History of legato playing on the trombone

Post Reply
bcschipper
Posts: 78
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:52 pm
Location: California
Contact:

History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by bcschipper » Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:57 am

What do we know about the history of legato playing on the trombone?

Paul Weschke (1867 – 1940) must have been of the greatest trombone virtuoso at the first half the 20th century. Yet, apparently he did not know how to play legato – at least when we follow the narrative of Per Gade’s article on Weschke published on Jay Friedman’s website https://www.jayfriedman.net/articles/pa ... ul_weschke. There he cites from a diary of Anton Hansen, who met Weschke in 1911
“… The trills were superb, but the legato was not good. His technique in the cantabile passages is quite wrong, because he slurred notes with the jaw instead of slurring with the tongue…”
This is somewhat in contrast to Carl Lenthe’s interview of Horst Rasch, one of Weschke’s last pupils, (published on Carl Lenthe’s website http://www.indiana.edu/~trombone/article3.html).
Rasch: “He placed great value on correct slurring, especially the slurs that, as I say, don't break but rather are in one air column, where otherwise a glissando would occur ? B, C, D, for example. I learned from him to play the note and then suppress the air stream very briefly while moving the slide very quickly. This is not what one usually hears today, where the slurs are all "pushed" ? duu duu duu duu ? which, practically speaking, is simpler and easier.”

Lenthe: “He didn't use the legato tongue?”

Rasch: “No. No legato tongue when slurring, only if there were dots or dashes over the notes. Where real slurs are required, one suppresses the air column for a hundredth of a second while quickly shifting the slide, so that no smear is audible. He would not tolerate smeariness. It had to be perfect, which you can only master through practice. That is how Weschke taught it.”
How to reconcile these two views?

Well, when I started playing in an orchestra in the US, I was surprised to notice that nobody really slurred. They always used the tongue. Back in Germany, I learned to slur by interrupting the airstream with the diaphragm rather than with the tongue. Even though they used the tongue to slur, their slur was often better than mine. In particular, using the diaphragm also shapes the note like a mini crescendo-decrescendo using syllable “Ta-ha”. In contrast, by using the tongue, I find it easier to get slurs of long steady “fog horn” tones without any shape, which seems often preferable. Therefore I call these two different legatos the “German” and the “American” legato, respectively.

The “American” legato is nicely explained in videos by James Markey
https://youtu.be/AkRUgL9kFBE
and Christian Lindberg
https://youtu.be/3qT5xGbFii0
who even argues to tongue “natural slurs” across different partials.

I could not find a video for the “German” legato but here is a video by Gabriele Marchetti that comes close to it
https://youtu.be/FoWp3gAWYB4
who even argues for no interruption of the airflow at all and views legato as a very fast glissando.

To sum up, there seems to be at least three kinds of legatos: The “American” legato, the “German” legato, and the smeary legato (which shows a glissando). All of them seem to have different characteristics.

How would have legato been played during the baroque or classic eras? In what sense, would a modern trained trombonist who buys a modern copy of a baroque trombone be able to play historically correct legato? I believe most trombonists of baroque or classic eras played the trombone just as “side”-instrument. Even during the romantic era, one of the first known trombone virtuoso, Carl Traugott Queisser, was mainly a viola player. To what extend would all those "side"-instrument trombonists be able to play a “clean” legato and if so which kind of legato? Modern slides are incomparable to older much heavier slides in raw brass. Slides on the older instruments were longer but people were shorter. I would expect that whatever they used to crease the slide at the time was worse than what we use today. Altogether it would have been much more difficult to play “proper legato” on historic instruments, in historic times, by historic players.

And were people really afraid of “smeary legatos” at that time? The sound aesthetics must have changed somewhat during the last 500 years. (For instance, it is said that Martin Luther once asked "Why don't you fart nor burp? Wasn't the food to your liking?")

Are there historic letters, descriptions etc. that describe the practice of legato playing of trombones at that time?
User avatar
LeTromboniste
Posts: 288
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:22 am
Location: Basel, Switzerland

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by LeTromboniste » Mon Apr 15, 2019 5:29 am

bcschipper wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:57 am

How would have legato been played during the baroque or classic eras? In what sense, would a modern trained trombonist who buys a modern copy of a baroque trombone be able to play historically correct legato? I believe most trombonists of baroque or classic eras played the trombone just as “side”-instrument. Even during the romantic era, one of the first known trombone virtuoso, Carl Traugott Queisser, was mainly a viola player. To what extend would all those "side"-instrument trombonists be able to play a “clean” legato and if so which kind of legato? Modern slides are incomparable to older much heavier slides in raw brass. Slides on the older instruments were longer but people were shorter. I would expect that whatever they used to crease the slide at the time was worse than what we use today. Altogether it would have been much more difficult to play “proper legato” on historic instruments, in historic times, by historic players.

