Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

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thecoast
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Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by thecoast »

Hi, folks.

I'm still quite new to the trombone (months) compared to the trumpet (decades). I had posted before about purchasing an Olds flugabone and more recently having been gifted a student Yamaha bone. Then I decided to buy a trombone with an F attachment. As a result of getting the latter, I had to pay more attention to the basic slide positions and the alternatives, including, of course, those with the trigger.

So about the grip: Does it matter whether one grips the slide from the top brace or or bottom brace?

Just in case I'm not using the right vocabulary in the question, here are two pics:





(Note: If my grip looks a little awkward in general, it's because I'm holding the camera with the other hand).

The method books say to hold the trombone slide at the bottom of the brace. Why? What is the difference between gripping at the bottom of the slide brace vs. gripping at the top? The top grip feels more comfortable to me. But there must be some rationale for the bottom brace grip so this is why I ask. If there is no actual technical reason, my geometry says that my arm is able to extend just a little bit more from the top than from the bottom and thus makes more sense.

I scoured the interweb for any images of trombonists with the grip at the top and I saw a kid's image (which could have been a model rather than a real musician).

Thanks for your time and kind attention.
---Lu Acosta
eatanick
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by eatanick »

Kids find it tricky to hold the trombone up with just their left hand, so they often lift with their slide hand, too. Of course, that's not a good thing, and their fingers on the slide brace slip upwards until they are lifting the slide by the top of their hand pushing up against the upper slide tube. It might give a little more reach, but I think there are more important things to consider.

Student trombones aren't always in the best shape, so younger players may need to keep a firm grip of the slide brace just to get the slide to move. Experienced trombonists tend to have good slides and won't NEED to grip the slide brace firmly. Some still do so anyway, but most use a looser, one or two fingertip and thumb grip ON (and NOT around) the lower end of the brace, and their remaining fingers go underneath the lower slide tube.

Personally, I hold my slide more by the lower slide tube than the brace; the lower tube is sandwiched by my middle and ring fingers, and they never lose contact with the tube. The tip of my thumb helps me push the slide outwards by the brace (or help "catch" it when I move the slide quickly inwards), but it doesn't even need to touch the brace most of the time. My index and middle fingers do the reverse job of pulling the slide inwards by the brace (and "catching" it when moving towards 7th).

To me, it makes ergonomic sense for the palm of the right hand to face horizontally across my body while in first position and more upwards in 7th position. The intermediate positions are kind-of a linear progression of that, but in reality it will vary depending on the context of what's being played. Aside from allowing for smoother arm movements, the upwards-facing palm gives more "reach", and the more downwards-facing palm gives a little less. This means that the shoulder and elbow don't require so big a range of motion to access all positions, so they don't get as tired. It also allows you to "pre-load" your slide movements; when you're about to change slide positions, you can move your arm early while rotating your wrist/palm so the slide remains still. Then at the correct moment, you can move both your wrist AND arm to move the slide to its next position extra quickly AND extra smoothly. All of this wrist/palm rotation can happen while still maintaining a secure grip on the lower slide tube (sandwiched between the middle and ring fingers). I'm not sure it's as easy if you're only holding the slide by the brace.

To go back to your original point, when the wrist rotates so the palm faces upwards, the thumb must also move upwards and outwards to the right. If you hold the brace near the upper tube as you suggest, you cannot turn your palm upwards because the thumb will hit the upper tube. If you hold the slide as I've described above, the thumb can come away from the brace and move upwards/outwards naturally.

Having said all that, there are plenty of valid ways to hold a trombone slide. This is just what works for me, my body and my trombone (I have a heavy slide with TIS on my bass, so maintaining smoothness, minimising muscular effort and keeping a secure hold are all extra important).
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by HermanGerman »

thecoast wrote: Tue Jun 21, 2022 1:12 am
The method books say to hold the trombone slide at the bottom of the brace. Why? What is the difference between gripping at the bottom of the slide brace vs. gripping at the top?
Gravitation I guess...
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BGuttman
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by BGuttman »

You are probably not getting as much reach with your "lower" grip because of the bunched fingers. Most of us hold the slide brace (the vertical part) between the thumb and index finger or thumb and first two fingers. Most teachers recommend the two fingers opposite thumb with the rest of the fingers below the slide tube. The wrist should be oriented vertically (parallel to the slide brace). Slide movement is a combination of arm and wrist movement, but the wrist should be the "fine tune" while the arm is the "channel selector".

We adjust positions to compensate for intonation of the different partials; positions can vary slightly from partial to partial and adjustments can also be necessary for your place within the chord. The adjustments can be similar to what you did with the 1st and 3rd valve slides on the trumpet (at least I hope you used to do that ;) ).

