Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

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BrianJohnston
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Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by BrianJohnston » Sat Aug 01, 2020 3:16 pm

Hi everyone,

I'd like to have a forum comparing the following trombones based on sound, ease, freeblowing etc.

New York Bach Trombones
Mt. Vernon Bach Trombones
Corporation Bach Trombones
Modern Bach Trombones
Shires Trombones

Feel free to add other instruments to the comparison. I'm interested in finding a vintage Bach in the future based on they few that i've tried.
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by elmsandr » Sat Aug 01, 2020 8:01 pm

Well, I’m a pretty big Bach fan and have many of these, sometimes even in the same model, down in the basement from where I am typing. The answer is... it depends. Just got to try them all. Shooting myself in the foot for future sales.... the older the Horn is doesn’t make it any better. Just older.

That said, if we are going to stick in the realm of Orchestral type horns; say the 42 and 50, some just have that “Teutonic” Bach sound. Guess what... so do some of their current horns, too. Is there a better chance of getting that with an older horn? I don’t know, not sure I would bet on that. I do like the ones I have.

Some random thoughts and comparisons:
-MTV 42 has an interesting velvety sound and feel compared to any of the other 42 bells I have owned (5 or 6?). That said I often grab the ugly as sin early 90’s flare I have when I play that size because it speaks a little easier.
-NY50 valve is way better than any other 50 standard rotary I’ve played. No need to chop this and put a new valve on. All I really need is a second valve here. My early Elkhart 50B2 valves drove me nuts for a couple of years and I ended up putting Thayers on that horn. That earlier rotor is just fine. Speaks great down to the end of the slide, no massive changes in response. Compared to the pair of Corp 50s I have had, it is a dream. It is still clearly a standard rotary, but it doesn’t force me to fight it. BUT
-similar age NY45 had the same rotor design, but the valve was trashed and unplayable. I regret having sold that neck pipe and tubing back to the previous owner, but the horn is great now with a Trubore on it. It was meh when mated to those same Thayers above. Felt pretty good, but came alive with the right combo. Wish I had more money so I could have kept the parts and done some restoration of that valve.

As for Shires, I’ve played a slide or two, I like the Trubore valves that I have.

Cheers,
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by modelerdc » Sat Aug 01, 2020 8:27 pm

There's a a mystic about vintage Bach's. The better ones have a great sound, not quite duplicated by other brands. Bach's vary from horn to horn but all play in a certain way that some like and others can't adjust to.
the oldest Bachs vary a lot because they were made in low numbers with a lot of handwork. Consistency improved and currently the Corporation years are considered good examples that play well but are not as rare or expensive as the earlier Bachs. Consistency seemed to drop in the post Corporation period, from poor manufacturing quality control. These comments are only generalities, as good playing examples as well a some poor ones can be found from all periods of manufacture. I've played a few made in recent years that seemed very good. The best Bachs will have a sound to die for, a wide dynamic range, and easy to play. Some find Bachs stuffy, others responsive, I find that Bachs have a narrower slot than some horns, like the Conn 88H, and if you stay in the slot the horn responds, try to play outside the slot and it will fight you.
Shires trombones are generally free blowing and eazy to play, but the sound, though of excellent quality is more in the improved Conn school rather than the Bach school. Shires are great horns but hard to compare with Bach as each is so different.
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by Burgerbob » Sat Aug 01, 2020 8:50 pm

Speaking only to Corporation instruments, as I've owned a dozen or so-

There's almost nothing you can generalize. They are all over the map. The good ones are good, the bad ones are bad.

'80s horns are actually a bit more consistent- Brassark/Sawday prefer those for the 42 conversions, for example.

I think the point is that it's a bit of a fool's errand to look for the perfect MV 42 (IMO)- I think the best route is to just find the best Bach you can find, regardless of age. Don't count out ANY period of Bach. The best 42 I've ever played is a totally stock 42T from the late '90s, probably one of their "worst" periods. One of the most boring 50s I've played was a New York, and one of the best was a brand new 50AF3.

Sometimes that magic horn will be a NY or MV, but there are many, many more horns made later, which makes the looking easier if you're willing to open up the scope.
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by Finetales » Sat Aug 01, 2020 9:21 pm

Burgerbob wrote:
Sat Aug 01, 2020 8:50 pm
The best 42 I've ever played is a totally stock 42T from the late '90s, probably one of their "worst" periods. One of the most boring 50s I've played was a New York, and one of the best was a brand new 50AF3.
Can confirm. That 42T is PHENOMENAL. As was that 50AF3. (I've also played a really excellent 50A3.)

