts are a superior instruments to modern trombone. One doesnt have to be superior. But I'm absolutely sure that a 16th or 17th century trombonist would have thought a modern orchestral trombone is way too big, clumsy, uselessly loud, incapable of playing soft enough for their needs, not nearly nimble enough and monochromatic.

And that's absolutely normal: different times need different instrument and the changes that occurred to the trombone since the 18th century both followed and induced changes in the way the instrument is used by composers and performers and its role in music. A sackbut wouldn't work for music of the 19th century and beyond as well as a modern trombone, because the role of the instrument changed and the strengths and weaknesses of the instrument longer fit that role. That's obvious of course but it should be equally obvious that the opposite is also true, a modern trombone doesn't work as well as a sackbut for earlier music. You can't say one is inherently better than the other, and assuming musicians of the past would have preferred modern instruments is almost always wrong and requires ignoring everything about the music they played, the context in which they played it, their role in it and the aesthetic values of their time.

Now can we go back on topic?
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by ExZacLee » Thu Jul 04, 2019 3:42 pm

so, to be clear, you are in fact arguing the sackbut, regardless of era, is limited compared to the modern trombone...
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by LeTromboniste » Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:40 pm

Just a note to others who might read this thread. I realise my previous post can sound condescending. I'm not looking down on people who know less on a subject that I happen to know quite a bit on. I certainly don't know everything about this topic or any other and God, don't ask me anything about Jazz trombone...I don't have any problem with someone not knowing a sackbut is not medieval, but I do have a problem when I see a fellow member being rudely brushed off by another for having politely tried to rectify their erroneous assumption.



ExZacLee wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 3:42 pm
so, to be clear, you are in fact arguing the sackbut, regardless of era, is limited compared to the modern trombone...
Nope and you know that, you're just being obnoxiously obtuse. By now I'm about 90% sure you're trolling.

But just in case you're not and this discussion can be salvaged : you said you based your claim on your "understanding of performance practice and composition as it relates to sackbut". Care to enlighten us? What is your understanding and what do you base your assumption that the sackbut was an inferior instrument on? I don't have time to engage in exchanges of fallacies but I'm always willing to have honest discussions.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by ExZacLee » Fri Jul 05, 2019 10:07 am

This reply is going to have to take a bit... all of my Bach, Handel and Mozart scores are in a box somewhere and I'm not sure where my Norton Anthologies are. What I remember from performing them is they were hardly taxing range or technique wise. I don't have much experience with Praetorius, and what I remember of Gabrielli was again, not much use of the entire range of what the trombone is used for now. That could very well stem from my misunderstanding of what instruments were originally intended for what parts.

Regardless, my original response stands. Modern tenor trombone parts (in my experience) regularly go beyond the three octave range I discussed from :bassclef: 8vb :line3: to :trebleclef: :line4: - I personally know of no evidence that this was required of the tenor sackbut. The modern tenor trombone (a perfect instrument if there ever was one) has been specialized into three very distinct instruments, requiring the bass trombone to require a different naming convention despite being essentially the same instrument in terms of its fundamental. It functions as a bass register instrument - and a baritone or tenor when the need arrises.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by BGuttman » Fri Jul 05, 2019 11:16 am

I'm sure Maximilien can expand upon this, but the sackbut parts in Baroque music called for some significant slide dexterity. Even the bass player with his slide with a handle had to negotiate some extensive runs.

Just because the parts don't call for it, there is no reason not to believe that sackbut players of the day didn't have the same range as a trombone player of today. Many pieces would be composed with unspecified instrumentation and depending on what forces were available I'm sure that a sackbut player might be called to cover any one.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by LeTromboniste » Fri Jul 05, 2019 5:45 pm

Exactly. For sackbut repertoire you have to look beyond what is specifically written for trombones (you don't see parts for specific instruments until the late 16th century, which is about 150 years after trombones started being used, and unspecified or flexible instrumentation parts are still common for much of the 17th century), and also beyond what's on the page - improvisation and ornamentation were a huge thing at the time.

That being said, even if you look only at music that is specifically for trombone, you will find that the baroque trombone was expected to have a huge range. You'll find parts for tenor that go as low as D below the staff, played as a falset tone, and as high as :trebleclef: :line4:. You'll also find bass trombone parts that go as low as A and even G an octave below the bass clef and elsewhere parts for the same instrument that go up to F or G 3 octaves above. The parts where both the extreme high and low range are both used are rare, but a range of 2 1/2 octaves from low E or D up to high A are not at all uncommon in solo and chamber music for tenor. I'd have to check again but I'm pretty sure there's a Weckmann sonata where the trombone part goes from low E to D, two octaves plus a seventh higher. The first known solo piece for trombone is for bass trombone (most likely bass in D) and the range is Bb below bass clef to F, two and a half octave higher.