One thing we all try to discourage is the "death grip" where you wrap the fingers of the hand around the slide brace and hold for dear life. Sometimes necessary if the slide won't move without hydraulic assistance but really bad for quick movement (something we are always seeking).
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CharlieB
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by CharlieB »

Many pro's use this grip because it best frees up the flexibility of the wrist and fingers, which enables better slide thechnique than using the elbow alone.

https://www.smartmusic.com/blog/the-dal ... technique/
hyperbolica
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by hyperbolica »

You don't want your grip on the slide to be rigid. It needs to be fluid. I hold the lower slide tube between my middle and ring fingers with my thumb behind the brace for positions 1-3. Beyond 3rd position, my hand opens up so that the ring and middle fingers hold it lightly. In 1st pos my palm faces me and in 7th my palm faces left, and the thumb doesn't touch anything. This extends my reach 3-4 inches. I have short arms, but I can play 6th and 7th positions.

It sounds complicated, but I think it is the most natural way to play. Imagine pretending to use the slide without a really detailed grip, and then actually use the slide that way. If you engage the thumb in the outer positions it limits your ability to use your wrist.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by VJOFan »

There are players like Alain Trudel (maybe Sam Burtis if memory serves) who play with their palm more facing the ground. Turning the wrist so you can see your palm engages muscles in your upper arm. There is a bit of tension caused by that twist. The palm turned more downward (about a 30 to 45 degree angle to the bottom tube)keeps muscles below the shoulder in a neutral and very relaxed position. The fingers are still the one or two above the tube with the thumb behind the brace.

Players get good at doing things however they practice them, but ergonomically the closer to palm down is more efficient.

I haven't figured out images on here very well so just click the link to see a pretty good pic of what I am describing.

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/0dzv62QDiDc/maxresdefault.jpg
Last edited by VJOFan on Tue Jun 21, 2022 12:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by Kbiggs »

James Markey had a presentation (ITF or some other festival; I’m sorry I can’t find the video at the moment) where he demonstrated that the position of the hand and wrist naturally turn up slightly as your arm extends. That is, when you grip the slide with two fingers and thumb while you are in 1st position at the “bottom” of the slide brace (next to the 2nd yard or “up” slide), and have your palm facing down, the hand and wrist naturally rotate up as you extend the slide. By the time you reach 6th position, your palm naturally faces towards the left, and your index finger points forward.

He said that holding the slide rigidly with the palm facing downward as you extend to the end of the slide causes torque to the elbow and wrist, which can lead to over-use and possibly injuries. (This happened to me.) It can also cause torque to the slide. Holding the slide and moving as described above is a more natural movement.

Alternatively, holding the slide with your palm facing you while you are in 1st position avoids this torque, and naturally allows your hand and wrist to turn as you extend the slide.

When I have lead trombone classes in middle and high school, I tell students to try either way. Then make a decision to do it one way, so long as they do it consistently. When I see someone holding it in some other funky grip, I always remind them of the two different ways, and that they need to choose.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by timothy42b »

You want your arm as relaxed as possible, tension slows motion. (and moves up into the neck and face)

Wrist extension is generally more tense than flexion. I think the easy way to get a relaxed wrist is to lay the hand on the bottom of the brace palm down and slightly flexed. Look at a piano player's hand, the fingers are lower than the wrist.

You also need straight line motion or you're jerking the horn on your mouth (or moving off the mike.) I think the natural motion is to supinate as the elbow flexes and pronate as the elbow extends.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by ithinknot »

There's also this that Doug mentioned fairly recently (starting with thumb above brace / index and middle below brace and above lower tube / ring, pinkie and polydactyl extras below lower tube):
Doug Elliott wrote: Wed Apr 20, 2022 9:38 pm One little technique I use is hard to describe but I'll try:
When you get out to 6th position, press down with your thumb on the tube end above the brace, and lift with your ring finger beyond the brace, while supporting the cross brace with your first finger. In that position, supporting with 3 fingers you can take the slide off the end and still support it at the same angle. That way it doesn't bind from gravity.
I hope that's clear...
I've always done this, and assumed more-or-less everyone else did too, because the physics are clear and there's a significant improvement in 6th/7th position smoothness ... but the replies at the time suggested that no, everyone didn't :pant:
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thecoast
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by thecoast »

HermanGerman wrote: Tue Jun 21, 2022 3:28 am
thecoast wrote: Tue Jun 21, 2022 1:12 am
The method books say to hold the trombone slide at the bottom of the brace. Why? What is the difference between gripping at the bottom of the slide brace vs. gripping at the top?