And were people really afraid of “smeary legatos” at that time? The sound aesthetics must have changed somewhat during the last 500 years. (For instance, it is said that Martin Luther once asked "Why don't you fart nor burp? Wasn't the food to your liking?")

Are there historic letters, descriptions etc. that describe the practice of legato playing of trombones at that time?
There are a couple things here. First, I'm curious to know what your assumption that older slides are heavier and incomparable to modern slides is based on. Many surviving sackbut specimens are made of much thinner brass than modern instrument. You do find slides that are heavier (often because of the more elaborately decorated braces and sleeves in combination with brass of similar thickness as modern slides (i.e. thicker than some other slides of the time)) but also certainly some that are much lighter than modern slides. Raw brass inners are not inherently slower than chrome plated ones when properly cared for, and certainly not to the point of making smooth playing impossible. Case in point, many leading players of historical trombones play on brass inners today, and can play just as smoothly as anybody. The slide on my slide trumpet is one of the smoothest slides I've ever had, and it's raw brass and entirely handmade with techniques available in the 15th century. Even if we didn't have surviving instruments that can debunk the myth that no good slides were made before the 20th century, just looking at the high level of virtuosity required by a lot of the early trombone repertoire, I would be very careful about making blanket statements about early slides and using that as justification for a hypothesis of playing techniques back then.

Then the idea that trombonists of the baroque and classical and romantic eras were not really proficient because they played other instruments is also a debatable assumption. They were multi-instrumentalists, not people who played trombone "on the side". It was a different life back then. If you grew up learning several different instruments and spent your entire life training for that certainly you could reach a good level on more than one instrument...

As for looking for sources about legato playing, that requires assuming that they did use such a thing as legato back then at all, which is not what the sources we have tell us. You won't find slurs written in the music of the time, so the question of where one would use legato if they did use it would be very open. Fortunately we have very detailed instructions on tonguing on wind instruments around 1600. The general principle is that every single note is tongued and slurring/not using the tongue is specifically frowned upon and considered poor technique that will yield a blurry and unrhythmical result - and that is coming from masters of the cornetto and recorder, where certainly good slurring is very easy. But then that doesn't mean every note is tongued the same.

We are instructed to use, for 8th notes or anything faster, various kinds of paired tonguing. "Tere tere tere" (in Italian) is described as a good tonguing, steady and reliable if sometimes a bit heavy. It is basically (but not quite) equivalent to alternating modern detached and legato tongue on every other note. It's the default tonguing used by most modern sackbut specialists today for 8th and 16th notes. The "ideal" tonguing described in treatises is "tere lere lere" or "derlerler" which is essentially doodle tonguing. On sackbut it's only really practical for the fastest runs of 16th note sextuplets or 32nd notes. And modern t-k double tonguing is also described but reserved only for special effects and creating a "terrifying" character.


You don't see long slurs in the music until well into the 18th century, a time where unfortunately trombone playing had become very limited geographically and we don't have surviving tonguing instructions that we know for sure would have been applied to trombone. We can make educated guesses using our knowledge of the earlier techniques and of tonguing for other wind instruments at the time.
Maximilien Brisson
HowardW
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri May 11, 2018 5:22 am

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by HowardW » Mon Apr 15, 2019 6:49 am

bcschipper wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:57 am
Are there historic letters, descriptions etc. that describe the practice of legato playing of trombones at that time?
There are quite a few sources for the time before 1800, but most do not refer to the trombone. They are however indicative for wind playing in general during the respective periods, and thus at least partially applicable to the trombone.

If you can get a hold of it, take a look at Edward H. Tarr and Bruce Dickey, Bläserartikulation in der Alten Musik: Eine kommentierte Quellensammlung / Articulation in Early Wind Music: A Source Book with Commentary Pratica Musicale 8 (Winterthur: Amadeus Verlag, 2007). -- It's not cheap, but maybe you can borrow it through interlibrary loan.

Howard
baileyman
Posts: 300
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:33 pm

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by baileyman » Mon Apr 15, 2019 1:23 pm

bcschipper wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:57 am
...
Rasch: “... play the note and then suppress the air stream very briefly while moving the slide very quickly. ...”
...
Could this indicate use of glottis?
bcschipper
Posts: 78
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:52 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by bcschipper » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:11 pm

Thanks for the response. I reply inline.
LeTromboniste wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 5:29 am

There are a couple things here. First, I'm curious to know what your assumption that older slides are heavier and incomparable to modern slides is based on. Many surviving sackbut specimens are made of much thinner brass than modern instrument. You do find slides that are heavier (often because of the more elaborately decorated braces and sleeves in combination with brass of similar thickness as modern slides (i.e. thicker than some other slides of the time)) but also certainly some that are much lighter than modern slides. Raw brass inners are not inherently slower than chrome plated ones when properly cared for, and certainly not to the point of making smooth playing impossible. Case in point, many leading players of historical trombones play on brass inners today, and can play just as smoothly as anybody. The slide on my slide trumpet is one of the smoothest slides I've ever had, and it's raw brass and entirely handmade with techniques available in the 15th century. Even if we didn't have surviving instruments that can debunk the myth that no good slides were made before the 20th century, just looking at the high level of virtuosity required by a lot of the early trombone repertoire, I would be very careful about making blanket statements about early slides and using that as justification for a hypothesis of playing techniques back then.
My assumption is based on my own experience. I play exclusively on Kruspe Weschkes from the 1920th. I got four of them, all in excellent conditions. They are all original except that two have chromed inner slides and two have raw brass slides. The slides are all excellent but the chromed inner slides are even better.

