Eb Contrabass Trombones
These two contrabass trombones are all new (not modified used instruments) and somewhat unique designs. Both are for playing the same contrabass trombone range, but each has it's own twist. The first shown here was made in 1995 for the great Los Angeles session bass trombonist, Bill Reichenbach, after many discussions about the particulars of the design and what he wanted to achieve with it.
Anybody who has played a trombone with a double slide will understand Bill's reluctance to utilize this feature, but he thought that needing to use a handle on a long single slide would be worse. I convinced him that there are advantages gained by putting the four slide tubes in a single plane rather than the usual, side by side, design seen in BBb and CC trombones. Not only is it slightly lighter, but it necessitates less tube length, allowing a relatively longer bell section. Keep in mind that even though this trombone is the same pitch as an Eb tuba, it has the slide positions of an alto trombone.
Another unusual feature is that it has 8 full positions in Eb rather than the usual 7 and a good 6 positions in BBb. He wanted the valves set up exactly as on his regular work horse bass trombones, both the lever positions and the relative pitch changes (BBb and GG). It also seemed ideal to have the bell in a "normal" relation to the player, although Bill does not need to gauge his slide positions by the rim. If you look closely, you might not find the main tuning slide. The upper crook on the slide pulls out for cleaning and has a very short allowance for tuning. This worked out well since this instrument is intended strictly for use in the studio where the environment is predictable, both in temperature and tuning of other players.
Bill has used this instrument on all his recording gigs that called for contrabass trombone. Most of the important parts needed for this trombone were supplied by Zig Kanstul. The bell is intended for his marching baritone horn and the crooks and tubes were for various tubas. Zig specially made the slide tubes including chrome plating the inside tubes (.605" bore). The cork barrels are Olds bass trombone, although I had to make the oversize bell and slide receiver and nut assembly. The rotary valves (.656" bore), made for me by Joe Marcinkiewicz, are the same as in my Eb tubas and the lever assembly I made to copy those made for Bill's Conn 62H by George Strucel many years ago. I honestly don't remember what I used for the mouthpipe, but something appropriate for the bore size and a tuba mouthpiece.
When Bill came to pick up the instrument, I was prepared for the fact that I might have to make some adjustments and I hoped that there would be nothing major to re-do. He picked it up and put it to his mouth and played it as if he had been playing it all his life. He is that kind of a musician; he can play any brass instrument well. He has used this trombone for many recording sessions. The fifth photo shows Bill prominently holding this trombone in the studio during a recording session for "Batman Forever" taken from Malcolm McNab's website.
The second case here precedes the first by eleven years (1984) and is related both in the fact that it is Eb as well as the fact that Bill Reichenbach borrowed this one when we were in the discussion phase of designing his. This trombone was made for Paul Chauvin, a fabulous tuba and trombone player, best known as member of Make Believe Brass which originated at Disneyland. This group was of a higher level of musicianship than one might expect from that park.
Paul asked me if I could make him a "slide tuba" for times when the MBB would all play slide trombones and slide trumpets. He wanted more than a bass trombone sound. I told him that it was impossible to have the large tapered body of even a small tuba in combination with the long cylindrical tubing needed for a trombone slide. I suggested that an interesting compromise might be to use a euphonium bell and body attached to a normal bass trombone slide. This would give him five and a half slide positions and I added the third, whole step, valve to make up for the missing hand slide length. One challenge would be holding it in playing position while freely manipulating the three valve levers. The levers are pushed with the first three fingers of the left hand whilst the thumb and fourth finger are able to grip the bell section securely. I can't claim that it is the most comfortable instrument to hold, but it works and Paul got some good use out of it.
This trombone was constructed mostly out of Olds parts, as I used in so many of my early projects. The bell, branches and tuning slide are all for an Olds euphonium. The hand slide (.562" bore) and rotary valves (.585" bore) are all standard for Olds bass trombones. The valves are tuned to BBb, AAb with alternate GG slide (dependant on BBb valve) and Db (independant). It was quite a challenge to design the valve levers to be easily manipulated by the fingers, but I got it to work well. A big compromise for Paul was giving up a full 7 position glissando. After some practice, he demonstrated that it was, indeed, possible to release the whole step valve in the middle of a slide glissando, making a good imitation of a full length slide.