Gravitation I guess...
:good: :D
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thecoast
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by thecoast »

Forgive me if I missed the answer among all the other extraneous (but otherwise useful) information: does it matter whether one holds the slide at the top or at the bottom of the brace? The hand faces the same direction in position 1 regardless of placement at the top or the bottom of the brace. Has anybody gripped the slide the other way to figure out how it matters (assuming it does)?
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by hyperbolica »

thecoast wrote: Tue Jun 21, 2022 11:55 am Forgive me if I missed the answer among all the other extraneous (but otherwise useful) information: does it matter whether one holds the slide at the top or at the bottom of the brace? The hand faces the same direction in position 1 regardless of placement at the top or the bottom of the brace. Has anybody gripped the slide the other way to figure out how it matters (assuming it does)?
I've never seen anyone hold it at the top. There are other wacky variations, but not at the top. You might be able to make it work, but you'll get some funny looks for sure. If you get a trombone teacher, they will not encourage you to hold the slide at the top of the brace.
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thecoast
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by thecoast »

Yeah, I get that. But why? There’s got to be a reason, and it can’t be subjective, nor can it be tradition.
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ithinknot
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by ithinknot »

Moving closer to the instrument's, and one's own, center of gravity gives smoother motion and changes of direction. Plus, any disturbances are variously cushioned by the space between inner and outer tubes and the slight flex of the inners, whereas moving the upper tube or the top of the brace feels significantly more 'directly coupled' to your teeth.

Try repeatedly and rapidly pumping the slide from 1st-7th in the two positions with the mouthpiece set in place. The traditional option beats your face up a lot less. (If it doesn't, you're doing something wrong.)

(For that matter, just try vigorously waving your right hand in and out, first centered in line with your face, then moving out to the right incrementally. Every step further from the center is giving your lower back considerably more to think about, quite apart from the effect on your elbow and shoulder.)
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by Posaunus »

thecoast wrote: Tue Jun 21, 2022 12:02 pm Yeah, I get that. But why? There’s got to be a reason, and it can’t be subjective, nor can it be tradition.
The primary objective is to move the slide as smoothly as possible, with maximum flexibility and minimal "jerkiness."
A secondary objective is to keep the outer slide moving perfectly parallel with the inner slide, so the slides remain concentric and so no torque is transferred to the fixed inner slide, which causes wear and misalignment. The "standard" grip to accomplish this, adopted by trombonists for hundreds of years, invariably involves rather loosely (and thus flexibly) holding the outer slide at the bottom of the cross brace, with the fingers and thumb being allowed to rotate somewhat as the slide is extended to maintain control and that parallel concentricity. This can be successfully done with a few variations in finger and palm positions, but always (in my experience) with the fingers gripping the slide/brace at the bottom of the slide brace, not the top. My guess is that a "top gripper" would play in a more "jerky" manner, and more rapidly wear the slide. In other words, "tradition" is based on real-world advantages. :idk:
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thecoast
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by thecoast »

I guess until someone does it from the top, no one will really be able to know. I guess that since I have a need to do it that way, I'll be the guinea pig. Emphasis, hopefully, on guinea. My need, BTW, is to do it comfortably. It also helps me with weight distribution. I suspect that (as someone else said) if I continue to do it with the traditional grip, I'll get used to it. Well, I started doing it because, somehow, I thought that was the "correct" way and got used to that. I guess I'll have to switch between the two and settle on one.

Also have a question about the angle of the slide-bell V. But that'll be another post.

I really do appreciate the fact that folks took time to respond and offer their experience. I've been playing trumpet since I was about 15 (though I was taught the C scale when I was maybe 13--didn't get my own trumpet till then), and I'm still figuring out how to do that 45 years later. :cool: I guess that will be the same way with the trombone family. :-)
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by Doug Elliott »

I'm not sure why you feel a need to hold it that way, but I think you'll eventually find that it's more awkward, you'll have a tendency to let go and drop the slide (harder to catch it from that position), it's harder to hold your arm up that high, it's harder to push the slide out in a straight line out from your face.

Unless maybe you have a short upper arm and a very long forearm. I can see that changing things.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by BGuttman »

Let's look at it this way. If you hold the slide near the top tube, your hand is at the same level as your mouth. You have used some of your arm flexion to put your hand at that level. If you hold the slide near the bottom tube your hand is lower; about even with your neck. You are using less of your arm flexion to hold the slide. You will find that if you are holding the trombone at a normal angle you have more "arm" to extend holding the tube at the lower end than holding the tube at the upper end. And if you find the opposite, you must be pointing the bell down at a pretty steep angle. I'd bet you never hold a trumpet like that.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by CalgaryTbone »

I teach my students to hold the slide at the bottom of the brace, using the thumb and the first 2 fingers. In this grip, the remaining 2 fingers are below the slide, so that when you go out to 6th or 7th positions and your palm turns a bit more towards the ceiling, those other fingers provide a little bit of support under the slide when the weight of the outer slide is entirely on the inner slide stockings. Also, since most people play slightly downstream, the bottom of the brace is very slightly closer to your body than the top when you extend the slide all of the way out. That's what works best for me.