If I compare original German romantic trombones with German trombones made by let's say Helmut Voigt today, who is probably the best German trombone builder (I mean real German trombones), then the biggest difference is in the chromed lightweight slide. It seems that today's players prefer them over the heavier slides of the past. And from my own experience, lighter slides are faster to move. This being said, the bells have been made extremely thin in the past (especially for the Kruspes).

Generally, I do believe that modern technology should allow for less tolerances in manufacturing. There has been technological progress after all.

I never played an original "sackbut" though (but I will see whether I can find some measurements of slide thickness. I believe Heyde did some measurements for the instruments in the collection of the Musikinstrumentemuseum in Leipzig).
LeTromboniste wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 5:29 am

Then the idea that trombonists of the baroque and classical and romantic eras were not really proficient because they played other instruments is also a debatable assumption. They were multi-instrumentalists, not people who played trombone "on the side". It was a different life back then. If you grew up learning several different instruments and spent your entire life training for that certainly you could reach a good level on more than one instrument...
The idea that trombonists of the baroque and classical and romantic eras were all really proficient should be debatable as well. We simply don't know and should not assume easily one way or another. All I question is whether all trombonists were obsessed with "perfect" legato at that time. Although people like Speer moved around a bit, I doubt that it was easy to standardize instruction as it is done today with printed affordable method books, free youtube videos etc. There must have been much more variety in playing than today at least for people that played professionally.
LeTromboniste wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 5:29 am

As for looking for sources about legato playing, that requires assuming that they did use such a thing as legato back then at all, which is not what the sources we have tell us. You won't find slurs written in the music of the time, so the question of where one would use legato if they did use it would be very open. Fortunately we have very detailed instructions on tonguing on wind instruments around 1600. The general principle is that every single note is tongued and slurring/not using the tongue is specifically frowned upon and considered poor technique that will yield a blurry and unrhythmical result - and that is coming from masters of the cornetto and recorder, where certainly good slurring is very easy. But then that doesn't mean every note is tongued the same.

We are instructed to use, for 8th notes or anything faster, various kinds of paired tonguing. "Tere tere tere" (in Italian) is described as a good tonguing, steady and reliable if sometimes a bit heavy. It is basically (but not quite) equivalent to alternating modern detached and legato tongue on every other note. It's the default tonguing used by most modern sackbut specialists today for 8th and 16th notes. The "ideal" tonguing described in treatises is "tere lere lere" or "derlerler" which is essentially doodle tonguing. On sackbut it's only really practical for the fastest runs of 16th note sextuplets or 32nd notes. And modern t-k double tonguing is also described but reserved only for special effects and creating a "terrifying" character.

You don't see long slurs in the music until well into the 18th century, a time where unfortunately trombone playing had become very limited geographically and we don't have surviving tonguing instructions that we know for sure would have been applied to trombone. We can make educated guesses using our knowledge of the earlier techniques and of tonguing for other wind instruments at the time.
I think in general, baroque music or even classic shows less indicators of articulation. The reason is perhaps simply that people for which it was written knew how to play it. The stuff was written by a composer for an occasion. The wife, kids, and pupils copied the parts. The musicians rehearsed the next day and then it was performed and often lost afterward. It was not necessarily meant to be preserved for the future. Since trombones were often played in churches or locations with quite some reverb, it is also possible that not much legato was used anyway because everything would sound more "mushy".

Do you have a source for the "very detailed instructions on tonguing on wind instruments around 1600"? Or is it the source that Howard Weiner kindly mentioned in his response?
bcschipper
Posts: 78
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:52 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by bcschipper » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:16 pm

HowardW wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 6:49 am
bcschipper wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:57 am
Are there historic letters, descriptions etc. that describe the practice of legato playing of trombones at that time?
There are quite a few sources for the time before 1800, but most do not refer to the trombone. They are however indicative for wind playing in general during the respective periods, and thus at least partially applicable to the trombone.

If you can get a hold of it, take a look at Edward H. Tarr and Bruce Dickey, Bläserartikulation in der Alten Musik: Eine kommentierte Quellensammlung / Articulation in Early Wind Music: A Source Book with Commentary Pratica Musicale 8 (Winterthur: Amadeus Verlag, 2007). -- It's not cheap, but maybe you can borrow it through interlibrary loan.

