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A TROMBONE (and related instruments) PHOTO GALLERY

I've been asked many times to provide a page on my website which shows the various instruments I use in my playing as well as those I have collected because of their special interest. This page provides photos and brief descriptions of some of my trombones and related instruments. To see photos of my serpents, visit my serpent photo gallery; a photo of me with my Roehn opicleide may be found on my article on the Richard Wagner Museum in Lucerne, Switzerland.

This is my Yamaha YBL-822G bass trombone, an instrument I developed with Yamaha over a period of years which I now use for most of my playing. First launched as the YBL-622, it was redesigned with many improvements in 2007 and renamed the YBL-822G and made part of Yamaha's "XENO" trombone line. This horn has a gold brass bell, .562 bore, detachable 2nd valve (which will allow the horn to play as a single valve instrument) and is, for me, the best all around bass trombone I have ever played. The instrument I play is identical to production models with the exception of the hand engraving I had done to the bell. For more information and specifications about the YBL-822G, visit Yamaha page about the YBL-822G.

When the Boston Symphony plays repertoire of the classical and early romantic periods, our section often scales our equipment down a bit for better blending with a smaller orchestra. At the bottom of a section which includes an alto trombone on top and a small bore tenor trombone in the middle, I often play the Yamaha YBL-601 bass trombone, a Vienna model small bore bass trombone. It is beautifully made with a single valve (operated with a thumb strap of leather).

A close up view of the valve section of the Yamaha YBL-601.

This old Schmidt bass trombone is one I have used in the Boston Symphony for classic and romantic era music, in some of the same applications I use the Yamaha YBL-601. It is a wonderful instrument with a very warm sound. Made just after World War I, it was originally owned by BSO bass trombonist Hans Durck Waldemar Lillebach who sold it to his student, Kauko Kahila who also played bass trombone in the Boston Symphony (1952-1972). Kahila passed the horn on to me a few years ago and I've used it in many works with the Boston Symphony including Beethoven "Missa Solemnis" and several Brahms Symphonies. The instrument is a dual bore, .525/.547 with a 10" bell. There is no tuning slide on the main horn; the valve section is in E.

A close up view of the valve section of my Schmidt bass trombone.

Several years ago I acquired an exceptionally fine G bass trombone made by Boosey and Hawkes. This instrument features a valve that puts the instrument in the key of D, allowing for a more fully chromatic range than the G bass without a valve. This instrument was featured in Arnold Myer's article, "Brasswind Manufacturing at Boosey & Hawkes, 1930-59" that appeared in the Historic Brass Society Journal, Volume 15, 2003. This instrument, manufactured in 1938, is known as the "Betty model trombone" because it was designed for bass trombonist William Betty. Boosey & Hawkes made 18 of these instruments up until 1939 and 20 more from 1947-1959. The "Betty model" is a wider bore than most G bass trombones of the period (the bell is eight inches in diameter) and it has an exceptionally warm sound, so much so that I have used it in the Boston Symphony in performances of Elgar's "Cockaigne Overture" conducted by Sir Jeffrey Tate at Tanglewood in 2002 as seen in the photo below.

The "Betty model" G bass trombone in G/D also came with additional slides that could be added to the D valve that would pitch the valve in C, allowing for the production of a pedal A flat and a completely chromatic scale. The photo above shows my "Betty model" G/D bass with the C slides installed

In 2005 I acquired a remarkable instrument that is nearly 100 years old. Pictured above is a Conn "New Invention" bass trombone, serial number 126088, dating from early 1912. Later, this model was renamed Conn's "New Wonder" bass trombone, and for a time had the designation 14H. It is gold plated and has a unique feature - a piston valve that is used to activate the e attachment. You read correctly: an e attachment, not an f attachment. Like my Schmidt bass trombone pictured above, this early Conn bass trombone has a valve section in E which allows for a completely chromatic instrument (low B natural is playable in seventh position). The bell is 9" in diameter and the hand slide is dual bore, approximately .530/.550 inches.