I'm not sure why you just focus on range to claim modern trombone is superior to any earlier instrument though, so I'll had that the early repertoire, beyond just the range, is often very virtuosic and very demanding both technically and musically. Extended runs of fast notes are all over the place, as well as trills (in the late 17th and in the 18th centuries) and large jumps (that first piece for solo trombone has a leap up an octave immediately followed by a leap down two octaves in the middle of a 16th note run, just as an example).

Point is, they wouldn't have written these parts if the instrument didn't allow them to be played and if there weren't players able to play them.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by ExZacLee » Sat Jul 06, 2019 6:16 am

Well for starters I want to apologize to the original poster for throughly derailing this thread.

And next I'll apologize to the sackbut/early trombone/posaunen fans, and particularly Basbasun and LeTrombonist for spreading such spurious information.

I'll list the myriad fallacies I'd come to believe in regards to the instrument - my trombone heroes are not to blame for this, it's my own ignorance fueled by the false misconceptions of various composers I've studied. In no particular order:

1) Early trombones, sackbuts, et al. in many cases had 6, not 7 positions and could not play a true chromatic scale, leaving gaps in the range.

2) Due to inferior materials/craftsmanship/etc. (by modern standards) they were unstable in extreme low and high registers and thus not used. I mean, this makes sense to me until I consider the horn I paid my bills with for years was a King 2B with certain "instabilities" - which are of course overcome with careful practice and awareness.

3) Sound is pinched and thin - now I've played on a couple of sackbuts, I can't attest to their historical accuracy - they looked pretty and had tiny bells. But *my* sound on them was what I'd describe (from behind the bell anyway) as "pinched and thin" - doesn't mean that is what it sounds like in front of the bell, doesn't mean that's what someone who actually plays the darn thing at a professional level would sound like. I've heard people play the thing who were good at it - it sounded narrow and pinched to my ears, but it was still somewhat beautiful when combined with others and I can imagine it'd sound better in the cathedrals they were being played 400 years ago.

4) slides were absolutely atrocious by modern standards - no stockings and metalworking techniques being what they were. I mean, I would assume this actually was the case, but I know modern players who are technical savants and when you feel their slide, you're like "how can you, this thing catches in every position?"

5) The Il Dolcimeo graph, printed in at least two of the books I used in the chapters concerning early composition, seems to be recommending ranges of no more than an octave and a fourth in each different part soprano down to bass. I'm starting to wonder if this is a misunderstanding - not a limitation but a prescription for a specific work?

Anyway - I apologize for the derailment of the thread and the crappy attitude. Thanks for the knowledge you've all shared.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by Basbasun » Sat Jul 06, 2019 11:48 am

I wold not use a modern basstrombone to play Mariavesper by Monteverdi, or Requiem by Mozart because ut does not hold its place because of and sound and texture. I would not use a sackbutt to play in a big band or a symphonyorchestra for the same reason. (Yes I know some orchestras play the Requiem on modern instruments, bu not me.)
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by brtnats » Mon Jul 08, 2019 9:05 am

Back to the original point, and not the early music digression, the modern bass trombone is special. I can think of no other instrument called to perform so many roles and functions as a bass trombone, and for that reason alone it deserves special attention as more than an enlarged tenor trombone. The modern bass trombone is commonly called to play parts written and conceived for:

-Bb tenor trombone
-Bb bass trombone
-F bass trombone
-G bass trombone
-F contrabass trombone
-Bb contrabass trombone

That’s at least 6 different orchestrations that are covered by 1 instrument! Taken in that context, the bass trombone isn’t just a big tenor. It’s a compromise instrument designed to fulfill many individualized roles in orchestras and bands.

I think the real trouble with nomenclature comes from the Bb/F TENOR trombone, but even then the relative reasons for the valves differentiate the instruments. The Bb/F tenorbass trombone almost always functions as a tenor trombone with a quick-change crook to facilitate alternate positions. I know you can point to low Eb-D-Db-C passages in tenor solo literature, and in a bit of tenor orchestral literature, to say that the F valve on a tenor trombone is also used to facilitate a fully chromatic instrument, but I’d argue those passages are exceptions and not norms. For every low Db I’ve seen in a tenor trombone part, I’ve probably played 50 Cs in T1.

On the bass, the basic function is often flipped. In band and orchestra parts on a bass trombone, I find myself using the F and D attachments as low range extensions as often as I’m using them for alternate positions. Different instrument, different function, and so different name.