Howard
Thank you very much for the reference. UC Berkeley got it. So it is actually quite easy to get for me.
bcschipper
Posts: 78
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:52 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by bcschipper » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:22 pm

baileyman wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 1:23 pm
bcschipper wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:57 am
...
Rasch: “... play the note and then suppress the air stream very briefly while moving the slide very quickly. ...”
...
Could this indicate use of glottis?
Interesting suggestion. I tried it today but could not manage it to get a useful legato. May be I need more training.
User avatar
LeTromboniste
Posts: 288
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:22 am
Location: Basel, Switzerland

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by LeTromboniste » Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:22 am

bcschipper wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:11 pm

My assumption is based on my own experience. I play exclusively on Kruspe Weschkes from the 1920th. I got four of them, all in excellent conditions. They are all original except that two have chromed inner slides and two have raw brass slides. The slides are all excellent but the chromed inner slides are even better.

If I compare original German romantic trombones with German trombones made by let's say Helmut Voigt today, who is probably the best German trombone builder (I mean real German trombones), then the biggest difference is in the chromed lightweight slide. It seems that today's players prefer them over the heavier slides of the past. And from my own experience, lighter slides are faster to move. This being said, the bells have been made extremely thin in the past (especially for the Kruspes).

Generally, I do believe that modern technology should allow for less tolerances in manufacturing. There has been technological progress after all.

I never played an original "sackbut" though (but I will see whether I can find some measurements of slide thickness. I believe Heyde did some measurements for the instruments in the collection of the Musikinstrumentemuseum in Leipzig).
EDIT : Just to be clear I'm not saying that raw brass and/or older slides will be on average as smooth as chrome plated slides, just that you can have very good brass slides, and they could 400 years ago as well.

I'm not sure how the inners being lighter makes the slide faster? Surely a lightweight outer is faster, but plenty of people still make and play on brass outers that aren't lightweight.

Anyway. There is quite a bit of difference in construction between a 19th or 20th century German romantic trombone and a sackbut. I just measured and had a blow on the two anonymous trombones in Verona, both are late 16th century. One of them had 0.7mm wall thickness in the slide tubes, which is thick for a sackbut and closer to modern thickness, the other had 0.45mm wall thickness for the slide. That's 30 to 50% less than on typical modem instruments. The first was a bit heavy and the tolerance between inners and outers was extremely small (only 0.1mm all around the inner tubes). Dents have been removed at some point and the alignment is really not great, so that slide is not really usable anymore without some repair work that can't and shouldn't be done on an instrument that old. The second slide is lighter, has slightly looser tolerances and is in better preserved condition. With the inners polished and with lubrication, it would absolutely still be serviceable, 450 years after being made.

Again, there are people today making sackbut slides with techniques that were available back then, and they manage to make very good slides. I would assert that maybe, maybe what makes early 20th century slides less good is not the manufacturing but simply the condition they're in after 100 years of use and not always having had the best of care.
bcschipper wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:11 pm

I think in general, baroque music or even classic shows less indicators of articulation. The reason is perhaps simply that people for which it was written knew how to play it. The stuff was written by a composer for an occasion. The wife, kids, and pupils copied the parts. The musicians rehearsed the next day and then it was performed and often lost afterward. It was not necessarily meant to be preserved for the future. Since trombones were often played in churches or locations with quite some reverb, it is also possible that not much legato was used anyway because everything would sound more "mushy".
Yes of course they wrote less on the page. But we do have surviving instructions both on how to tongue on wind instruments and how to bow on string instruments, and I haven't seen anything in those sources that looks like something a modern musician would recognize as legato. To the contrary we have wind players who tell us that just putting down the fingers on the fingerholes without tonguing (which is pretty much the definition of slurring/legato for modern woodwinds) is deficient technique that you only hear lazy amateur players do.

bcschipper wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:11 pm

Do you have a source for the "very detailed instructions on tonguing on wind instruments around 1600"? Or is it the source that Howard Weiner kindly mentioned in his response?
The source Howard mentioned is a great compilation and in-depth analysis of original sources, by the most renowned specialists of early trumpets (Tarr) and of the cornetto (Dickey) in the 20th and 21st century, and it will have a very full bibliography to point you to primary sources. Another modern source that presents a good (much shorter) summary of what the original sources tell us is Richard ERIG, Italian Diminutions, Winterthur : Amadeus Verlag 1979. It's really not the main focus of that book but he does have a section on it.

I was referring to primary sources - we have a number of them. Maybe the most important one we have for the late 16th and 17th century is Girolamo DALLA CASA, Il vero modo de diminuir, Venice : Gardano 1584. It's on IMSLP. Book 1 is where he gives directives on articulations.