I'm a Conn guy so I'm gonna leave before I dilute the Bachness of this thread anymore!
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by mbtrombone » Sun Aug 02, 2020 1:04 am

I would have to agree with Burgerbob. The best 42 I have ever owned seems to be a late 80s, or early 90s horn and I got it randomly on ebay back in the early 2000s, still own it and it is beat, but I love it. The worst horn I ever played was a 50A3 that a Bach rep brought to my school for everyone to try. I played it for about 20 minutes and at the end I felt to weird about the question of how I thought it played...

I owned a great 42A that I sold to a friend, I also had a straight 42 from the 90s and it was crap, bought it and sold it and then I saw it pop up a few more times before it disappeared.

Personally I would love to find a great playing 50 inline at some point...
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by RJMason » Sun Aug 02, 2020 8:50 am

I’ve owned a bunch of Bach’s, different sizes and makes. I currently have two 36Bs: one from NY, 1948, silver plated. One from Elkhart, 1987ish, gold brass bell nickel silver slide.

Both play amazing, I tend to prefer the 80s Bach though. I know whatever the gig is I can make that horn do what I need it to do.

Gotta play em all to know for sure, but don’t ignore those “less desirable” time periods. You can get a horn for under $1000 beat up, but can help you attain a lifetime of rewarding playing!
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by Crazy4Tbone86 » Mon Aug 03, 2020 5:59 pm

I have had this conversation about different vintages of Bach trombones with Todd Clontz (Baltimore area) many times. He has rebuilt hundreds of Bach trombones and is one of the people who inspired me to start learning the tech trade.

Todd believes that one of the best vintages for Bach trombones started in the late 1980s and continued for almost 8 or 9 years. His theory is that the Bach factory used high quality sheet brass from a particular supplier at that time. I believe that metal supplier was from Altoona, PA, but could be mistaken.

There were many times in which Todd would play two of the same model Bach horns without telling me what he was playing. He would always want my feedback and comparison of "horn A versus horn B" (blind test). Almost every time, the horn that won the blind test was an early 1990s vintage. At one point or another the early 1990s horns beat some of the most revered vintages of Bach.....New York, Mt. Vernon, 1970s Corporation and even the modern Artisan models.

I'm not going to make a blanket statement that 1990s Bach trombones are the best ever. I do want to say that there where many fantastic horns made in that era......especially to anyone who believes it was bad period for Bach. After all, I own a few Bachs from that era and those horns are fabulous!
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by GabrielRice » Mon Aug 03, 2020 6:50 pm

That's really interesting, particularly considering that in the late 80s and early-mid 90s many players - at least young players who were trying to make HUGE sounds - considered Bach bells too light for serious orchestral use. Lots of people were using their Bach slides on bell sections built with Thayer valves and much heavier bells, built at Osmun Brass or Edwards or other places. Edwards didn't even make handslides when I first started seeing them.

The first generations of Edwards and Shires instruments in the 90s and into the early 2000s very often had bells that were much thicker than a typical Bach bell as well. It wasn't really until Greenhoe started building with Bach parts that people started to value Bach bells again (not that that was necessarily the cause, though it may have been), and both Edwards and Shires started seeing a lot more players wanting something lighter, more colorful, more responsive. I was doing sales for Shires during that transition, between 2004 and 2009.

Of course, some very prominent orchestra players never moved away from their lighter, more responsive Bach and Conn trombones, such as the Chicago Symphony and LA Philharmonic.
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by Crazy4Tbone86 » Mon Aug 03, 2020 9:03 pm

Indeed Gabe. I was one of those young players looking for a big, dark sound in the early 1990s. I did months of research and tried hundreds of horns, I ended up buying a Bach 42GHM with a straight .562 bore slide (made in 1993). I had an Orla Ed Thayer valve installed on it by Todd Clontz......and thus my friendship with Todd began. Todd still considers that particular trombone one of the best horns that ever went through his shop. When I picked it up after the Thayer installation, Todd made me wait about 30-40 minutes because he wanted to play it some more before it left his shop!

For about 10-11 years, that horn was my main axe. Even with a dual bore .547-.562 slide or a straight .547 bore slide, the bell had a magnificent, vibrant sound. The only problem is that the bell required a lot of air and energy......more air and energy than I could manage at very long rehearsals as I grew older.

With age, I needed to find more efficient equipment.... so I switched to a Bach 42G bell that is lighter and more efficient (serial number places this horn at about 1991). The 42G is also a terrific, colorful horn, but it's sound is a bit more compact and it allows me to make it through the marathon rehearsals with greater ease.

