More Contrabass Tromboning

December 29, 2014

I was able to pull out the contrabass trombone this afternoon and spend some time working with it. This is a rare chance, and I took full advantage. The instrument needed some slide grease, but was otherwise in fine fettle from the last time I used it. I pulled it out and after the obligatory long tones to warm up, I attacked the scales, later progressing to some runs and a few impromptu tunes as well.

Feedback: I am beginning to get a handle on the horn and my tone has definitely improved. I don’t have either a true ‘trombone’ sound or a real ‘tuba’ sound yet, but it’s getting closer, though it is still somewhat ‘honky’.

I found today that I also can control my attack on the horn far better now, and my range has improved to a solid three octaves. That’s not too bad for this horn – it is unwieldy in the upper register and for me to hit the D above Middle C was an unexpected achievement. However, with that said, there are far too many notes that are not coming out clearly, and the instrument is still quite foggy in its tone. The improvements I’ve seen so far encourage me to think that this is something that time and practice will cure, but it is still a problem. The slide work can only be described as awful.

The slide itself, though heavy and sluggish, responds acceptably, so the problem is clearly on my end – the horn is not to blame. I simply have to accustom myself to the double-slide and master the differences in technique that this instrument requires. This issue too I believe I can eventually overcome, but the process will be a long one. I would definitely recommend prospective contrabass trombonists to be aware of this obstacle as it is a substantial one.

I did not do any mouthpiece switching today, but stayed on the one that Wessex provided with the horn. Overall, it did a good job, though once I have a better handle on the horn, I will begin trying different mouthpieces so as to get the sound I’m looking for. I like a dark, rich sound with plenty of bite when necessary. I can get it on the bass trombone, the helicon, and the tuba, so I know it is possible. I just have to figure out how to do it on the contrabass trombone. Right now, I am getting bite in the wrong places, which is why i describe the tone ads ‘honky’, and my control of the tone is not nearly complete.

Contrabass trombones, as I have stated before, are not easy instruments to play. They demand a very powerful airflow, and they require far more control than do tubas. It is easy to sound bad on a contra unless you know what you are doing. I expect that eventually I will achieve an acceptable sound and attack on this horn, but I do not expect it to occur in the near future. However I am enjoying the journey.