Dalla Casa was a cornetto player and the leader of the original brass group in St Mark's in Venice - his brothers were also part of the group, one of them as a trombone player - at the time where Andrea and then Giovanni Gabrieli were organists there and wrote all their music (and the same ensemble lead by his successors continued well into the 17th century including during the tenure of Monteverdi).
Maximilien Brisson
brassmedic
Posts: 132
Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2018 12:07 pm
Contact:

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by brassmedic » Tue Apr 23, 2019 1:04 am

This is a bit of a tangent, but since you guys were discussing it, I wanted to offer this:

Modern outer slide tubes are quite thin. It's difficult to measure them precisely with only calipers, but I would say between .010 - .012, so about .25 - .3 mm.

There are measurements of 16th century Nuremberg sackbuts in Hannes Vereecke's book. Here are the thicknesses of the outer slide tubes of various instruments:

Erasmus Schnitzer: .47mm to .60mm (apparently quite inconsitent, which I suppose would be expected for hand-hammered brass).

Jorg Neuschel: .37mm to .43mm (lower tube says .48-.49!)

Anton Schnitzer: .30mm

Conrad Linczer: .45mm to .56mm

Anton Schnitzer bass: .40mm to .50mm

So some were comparable to modern tubing, but most were quite heavy by today's standards.

I do question whether slide weight really affects technique. My 42B has a much heavier slide than my Conn 48H, but I don't notice that my technique is hindered by the former. Momentum allows you to move a heavier slide quickly. I think what's more important is how easily it moves and how much friction you have to overcome.
Brad Close Brass Instruments - brassmedic.com
bcschipper
Posts: 78
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:52 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by bcschipper » Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:19 am

LeTromboniste wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:22 am

The source Howard mentioned is a great compilation and in-depth analysis of original sources, by the most renowned specialists of early trumpets (Tarr) and of the cornetto (Dickey) in the 20th and 21st century, and it will have a very full bibliography to point you to primary sources. Another modern source that presents a good (much shorter) summary of what the original sources tell us is Richard ERIG, Italian Diminutions, Winterthur : Amadeus Verlag 1979. It's really not the main focus of that book but he does have a section on it.

I was referring to primary sources - we have a number of them. Maybe the most important one we have for the late 16th and 17th century is Girolamo DALLA CASA, Il vero modo de diminuir, Venice : Gardano 1584. It's on IMSLP. Book 1 is where he gives directives on articulations.
Thank you very much for the references.
bcschipper
Posts: 78
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:52 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by bcschipper » Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:33 am

brassmedic wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 1:04 am
This is a bit of a tangent, but since you guys were discussing it, I wanted to offer this:

Modern outer slide tubes are quite thin. It's difficult to measure them precisely with only calipers, but I would say between .010 - .012, so about .25 - .3 mm.

There are measurements of 16th century Nuremberg sackbuts in Hannes Vereecke's book. Here are the thicknesses of the outer slide tubes of various instruments:

Erasmus Schnitzer: .47mm to .60mm (apparently quite inconsitent, which I suppose would be expected for hand-hammered brass).

Jorg Neuschel: .37mm to .43mm (lower tube says .48-.49!)

Anton Schnitzer: .30mm

Conrad Linczer: .45mm to .56mm

Anton Schnitzer bass: .40mm to .50mm

So some were comparable to modern tubing, but most were quite heavy by today's standards.

I do question whether slide weight really affects technique. My 42B has a much heavier slide than my Conn 48H, but I don't notice that my technique is hindered by the former. Momentum allows you to move a heavier slide quickly. I think what's more important is how easily it moves and how much friction you have to overcome.
Thank you for the measurements.

I guess in terms of physics, a heavy train needs more time to get up to speed and to stop than a lighter train. I don't know whether the differences in the weight of slides is significant enough for producing noticeable differences. It would be an empirical question.

Not just the thickness contributes to the weight. Slides were also longer.

In any case, on average chromed slides should have less friction than raw brass.
HowardW
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri May 11, 2018 5:22 am

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by HowardW » Tue Apr 23, 2019 5:32 am

bcschipper wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:33 am

Not just the thickness contributes to the weight. Slides were also longer.
The slides were longer? How do you know that?

Howard

<Edit - Fixed Quote - BGuttman>
bcschipper
Posts: 78
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:52 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by bcschipper » Tue Apr 23, 2019 10:24 am

HowardW wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 5:32 am
bcschipper wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:33 am

Not just the thickness contributes to the weight. Slides were also longer.
The slides were longer? How do you know that?

Howard
Well, slides of German trombones are longer than "American" trombones. I observe this every day in orchestra when I sit with my Kruspe besides Edwards, Conn, Bach & Co. And this is my big problem in finding nice suitable cases for my instruments. So at least for romantic trombones this should true. Let me check whether I can find measurements of slide lenght for some older trombones.

It would be nice to have a chart that shows bore size, slide lenght, and bell size over time. It would be even nicer to have an online data base of all known surving trombones from baroque, classic, and early romantic period with all kinds of measurements and features.

