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A Short History
The trombone is definitely one of the few instruments that is still evolving. Early in the 20th century the valve was introduced to the trombone. It was designed to bridge the gap between low B flat and pedal B flat. That was good, but even with F attatchments, the trombone still could not play chromaticaly through it's entire range, the low C was shaky, and the B natrual was nonexistent. The modern "Bass" trombone began appearing in the 60's sporting two rotary valves. Originally the second valve was a dependant one, with the combined pitch of E flat, which completed the chromatic. Later it was decided to make the second valve independant, which allowed more options. The most logical key for this new independant valve became G flat, combined to D. Dependant horns remained popular, becuase of the poor quality of the valves, the sound and feel of only one valve in constant use was preferable. With the new invention of different valves in the 80's and 90's the independant "bass" trombone has come into it's own.

Valve care and maintenance.

Types of Valves

The Traditional Rotary Valve

This valve has been around for a while. It is used on all brass instruments to a limited degree. It is favored on the trombone instead of piston valves becuase of it's much shorter "Throw" or how far the finger must move. It is considered "stuffy." It turns the airstream at 90 degree angles. Open wraps, meaning that the extra tubing added by the valve is straight, have given the traditional valve a new breath of life. Traditional valves are available on just about any horn imaginable.
This was the first, and still consdidered by most, the best valve. It is the only conical valve, and allows the air stream to be diverted into near straight turns. Open wraps are the only ones available on Thayer valves.

Invented by Orla Ed Thayer, the patent was sold to the Edwards company and a legal battle ensued. The valve is now in it's third generation. One of the major drawbacks is it's price. Douglas Yeo has done research on the legality of the use of Thayer valves.

I have only played a few of these, but I didn't like the ones I played at ETW 99. Currently these are only available from Edwards, Getzen, Shires, and Bach.

The Bach Balanced Valve
This was Bach's answer to the Thayer valve. It diverts the air stream into a shape that resembles a K, and is nicknamed the "K" valve. It is a lot like the traditional valve, but it is twice as long, to allow the air to flow through.

I like this valve a lot. I think that it is MORE open than the Thayer's. I do not, however, like the mechansim. The thumb piece is rubber, and it doesn't feel as comfortable in the hand as others. I've only played on a 42B, but I wanted to try the 50B with two of them.

Christian Lindberg
This is only available on Conn trombones. It was developed by, what a surprise, Christian Lindberg. It has a REALLY short throw and it's REALLLY OPEN. On one of the models I played at ETW 99 it was more open with the trigger engaged than without it. It looks funny because it has a much larger diameter than traditional valves, but who cares about looks?
This valve is only available on Boosey & Hawkes trombones. It is a funny looking thing, and the ones that I played at ETW weren't that good.
Gary Greenhoe
I don't know much about this valve. It was designed by Gary Greenhoe who worked at Edwards for many years. I believe it's only available on Shires horns but I may be wrong. I haven't played one yet.
Yamaha came up with a new design on the old valve. The old yamaha valves were already bettern than traditional ones, but this new one is supposed to be even better. I'll find out more about it.