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Dave's Electric Trombone Page

Take a walk on the Wild Side

I started playing the electric trombone with a group called “Sofa” a few years ago.  At the urging of the bass player I picked up a couple of effects pedals, a clip-on microphone, and a small PA.  This was a short lived group but it opened my eyes to some of the other possible voices for the trombone.  A few years later I heard Hal Crook at the AS220 Club in Providence, RI and realized that this was to be taken seriously.  So, I decided to put together a serious but affordable electric trombone setup.  I have had several requests for more information on the subject, so here it is.

 

 

I wanted a setup that could be operated without a PC.   I also wanted a pedal based system so that most of controls could be foot operated.  The system that I came up with includes effects for octaves both above and below the played note.  Several echo effects are also included.  Special effects provided by a vocal box provide many types of effects including 5th up, force, helium, etc.  Most of the equipment fits into a pedal board case.

I use two microphones, one attached to my trombone bell and the other one mounted on a stand.  The bell mounted microphone is always active.  The signal from this microphone goes direct to the mixer, to the Vocal 300 Effects and to the JamMan.  With this configuration I always have control over how much “pure” trombone sound will be in the mix. I have tried using the "E-Mute" which is a single pickup device.  However,  I  like having some direct trombone sound so I have pretty much stopped using the E-Mute for now.

Any trombone can become “electric.”  Basically it is a standard trombone which has some type of microphone or pickup attached to it.  Some players use a clip-on microphone or a mute like the “Silent Brass” or "E-Mute".  The signal is then fed through some type of  “effect” and then into a mixer.  The signal is then handled like any other type of sound input.” 

Why the Electric Trombone?

Electronic effects have been used by rock and roll and jazz musicians for years.  Urbie Green, Miles Davis, Don Ellis, Hal Crook, Robin Eubanks and Bonarama are a few.  The different voices offered by the use of electronic effects can greatly enhance musical expression. Plus there is the fun factor.  And isn't that what it's all about?

What creates the effects?

There are several types of “effects” that can be used.  Some musicians like to use pedal operated guitar type effects.  Computers and synthesizers and rack mounted effects are also used.  Effects can also be added to recorded performances.  I use foot operated guitar/vocal pedals, some with recording/looping capabilities. My favorite effects are the standard octave and echo guitar pedals.  They are inexpensive and work great with the trombone.

Samples

Swingin The Blues

The background track is a Db blues from a Jamey Aebersold play-a-long,

 

Foggy Day 
23 Dec 10

We've played this tune a few times with the Simply Sinatra band.  This version is a little different.  I used the octave and echo pedals.

 

Black and Crazy Blues

I used the octave below with echo for this Rassan Roland Kirk tune


Dancing On the Ceiling 

This was one of Sammy Sherman's favorite tunes.  I recorded this using his 1939 King 2B. Again just the octave below effect with echo.

Blessed Relief

This is a great Frank Zappa tune that is a lot of  fun to play.  I used several voices from the Vocal 300 as well as some looping using the JamMan.  

Munster Theme

Coming soon

 

Equipment

The electric trombonist has a lot of equipment to be concerned with. You can't just show up for a gig, blow a few notes and start playing.  Rock and roll musicians know full well what is involved.  Most horn players don't normally get involved with anything past the microphone.    I have changed my setup several times and I'm sure that it will change again to make it as portable as possible.   There is a lot of trial and error involved. If cost was no object then my system would look a lot different.  I wanted  a portable, performance based system, so that affected many of my choices. 

Boss Super Octave OC-3
This pedal is a quality product from Boss.  This is a guitar pedal but works with trombones.  It is capable of playing a note one or two octaves below the played note.  I only use it in single octave mode. This pedal combined with the echo pedal results in many great effects.  Urbie Green recorded an album in the 70's using similar effects.  These pedals are connected to the stand mounted microphone.  I can use just these effects or combine them with the clip-on microphone effects.  Moving closer and further away from the microphone controls the volume level.  I like a switch on this microphone so that I can turn it off without having to turn it off at the mixer.  

Behringer Digital Delay DD400
This is an inexpensive guitar pedal.  I'm planning on replacing it with a better unit.  Using a delay is like adding a new dimension to your sound and your frustration level. 

DigiTech Vocal 300
The Vocal 300  was designed  for vocal effects but many of the effects work great with horns.  You can program your own effects but I have not figured out how to do that.  The main gain control is very sensitive so beware.  Also, there are rubber stops in the pedal mechanisms that sometimes need adjustment. This is not difficult but is not something that you want to do before or during a performance.  I have a spare unit just in case.  As far as I know there is no other pedal operated unit that offers these type of effects.  There is a Vocal 400 but I don't know if it is any better.  I wish there was a better product out there.

DigiTech JamMan
I bought this pedal for looping capabilities but have found other uses for it too.  It uses a compact flash card to store loops or any other music that you want.  I store several background tracks that I play along with.  It can be connected to a computer for transferring of files.  Looping takes a lot of practice to get right.  Some of the effects do not work well with looping.  I am still working on this.  The JamMan is a very well made piece of equipment.

Samson S-Split
This is the most recent addition to my set up.  This device splits the signal from the clip-on microphone into three separate signals.

AKG ATM35 Clip-on Microphone
This is a pretty good instrument microphone.  I don't like the wire but can't justify a wireless system.

Shure SM58S Stand Mounted Microphone
A good reliable microphone with a switch.

Best Brass E-Mute
The E-Mute is much lighter than the Yamaha Silent Brass and has the electronics built into the mute.  

 

 

This is my pedal board (Gator).  It contains all of the effects pedals. They are attached with Velcro and stays in place very well. This pedal board came with Velcro strips with very strong adhesive.  Another board I tried came with poor adhesive and the pedals did not stay in place.

Bottom left is the Vocal 300.  Above the Vocal 300 pedal is the signal divider for the clip-on microphone. To the right of the Vocal 300 is the JamMan  with the accessory foot switch.  In the lower right are the Echo and the Octave pedals.

This is an old Peavey Mark III Series  PA head with a Mackie Micro Series 1202  mixer.

I found this equipment in a yard sale. I like the Mackie mixer because it is small and has four input trim controls as well as gain controls.  I bought a second Peavy PA head to have as a spare.  I have spare mixers and powered speakers just in case.

I use an AKG-ATM35 clip on microphone along with a Shure SM58S  microphone.  The Shure has a switch so that I can turn it off if I want to.  

The clip-on is always live. Its signal is split into three inputs.  One goes directly to the mixer, one to the Vocal 300 and one to the JamMan.  The three split signals goes to the mixer so that there are separate controls for the direct trombone, Vocal 300 and the JamMan.  This setup allows the direct trombone sound to be controlled independently from the other pedals.  Small rooms where the acoustic trombone is predominant  may require little or no direct trombone while larger rooms will require more direct trombone.

The SM58S microphone which is mounted on the stand is fed  to the Octave pedal,  then in series to the Echo pedal, then to the mixer. Each pedal can be operated separately or together.

The clip-on microphone has a wire which gets in the way.  A wireless unit would be nice.

02/22/2011