Cheap Altos

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walldaja
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Cheap Altos

Post by walldaja » Wed May 29, 2019 6:28 am

Just putting this link out to encourage discussion. Seems you can spend $3,000+ on an alto or get one for a little less than $200.



Anyone have any experience with altos costing less than $600?
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MahlerMusic
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by MahlerMusic » Wed May 29, 2019 8:25 am

I think every amature 1st player in an community orchestra or trombone choir should have a cheap Alto in there back pocket. The same way (I) every second player with a large bore horn should have a small bore student model just in case they did to down size for a pieces or two. No need to break the bank for something you will barely use but you should take some practice time out of your routine to include your other bones.

I just wish there were cheap F bass/contra trombones.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by sterb225 » Wed May 29, 2019 8:38 am

My first attempt at learning alto was on a China made copy of the Slokar alto. It was just OK. The slide was horrid and slotting not very stable. Though it was not the only reason I abandoned the effort to learn alto, it was a contributor. I've recently borrowed a Courtois that I will purchase when finances allow and am having a much better time with this horn, much easier to play and get to sound pleasant even if I'm not all the way to a proper alto sound quite yet. With the cheaper horn, it was an experiment, this time the skill set is compulsory for some works I am playing with the local symphony and I'm glad to have the better instrument helping smooth the way.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by harrisonreed » Wed May 29, 2019 9:08 am

Yeah. They are basically just OK. I have a 36H that is pretty good. Wish I hadn't tried the Shires one ... night and day.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by Bach5G » Wed May 29, 2019 10:00 am

I was thinking about Wessex recently, but they seem to have discontinued their altos. JP-Rath? Any other choices before you're looking at "Alto trombone shaped objects"?
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by CalgaryTbone » Wed May 29, 2019 10:27 am

The various Jin Bao (sp?) altos out there, play pretty well, especially with the improved leadpipes that are offered by various shops like Hornguys, or Brass Ark. I think the Moz is one of those - they seem to use different brand names for the same horn. The difference with Wessex is more supervision on the manufacturing process, which seems to result in better consistency.

To the previous poster who wished for a cheap F Contra, they are out there as well - just not as cheap as some of these altos for obvious reasons. Our bass trombonist loves his Wessex F Contra which is a good tool for the price.

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MahlerMusic
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by MahlerMusic » Wed May 29, 2019 11:10 am

CalgaryTbone wrote:
Wed May 29, 2019 10:27 am
To the previous poster who wished for a cheap F Contra, they are out there as well - just not as cheap as some of these altos for obvious reasons. Our bass trombonist loves his Wessex F Contra which is a good tool for the price.

Jim Scott
I guess $3000 USD is cheap for a Contra. :horror:
That is a lot to spend for something you will never use outside of Wagner and Trombone choir.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by Bach5G » Wed May 29, 2019 12:29 pm

Any views on the JP Rath 236?

I note that the JP 136 looks very similar to the Moz.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by CalgaryTbone » Wed May 29, 2019 7:44 pm

I guess $3000 USD is cheap for a Contra. :horror:
That is a lot to spend for something you will never use outside of Wagner and Trombone choir.
[/quote]

I'm pretty sure he paid less than that - there's a Jin Bao on eBay now for $2000 US. Anyway, a niche item, but it is being used more often as time goes by. Altos were rare in my student days, but are much more prevalent now.

Anyway, the Chinese instruments are a less expensive way for students and young professionals to get started on these instruments.

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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by Amconk » Thu May 30, 2019 12:11 am

If you dare to go that route, Jim Laabs has the Jin bao F contra for $1300 labeled Schiller.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by Bach5G » Thu May 30, 2019 10:36 am

so, the topic is now cheap contras?
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by Matt K » Thu May 30, 2019 1:31 pm

Bach5G wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 10:36 am
so, the topic is now cheap contras?
They're only a major second (and an octave) off!
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MahlerMusic
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by MahlerMusic » Thu May 30, 2019 3:01 pm

lol, I guess to bring it back I will ask what are the pros to an Alto sound wise over a small bore horn? Can you really play higher on an Alto?
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by Bach5G » Thu May 30, 2019 3:23 pm

The LMS will sell me a Packer 136 for less than $400 CDN. (In USD, that's about $1.49). Given there's a local store (with its own repairmen), buying through a recognized distributer (Packer - a recognized purveyor of student instruments in the UK), there might be a little less risk of ending up with a total piece of junk.

