A couple months ago I bought a cheap trombone off Ebay. It took a bit of hunting but I got the price down to $50. It's a used student model with a number of dings and some wear on the finish, but for the price, and considering it's potential fate on the scrap pile if my project went awry, its a reasonable gamble. Here it is: My intent here is to turn it into a reasonable facsimile of a sackbut. They did have beasties which looked essentially identical to the modern trombone, but really, where's the fun in that? Sackbuts tended to have shorter bells, like this fellow depicted around 1500 by Georg Eberlein: I'm not new to brass since I've played trumpet since 5th grade, but I'm a total trombone rookie. Before buying this one my total experience was playing a friend's horn once in college, so I fixed this horn up a bit with some fresh lube for the slides and taught myself to play. You can hear what it sounds like here:
Not perfect, but good enough to complicate things by shortening the bell. I'm still learning the positions, so I don't want to get too used to them all being a certain distance relative to the present bell or it will be harder to unlearn with the new bell. So I took a rubber band to help mark where to cut. I was thinking about 2nd position, which ideally is half way between the bell and 1st position (as far in as the slide goes) would be right. There are a couple of issues with that. First, 2nd position doesn't seem to land at that ideal spot all that often, and second, that makes the bell pretty darn short. So I put it further out. There's a third complication which is more subtle- if you make it too short it starts to really alter the 1st position pitch. According to all the acoustics stuff I've read the flare on the bell mostly helps project various harmonics forward, helping the trombone have a louder sound and fuller tone. The truncated bell should dampen those harmonics, helping me blend with the quieter instruments in my ensemble. I don't mention it here much, but I run our baronial music guild which plays for our dance guild about once a month. It's a lot of fun, and we have some fantastic musicians. Here's the shot with the rubber band in place to help mark the line, and a shot of the bell after I ground through the wire at the edge and cut up the bell with my Beverly shears: The little blue line about a quarter inch from the edge is a mark to help me roll the edge consistently. It was very helpful. The brass is extremely thin, and wrinkles easily, like tin foil, so I had to be very careful. I used three different hammers (Barnet's soft plastic mallet, a raising hammer I sculpted and a customized ball pein with a small and rounded face) four stakes (two different sized balls, a flat square stake and my kettle stake) and a swedge block to make the roll and it still isn't stellar. The stuff is tricky. Here's the final result:
The piece I'm playing is a 15th century tune our dance guild had requested we play for the Candle dance at Candlemas in February. It's called Ly Bens Dystonys.


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