This view (above) shows the valve section from the front side of the trombone. Holding the instrument is surprisingly easy. Note how the piston valve allows for an almost completely straight flow of the air. In an era when there are many new valves on the market that proport to allow a more efficient and unimpeded flow of air, the old piston valve in this application shows an early attempt to make a free pathway for air.

This back view of the "New Invention" bass trombone shows the elegant wrap of the tubing. An e attachment is longer than a modern f attachment and I was immediately impressed at how Conn wrapped the tubing to avoid too many sharp bends; remember, this instrument was built in an era when the term "open wrap" was not a part of the trombone vocabulary.

This instrument came to me in remarkable condition. The slide tubes are solid nickel (not plated) so they cleaned up nicely. The gold plating (mostly satin finish but the inside of the bell and the engraving are a high shine finish) is in excellent condition. The instrument is a "Low Pitch" model and plays at a=440; the valve compression is excellent and everything about this trombone telegraphs a "right out of the box" kind of quality.

I thank Steve Dillon of Dillon Music for sending me this scan (above) from an old Conn catalog. Shown in the advertisement is Edward A. Williams who was bass trombonist with John Philip Sousa's Band from 1892-1917. For the 1910 world tour of the Sousa band, Conn made a set of gold plated brass instruments pitched at a=440. As shown in this advertisement, E. A. Williams played this same model Conn bass trombone. The photo at left shows Williams in the Sousa Band at the time of the 1910-11 world tour (the photo is from South Africa) - Williams clearly is holding his Conn piston valve bass trombone. Below, right, Williams is holding his Conn piston valve bass trombone c. 1915 (my thanks to MGySgt Mike Resslar of the United States Marine Band for these two photos of Williams with the Sousa Band). I sold this instrument in 2010.

Bass trombonists well versed in the orchestral literature know that Bela Bartok, in his famous "Concerto for Orchestra" (composed for the Boston Symphony Orchestra) requires an "impossible" glissando from low B--->F. On a standard B flat/F single valve bass trombone, this gliss IS impossible, and in the 1960s, several bass trombonists including Edward Kleinhammer, Kauko Kahila and Alan Ostrander, worked with American instrument companies to develop the modern double valve bass trombone so the low B could finally be played comfortably by bass trombonists. But even the modern double valve bass trombone is a compromise for Bartok's glissando. It's important to keep in mind that Bartok, like many other composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, was writing for the old bass trombone in F - and for such an instrument, Bartok's glissando was quite playable from 7th to 1st position. No break, no valves, no problem.

The F bass became obsolete in the 20th century but there are still many pieces by Bartok and others that simply work better on the instrument for which they were conceived. I was therefore very fortunate when Yamaha made an F bass trombone for me. In the photo above, the slide is extended to seventh position as I play Bartok's glissando for the first time as the composer intended.

The Yamaha F bass trombone is one of a kind, made in the Yamaha Toyooka Factory in Hamamatsu, Japan. Yamaha made this instrument for me as a gift and it was a complete surprise to me. Many years ago I had mentioned - in an off hand way - how fantastic it would be if Yamaha could ever make an F bass trombone. I subsequently forgot about this in the rush of life and you can imagine my surprise when, in the summer of 2004 when I was in Japan teaching at the 10th Hamamatsu International Wind Instrument Academy and Festival, that Yamaha presented me with this extraordinary instrument. The photo above shows the F bass on a long table that has the full range of trombones made by Yamaha. From the foreground you can see the F bass, my YBL-622 bass trombone, a Yamaha tenor trombone, alto trombone and, hidden behind the alto, a prototype Yamaha soprano trombone.

The F bass trombone is so long that it needs a substantial handle on the slide in order for the player to reach sixth and seventh position. The photo above gives a close up view of the handle of the F bass (my YBL-622 bass trombone is to the left). While larger than the traditional 19th century F bass trombone, this new instrument blends very well with modern tenor trombones. I have used this instrument many times in the Boston Symphony including performances of Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra" and works by Olivier Messaien.

The relative size of the Yamaha F bass trombone is easily seen in this photo (left). Before making this instrument, Yamaha had never made a trombone this large. They needed to develop special machinery in order to draw such a long slide. A joint collaboration with Yamaha's trombone and tuba designers, the instrument went through multiple design phases before finally being manufactured.

