Hand angle at slide

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AndrewMeronek
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Hand angle at slide

Post by AndrewMeronek »

Lately I've been thinking about ergonomics and moving the slide, and observing that the hand always moves in arcs whereas the slide always moves with the hand even though it's straight.

I've been inclined lately to turn my hand palm-down toward the floor a lot, and it's because of the angle of my finger to the slide's hand brace. With my palm more toward me, my finger curves toward me as well, which means that in large inward motions that finger (or fingers) will tend to apply sideways force on the slide, almost no matter what I do. Slow the motion down, and of course we all can get the motion to straighten out, but to move the slide really fast, I don't actually think this is possible, nor maybe even desirable. But it does cause the horn to move around. Facing my palm down and curling my finger around the bottom slide tube (not just the brace) makes the angle of my finger on the slide brace straighter, meaning that there's a bit of room for my hand to yank around before I actually yank the slide sideways due to the motion arc.

Of course, with this setup there's really no danger of throwing the slide across the room, as sometimes can happen with players who like to grip the slide brace with just their fingertips.

Anyway, there are a whole lot of different grips people use out there, and I'm suggesting that this particular grip seems like it also is pretty good. To recap: it is palm down, two fingers (or three) curled around the bottom slide tube but not gripping it, index finger sliding on the slide brace, the pinky (and possibly ring finger) underneath the bottom slide tube, thumb on the other side of the slide brace and is free to move back and forth on the brace as the hand angle to the slide changes. It's one of the 'loose' grips, meant for rapid execution rather than a 'full contact' grip meant more for slower precision.
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Kbiggs
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by Kbiggs »

Slide hand position seems to be a controversial topic. We know there are many ways to hold a slide, and there are many ways to not hold a slide. James Markey has some similar thoughts on hand position in this youtube video starting around 5:00. His intro is also worthwhile.

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AndrewMeronek
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by AndrewMeronek »

Yup, I'm in the audience for that particular lecture. :)
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harrisonreed
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by harrisonreed »

That is why I play using only the thumb and index finger. It allows for that natural movement, but all I knew was that it alleviated tension in my arm.
hyperbolica
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by hyperbolica »

Julie Josephson was at NEC for a year when I was there. She held the slide palm down. Probably still does. I allow the slide to float between thumb and forefinger with the ring finger under the slide.
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Wilktone
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by Wilktone »

You don’t need to hold your wrist in a static position as you play. The closer the position the more my palm is ypturn downtowards the floor. As I go out towards 6th and 7th my palm turns more towards facing me.
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TexHipp
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by TexHipp »

From your description, sounds like you are using "ulnar-radial deviation". Mine doesn't move quite so well in that dimension.

For me, the wrist joint makes a natural hinge along the other axis, moving in what I believe is called "palmar flexion". My palm always faces me, at an angle that varies from first to seventh position. I feel much more relaxed and fluid in this orientation. And, I believe that the wrist has more angular range using this movement.

I hold the crossbar lightly between thumb and index finger, the remaining three fingers are on the outside of the slide. This arrangement takes advantage of human physiology where dexterity increases with distance from the shoulder: arm provides the bulk movement, wrist provides fine movement, and the fingertips provide the final dose of precision for intonation. If I have my palm turned towards the inside, I lose the precision of that last hinge. And to your initial observation, having four hinges (shoulder, elbow, wrist, fingertips+crossbar) all with their barrels aligned, allow an irregular arm to smoothly follow the strictly linear motion of the slide.

Now, this all assumes a healthy, non-aggravated wrist joint. I'd imagine trombonists suffering from repetitive stress injuries might have to make modifications.

[Watching Kbiggs' video by James Markey is on my soon-to-do list, so I may be walking on well-trodden ground.]
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by TexHipp »

Here's a direct link to the 3min48sec video snippet where Mr Markey discusses slide hold. Mr Markey advocates rotating the palm from first to seventh positions. For him, this motion is the most natural and minimizes tension in his forearm. I can't quite tell if it's the same rotation as described by Dave Wilken, but I think the principle is the similar.