I still own the Bach 42GHM. I am so attached to it that I doubt I will ever sell it. Still.....if I could find a horn that plays/sounds just like it with 25-30% less effort, I would buy that horn on the spot. What a fantastic sound!
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by bimmerman » Tue Aug 04, 2020 1:56 pm

Between my dad and I we have a Bach horn (and, mpcs) from pretty much any specific period-- NY, MtV, Corp, 80s, 90s, maybe 00s. Since none of the horns are the same model/materials, it's hard to really draw conclusions other than a good Bach is a Good Bach, and a crap Bach is a Crap Bach, irrespective of era. Try em all!
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by tombone21 » Tue Aug 04, 2020 7:33 pm

I've always been fascinated by early Bach handslides. A lot of the New York and Mt. Vernon examples have slides with gold brass tubes and a yellow brass crook, but all of the slides after the move to Elkhart are made with only yellow brass. What gave?
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by teachyteach » Tue Aug 04, 2020 10:44 pm

Crazy4Tbone86 wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 5:59 pm
I have had this conversation about different vintages of Bach trombones with Todd Clontz (Baltimore area) many times. He has rebuilt hundreds of Bach trombones and is one of the people who inspired me to start learning the tech trade.

Todd believes that one of the best vintages for Bach trombones started in the late 1980s and continued for almost 8 or 9 years. His theory is that the Bach factory used high quality sheet brass from a particular supplier at that time. I believe that metal supplier was from Altoona, PA, but could be mistaken.

There were many times in which Todd would play two of the same model Bach horns without telling me what he was playing. He would always want my feedback and comparison of "horn A versus horn B" (blind test). Almost every time, the horn that won the blind test was an early 1990s vintage. At one point or another the early 1990s horns beat some of the most revered vintages of Bach.....New York, Mt. Vernon, 1970s Corporation and even the modern Artisan models.

I'm not going to make a blanket statement that 1990s Bach trombones are the best ever. I do want to say that there where many fantastic horns made in that era......especially to anyone who believes it was bad period for Bach. After all, I own a few Bachs from that era and those horns are fabulous!
Resident trumpet player/lurker here, I found this comment very interesting. I play on a 1991 Bach 37 that is an absolute dream of a horn. It belonged to a major symphony player and former collegiate professor who had picked it out at the Bach factory new and used it for the next 20 odd years until he switched to Yamaha and sold the horn to one of my colleges and I purchased it when they stopped playing. It is a monster horn that has outplayed all of the horns that I have owned or tried. I ran a trumpet E-store through college to pay the rent and I have owned a lot of horns, so I am not talking from empty experience. I have also tried out tons and my ol' 37 has outplayed Bach Artisans, Shires, Yamaha Chicagos as well as some of the vintage trumpet legends like the Conn 2B, 12B and 22B, Olds Supers and the like.
I could have a lucky horn but my experiences with early 90s Bach trumpets have been phenomenal.
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by hornbuilder » Wed Aug 05, 2020 10:08 am

I owned a 1963 Mt Vernon 50B that was an absolute dog. It's nickname was "socks", because it played and sounded like it had a pair of socks stuffed down the bell. There was another Mt Vernon 50B in Sydney, infact the next sequential serial number. It was a fantastic horn. Lively, quick response, fabulous rich sound. The 2 horns couldn't have been any more different.
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by bimmerman » Wed Aug 05, 2020 10:41 am

tombone21 wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 7:33 pm
I've always been fascinated by early Bach handslides. A lot of the New York and Mt. Vernon examples have slides with gold brass tubes and a yellow brass crook, but all of the slides after the move to Elkhart are made with only yellow brass. What gave?
I'm not sure why they stopped-- my MtV 9 has super red tubes and a yellow crook (no sleeves), my NY16 and dad's NY36 both have gold tubes and yellow crook (with sleeves).

Edwards on the Artist tenor/bass models has been doing the same for a while now. Not sure if Shires/M&W are. I think some Conns had a similar construction?

The slides sure are pretty! I haven't played a regular brass variant of those slides to compare though.
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by hornbuilder » Wed Aug 05, 2020 11:53 am

Bimmerman,

I've been playing on a bass slide for some time now that consists of gold brass tubes, with sleeves, and a yellow brass crook. The crook on this slide was made using original Reynolds tooling. The really interesting thing about this tooling/crook is it is virtually identical in shape/ dimensions to several NY Bach crooks that have come through the shop. I can also use our regular wide crook, which is actually preferable for me, due to having a little arthritis in my left hand which makes the wider slide more comfortable to hold.