While I was at the Yamaha Toyooka Factory in 2004 I made a video that explains the process of making a Yamaha trombone. The video concludes with footage of the moment that I noticed the F bass trombone on the long table of instruments - again, remember this was a complete surprise. To see the video (it is available online for free) and hear some audio excerpts of my playing this extraordinary instrument, visit the Making Trombones video page.

This is a remarkable instrument, perhaps one of the few existing specimens of a BB flat contrabass trombone made by the Salvation Army over 100 years ago. Records for the Salvation Army instrument factory in England do not go back far enough to date this instrument (serial number 11732) but it appears in a catalog dated 1905. In his booklet, 'The Slide Trombone," (new edition, 1929), Lt. Colonel F. Gl Hawkes wrote: "Only a strong, healthy person will be able to manage this instrument, as it requires a large quantity of wind to fill it." The instrument has a very small bore, much smaller than my Conn BB flat contrabass trombone (see below). Gordon Taylor, archivist of the International Heritage Centre of the Salvation Army in London has told me he was unaware any of these instruments had survived to the present day althouth since then, I have become aware that another one is owned by the Norwich Citadel Band in England.

A close up view (left) of the ingenius spit valve on the Salvation Army BB flat contrabass trombone. As water collects in both tubes on the double slide, two spit valves are preferable to just one (the Conn contrabass below has only one spit valve). Rather than have an independent lever for each slide tube, the spit valves are combined on a single lever!

This detail (right) shows the trombone's beautiful workmanship, with the rolled ferrules which have the appearance of being engraved, characteristic of Salvation Army trombones.

Joannes Rochut is well known to trombone players as the editor of three volumes of "Melodious Etudes" from the works of Marco Bordogni (pub. Carl Fisher). For me, there is another strong connection with Rochut: he played principal trombone in the Boston Symphony from 1925-1929. A native of France, Rochut brought at least two trombones with him when he joined the BSO which are now part of my collection.

The photo above shows Rochut in Paris before he joined the BSO with his daughter and son. Rochut is playing the instrument discussed below. The photo, reproduced in a Boston newspaper in October 1925, has the following caption:

Joannes Rochut, new first trombone of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and his daughter and son. This charming family snapshot was made before the war, but M. Rochut prefers it to more pretentious photos made since.

Fredinand Gillet, who joined the BSO as principal oboist at the same time Rochut joined the orchestra, is shown in the circular inset at the top right of the photo.

To see another photo of Rochut holding this instrument along with other members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra around 1926, visit my extensive resource, The Eugene Adam Collection.

(ABOVE) This is a photo of Rochut's primary instrument, a B flat tenor trombone made by Lefevre of Paris. Lefevre was active around 1910; his shop was at rue du Theatre 148. The instrument has a very small bore and a bell six inches in diameter.

(LEFT) Here is a close up view of Rochut's mouthpiece. It has the characteristic French trombone mouthpiece funnel shape with a very small cup and throat. This photo also shows the beautifully detailed rolled ferrules supporting the braces.

(RIGHT) Rochut's Lefevre trombone has an interesting spit valve (water key). When the trombone is held in the resting position with the slide touching the floor, the end pin, which is spring loaded, is depressed into the bottom slide bow thereby allowing the water to drain out. It is an ingenious invention and one I have seen on several other early trombones.

On July 22, 2009, I gave this instrument to Toby Oft, to celebrate his receiving tenure as principal trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The second trombone of Joannes Rochut that I have in my collection is a very interesting instrument. While Rochut's primary instrument (above) was a "straight" tenor trombone, he also owned an instrument with an "f attachment." Also made by Lefevre and having a slide with the same narrow bore as his straight tenor, this instrument has a 6.5 inch diameter bell, a piston valve to put the instrument into F and a rotary valve that can be turned by hand to further put the instrument into E.

(LEFT) This photo shows the piston valve that is on Rochut's larger Lefevre tenor trombone. One must keep in mind that the bass trombone was, even in the early 20th century, virtually unknown of and unused in France. French composers usually wrote for a section of three tenor trombones although as this instrument attests, there was a need for a trombone that would play the low notes that non-French composers would write for bass trombone. This instrument is in need of restoration; the valve is not working properly but you can see how this instrument differs from our modern f-attachment trombones that have a rotary rather than a piston valve.