<Edit - Fixed Quote- BGuttman>
brassmedic
Posts: 132
Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2018 12:07 pm
Contact:

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by brassmedic » Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:57 pm

bcschipper wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:33 am
I guess in terms of physics, a heavy train needs more time to get up to speed and to stop than a lighter train.
But that inertia of a heavy train also means it will continue to move in the same direction and will be slowed less by friction. A skilled trombone player doesn't keep a rigid grip on the slide in rapid passages, but rather flings the slide in the direction of the next note and utilizes its momentum.

One of the tests I use when working on a slide is to see if it moves by itself when tipped down at a shallow angle. In other words, is the weight of the slide alone enough to set it in motion and continue in motion? I think we all know what it feels like to try to rapidly move from 1st to 6th position with a bad slide, where you are pushing it with your hand the entire distance due to friction. I would much rather play on a heavy slide that moves easily than a light slide that doesn't move easily.
Brad Close Brass Instruments - brassmedic.com
bcschipper
Posts: 78
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:52 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by bcschipper » Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:32 pm

brassmedic wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:57 pm
bcschipper wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:33 am
I guess in terms of physics, a heavy train needs more time to get up to speed and to stop than a lighter train.
But that inertia of a heavy train also means it will continue to move in the same direction and will be slowed less by friction. A skilled trombone player doesn't keep a rigid grip on the slide in rapid passages, but rather flings the slide in the direction of the next note and utilizes its momentum.

One of the tests I use when working on a slide is to see if it moves by itself when tipped down at a shallow angle. In other words, is the weight of the slide alone enough to set it in motion and continue in motion? I think we all know what it feels like to try to rapidly move from 1st to 6th position with a bad slide, where you are pushing it with your hand the entire distance due to friction. I would much rather play on a heavy slide that moves easily than a light slide that doesn't move easily.
Yes, that's why for fast passages, I sometimes look for often alternative positions so that I don't need to change the direction of the slide that often. But at some point you do need to change the direction and then the weight should work at your disadvantage. I guess what it means is that perhaps there is an optimal weight of the slide that may even be correlated with the friction of the slide. In terms of speed, a slide that is too light may not be optimal.
HowardW
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri May 11, 2018 5:22 am

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by HowardW » Wed Apr 24, 2019 2:03 am

bcschipper wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:33 am
Well, slides of German trombones are longer than "American" trombones. I observe this every day in orchestra when I sit with my Kruspe besides Edwards, Conn, Bach & Co. And this is my big problem in finding nice suitable cases for my instruments.
The part of the slide section that joins to the bell section is indeed often longer on German trombones than on American. But that does not necessarily mean that the actual sliding parts of the slide (the hand slide and the inner slide tubes) are longer on German instruments.

Howard
User avatar
LeTromboniste
Posts: 288
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:22 am
Location: Basel, Switzerland

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by LeTromboniste » Wed Apr 24, 2019 7:49 am

Mmkay. I'm still not sure what your point is. If heavier and raw brass slides didn't allow to play fast or smooth, then how do you explain the large repertoire of highly virtuosic music for trombone (and indeed some for bass, which certainly has am undeniably heavy slide) that we have from the 17th and 18th centuries? There's this whole repertoire that was written for the instruments but couldn't be played?

Also apparently a bunch of sackbut specialists are doing something that shouldn't be physically possible. I guess we just didn't get the memo?
Maximilien Brisson
bcschipper
Posts: 78
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:52 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by bcschipper » Wed Apr 24, 2019 12:57 pm

HowardW wrote:
Wed Apr 24, 2019 2:03 am
bcschipper wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:33 am
Well, slides of German trombones are longer than "American" trombones. I observe this every day in orchestra when I sit with my Kruspe besides Edwards, Conn, Bach & Co. And this is my big problem in finding nice suitable cases for my instruments.
The part of the slide section that joins to the bell section is indeed often longer on German trombones than on American. But that does not necessarily mean that the actual sliding parts of the slide (the hand slide and the inner slide tubes) are longer on German instruments.

Howard
Thanks, Howard, for questioning my casual observations. It motivated me to look for some harder evidence. It turns out that my casual observations somehow match with similar remarks that can be found in

Vereecke, H. and S. Krause. Edward Kruspe's "Prof. Weschke" Model Trombone, Historic Brass Journal, December 2015, and

Lenthe, C. Stylistic roots - Through both ends of the looking glass: a view of and from the German school of trombone playing, ITA Journal Vol.32 No.2

Weber, K. Die "deutsche" Posauene, Das Orchester 7/8, 1978.

Unfortunately, neither article provides exact measurements. (Vereecke and Krause provide a number of measurements of the Kruspe Weschke but not the length of the slide.)

That's why I just took out a tape rule and measured the length of the inner slide from the bottom of the stockings to the brace with which you hold the slide of one of my 1920th Kruspe Weschke trombones. I think this is the relevant measurement as this distance influences the subjective feeling of positions and other distances are much more difficult to measure precisely.