I really don't have the time or determination but alto trombone is such a lovely sound.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by paulyg » Thu May 30, 2019 4:00 pm

MahlerMusic wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 3:01 pm
lol, I guess to bring it back I will ask what are the pros to an Alto sound wise over a small bore horn? Can you really play higher on an Alto?
No, often not. The pros are that it sounds like an alto, instead of a small-bore tenor.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by CalgaryTbone » Thu Jun 20, 2019 4:56 pm

To my ears, the real difference in sound between a small tenor and an alto is linked to the key of the instrument rather than the bore size. I feel that where the notes sit within the range of the instrument, and the different overtones given off because of that creates a different sound palate. While there is little difference in high range abilities from one instrument to the other, these high pitches on the alto are a lower harmonic on that horn than on a tenor, and have a slightly more solid, focused sound than they do on a tenor. I also find that I can play longer phrases, and that endurance is a bit easier on pieces like Mozart choral works with long passages in the high register. A small tenor is still a reasonable substitute to use when you haven't had the time to get comfortable with alto slide positions and intonation, but I prefer my alto for all of that repertoire.

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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by timbone » Fri Jun 21, 2019 8:05 am

What is it with all you cheap guys? The alto trombone is hard enough to play well but you would rather make it harder on your conscience and ability to play the thing (in public) if anybody dare ask you- so why bother? When do your training wheels come off your bike?
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by Bloo » Fri Jun 21, 2019 9:19 am

timbone wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 8:05 am
What is it with all you cheap guys? The alto trombone is hard enough to play well but you would rather make it harder on your conscience and ability to play the thing (in public) if anybody dare ask you- so why bother? When do your training wheels come off your bike?
Because nobody wants to shell out $2500+ for an uncommon and rarely used instrument. Not everyone can afford to.
I'm partial to vintage Conn horns, and new Getzens.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by Bach5G » Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:11 pm

I bought a used Packer 236. Not a Pfretzschner. Not $4000.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by heinzgries » Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:54 pm

Bach5G wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:11 pm
I bought a used Packer 236. Not a Pfretzschner. Not $4000.
4000 ???
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by brassmedic » Fri Jun 21, 2019 6:27 pm

CalgaryTbone wrote:
Wed May 29, 2019 10:27 am
The various Jin Bao (sp?) altos out there, play pretty well, especially with the improved leadpipes that are offered by various shops like Hornguys, or Brass Ark. I think the Moz is one of those - they seem to use different brand names for the same horn.
No, the Moz alto doesn't have a removable leadpipe.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by Bach5G » Fri Jun 21, 2019 7:35 pm

heinzgries wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:54 pm
Bach5G wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:11 pm
I bought a used Packer 236. Not a Pfretzschner. Not $4000.
4000 ???
Ok, I’m just guessing about the value of a Pfretzschner. I just like writing “Pfretzschner”.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by LanceHandsome » Mon Jan 04, 2021 4:50 pm

I thought Moz was a suburb of Bratislava.

Now that it's the new year, I am giving serious thought to the Schiller trigger alto. Soliciting opinions once again before/if I slap plastic.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by johnjenkins » Mon Jan 04, 2021 6:52 pm

My $.02 -- whether you play on an inexpensive alto or professional alto, I've come to realize that having an alto-specific mouthpiece is of utmost importance. I suffered to produce a consistent, quality sound (by most standards) until I got hold of a Yamaha 48A. At that point, everything made sense. I've since been using a DE piece with an alto shank and it's a wonderful tool for the alto trombone.

The 12C, 11C, and 7C pieces can be made to work, but it's still just a compromise.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by harrisonreed » Mon Jan 04, 2021 7:58 pm

DE XT A or B, with your correct rim and especially with correct DE alto shank.