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thecoast
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by thecoast »

So I compared how the trombone felt at both positions. Bottom line (no pun intended), it boils down to three words: center of gravity. It is simply much more stable because the hand is at the center point of the angle rather than at the side of the angle. I guess that's the precise, direct, simple answer I was expecting. Nothing like learning by experience.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by HermanGerman »

Yes, the system is more stable at the bottom where the slide sections meets the bell section! The weight of the hand rests right there. So you have a perfect team.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by Kbiggs »

thecoast wrote: Tue Jun 21, 2022 11:55 am Forgive me if I missed the answer among all the other extraneous (but otherwise useful) information: does it matter whether one holds the slide at the top or at the bottom of the brace? The hand faces the same direction in position 1 regardless of placement at the top or the bottom of the brace. Has anybody gripped the slide the other way to figure out how it matters (assuming it does)?
Yes, it does.

1. Everybody does it that way for a reason. It’s actually easier, and you’re less likely to disturb the embouchure because because your left hand and right hand are more in line with each other.

2. Holding it towards the bottom of the brace also reduces the possibility of torsion on the slide. If you hold the slide at the top of the brace, you will tend to twist the wrist as you move the slide up and down, which can bend the tubes and lead to poor slide movement. That leads to repairs, and sometimes replacement of parts.

Extraneous information:
Historically, there is some evidence that sacbuts were initially played with the right hand “up” on the brace, i.e., closer to the first yard of the slide. However, they were constructed differently (held together with beeswax and bailing wire [early music humor] ), and the left hand held the instrument quite differently. Sometime in the 16th century, when trombones started to be made with solder, the left-hand and right-hand grips changed. The modern trombone is soldered and brazed (“solid state”), and there is no longer any need to hold the brace towards the top.

You’re not thinking of playing sacbut, are you? Then use the modern grip. ;)
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by brassmedic »

Now that we answered the OP's question, let's get back to the tangent. I've always disliked the palm facing the floor grip that some players use. The reason is, there is much less flexibility in your wrist in that horizontal plane than there is in the vertical plane, and efficient slide technique demands hinging your wrist a lot. Yes, you can rotate your wrist in the horizontal plane, but not as easily. I just feel like you're making things harder on yourself for no benefit. Also, if your palm faces the floor, your fingertips face the floor as well, so you are forced to grip the slide brace with the side of your finger. Our fingertips evolved for just this purpose, so why not use them? I know string players hold the bow with the palm facing the floor, but they are modulating downward pressure on the strings, so really are accomplishing an entirely different thing than we are.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by hyperbolica »

Well, I'm glad you got that little academic exercise out of the way. We also blow in the small end, but again, I'm not sure why. :idk:

Anyway, this is the grip I was talking about. This is comfortable and relaxed, and allows for easier access to the lower positions. It also allows you to flip the slide quickly to the the thumb for fast passages. The ring finger under the slide provides some friction/grip enough to hold the slide very lightly.
1.jpg
2.jpg
A less effective grip is one I see a lot of young players using for some reason. I call it the "teacup" grip for obvious reasons. All that remains here is the pinky flying out. With this grip, you've got a rigid connection to the slide, your wrist is more constrained, and your grip can't rotate as it moves down the slide. With such a small grip area, you're more likely to lose control as well.
3.jpg
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by BGuttman »

The grip is from LaFosse, a famous teacher in France. This is from his method. I use this grip and have seen some rather impressive professionals use it as well. I still tell students to begin with the 2 over / 2 under grip with the wrist parallel to the slide brace. The LaFosse grip minimizes sloppiness from a very loose wrist, which can play havoc with intonation.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by LeTromboniste »

Kbiggs wrote: Wed Jun 22, 2022 1:32 pm
Extraneous information:
Historically, there is some evidence that sacbuts were initially played with the right hand “up” on the brace, i.e., closer to the first yard of the slide. However, they were constructed differently (held together with beeswax and bailing wire [early music humor] ), and the left hand held the instrument quite differently. Sometime in the 16th century, when trombones started to be made with solder, the left-hand and right-hand grips changed. The modern trombone is soldered and brazed (“solid state”), and there is no longer any need to hold the brace towards the top.

You’re not thinking of playing sacbut, are you? Then use the modern grip. ;)
Another wide tangent, but sackbuts/trombones still had friction-fit, unsoldered connections way past the 16th century. The tubes were always brazed, because that's how you make a tube out of a sheet of metal. No bailwire and beeswax necessary. I'm not sure I would say that sackbut were held with the slide hand on the top of the brace. Iconography shows a huge variety of different grips for both hands, sometimes with the slide hand closer to the top, sometimes to the bottom. Sometimes even both, with one finger on the top tube and one finger on the bottom tube, the others holding the brace in between... I would say at least for the left/bell hand, the modern grip is much more a result of the bell stay moving down closer and within reach of the thumb than to instruments being soldered.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by brassmedic »

Kbiggs wrote: Wed Jun 22, 2022 1:32 pm
Extraneous information:
Historically, there is some evidence that sacbuts were initially played with the right hand “up” on the brace, i.e., closer to the first yard of the slide. However, they were constructed differently (held together with beeswax and bailing wire [early music humor] ), and the left hand held the instrument quite differently. Sometime in the 16th century, when trombones started to be made with solder, the left-hand and right-hand grips changed. The modern trombone is soldered and brazed (“solid state”), and there is no longer any need to hold the brace towards the top.