The gold tubes/yellow crook slide adds a density and warmth to the sound, compared to an all yellow slide. It does also require a little more energy on the players part to achieve the same immediacy of sound as you get with an all yellow slide.

Gold tube/yellow crook works very well with a 1 piece yellow bell, but can be a little "heavy" on a gold brass or red brass bell of the same construction. Yellow tube/nickel crook is preferable for those bells.

🙂
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by tombone21 » Wed Aug 05, 2020 12:56 pm

hornbuilder wrote:
Wed Aug 05, 2020 11:53 am

Gold tube/yellow crook works very well with a 1 piece yellow bell, but can be a little "heavy" on a gold brass or red brass bell of the same construction. Yellow tube/nickel crook is preferable for those bells.
Off topic, but what slide would you pair with a 2-piece yellow bell?
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by Burgerbob » Wed Aug 05, 2020 1:03 pm

hornbuilder wrote:
Wed Aug 05, 2020 11:53 am


Gold tube/yellow crook works very well with a 1 piece yellow bell, but can be a little "heavy" on a gold brass or red brass bell of the same construction. Yellow tube/nickel crook is preferable for those bells.

🙂
Matt, it's strange and wonderful to have you say this... I have an Edwards V slide with gold tubes, yellow crook that matches my yellow Corp bells perfectly, but sounds and feels legitimately awful on my gold bell instrument... The one I use a yellow tube, nickel crook slide on to great effect. :amazed:
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by hornbuilder » Wed Aug 05, 2020 3:26 pm

To answer Tombone21. It all ultimately depends on the player, and the bell, but I would suggest a gold tube/nickel crook slide on a 2 piece yellow bell. But a yellow/nickel would also be a good choice.
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by Crazy4Tbone86 » Wed Aug 05, 2020 7:46 pm

I would like to hear Matt's thoughts on something. I am sorry if this is a detour away from the original topic.

The two times that I have visited Markneukirchen in Germany, I spent time visiting the different brass makers. I wanted to gather information on their instrument-making techniques and such.

One common theme that struck me was that many of these talented craftsmen had the philosophy that the trombone handslide outer tubing should always match the tubing in the F-attachment section (or appropriate thumb-activated section for the type of trombone....alto, contra in F, etc...). If the outer slide was gold brass, the tubing in the F-attachment was usually gold brass, nickel was many times matched with nickel, etc.... The rationale was that a note in 6th position (on a gold brass slide) would better match the timbre of a note played on a trigger section constructed of the same material.

I always thought it was an interesting idea and it appeared to work very well in many of the German trombones that I played. However, the modern American trombone is very different. I have always wondered if this theory has been put to the test on our trombones. Matt....I know Greenhoe offered valve sections with assorted alloys. Have you experimented with this theory at all? Thanks in advance!
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by hornbuilder » Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:46 am

Brian,
That is not a trend that I have noticed on German instruments. Much more common in my experience is to have the valve section material match the bell. For example, the Glassl contra that I played with the Australian Opera had gold brass bell, bell branch, and valve section tubing, yet the handslide was all nickel.

I know of quite a few other instruments that are of similar configuration. If the bell is yellow, then the valve tubing would also be yellow, generally speaking.
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by Crazy4Tbone86 » Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:20 am

Hmmm!?! Matt....after looking at some of the websites, you appear to be correct. I wonder if some of the German makers were going through an exploratory time in the 1990s.

I remember chatting with Jurgens Voigt (actually, I spoke more with his daughter because she was fluent in English) about trombone design in 1995. They had about a half dozen German bass trombones in production with gold brass slides and gold brass F-attachment tubing. It was explained to me that matching those tubings yielded a better horn. I also remember them saying that on those horns all tubing beyond the valve had to be yellow brass because too much gold brass made the horn dull and slow to respond (that notion is in complete agreement with what was previously discussed on this thread). That slide-match-the-F-attachment must have been a short-lived theory because most of the current horns on Voigt’s website are just as Matt described.

I also remember visiting Joachim Pfretzschner in 1999 and played one of his altos with a B-flat valve. That was probably the finest alto trombone I have ever played! He was asking about $4500 for it, which was beyond my budget, so I bought just a bell for $100! That’s another story. Anyway, this particular alto had all nickel tubing on the slide and in the attachment. Pfretzschner kept pointing back and forth from the slide to the B-flat valve and said “gleich, gleich ist besser!” It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime horn.

