Best Bass Trombone Harmon Mutes

In this post we’ll be comparing the various brands of harmon mute (also known as a ‘wah-wah’ mute) available for the bass trombone. Although not a massively common mute, it is asked for increasingly often especially in contemporary music and brass band music. Because of the relative rarity of this mute, it’s worth getting a good one to last the rest of your playing life!

Best Bass Trombone Harmon Mutes

Jo-Ral B5 Aluminium Wah-Wah/Bubble Mute

Excellent production and tone in the low rangeThe tube can be a little loose
Sturdy construction and does not dent easilyMay require the addition of tape to the tube to prevent a rattling sound

Click here to purchase on Thomann

Denis Wick DW5508 Extending Tube Mute

Good characteristic harmon toneProne to falling out of the bell
Affordable and cost-effectiveMade of aluminium and dents rather easily

Click here to purchase on Thomann or Amazon

Humes & Berg ST-189 Bass Trombone Wah-Wah Mute

Accurate intonation throughout the rangeHas trouble fitting into some bell sizes
Good sound with or without tubeHeavier than some of the other options

 Click here to purchase on Thomann

Best Brass Bass Trombone ‘Cool Jazz’ Wah-Wah Mute

Very light at only 6.5 ounces (195g/0.41 pounds)Most expensive option - may not be cost-effective for a seldom used mute
Excellent tuning through the range

Click here to purchase on Thomann

 Which one to go for?

My personal recommendation would be the Jo-Ral. It has great response and production, especially in the often difficult valve register. In my experience it is the most reliable at staying put in the bell, and the construction is sturdy enough that a drop is unlikely to dent it much.

Penderecki – Capriccio for Solo Tuba

Yes, I know this isn’t, but bear with me…

Sometimes I just want to write about good music – and if it happens to be relevant in some way, then great!

Capriccio for Solo Tuba by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-) is one of the cornerstones of the tuba repertoire, and it’s easy to see why:

Written in 1980 and commissioned by the Warsaw Symphony Orchestra, this is a real virtuoso tour-de-force for the solo tuba. It is in a rough ABA form with a humorous “Tempo de Valse” in the centre. It encompasses a huge range and makes use of glissandi, quasi-aleatoricism (highest/lowest pitch possible) and very large interval jumps.

Mickey Wrobleski spent time working on this piece in collaboration with the composer, and his article in the Winter 2001 TUBA Journal is required reading for those seeking to seriously prepare this piece for performance. It includes corrections to the published sheet music as well as stylistic points and tips for intelligent and appropriate choice of tempi.

But what about the trombone?

Well, for the advanced player with excellent technique and pedal range, this also makes a great recital piece for bass trombonists. There are no notes outside of reasonable range, and there are no major alterations to be made apart from finding an effective way to fake some of the glissandi.

This brilliant performance by Adam D. Jones makes me wonder why it isn’t played more often by trombonists!

In conclusion

Despite the technical difficulties and contemporary language, it is an attractive and characterful piece of music that is well worth persevering with. Preparing this to performance standard will be sure to improve all aspects of your playing, but especially pitching, large intervals and the pedal range.

Suggested Recordings: Benjamin Pierce from the album “Wheels of Life”

Buy the sheet music here at Amazon

Best Bass Trombone Method Books

In this post we’ll be looking at some of the best bass trombone method books available. Bass trombonists have always had difficulty finding good methods and resources to learn from, probably because of the comparative newness of the modern double valve instrument when compared to other brass – especially the tenor trombone. However, we will also be looking at methods that are beneficial and appropriate for tenor trombone players seeking to improve their low range.

Methods for Beginners or Tenor Trombonists

Allen Ostrander: Method for Bass Trombone (and F attachment for Tenor Trombone)

Originally published in 1948 after teaching a bass trombone student at Julliard, this is one of the first study books aimed specifically at the bass trombone. It deals only with the F valve (and the related E/flat-F tunings) but despite this is still a great resource especially for intermediate players or tenor trombonists looking to explore the lower range more.

Included are: valve use exercises, progressive etudes and some orchestral excerpts.

Cover tiny file
look inside
Method for Bass Trombone
And F Attachment for Tenor Trombone. Composed by Allen Ostrander. Classical. Student book. With Standard notation. Published by Carl Fischer (CF.O4517).


Lew Gillis: 70 Progressive Studies for the Modern Bass Trombonist

In a similar vein to the Ostrander book, this method is aimed at tenor trombonists who are moving to bass trombone. It also only looks at use of the F-attachment. The studies are well marked with both valve suggestions and alternate positions.

The etudes are of intermediate difficulty and high musical quality and are ideal for beginner bass trombonists or tenor trombonists looking to develop the low register.

Included are: 40 F-attachment studies, 10 pedal note studies and circles of 5ths scale studies.

Click here to purchase “70 Progressive Studies for the Modern Bass Trombonist” at Amazon

General Bass Trombone Methods

Alan Raph: The Double Valve Bass Trombone

This is one of the first books written with the double trigger bass trombone in mind, and covers the use of a few different possible valve tunings. Included are: the Single Valve in F, the Double Valve in flat E, the Double Valve in D and the Independent 2nd Valve in Gb.

My only criticism is that the book spends too much time looking at the use of the valve in the upper register, something hardly ever required in performance. Nevertheless, this is still an excellent tutor for the use of both valves.

Here is a quote about the book from Tom Everett’s Annotated Guide to Bass Trombone Literature – “All aspects of playing requirements are covered with many of the exercises”.

Click here to purchase “The Double Valve Bass Trombone” at Amazon

Eliezer Aharoni: New Method for the Modern Bass Trombone

Widely considered to be the best method available, this book covers everything a bass trombonist will need to mastery to reach professional competency. This method has the most extensive coverage of valve tunings, and includes practically every system commonly used on the modern bass trombone.

The full list includes:

  • Single Valve in F
  • Single Valve with E pull
  • Double Valve (side by side): Second valve in flat E, in Eb, and in D
  • In line: Bb – F – G – Eb, Bb – F – Gb – D, and long tuning slide on 2nd valve
  • Single valve in F with a sliding E extension (“Slex”).

The Aharoni method also includes sections discussing the development of the bass trombone and the pros and cons of each valve tuning system.

I would recommend this book to every player serious about improving technical fluency. It thoroughly covers everything from learning the F-attachment onwards and can be used effectively by everyone from beginners to professionals.