I think I finally realized why I seem to be backwards on choice of alto shanks with DE mouthpieces. Doug suggests the "alto S" shank for the strange leadpipe in the 36H, so it can go in further. I used to think it was the best solution for a still disappointing instrument, because it certainly made the 36H play better.

Then I cut the bell tuning slide down considerably. This made the partials line up much better, but the trombone still played weird. Fast forward a year or so, at the ATW, Doug didn't have an alto S shank ready to go for the B cup I wanted to try, so we tried it with the standard length alto shank. And my horn suddenly played a LOT better. Doug also was scratching his head, because he tried it and agreed. What was even more confusing was that after I bought it, I tried it in a shires alto, with the TIS pushed all the way in, and I thought the alto S shank sounded and played a lot better on that horn than the new regular alto shank I just bought. Completely the opposite of what was advertised. How could it be?

Here is what I think happened to me. The 36H, Moz, jinbao, etc, should be TIS, end of story. They are all a nightmare to play in tune as built. I thought it was just me, the shorter slide, but then I tried the shires and rath TIS altos and realized that most altos are tough to play in tune because of bell tuning. There is about the same margin for error on the shires alto as on a tenor. The guys who sound great on bell tuning altos practiced a LOT and learned to compensate. Don't let them fool you into thinking they don't have to deal with the weird partials on their horns.

So I basically made my 36H TIS by cutting it, but with a short slide that you have to play so long on that some partials (like the G partial) still feel wrong, and the horn just doesn't seem right. The alto S shank makes it even shorter. Trying the horn with the regular length shank added just enough length to the slide (and aligned the partials in such a way) that the shortened 36H now felt perfect. So that explains that.

What about the Shires? Well, if you spend twelve years suffering and experimenting with this kind of weird short setup and finally find something that works, you might discover that the shires alto, while having beautifully aligned partials, has a slide that is too long. Even with the tuning slide (TIS) pushed in all the way. Pop in the long alto mouthpiece, it's too long. Try it with the short one, and you shave off just enough length on the slide. Suddenly it feels right, and even better than the short 36H.

It's like, if you're experimenting with altos, even the cheap ones, your best bet is to have both kinds of shank and see which one works better. And if you realize that cutting the tuning slides on the cheap altos might improve them, you may need to compensate with the long shank if you weren't anyway using it.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by LanceHandsome » Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:09 pm

johnjenkins wrote:
Mon Jan 04, 2021 6:52 pm
My $.02 -- whether you play on an inexpensive alto or professional alto, I've come to realize that having an alto-specific mouthpiece is of utmost importance. I suffered to produce a consistent, quality sound (by most standards) until I got hold of a Yamaha 48A. At that point, everything made sense. I've since been using a DE piece with an alto shank and it's a wonderful tool for the alto trombone.

The 12C, 11C, and 7C pieces can be made to work, but it's still just a compromise.
T'anks. I'd have had no idea on mouthpieces and will research the Yamaha. What did/do you use for a method book?
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by ParLawGod » Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:13 pm

I own a JP Rath alto and it's a fine player. I wouldn't classifiy myself as a "great" alto player by any stretch...perhaps "mediocre" or "average" would be the best term. I find the JP Rath to slot/center very well, and the tone is excellent. Play tested it against one of the chinese Jin Bao models (with a Slokar leadpipe) and the JP Rath blew the pants off of it.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by johnjenkins » Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:36 pm

LanceHandsome wrote:
Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:09 pm
T'anks. I'd have had no idea on mouthpieces and will research the Yamaha. What did/do you use for a method book?
I didn't use an alto method book. I started alto trombone the same way I started the electric bass -- learning to play scales and arpeggios across several octaves in order to learn the positions and intonation tendencies, and then incorporating simple melodies in bass clef. Then I moved to simple melodies in alto clef. To be honest, I didn't start learning alto until many years after leaving grad school.
Last edited by johnjenkins on Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by Bach5G » Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:40 pm

LanceHandsome wrote:
Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:09 pm
johnjenkins wrote:
Mon Jan 04, 2021 6:52 pm
My $.02 -- whether you play on an inexpensive alto or professional alto, I've come to realize that having an alto-specific mouthpiece is of utmost importance. I suffered to produce a consistent, quality sound (by most standards) until I got hold of a Yamaha 48A. At that point, everything made sense. I've since been using a DE piece with an alto shank and it's a wonderful tool for the alto trombone.