You’re not thinking of playing sacbut, are you? Then use the modern grip. ;)
Most of the paintings I've seen show the slide brace loosely cradled in all 4 fingers, using the whole width of the brace. (And often doing the same with the left hand as well.) But some show the player holding the top slide tube and some show the player holding the bottom tube.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by thecoast »

hyperbolica wrote: Wed Jun 22, 2022 2:49 pm Well, I'm glad you got that little academic exercise out of the way. We also blow in the small end, but again, I'm not sure why. :idk:
:lol: Maybe because the mouthpiece is too big? :lol:
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by brassmedic »

LeTromboniste wrote: Wed Jun 22, 2022 5:39 pm
Another wide tangent, but sackbuts/trombones still had friction-fit, unsoldered connections way past the 16th century. The tubes were always brazed, because that's how you make a tube out of a sheet of metal. No bailwire and beeswax necessary.
Not bailing wire, but string perhaps? The theory I read, and I think it's a good one, is that the loops in the crooks and the holes in the stays were so you could string them together to make sure the unsoldered joints didn't come apart. The earlier theory was that they were used to hang ornaments, but you don't see that so much in the iconography, so it seems rather dubious.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by timothy42b »

brassmedic wrote: Wed Jun 22, 2022 2:20 pm Now that we answered the OP's question, let's get back to the tangent. I've always disliked the palm facing the floor grip that some players use. The reason is, there is much less flexibility in your wrist in that horizontal plane than there is in the vertical plane, and efficient slide technique demands hinging your wrist a lot.
I am not so sure that is correct.

I had always been told that you needed to use a lot of wrist, and back in the day sabutin (Sam Burtis) talked a lot about it. And of course you are right that the wrist bends a long way easily in the bend and extend direction, and poorly in the ulnar deviation direction if the palm is horizontal.

But long ago I went to one of my first ETWs, and attended Jim Pugh's lecture. Dang, that guy had blazing speed! That kind of playing was new to a community band amateur like me. And his wrist was relaxed, but it didn't move. His slide was moved with rapid relaxed forearm motion, in a straight line without bouncing the horn at all. Looked easy when he did it.

So for the next few ETWs I made it a point to sit really close and watch the pros, especially the jazzers, move their slide. Now, we tend to see what we're looking for, but it was my perception that there was very little wrist motion, and lots of relaxed forearm motion, even if the player said he was doing the opposite. (With David Taylor I couldn't tell, he needs about two meters on either side for slide clearance, not just in front.)

You can only bend and extend the wrist about two positions. And it puts a side load on the slide, which requires compensation from some joint, somewhere.

I mentioned Sam Burtis above. Back then he was an exception to the rule. He said he used palm facing and a lot of wrist, and he did. About ten years later I watched him again in person, and to my eyes he didn't, he was much less wristy. I think I might have mentioned it to him and he agreed, but can't be absolutely sure I'm recalling correctly.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by brassmedic »

timothy42b wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 11:52 am
brassmedic wrote: Wed Jun 22, 2022 2:20 pm Now that we answered the OP's question, let's get back to the tangent. I've always disliked the palm facing the floor grip that some players use. The reason is, there is much less flexibility in your wrist in that horizontal plane than there is in the vertical plane, and efficient slide technique demands hinging your wrist a lot.
I am not so sure that is correct.

I had always been told that you needed to use a lot of wrist, and back in the day sabutin (Sam Burtis) talked a lot about it. And of course you are right that the wrist bends a long way easily in the bend and extend direction, and poorly in the ulnar deviation direction if the palm is horizontal.

But long ago I went to one of my first ETWs, and attended Jim Pugh's lecture. Dang, that guy had blazing speed! That kind of playing was new to a community band amateur like me. And his wrist was relaxed, but it didn't move. His slide was moved with rapid relaxed forearm motion, in a straight line without bouncing the horn at all. Looked easy when he did it.

So for the next few ETWs I made it a point to sit really close and watch the pros, especially the jazzers, move their slide. Now, we tend to see what we're looking for, but it was my perception that there was very little wrist motion, and lots of relaxed forearm motion, even if the player said he was doing the opposite. (With David Taylor I couldn't tell, he needs about two meters on either side for slide clearance, not just in front.)

You can only bend and extend the wrist about two positions. And it puts a side load on the slide, which requires compensation from some joint, somewhere.

