III. Bass Trombone

After the successful Tom Crown tenor trombone mute , the next mute developed was the bass trombone straight mute. This was much easier to design as we now had the tenor trombone straight mute as a basic model. Both tenor and bass trombone are usually in Bb. The bass trombone having a larger bore and bell to facilitate playing in the low register. The bass trombone mute has to be proportionally larger to fit into a larger bell and to have a larger interior. This was not difficult. Using the tenor trombone as a model we had several different sizes and shapes made. ur Chicago bass trombone players finally decided on what the size and shape should be. One problem was that on the best model there was a “wolf “ note in the low register. We believed this had to do with the overall length of the mute.

Edward Kleinhammer, bass trombone of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was our main tester. He got the idea of using the cardboard tube inside a roll of toilet paper (Charmin ?) to gradually extend the length of the mute, finally coming to the right length. Late one night we got a call from Ed, and he was excited, he had finally found the right length. I told him to tape the toilet paper tube onto the trombone mute at that length. The next day he sent us the mute via UPS with the tube taped on, and we went from there. My wife Donna, also a trombonist, and I were very pleased with the final product. One drawback of the new mute was its size. People with small hands had difficulty getting hold of it. I came up with the idea of a “macramé” hand hold. I devised a knotted system of nylon cords to hold on to. I thought it was a work of art but I never saw or heard of anyone using it.

This mute, now in either aluminum or aluminum with a copper end was immediately popular, both in the US and abroad. Sometime in the early 1980s, we were in Paris on a vacation. We went to an impressive concert of the Orchestre d’Harmonie de la Musique de la Police National. This band, sponsored by the French National Police was equal to the US Marine Band. It is a very good band. We were invited to attend a dinner and reception after the concert by our then distributer in France, Feeling Musique. During the reception I was approached by a young man who turned out to be a bass trombone player.  He played with the Ensemble InterContemporain, conducted by Pierre Boulez. The trombonist told me that when he first played in the Ensemble, he had a little muted solo. Pierre stopped the orchestra and told my new friend that he had to use a Tom Crown bass trombone mute.The new friend bought one, probably from Feeling Musique. He liked the mute but it was very expensive.  How cool it was. Pierre knew my name.