The 12C, 11C, and 7C pieces can be made to work, but it's still just a compromise.
T'anks. I'd have had no idea on mouthpieces and will research the Yamaha. What did/do you use for a method book?
What I’ve found really helpful is to clip a tuner on my bell. I’ve also found the Groves/Cherry Arban alto method useful. Also the 48A - at $50, pretty reasonably priced.
Last edited by Bach5G on Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by LanceHandsome » Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:47 pm

Bach5G wrote:
Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:40 pm
LanceHandsome wrote:
Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:09 pm


T'anks. I'd have had no idea on mouthpieces and will research the Yamaha. What did/do you use for a method book?
What I’ve found really helpful is to clip a tuner on my bell. I’ve also found the Groves/Cherry Arban alto method useful.
I did see an alto version of Arban on Amazon...
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by Cotboneman » Mon Jan 04, 2021 9:18 pm

Bach5G wrote:
Wed May 29, 2019 12:29 pm
Any views on the JP Rath 236?

I note that the JP 136 looks very similar to the Moz.
I think the JP 136 likely is manufactured in the same factory as the Moz. The JP/Rath 236 is Rath-designed and probably not built in the same factory, but who really knows? :idk:
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by elmsandr » Tue Jan 05, 2021 9:05 am

LanceHandsome wrote:
Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:47 pm
Bach5G wrote:
Mon Jan 04, 2021 8:40 pm


What I’ve found really helpful is to clip a tuner on my bell. I’ve also found the Groves/Cherry Arban alto method useful.
I did see an alto version of Arban on Amazon...
Just take your standard version of Arban and imagine the whole thing in tenor clef. Then Alto clef. Sure, you have to mess with some key signatures and accidentals, but if you already know the routine you should just be listening to the horn by then.

Play through all the Rochut tunes that you still can't forget, just transpose them up a bit in your head. At one point I was doing a daily thing with these as written, in tenor clef, Down an octave, in tenor down two octaves (sometimes repeated for a tenor and a bass) then adding in playing them AGAIN in tenor on alto, and in alto on alto. You get real tired of the tune, but it makes focusing on the sound production on the instrument easier. That is, I know WHERE i want the notes to appear musically for intonation, expression etc.. Just gotta figure out how to do it on this other horn. When I did this regularly I was very good at swapping horns.

Only real book I ever used specifically to work on the alto was the Blazevich Clef studies to make sure that I was reading the clefs correctly. I hated that book on tenor and alto trombone.

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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by Bach5G » Tue Jan 05, 2021 9:27 am

“... Just take your standard version of Arban and imagine the whole thing in tenor clef. Then Alto clef. Sure, you have to mess with some key signatures and accidentals, but if you already know the routine you should just be listening to the horn by then.”
- - -

I, respectfully, disagree. Start simple and build. Adjust the learning curve as you go. The above seems to be a drill suitable for experienced players. My understanding is that the OP is starting out on alto, maybe even alto clef.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by BGuttman » Tue Jan 05, 2021 1:14 pm

Bach5G wrote:
Tue Jan 05, 2021 9:27 am
“... Just take your standard version of Arban and imagine the whole thing in tenor clef. Then Alto clef. Sure, you have to mess with some key signatures and accidentals, but if you already know the routine you should just be listening to the horn by then.”
- - -

I, respectfully, disagree. Start simple and build. Adjust the learning curve as you go. The above seems to be a drill suitable for experienced players. My understanding is that the OP is starting out on alto, maybe even alto clef.
If you take the standard Trumpet Arban's and read it in alto clef (some adjustments to sharps and flats needed) it will provide you with all the fundamentals you need to play alto trombone.

I learned to play bass clef on the alto first since I was more familiar with the clef (although I had worked through a fair amount of Blazhevich). Playing familiar studies in bass clef, and even using the alto on my Community Band parts, helped get familiar with the horn. Then I worked on my alto clef reading into alto trombone. And it isn't just using "tenor" or "bass" positions.