I mentioned Sam Burtis above. Back then he was an exception to the rule. He said he used palm facing and a lot of wrist, and he did. About ten years later I watched him again in person, and to my eyes he didn't, he was much less wristy. I think I might have mentioned it to him and he agreed, but can't be absolutely sure I'm recalling correctly.
Of course you wouldn't ever try to move the slide more than 2 positions with the wrist alone. It's used in conjunction with the arm. Think of a golf swing. A pro golfer cocks his wrists on the backswing, and releases them right before ball contact. This multiplies the speed of the clubhead generated by the movement of the arms. If you've ever seen an amateur golfer that doesn't bend their wrists, it just looks horrible. And unless you have freakishly long arms, I don't think it's even possible to reach 6th or 7th position without flexing your wrist. But players use the wrist in the upper positions too.

Watch Carl Fontana.


His palm appears to be facing him, more or less. He appears to be using flexion and extension of the wrist to achieve flexibility in his slide technique.

Now watch JJ Johnson.



His palm is facing more towards the floor, but he's doing something very interesting. It looks like he's using supination and pronation (rotation) of his wrist to achieve the same thing.

So both of them used their wrists, but to my eye it doesn't look like either one is using ulnar or radial deviation. I just think the range of motion in that plane is much more limited and it feels stiff and awkward to try to play that way. It certainly can be done, but I don't understand what advantage there is to doing so.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by brassmedic »

Oh, and I forgot to mention that the fingers come into the equation too, and finger only really bend towards the palm. Very little side to side movement is possible. You can see Carl Fontana taking advantage of this quite a bit.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by Kbiggs »

Further into the weeds… re: the sacbut grip and extraneous information…

I agree that iconography can only be so useful. Some artists do not spend the necessary time to study humans at work, so their representations of how to hold a trombone, how to use a sickle or a scythe (speaking of weeds), etc., are often inaccurate.

I was thinking of Keith McGowan’s 1994 article in Early Music where he describes the problem with flat braces (stays). He talks about Speer’s treatise and his description of how to hold the instrument (a vague description), along with various other problems. He then puts forth the idea that the sacbut was held by cradling the inner slide stay and mouthpiece with the left hand, which then allowed the bottom slide tube to hang free (i.e., the opposite of how modern trombones are constructed—no bailing wire, perhaps beeswax, but quite likely string). This allowed the right hand to hold the outer slide towards the top of the outer slide brace, in line with the left hand. He then killed two birds with one stone by making a convincing argument that this “posture” of holding the instrument is one major factor the led musicians at the time to classify the tenor sacbut as an instrument in A, the bass in E or D, and the alto in E.

Again, too far into the weeds.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by Kbiggs »

I think it’s safe to say that modern trombonists hold and move the slide in a variety of ways. There are proponents to support each posture (posture meaning hand “grip”—I hate the word “grip” when it comes to the right hand), and the various different kinds of wrist and elbow motion.

I’m also willing to guess that there’s more variation in right-hand posture amongst non-classical players.

I also believe it’s safe to say that most—not all—modern trombonist hold the slide with two fingers and a thumb, while some use one finger (“teacup”), and others three fingers. I’d also venture to guess that greater than 95% hold the slide towards the bottom of the brace.

Anyone want to start a non-scientific poll?
Last edited by Kbiggs on Sun Jun 26, 2022 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by HermanGerman »

Just do it like they do and it will work quite nice :biggrin:

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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by thecoast »

HermanGerman wrote: Fri Jun 24, 2022 12:21 am Just do it like they do and it will work quite nice :biggrin:
Yep. That did it. Now I sound just like Carl Fontana. :lol:
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by HermanGerman »

:idea:

I choose Rosolino :biggrin:
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by thecoast »

Now, to the [edited] left hand. I got one of those neoprene grip assist thingamabobs because I was feeling fatigued easily. I suppose that might have something to do with expectations. I mean, I can hold a trumpet for a long time before needing to rest, therefore…. But when the books and teachers say to extend the index finger to the mouthpiece receiver, I can’t reach it. I know it’s optional, but there begin the questions about grip. I really have to get a good look at those trombonists playing. Adding big brass to small brass playing is way different than I expected. Full circle to expectations. :roll: :)
Last edited by thecoast on Fri Jun 24, 2022 5:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by BGuttman »

The finger on the mouthpiece is intended to counter the torque of the bell. If you can't reach the mouthpiece, you can achieve the same thing by putting the index finger along the slide brace. If this is the right hand, I assume you are playing left-handed using the left hand to move the slide.

Note that a trombone (and especially a trombone with an F-attachment) weighs a lot more than a trumpet. One issue I saw with another trumpet player trying to play trombone is he keeps both elbows out. I know it's a good way to play the trumpet, but the arm holding the trombone should be a lot closer to your body so the weight is transferred through the wrist to the elbow, which is the lowest point. This minimizes the moment arm that you have to fight to hold the instrument up.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by thecoast »

Good. Left elbow closer to body is such a relief to hear. I mean, I sort of intuitively felt that. I won't look totally retarded. 🤓
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by Posaunus »

Why not hang around / observe some other experienced trombonists? Watch. Listen. Ask questions. Keep an open mind.
Could save you hours / days / months of learning by trial & error!
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by thecoast »

Posaunus wrote: Fri Jun 24, 2022 6:14 pm Why not hang around / observe some other experienced trombonists? Watch. Listen. Ask questions. Keep an open mind.
Could save you hours / days / months of learning by trial & error!
:good:
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by timothy42b »

There is one way the top tube may be superior for some players.

