Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

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vetsurginc
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Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by vetsurginc »

Playing in community bands I see notations for Harmon mutes infrequently for trombones, especially bass bones. Most times no mute is used, or at most a straight mute.

Is the Harmon becoming a relic of the past, or just a rare bird?
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Burgerbob
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by Burgerbob »

Was it ever popular? I own a harmon for bass and I have used it a grand total of 3 times in 11, 12 years. Big bands, wind ensembles, orchestras, you name it.
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BGuttman
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by BGuttman »

Harmon was a rare bird in most concert band or orchestral literature (I've never seen one specified for bass trombone). Big Bands / Stage Bands / Jazz Bands had some writing for Harmon, but I have to say that Harmon on bass trombone is not a satisfactory solution. Most times a plunger is used for the Wah-wah effect. And a standard toilet plunger is actually a bit small for a bass trombone (I have a 7" diameter one that I found online).

Community Big Bands tend to limit mute use to straight, cup, and plunger. Sometimes they will call for bucket. But most of the ones I've played with tended to try to minimize the number of mute you need to shlep to a gig. I even played with one band where the only mute was a plunger, held different ways to simulate straight, cup, and bucket.
Bruce Guttman
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by Doug Elliott »

A plunger held tight against the bell gives a very close approximation of a Harmon sound. Play loud to give it a buzz like a Harmon, you have to really push but it doesn't come out loud.
If you see "Tight Plunger" in a part, that's what it means - or that's my interpretation of it.

Here's Urbie doing that:
https://youtu.be/tPOYIgbpksw?t=1743
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elmsandr
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by elmsandr »

To the OP... LOL.

If you write anything other than Straight, Cup, or maybe plunger for bass.... I'm not likely doing it. If I'm getting paid? Maybe. But it better be decent pay or I'm just going to make it up. AND I ALREADY OWN THE MUTES.

They are a pain and not fun to use. The sound isn't that unique that it is worth it to me.

Cheers,
Andy
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BGuttman
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by BGuttman »

elmsandr wrote: Wed Jan 19, 2022 7:28 pm To the OP... LOL.

If you write anything other than Straight, Cup, or maybe plunger for bass.... I'm not likely doing it. If I'm getting paid? Maybe. But it better be decent pay or I'm just going to make it up. AND I ALREADY OWN THE MUTES.

They are a pain and not fun to use. The sound isn't that unique that it is worth it to me.

Cheers,
Andy
Add to that "plunger in the trigger range". I've never found an easy or effective way to do that.
Bruce Guttman
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Posaunus
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by Posaunus »

The consensus coincides with my many years of experience - big bands, small bands, concert bands, symphony orchestra, ...
Perhaps only once did I even see Harmon called out.
In my current big bands, most common mutes are;
* Bucket ( we use Softone)
* Cup
* Plunger
* Straight
(Pretty much in that order)
Kbiggs
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by Kbiggs »

If you need a good sounding Harmon for bass, why not try Trapani Mutes?

http://www.trapanimutes.com/available-mutes.html
I have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.
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OneTon
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by OneTon »

BGuttman wrote: Wed Jan 19, 2022 9:02 pm
elmsandr wrote: Wed Jan 19, 2022 7:28 pm To the OP... LOL.

If you write anything other than Straight, Cup, or maybe plunger for bass.... I'm not likely doing it.
Add to that "plunger in the trigger range". I've never found an easy or effective way to do that.
I would concur. My Duo-Gravis tenon joint holds unless a cup mute is inserted. The bell plus mute weight by itself gets unwieldy. I won’t bother getting a Harmon for bass.
I’ve had a conductor insist on a cup mute in the trigger range and then laugh when the cup mute fell out and clattered across the floor. I learned a lot about music from him but not much about mutes.

I give them a straight mute, a handheld plunger or cup mute without the trigger, or bury the bell in a black Manhasset stand. The plunger or bell in the music stand covers a lot of sound modification territory. For blended ensemble or exposed duet, the results are good enough. I do carry plungers wiih and without center holes. The reasonable band leadership usually trusts us and works with us.
Last edited by OneTon on Thu Jan 20, 2022 2:45 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Savio
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by Savio »

I used it once this year. They work nice on trumpets, but doesn't have the same effect on bass trombone. Unless you blow ffff

It can work nice in solo stuff, James Markey used it in one of his arr. Wa-wa effect.
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by ChadA »

As a professional orchestral and chamber music player on bass, I've used a harmon a fair amount. Way more than a bucket. Less than a straight or cup, obviously. If you're a professional player, expect to have to buy one at some point. It may take a while for it to pay for itself, though.... :)
CalgaryTbone
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by CalgaryTbone »

I agree with the last post. I'm not a bass trombonist, but I have used harmons on Pops concerts (and Rhapsody in Blue), and some contemporary Classical pieces. We played a piece recently where there was an exposed harmon part in the bass trombone part.

I just received my Trapani harmon a couple of weeks ago. It's a tenor mute, but it plays all the way down to the pedal range, and seems to be pretty well in tune, with or without stem. I had trouble with my old metal mutes not being able to play some low passages in a modern opera part. The Trapani is rather light too, and seems to be durable.

I get why some people say that harmon never gets used in their circles, but I find that the more "exotic" mutes are being required more often, and if you don't have one, it can be difficult to find on short notice.

Jim Scott
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bassclef
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by bassclef »

Kbiggs wrote: Wed Jan 19, 2022 9:41 pm If you need a good sounding Harmon for bass, why not try Trapani Mutes?

http://www.trapanimutes.com/available-mutes.html
Yep. I've been through all of the available options and these are by far the best by every metric one would want to measure: sound, weight and staying put in the bell to name a few.
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by Doug Elliott »

I see those are Noah's...
I'll get one, although I can hardly remember the last time I needed a Harmon for anything.
I remember now... it was a recording with Dave Taylor. He likes Harmons.
CalgaryTbone
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by CalgaryTbone »

I don't believe that Noah is distributing them anymore. I got ordered mine through him, but by the time it came through the mail, they weren't on his site anymore and it was suggested that I email Trapani directly when the mail service was slow. It ended up coming the very next day so I never spoke to him. I'm sure Noah can put you in touch with him.

Jim Scott
Dennis
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by Dennis »

CalgaryTbone wrote: Fri Jan 21, 2022 3:50 pm I don't believe that Noah is distributing them anymore. I got ordered mine through him, but by the time it came through the mail, they weren't on his site anymore and it was suggested that I email Trapani directly when the mail service was slow. It ended up coming the very next day so I never spoke to him. I'm sure Noah can put you in touch with him.

Jim Scott
http://trapanimutes.com and trapanimutes@gmail.com

Steve is really easy to deal with. I needed to order three of them a week or two ago (2 Tenor and 1 Bass) because the MD said, "No, substitutes won't work." and we didn't like the alternatives so we decided to try Steve's mutes.

Verb sap. If you're thinking about ordering purple, the plastic stock he's using is more pink than purple.
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Finetales
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Re: Harmon Mutes for bass no more?

Post by Finetales »

I think bass harmon sounds cool and would gladly use it if it was called for. I used it a ton in undergrad for new orchestra, trombone choir, and trombone quartet pieces. Fortissimo pedal F# with harmon is a very unique sound!

I haven't used mine (a Jo-Ral) a single time since then, but I still have it just in case I want to write for it in a multitrack or something. Eventually I might pick up both Trapanis since neither the bass Jo-Ral or my tenor Harmon E stay in the bell very well.
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