There are now a few alto trombone methods available. Including one that Harrison Reed published here -- I think he's revising it right now. There is also a method by Benny Sluchin.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by timothy42b » Tue Jan 05, 2021 1:36 pm

Hickey's has a pBone mini for $99. They aren't great but they do work. Everybody should have one, more if they have kids.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by Bach5G » Tue Jan 05, 2021 1:38 pm

I’ve got Harrison’s book, as well as the Sluchin (Study Material for the Alto Trombone). I still have my Blazhevich from 40 years ago. I don’t think I’d recommend it to someone starting out on alto.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by timothy42b » Tue Jan 05, 2021 1:53 pm

Ah, well, I shouldn't do this but I will.

I've been playing my mini pBone because it's light and my shoulder hurts. And I've been working on ear playing because I'm not good at it. Like here, where i forgot what note I was on and got lost. I take one of the church hymns and play by ear in different keys until it starts to get into memory instead of the ear; I can tell because then I get lost.

Well, shoot, turns out it's an .mov file and this site won't load it.

I put it on box, here's a private link,
https://app.box.com/s/z9fue6i59whb2uiyfao9iyfiz17xlvn9

if that doesn't work I'll try youtube.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by timothy42b » Tue Jan 05, 2021 2:16 pm

Well, shoot, it won't preview on box, and nobody downloads.

Let's try this:

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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by BGuttman » Tue Jan 05, 2021 3:14 pm

That worked, Tim.

The pBone Mini is OK as a learning tool, but I'd really hesitate to take it anywhere that mattered. But if all you are looking for is something to learn alto trombone on it's definitely a cheap entry ticket.

Mike Lake is a really good alto player. He seems to just like the sound of it. Most definitely different from a tenor if played correctly.

As I have said again and again, you don't play alto trombone from tenor like a saxophone player goes between instruments. The alto trombone is a separate and distinct instrument -- not just a "small tenor".
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by LanceHandsome » Tue Jan 05, 2021 3:19 pm

If I had any sense, I'd get a pBone Mini, jut to see what alto is all about. But it seems (and sounds) too much like a toy.

Thanks to all who contributed suggestions on learning the horn.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by timothy42b » Tue Jan 05, 2021 4:09 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Tue Jan 05, 2021 3:14 pm
As I have said again and again, you don't play alto trombone from tenor like a saxophone player goes between instruments. The alto trombone is a separate and distinct instrument -- not just a "small tenor".
Mine is played like a small tenor. :shuffle:

Of course some of that is the Bach 4 I have stuck in it. Doug gave me some advice on a good combination of his system but I just haven't got around to ordering it yet. From high Bb up it's badly flat and the Eb above that wobbles between Eb and F, doesn't want to slot. The G up there is nice though (in 4th). I think the mouthpiece would likely fix the tuning. The build quality isn't great either, I''ve had to do some JBWeld repairs on it. Great travel horn though.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by harrisonreed » Tue Jan 05, 2021 8:23 pm

BGuttman wrote:
Tue Jan 05, 2021 3:14 pm
That worked, Tim.

The pBone Mini is OK as a learning tool, but I'd really hesitate to take it anywhere that mattered. But if all you are looking for is something to learn alto trombone on it's definitely a cheap entry ticket.

Mike Lake is a really good alto player. He seems to just like the sound of it. Most definitely different from a tenor if played correctly.

As I have said again and again, you don't play alto trombone from tenor like a saxophone player goes between instruments. The alto trombone is a separate and distinct instrument -- not just a "small tenor".
Mike Lake did a review where he basically said he wouldn't recommend the pBone mini and did not like the sound.

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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by BGuttman » Tue Jan 05, 2021 8:34 pm

Sorry, I really didn't mean to imply that Mike liked the pBone Mini. I really like listening to his clips as released to his fanbase. He doesn't play a pBone. When I said "it" I meant Alto Trombone, not the pBone.
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Re: Cheap Altos

Post by harrisonreed » Tue Jan 05, 2021 8:48 pm

Sorry! Yes, Mike has a great clear sound! He is a force!
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