(RIGHT) Here is the rotary valve that is in the tuning slide of the Lefevre trombone. This valve must be turned by hand but when it is activated, it further lowers the pitch of the valve section to E.

Ever since I was a young boy I have been fascinated by the buccin, the late 18th and early 19th century French form of trombone that had a bell ending in a zoomorphic head. In 2004 I finally had the opportunity to purchase a buccin bell from an instrument dealer in Paris. This bell was made by Francois Sautermeister of Lyon (France) who was active until 1830. It is very difficult to find a complete, working buccin today. Usually the hand slide is in dreadful condition and all buccin slides, like trombones of the period, were unplated. I wanted to play my buccin (Berlioz wrote a part for buccin in his "Messe solennelle") so I decided to purchase only the bell and have a modern slide constructed after historical models. The slide was made by Jim Becker at Osmun Music (Arlington, Massachusetts) after research of historical buccin slides in various museums including Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. There is a tuning slide at the bottom of the slide and there is no water key or slide lock. Jim Becker also did extensive restoration of the bell - he is a superb craftsman and truly brought this instrument back to life.

(LEFT) Here is a closeup of the zoomorphic head of my Sautermeister buccin. Buccin bells were often brightly painted, usually in red, green and gold. There is not much paint left on this bell although the red of the eyes, the red mouth and some gold on the "scales" of the fanciful serpent can be seen. While my buccin does not have one, many instruments had a tongue of metal that would flap when playing. The instrument has a very unstable overtone series since the bell is such an unconventional shape but it is easy to get used to and has a sound that is a cross between a trombone and a horn. To see some more photos of this instrument including one of me playing it, see the entries for March 15 and April 2005 in my What's New at page.

This is one of the most unusual instruments I have had in my collection. It is a tenor trombone in C made by Conn, serial number 134276 (made around 1924) and goes by the name, "The Preacher Model." Here the instrument is shown in its original case with accessories including two original Conn mouthpieces, lyre and low pitch tuning slide.

The Conn "Preacher Model" is in C, but has a valve which can be turned by hand which will put the trombone in B flat. The reason for this is really quite simple: if a person was accustomed to reading music for trombone in B flat treble clef, they could read music written in C treble clef, put the trombone in C and then read music as if it were in B flat and have it sound in concert pitch. Hence, the name "Preacher Model" - the preacher could lead music from the pulpit with his trombone, playing out of the hymnal. The instrument is in beautiful condition, very small, and a gem of Conn's innovative instrument development. This instrument is no longer in my collection.

A close up view of the valve section of the Conn "Preacher Model" tenor trombone in C/B flat.

This trombone was sold in 2007 and is no longer part of my collection.

Yamaha has begun marketing a new "compact trombone" that is built on a similar principle to the Conn "Preacher model" trombone above. The Yamaha YSL-350C is a truly innovative instrument.

Many beginning trombonists have difficulty reaching the instrument's outer positions because their arms are not very long. This can be frustrating for the young player and many beginners have given up on the trombone as a result. One would think that you could not make a B flat tenor trombone that would be smaller than a full size tenor trombone - after all you need nine feet of tubing to play a b flat. But Yamaha has built a trombone in C with a reverse valve. Here's how it works: The trombone is made in the key of C but when the valve lever is not activated, the valve is "open" so air goes through the valve. The added tubing of the valve makes the trombone in B flat. When the valve lever is activated, the valve is closed so the trombone is in the key of C. As a result, the trombone is shorter than a normal trombone AND when the valve lever is activated, the young player can reach C and B natural which are ordinarily played in 6th and 7th position on a standard trombone. This trombone does have limitations: there is no 7th position on the instrument so a low E cannot be played either with or without the valve. But the compact size and the fact that low C and B can be played with the valve makes this instrument an attractive alternative for the young trombonist. The slide positions relate visually to the bell the same as they do on a standard trombone which makes the transition from this compact trombone to a standard trombone very easy once the players arms are longer. I own one of these instruments because whenever I am on vacation I need to take a trombone to practice. Not always wanting to check my bass trombone as baggage and realizing that it simply won't fit an overhead compartment as a carry on bag, the Yamaha compact trombone is the perfect vacation companion. It has a great, compact case that easily fits in an airplane overhead. It is light and also has a carrying strap for the case. I truly think this trombone is one of the best purchases I've ever made. Never did I dream I'd have a trombone that would be so compact but also sound so good.