So in my own limited universe, a tenor trombone is an instrument that can cover the alto-tenor-baritone ranges, and the bass is an instrument that can cover the tenor-baritone-bass-contrabass ranges. Different functions, different names.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by imsevimse » Tue Jul 09, 2019 6:07 am

brtnats wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 9:05 am
So in my own limited universe, a tenor trombone is an instrument that can cover the alto-tenor-baritone ranges, and the bass is an instrument that can cover the tenor-baritone-bass-contrabass ranges. Different functions, different names.
Yes a bass trombone can cover a big register and could play all those parts. Should we all play bass? :mrgreen: What about the sound? To me the alto, tenor, bass and contra are different sounds and then the instrument to use matters a lot. A smooth ballad in the tenor/alto register needs a tenor and if you want it played like Bill Watrous or Urbe Green you should probobly choose a small bore. If you play some high orchestra works by Mendelssohn you could do it on the tenor, but prefered easier on the alto. An old standard big band bass trombone part can often be covered on a large tenor with f-valve but a more modern big band chart calls for the bass trombone. The contra has a huge sound that you might want in some contexts even though the bass can cover the part and probably would do it easier. The register of a bass can cover all those functions but the sound of the alto, tenor and contra is hard to emulate on a bass trombone. I think that is good it motivates every size of trombone.

The sound of a g-bass can not be emulated on anything but a g-bass. It could be played on a bass trombone but not with a g-bass sound.

/Tom
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by brtnats » Tue Jul 09, 2019 6:12 am

imsevimse wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 6:07 am
Yes a bass trombone can cover a big register and could play all those parts. What about the sound? To me the alto, tenor, bass and contra are different sounds and then the instrument to use matters a lot. A smooth ballad in the tenor/alto register needs a tenor and if you want it played like Bill Watrous or Urbee Green you should probobly choose a small bore. If you play some high orchestra works by Mendelssohn you could do it on the tenor, but prefered easier on the alto. An old standard big band bass trombone part can often be covered on a large tenor with f-valve but a more modern Big Band chart calls for the bass trombone. The contra has a huge sound that you might want in some contexts even though the bass can cover the part and probably would do it easier. The register of a bass can cover all those functions but the sound of the alto, tenor and contra is hard to emulate on a bass trombone. I think that is good it motivates every size of trombone.

/Tom
Tom, no, what I’m saying is that the essential functions, sound, and mechanics of a bass trombone are different enough from a tenor trombone to warrant the name “bass trombone” and not “big tenor trombone.” Basses aren’t big tenors, and the roles they’re called to fill often reveal that.
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by imsevimse » Tue Jul 09, 2019 6:17 am

brtnats wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 6:12 am

Tom, no, what I’m saying is that the essential functions, sound, and mechanics of a bass trombone are different enough from a tenor trombone to warrant the name “bass trombone” and not “big tenor trombone.” Basses aren’t big tenors, and the roles they’re called to fill often reveal that.
Very true! 😀
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by Tremozl » Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:33 pm

The modern Bb Bass fills the same role the old F Basses did and is perfect for 3rd trombone as well, while the modern F Contra fills the role the old BBb Contras did.
Occasionally the BBb horn is still used, especially in film scores, but refering to it by its tuning is fine with me. I recently got one and I love the damn thing for belting out the most vulgar low notes one can imagine, but it isnt as efficient at playing classical music as the modern F's are - it remains best suited for minimalistic film scores in a supporting / harmonic role. But I digress - usually we can assume Bass today means a Bb double attachment horn and a Contra an F double attachment horn. Refer to the BBb Contra with its tuning in the score name to distinguish it.

As long as your nomenclature is understandable I think its fine.
Last edited by Tremozl on Sun Jul 14, 2019 7:01 am, edited 2 times in total.
Basbasun
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by Basbasun » Sat Jul 13, 2019 3:02 am

Tremozl wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:33 pm

As long as your nomenclature is understandable I think its fine.

YES!
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Finetales
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Re: Trombone family compared to other families of instruments

Post by Finetales » Sun Jul 14, 2019 6:29 pm

LeTromboniste wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 11:35 am
Generally speaking, historically, instrument names have derived more from the role the instruments fill rather than a physical measure of length or nominal pitch.
This thread has been a great read, but I think the case was closed with that quote from the very first comment.

Brass instruments are labeled by their primary function, not their physical length. As Tremozl said, a Bb bass trombone's fundamental role (and money register) is to play the same notes that would previously be played on a long F bass, while a modern tenor trombone's fundamental role is to play the same notes that would previously still be played on a tenor. Those ranges are what these instruments were built for and where they sound the best, so why not describe them by what they were designed to do?

Honestly, I'm probably one of the few bass trombonists out there who would be delighted if tomorrow all bass trombone players were required to turn in their Bb basses in exchange for modern long F bass trombones with a long slide and a handle (and a valve or two). But they're both bass trombones!

Nobody calls the French horn a bass instrument even though it's the same length as an F tuba and players like Sarah Willis exist who make their horns sound like contrabass trombones (let alone natural horns crooked to Bb and A basso...you'd have to be certifiably insane to call those contrabass instruments!...or natural trumpets the same length as a modern bass trumpet for that matter). I think trombone taxonomy, especially in everyday conversation, would get immeasurably more annoying if we started calling the modern bass trombone a "big tenor trombone with two valves". The current system just works, especially as contrabass trombones lower than F are nearly extinct. (And the discussion of that nomenclature just happened on Facebook recently and was similar to this thread but much less enjoyable to read...)
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