Butler Carbon Fiber Trombones
This was an outer slide replacement of Earl Williams Model 6, serial #1128 – manufactured in Burbank circa 1966. Here’s a terrific history of Earl Williams trombones. Received the slide yesterday afternoon, played it for 20 minutes at home then took it to the show:
– Weight: Obviously this outer is the lightest I’ve ever played. I don’t know how many ounces it is, but it can’t weigh but 1/4 (or less) what the stock brass outer slide does.
– Speed: Easily the fastest slide I’ve ever played in a 42-year playing career. 10/10. Enough said.
– Feel: I usually determine this by moving the slide slowly, simulating teensy-weensy adjustments. This test is deceptive, because the feel is so different from a metal slide. A metal slide has heft, which gives it inertial potential, and in an optimum metal slide allows for a glassy feel that provides little drag. No “glassy feel” here – obviously – because we’re not evaluating metal-on-metal with some intermittent viscous fluid. We’re evaluating straight-on carbon fiber on metal.
This slide is just do damn light, the “smoothness/slickness” factor isn’t really comparable and is barely determinable. It’s like the normal evaluation rules don’t apply, and I found myself not *wanting* to evaluate it by traditional methods. In other words, this slide changes my preferences.
– Treatment: It seems to like to be dry, because whenever I add any of the (recommended) Yamaha lubricant to it, it incrementally slows down – which takes away from the superior slide speed. The whole thing with this slide is speed, not slickness, and adding anything diminishes the speed just a bit – which is the whole point of the slide.
I guess what I’m getting to with this whole Speed/Slickness analysis is that the classic slide feel is out the door with this one. It doesn’t have the traditional slickness of a metal slide, but after playing it you just don’t care, because it’s SO damn fast.
So fast in fact: this show I’m playing requires a lot of fast 1st-to-6th and 7th-to-2nd technique which I normally use a trigger on (was using an Elkhart Conn 79H), and this is a straight horn and I had NO problem cleanly playing the phrases. I will finish the run with this horn.
Now given all of this, I am a slide placer and not a slide slinger/thrower, and I can’t speak for how this would affect slinging/throwing technique players.
First, a quick primer as to these two techniques:
There are two general schools when it comes to slide technique – placers and slingers.
During fast passages, Slingers don’t like to change slide direction too abruptly. When making a fast position change of two positions or more finishing with a reverse, they push or pull the slide with EITHER the fingers or thumb, and then catch it or bounce it with the opposing digit(s). If it’s multiple notes in the same direction, they accelerate/decelerate the slide during the one-direction position change in order to attempt to coincide the moment of articulation with the correct slide position.
Placers – like me – keep thumb and fingers in contact with the brace at all times. When I need to play something fast, I place my arm and wrist at the right positions, and quick changes of direction are done with wrist whip rather than throwing and catching. If I’m in first and I have to jump quickly out to fifth or sixth and back, I do it by extending my arm, with all my fingers and thumb never losing contact, and the wrist being the “whip” or shock absorber.
It must be noted that since these two techniques are inextricably tied to overall intonation/sound/style, slide slingers and slide placers are positively married to their respective technique. They usually can’t understand the other, which is why so few players will speak of or acknowledge these two – generally exclusive – fast slide techniques. They are like ardent members of opposing political parties – they just don’t “get” the other.
I have no idea how a slinger would like this slide, because it doesn’t have the normal heft/speed/feel characteristics of a metal slide; I would think they have to feel heft in order for throwing/catching the slide to feel “right.” I’m a slide “placer” and I positively love the speed/feel of this slide.
– Air Feel: I cannot determine ANY differences in air feel from the stock metal slide.
I am a painfully picky player in this regard – I just had new (metal) tubes drawn for another horn, and I sent the slide back because even though the slide felt amazing and the construction was perfect, the tolerance between the inner and outer was JUST a micron or two too loose and it (incrementally) changed the blow.
Nothing like that here. Nothing. Air feel is identical to a stock, mid-60s Earl Williams 6. Probably helps that David Butler is a Williams expert.
– Sound: this was the truly surprising & exciting part – I cannot determine ANY differences in sound quality from the stock metal slide. None whatsoever, not even low Bs/Cs/Fs/Es where a third of the trombone is carbon. All the resonance qualities that I love metal horns for – and have had problems with all-CF horns – are absent here. It projects, resonates and rings just like any good mid-1960s Williams.
– Disadvantages: the only thing I can think of is the inner has to be widened to accommodate the carbon fiber outer, so once you convert you can’t switch back and forth.
Based on playing it about three hours yesterday, it’s safe to say this is my new primary gig setup that I will use on all but large-bore gigs, no question.
Absolutely excellent. Flawless construction. Real game-changer. Highly recommended.