For more information on the Yamaha YSL-350C compact trombone, visit the website devoted to the instrument on the Yamaha Band Instrument Website.

This is a remarkable instrument, a Conn contrabass trombone in BBflat, made in 1903 (serial number 69213) for August Helleberg, former tuba player with the Chicago Symphony and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. From what I've learned, there were not many of these made. In beautiful condition, it features a double slide and large bell. The photo below shows Helleberg with his Conn BBflat contrabass trombone (I am grateful to Peter Pereira for this fine photo of Helleberg), c. 1905.

This Latzsch contrabass trombone is in F with valves to E flat and B flat. Owned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I use it primarily when playing cimbasso or "trombone basso" (4th) parts in Italian operatic works including Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" and the Verdi "Requiem" as well as music of Wagner, Strauss and Schoenberg which require contrabass trombone.

A close up view of the valve section of the Latzsch contrabass trombone in F/Eflat/Bflat.

In recent years I have been enjoying exploring historical instruments including serpent, ophicleide and buccin. I also play bass sackbut and have a fine instrument made by Frank Tomes of London in 1996. This instrument is in F and is made after an historical model made in Nurenburg, Germany.

The sackbut is the historical ancestor of the trombone. The bell of a bass sackbut is typically very small; my sackbut has a bell that is five inches in diameter. In this photo you can see the flat bell and slide stays which are attached not with solder but with removable hinges. These hinges provide the sackbut with a great deal of flexibility both in construction and sound. Rather than being held together with solder which will firm up the sound and feel of the horn, the hinges allow for a flexible sound and feel that takes some getting used to. Also seen in this photo is my sackbut mouthpiece, made by Geert van der Heide. Sackbut mouthpieces typically have flat rims, large cups and very sharp throats as is the case with my sackbut mouthpiece.

This photo gives a good perspective of the bell size and the wooden handle that is necessary to reach the outer positions on a bass sackbut. The balance of the bass sackbut can be very front heavy causing strain on the left wrist. For another photo of me holding this instrument and a discussion of a solution to reduce the left hand straing, see my FAQ on tension while playing.

In 2003 I performed Monteverdi's "Vespers" of 1610 with Boston's Handel and Haydn Society. This version was staged at the Emerson Majestic Theatre in Boston and featured hundreds of statues of the Virgin Mary as props. The photo above shows the cornett and sackbut section for the Vespers, clockwise from bottom left: Michael Collver (kneeling, cornetto), Paul Perfetti (cornetto), Kiri Tollaksen (cornetto and mute cornetto), Douglas Yeo (bass sackbut), John Faieta (tenor sackbut), and Robert Couture (kneeling, alto and tenor sackbut).

This Bach B flat bass trumpet was made in New York City and was previously owned by William Gibson, former principal trombonist of the Boston Symphony. It has a mechanism which allows the main tuning slide to move with the use of a finger ring, a very useful feature! I use this instrument when playing any of the "band" pieces which require bass trumpet including Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" and the Janacek "Sinfonietta."

This lamp was made by my father-in-law from an old King/H. N. White trombone, serial number 69519. The trombone was given to me by the organist at a church at which my father was pastor in 1971. It was in terrible shape, but I saw the possibilities immediately. In high school, I had a band director who used to shout, "If you're not going to practice, then take your trombone and make a !$#@%*! lamp out of it!" So that's what I did. I had the trombone restored to at least a decent visual appearance and turned it over to my father-in-law who made a wooden base for it and did the wiring. The lamp sits in our living room where the bell makes a nice holder for my ubiquitous glass of iced tea - and it is also a very interesting conversation piece!

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