The bottom tube is closer to the bell. If your fingers stick out, you may occasionally bump one on the bell when moving quickly past it. That doesn't happen on the top tube.

(not gonna change though) (just accept an occasionally ripped off thumbnail)
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by thecoast »

timothy42b wrote: Sat Jun 25, 2022 9:02 am
(not gonna change though) (just accept an occasionally ripped off thumbnail)
:weep: :lol:
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by LeTromboniste »

Kbiggs wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 7:23 pm Further into the weeds… re: the sacbut grip and extraneous information…

I agree that iconography can only be so useful. Some artists do not spend the necessary time to study humans at work, so their representations of how to hold a trombone, how to use a sickle or a scythe (speaking of weeds), etc., are often inaccurate.

I was thinking of Keith McGowan’s 1994 article in Early Music where he describes the problem with flat braces (stays). He talks about Speer’s treatise and his description of how to hold the instrument (a vague description), along with various other problems. He then puts forth the idea that the sacbut was held by cradling the inner slide stay and mouthpiece with the left hand, which then allowed the bottom slide tube to hang free (i.e., the opposite of how modern trombones are constructed—no bailing wire, perhaps beeswax, but quite likely string). This allowed the right hand to hold the outer slide towards the top of the outer slide brace, in line with the left hand. He then killed two birds with one stone by making a convincing argument that this “posture” of holding the instrument is one major factor the led musicians at the time to classify the tenor sacbut as an instrument in A, the bass in E or D, and the alto in E.

Again, too far into the weeds.
Regarding the hypothesis that the grip explains the difference in nominal pitch, the much simpler explanation that a generally higher performing pitch is why the tenor trombone was considered to be in A and the bass and alto in D despite being roughly the same length as modern Bb and Eb instruments is supported by all the evidence, and widely accepted as fact. We have historical organs and other wind instruments that match the higher pitch. Besides the fact that Speer describes playing all the notes from E to Bb on one partial (that's 7 modern positions, and not compatible with the hypothesis that 1st position was really actually 2nd because your arm is in the way), it's also nonsensical to thing a performer would just accept that their grip wastes an entire half-step worth of slide (let alone that instrument makers would conceive of the instrument that way). For one thing, a bass sackbut already lacks (modern) 7th position. If that hypothesis were true, it would then only have 5, and there basically wouldn't be any bass trombone part that doesn't have notes missing from the instrument.


It is true however that when using such an underhand grip as he describes, and which can be comfortable (although really not functional if the left forearm rests against the bottom inner like he proposes), the right hand works better near the top tube, as your hands otherwise cross in front of you, and the slides center of gravity is dramatically shifted. That grip style is pretty wild and far off the beaten path and isn't really in use though.

I do have my left hand holding the top tube, mouthpiece and top of the brace, with no contact with the bell stay or bottom tube, and the bottom tube hanging below my grip, except I do it overhand, and then it's still better and more comfortable to hold the slide at the bottom of the brace and at the bottom outer, as the hands don't cross and the center of gravity of the outer slide is roughly the same as with a normal modern trombone grip.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by Kbiggs »

LeTromboniste wrote: Sun Jun 26, 2022 4:27 pm
Regarding the hypothesis that the grip explains the difference in nominal pitch, the much simpler explanation that a generally higher performing pitch is why the tenor trombone was considered to be in A and the bass and alto in D despite being roughly the same length as modern Bb and Eb instruments is supported by all the evidence, and widely accepted as fact. We have historical organs and other wind instruments that match the higher pitch. Besides the fact that Speer describes playing all the notes from E to Bb on one partial (that's 7 modern positions, and not compatible with the hypothesis that 1st position was really actually 2nd because your arm is in the way), it's also nonsensical to thing a performer would just accept that their grip wastes an entire half-step worth of slide (let alone that instrument makers would conceive of the instrument that way). For one thing, a bass sackbut already lacks (modern) 7th position. If that hypothesis were true, it would then only have 5, and there basically wouldn't be any bass trombone part that doesn't have notes missing from the instrument.


It is true however that when using such an underhand grip as he describes, and which can be comfortable (although really not functional if the left forearm rests against the bottom inner like he proposes), the right hand works better near the top tube, as your hands otherwise cross in front of you, and the slides center of gravity is dramatically shifted. That grip style is pretty wild and far off the beaten path and isn't really in use though.