Here are the measurements:

Inner slide (bell section): 70.5 cm (27.75 inches)
Inner slide (mouthpiece receiver section): 70 cm (27.56 inches)

(At the first glance, it seems odd that the inner slides have different length. But it makes perfect sense if you try to put the outer slide on the inner slide, which you do a lot especially when you don't necessarily have a spit valve (the Kruspe Weschke has a siphon though) and you use the condensated water to "oil" your slide. It makes it much easier to do. These are the nice little things of Kruspe.)

Now, since I don't play or own modern "American" trombones, can somebody provide measurements for a modern trombone for comparison? And how about some original and replicate sackbuts?
bcschipper
Posts: 78
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:52 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by bcschipper » Wed Apr 24, 2019 1:12 pm

LeTromboniste wrote:
Wed Apr 24, 2019 7:49 am
Mmkay. I'm still not sure what your point is. If heavier and raw brass slides didn't allow to play fast or smooth, then how do you explain the large repertoire of highly virtuosic music for trombone (and indeed some for bass, which certainly has am undeniably heavy slide) that we have from the 17th and 18th centuries? There's this whole repertoire that was written for the instruments but couldn't be played?

Also apparently a bunch of sackbut specialists are doing something that shouldn't be physically possible. I guess we just didn't get the memo?
I don't see it that black or white. That is, I don't claim that heavier raw brass slides don't allow for fast or smooth play or that sackbut players were attempting something that is physically impossible. I am basically interested in how different materials (e.g. raw brass vs. chromed slides, trombontine vs. whatever they used to oil slides in the past etc.) and physical features of the instruments affected articulation, in particular when it comes to legato. Things changed, materials changed, designs changed, we write and speak differently nowadays etc. I find it hard to believe that legato playing stayed always the same. I don't know anybody who learned on a sackbut as her/his first instrument, listened only to period music in her/his life, and uses the same slide crease that was used in the past. We learned on modern instruments and are exposed to modern blah blah music even on hotel toilets and shopping malls. We develop habits of playing before we start to think about historically correct performance. And since we don't have recordings from the 19th century and before, I am trying to figure out how physical features of those instruments may affect the style of playing. I think this is a valid and reasonable course of inquiry.
User avatar
LeTromboniste
Posts: 288
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:22 am
Location: Basel, Switzerland

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by LeTromboniste » Wed Apr 24, 2019 2:05 pm

bcschipper wrote:
Wed Apr 24, 2019 12:57 pm
That's why I just took out a tape rule and measured the length of the inner slide from the bottom of the stockings to the brace with which you hold the slide of one of my 1920th Kruspe Weschke trombones. I think this is the relevant measurement as this distance influences the subjective feeling of positions and other distances are much more difficult to measure precisely.

Here are the measurements:

Inner slide (bell section): 70.5 cm (27.75 inches)
Inner slide (mouthpiece receiver section): 70 cm (27.56 inches)

Now, since I don't play or own modern "American" trombones, can somebody provide measurements for a modern trombone for comparison? And how about some original and replicate sackbuts?
I happen to have those two right here.

Bach 42, brace to end of stockings length : 69 cm.
Egger tenor sackbut after Sebastian Hainlein 1631 : 69.5cm
Mienl bass sackbut (not sure if after Ehe or Hainlein) : 85.6cm

So essentially the same.

I don't have original sackbut measurements that are relevant at hand right now - good place to start would be the catalog of brass instrument in Leipzig, has a nice array of both sackbuts and german romantic trombones with detailed measurements. Will see if I have time to have a look tomorrow at the library.