Looking online at other Pfretzschner altos, it appears that he never stuck with that design. All of the Pfretzschner I found had nickel slides paired with yellow brass attachments and bells. Matt, your statement appears to be well-grounded.

In a way, it’s pretty cool that I possibly visited some of the instrument makers during an experimental time. It’s just like being able to tell your grandchildren “kids, I remember when Holton unveiled the Monster Valve!” Then, my grandchildren walk away and say “what the hell was grandpa mumbling about?”
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by hornbuilder » Thu Aug 06, 2020 3:25 pm

I have 2 vintage German instruments in my possession at present. A Scherzer and a Schopper. Both of which are all gold brass with nickel trim. Glorious instruments.
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by Crazy4Tbone86 » Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:40 pm

Johannes Scherzer was one of the makers I visited in 1995. I believe he passed away a couple of years ago, RIP Herr Scherzer.

He did not have any trombones completed in his shop at that time....I believe he made very few trombones in the 1990s because he shifted his attention to his trumpets which were selling well. I imagine that your Scherzer trombone is a rather rare and special item.

I sampled some of Scherzer's trumpets.....including one of his now-well-known rotary piccolo trumpets. Scherzer was very surprised when I told him that people in the USA loved his piccolo trumpets. It was only a few years after the collapse of the iron curtain and he didn't realize that his trumpets were gaining popularity in the states. You should have seen the look of pride on his face!
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by hornbuilder » Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:59 pm

Scherzer piccolo are also very popular in Australia. One of the first that came into the country was imported by one of the players with the Sydney Symphony. The customs officers had no idea what a "piccolo trumpet" was, so the player proceeded to take it out of the case and play it. Blown away by his ability to play it, the customs people said "Wow! That's cool! You can take your trumpet home now", without having to pay any import duties!!
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by droffilcal » Fri Aug 07, 2020 12:36 pm

One time, during a lesson, Byron Peebles (former Principal Trombone with LA and Chicago) told me told me this: "you could line up 10 Bach 42s of any era and you will find a couple of dogs -- the majority of the rest will be just fine, and then (cue blissful smile) one or two gems.
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by Bach5G » Fri Aug 07, 2020 2:38 pm

A few years ago, I had Benn Hansen do some work on a Corp 42B that blew kind of funny. He found a sizeable blob of solder in the main tuning slide.
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by Posaunus » Fri Aug 07, 2020 5:12 pm

droffilcal wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 12:36 pm
One time, during a lesson, Byron Peebles (former Principal Trombone with LA and Chicago) told me told me this: "you could line up 10 Bach 42s of any era and you will find a couple of dogs -- the majority of the rest will be just fine, and then (cue blissful smile) one or two gems.
I never found a Bach 42 gem. In 1972, I tried 4 Bach 42Bs - none had very good slides, all had meh valves and somewhat stuffy F-attachment sound. Instead, I purchased the lone Conn 88H in stock - perhaps the end of the Elkhart run. I still have – and love – the 88H. And because of that experience, I've avoided Bach. (Not that I need another trombone!) :idk:

Didn't Peebles play an 88H in LA?
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by Dennis » Fri Aug 07, 2020 5:28 pm

Bach5G wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 2:38 pm
A few years ago, I had Benn Hansen do some work on a Corp 42B that blew kind of funny. He found a sizeable blob of solder in the main tuning slide.
About 10 years ago I had to have my '72 36B worked on. Jim Patterson discovered that the neckpipe had never been soldered in. When it was new, it played great: my teacher and I picked it out from half-a-dozen examples. Over the years, it became less fun to play. Once it had been worked on, I knew why: it was leaking at those two ferrules.
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Re: Classic Bach Trombone Comparisons

Post by Crazy4Tbone86 » Fri Aug 07, 2020 6:41 pm

Years ago, I bought a Bach 42G straight horn from another trombonist because he thought the horn was a dog. He must have really wanted to get rid of it because it was in mint condition and he sold it to me for only $500. I was hoping the problem with the horn was something simple like a stress in a brace. So I took the horn home with optimism.

When the horn and I arrived home, I gave it an inspection to see if I should start with a chemical cleaning. I pulled out the main tuning slide and looked inside. There was a thin beam of light shining through the solder connection by the small end of the tuning crook. I filled in the spot with solder, cleaned it up a little bit and Shazam! The horn was outstanding!

I felt bad that I robbed a great horn from the guy. I told him about the leaky solder joint and that the horn is actually great. I offered to sell it back to him for the same price but he didn't want it. He said the horn "carried too much psychological baggage" for him. One person's baggage is another person's delight!
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