I do have my left hand holding the top tube, mouthpiece and top of the brace, with no contact with the bell stay or bottom tube, and the bottom tube hanging below my grip, except I do it overhand, and then it's still better and more comfortable to hold the slide at the bottom of the brace and at the bottom outer, as the hands don't cross and the center of gravity of the outer slide is roughly the same as with a normal modern trombone grip.
Of course. The generally accepted higher pitch of the time is what determines the trombone in A, not the left-hand hand posture. My apologies for making McGowan’s article appear to be the opposite of what he meant.

It’s been a few years since I read it, and the research and practice has almost certainly changed since 1994, but if I remember the article correctly, McGowan presented left-hand posture almost as a “reverse engineering” problem: if the result is x, then what has to be case? You hold the instrument differently. Everything else made sense after that: the trombone in A was easier, it was easier and less tiring to hold, etc.

My apologies for getting FAR into the weeds again.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by LeTromboniste »

Kbiggs wrote: Sun Jun 26, 2022 5:56 pm
LeTromboniste wrote: Sun Jun 26, 2022 4:27 pm
Regarding the hypothesis that the grip explains the difference in nominal pitch, the much simpler explanation that a generally higher performing pitch is why the tenor trombone was considered to be in A and the bass and alto in D despite being roughly the same length as modern Bb and Eb instruments is supported by all the evidence, and widely accepted as fact. We have historical organs and other wind instruments that match the higher pitch. Besides the fact that Speer describes playing all the notes from E to Bb on one partial (that's 7 modern positions, and not compatible with the hypothesis that 1st position was really actually 2nd because your arm is in the way), it's also nonsensical to thing a performer would just accept that their grip wastes an entire half-step worth of slide (let alone that instrument makers would conceive of the instrument that way). For one thing, a bass sackbut already lacks (modern) 7th position. If that hypothesis were true, it would then only have 5, and there basically wouldn't be any bass trombone part that doesn't have notes missing from the instrument.


It is true however that when using such an underhand grip as he describes, and which can be comfortable (although really not functional if the left forearm rests against the bottom inner like he proposes), the right hand works better near the top tube, as your hands otherwise cross in front of you, and the slides center of gravity is dramatically shifted. That grip style is pretty wild and far off the beaten path and isn't really in use though.

I do have my left hand holding the top tube, mouthpiece and top of the brace, with no contact with the bell stay or bottom tube, and the bottom tube hanging below my grip, except I do it overhand, and then it's still better and more comfortable to hold the slide at the bottom of the brace and at the bottom outer, as the hands don't cross and the center of gravity of the outer slide is roughly the same as with a normal modern trombone grip.
Of course. The generally accepted higher pitch of the time is what determines the trombone in A, not the left-hand hand posture. My apologies for making McGowan’s article appear to be the opposite of what he meant.

It’s been a few years since I read it, and the research and practice has almost certainly changed since 1994, but if I remember the article correctly, McGowan presented left-hand posture almost as a “reverse engineering” problem: if the result is x, then what has to be case? You hold the instrument differently. Everything else made sense after that: the trombone in A was easier, it was easier and less tiring to hold, etc.

My apologies for getting FAR into the weeds again.
I always understood McGowan's hypothesis the way you presented here, that is that first position is A because your arm is in the way rather than ad a result of a higher pitch, and basically that we're meant to be playing almost a full position out on the slide.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by thecoast »

LeTromboniste wrote: Sun Jun 26, 2022 4:27 pm
I do have my left hand holding the top tube, mouthpiece and top of the brace, with no contact with the bell stay or bottom tube, and the bottom tube hanging below my grip, except I do it overhand, and then it's still better and more comfortable to hold the slide at the bottom of the brace and at the bottom outer, as the hands don't cross and the center of gravity of the outer slide is roughly the same as with a normal modern trombone grip.
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Re: Grip: Does it matter whether it's top or bottom?

Post by LeTromboniste »

thecoast wrote: Mon Jun 27, 2022 9:12 am
LeTromboniste wrote: Sun Jun 26, 2022 4:27 pm
I do have my left hand holding the top tube, mouthpiece and top of the brace, with no contact with the bell stay or bottom tube, and the bottom tube hanging below my grip, except I do it overhand, and then it's still better and more comfortable to hold the slide at the bottom of the brace and at the bottom outer, as the hands don't cross and the center of gravity of the outer slide is roughly the same as with a normal modern trombone grip.
Lost me. Pic?
Here are a couple. Index finger above the top tube and in line with or slightly behind the crossbrace, other fingers just below the tube and in front of the brace. Thumb is against the side of the mouthpiece and keeps the balance stable much like the index finger does on the shank of the mouthpiece in a traditional modern grip. The weight rests on the fork between my index and middle fingers (less so on bass since I use a leather strap that puts the weight onto the back of my hand, but it's otherwise the same grip). In playing position the fingers can be quite relaxed, the hand is not stretched, so it's quite comfortable. Obviously not compatible with playing an F-attachment, but I use it on all historical trombones, where a traditional grip is often impractical because the bell stay is either flat, too far back, or both.

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