One thing to remember with historical instrument measurements is that their tuning pitch vary quite a lot - so absolute lengths can be irrelevant (for instance those two anonymous trombones in Verona I mentioned earlier; both are in A at a'≈490 Hz, that is, about a half step higher than what we're used to, so of course they had shorter slides).
bcschipper wrote:
Wed Apr 24, 2019 1:12 pm
I don't see it that black or white. That is, I don't claim that heavier raw brass slides don't allow for fast or smooth play or that sackbut players were attempting something that is physically impossible. I am basically interested in how different materials (e.g. raw brass vs. chromed slides, trombontine vs. whatever they used to oil slides in the past etc.) and physical features of the instruments affected articulation, in particular when it comes to legato.
Well okay, but your starting hypothesis was
bcschipper wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:57 am
I believe most trombonists of baroque or classic eras played the trombone just as “side”-instrument. Even during the romantic era, one of the first known trombone virtuoso, Carl Traugott Queisser, was mainly a viola player. To what extend would all those "side"-instrument trombonists be able to play a “clean” legato and if so which kind of legato? Modern slides are incomparable to older much heavier slides in raw brass. Slides on the older instruments were longer but people were shorter. I would expect that whatever they used to crease the slide at the time was worse than what we use today. Altogether it would have been much more difficult to play “proper legato” on historic instruments, in historic times, by historic players.
and both underlying assumptions in bold (that players being multi-instrumentalists means they couldn't be proficient, and that slides could not be made good enough) are demonstrably false.
bcschipper wrote:
Wed Apr 24, 2019 1:12 pm
Things changed, materials changed, designs changed, we write and speak differently nowadays etc. I find it hard to believe that legato playing stayed always the same.
Agreed - in fact I'm fairly certain that they didn't use "legato" at all (at least what we conceive now as "legato") until well into the 17th if not the 18th century. But I think it is because of stylistic and aesthetic reasons, not because of technical reasons.
bcschipper wrote:
Wed Apr 24, 2019 1:12 pm
I don't know anybody who learned on a sackbut as her/his first instrument, listened only to period music in her/his life, and uses the same slide crease that was used in the past. We learned on modern instruments and are exposed to modern blah blah music even on hotel toilets and shopping malls. We develop habits of playing before we start to think about historically correct performance. And since we don't have recordings from the 19th century and before, I am trying to figure out how physical features of those instruments may affect the style of playing. I think this is a valid and reasonable course of inquiry.
Indeed! This is a great description of what historically informed (not "correct") performance is about : learning what biases we have, and learning to set aside our modern mindset and assumptions. I do think you have a reasonable course of inquiry, and there is a lot that we can learn from the instruments themselves and how they "want" to be played - kudos to you for exploring that aspect, I might add, because there are way too many players out there who "play" historical instruments yet have little curiosity and no interest in going out of their modern comfort zone. But how the instruments behave can't be the only datapoint, especially if the sample size is small and if the aspect you're interested in can be expected to have been affected by outside factors (i.e. damage/deterioration of the instrument over time).
Maximilien Brisson
bcschipper
Posts: 78
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:52 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: History of legato playing on the trombone

Post by bcschipper » Fri Apr 26, 2019 1:25 pm

LeTromboniste wrote:
Wed Apr 24, 2019 2:05 pm
bcschipper wrote:
Wed Apr 24, 2019 12:57 pm
That's why I just took out a tape rule and measured the length of the inner slide from the bottom of the stockings to the brace with which you hold the slide of one of my 1920th Kruspe Weschke trombones. I think this is the relevant measurement as this distance influences the subjective feeling of positions and other distances are much more difficult to measure precisely.

Here are the measurements:

Inner slide (bell section): 70.5 cm (27.75 inches)
Inner slide (mouthpiece receiver section): 70 cm (27.56 inches)

Now, since I don't play or own modern "American" trombones, can somebody provide measurements for a modern trombone for comparison? And how about some original and replicate sackbuts?
I happen to have those two right here.

Bach 42, brace to end of stockings length : 69 cm.
Egger tenor sackbut after Sebastian Hainlein 1631 : 69.5cm
Mienl bass sackbut (not sure if after Ehe or Hainlein) : 85.6cm

So essentially the same.

I don't have original sackbut measurements that are relevant at hand right now - good place to start would be the catalog of brass instrument in Leipzig, has a nice array of both sackbuts and german romantic trombones with detailed measurements. Will see if I have time to have a look tomorrow at the library.

One thing to remember with historical instrument measurements is that their tuning pitch vary quite a lot - so absolute lengths can be irrelevant (for instance those two anonymous trombones in Verona I mentioned earlier; both are in A at a'≈490 Hz, that is, about a half step higher than what we're used to, so of course they had shorter slides).
Excellent. This is cleared up.

I have a catalogue of brass instruments from the Musikinstrumentemuseum in Leipzig by Heyde published back in East Germany. But I doubt it reports exactly these measurements. I will check once I get to my other place where I keep the book.
LeTromboniste wrote:
Wed Apr 24, 2019 2:05 pm
bcschipper wrote:
Wed Apr 24, 2019 1:12 pm
I don't see it that black or white. That is, I don't claim that heavier raw brass slides don't allow for fast or smooth play or that sackbut players were attempting something that is physically impossible. I am basically interested in how different materials (e.g. raw brass vs. chromed slides, trombontine vs. whatever they used to oil slides in the past etc.) and physical features of the instruments affected articulation, in particular when it comes to legato.
Well okay, but your starting hypothesis was
bcschipper wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:57 am
I believe most trombonists of baroque or classic eras played the trombone just as “side”-instrument. Even during the romantic era, one of the first known trombone virtuoso, Carl Traugott Queisser, was mainly a viola player. To what extend would all those "side"-instrument trombonists be able to play a “clean” legato and if so which kind of legato? Modern slides are incomparable to older much heavier slides in raw brass. Slides on the older instruments were longer but people were shorter. I would expect that whatever they used to crease the slide at the time was worse than what we use today. Altogether it would have been much more difficult to play “proper legato” on historic instruments, in historic times, by historic players.
and both underlying assumptions in bold (that players being multi-instrumentalists means they couldn't be proficient, and that slides could not be made good enough) are demonstrably false.
Well, I put "clean", "proper legato", "side" etc. in quotation marks for a reason. My entire motivation for the post was that what is considered a "good" legato may have changed over time.
Post Reply

Return to “History of the Trombone”