At the risk of over-trodding the ground, here are four ideas to expand and clarify my post above.
  1. Hand position should enable your best musical expression by providing the most fluidity and synchrony.
  2. Hand position should feel good in the short term, not merely avoiding pain, but also not causing a mental distraction.
  3. Hand position should enable maximum precision, taking advantage of the inherent strengths of finger+hand+arm+shoulder system.
  4. Hand position should allow endurance while minimizing and long-term injury.
Let's consider the particulars of the wrist joint.
Illustration-of-dorsal-palmar-flexion-and-ulnar-radial-deviation-of-the-hands-wrists.png

The wrist is naturally more flexible and powerful along one pivot axis than the other: Bending the palm upwards and downwards ("palmar flexion" and "dorsal extension") has more range and power then bending the palm side-to-side ("radial-ulnar deviation") Also, precision of movement increases as you go from the shoulder, to the elbow, to the wrist, to the fingers.

A palm-to-the-side slide technique must be in one of two categories:
  1. wrist locked, making it not available for slide adjustments, thus relying on the less-precise elbow and shoulder joints, or
  2. some minimal wrist movement (radial-ulnar deviation), which has less strength and much more limited range of movement compared to palmar flexion.
In either case, palm-to-the-side orientation completely eliminates the possibility of using fingertips for precision movements.

As a counter-argument to the palm-to-the-side being more natural, I submit that there are some movements that initially feel "natural", but are ergonomically detrimental. One familiar example is lifting a load. It is quite instinctual to lift by arching your back. It is also considered poor form. It takes deliberateness to lift correctly with a straight back and bent legs.

I was taught the palm-up technique, so maybe this is all post hoc rationalization, but I think it does have some solid basis in physiology. The palm-up slide hold gives me the most fluidity, power, precision and I have good reason to believe that it minimizes long-term wear and tear.

Then there's the original issue mentioned by Andrew Morenek: unwanted side-to-side motion of the slide. I confess, I hadn't previously much thought about hand position and disturbing the slide motion. I can see what Andrew means about how a palm-to-the-side technique gives some wiggle room that minimizes that kind of side-to-side disturbance. On the other hand, it should be possible to play palm-up if one is deliberate. David Vining addresses this on his webpage and in this video on slide technique. He points out that in order to trace a straight line of the slide, a trombonist must use all the joints of the arm, from fingers up to the collarbone.
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by Doug Elliott »

Those various and typical descriptions totally leave out the way I do it. I use a motion similar to what's known as a "Royal wave" or "Queen's wave," with the hand back and twisting the wrist. Not bending the wrist, but twisting the forearm, with a bent-back wrist. In that position, the fingertips can travel about a foot with absolutely no wrist, elbow, or shoulder action. That equals about the distance from 1st to 4th, or 2nd to 5th, or 3rd to 6th.

This is what I "try" to do. In actual playing, from seeing videos of myself, my slide action becomes a combination of that and some arm motion. But it's not nearly as limited in scope as "dorsal palmar flexion and ulnar-radial deviation."
TexHipp
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by TexHipp »

Pardon, I didn't mean to imply that I was making an inclusive list. In fact, I had typed out, then deleted as obvious/redundant, a phrase along the lines of "Everyone's anatomy is different, so if you've got a method that works for you, rock on!" My motivation for posting was to see if I could make a rational explanation to myself for why I was doing what I was doing. And then layering on the additional complexity of minimizing slide/embouchure disturbance.

I just picked up my horn, and with your wrist twist, I can't quite get the 1st-to-4th range. The most I can get is 1st to 3rd, which is about what I can get with my palmar flexion. But I may be missing something. I'm open to trying something new. I guess we'll something to talk about at our next meeting.
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by timothy42b »

Doug Elliott wrote: Sun Dec 11, 2022 7:21 pm Those various and typical descriptions totally leave out the way I do it. I use a motion similar to what's known as a "Royal wave" or "Queen's wave," with the hand back and twisting the wrist. Not bending the wrist, but twisting the forearm, with a bent-back wrist.
I had to grab a trombone and try to understand that. I can't get 3 positions but can get 2. Maybe if I work on it. For sure it requires a relaxed wrist.

The Four Freshman video recently posted didn't really show it that I could tell. I went frame by frame around the 3 minute mark. I don't see any wrist bending, but it's hard to see if there's a twisting forearm from that angle, especially with somebody's head in the way, but if there is it isn't obvious.

Anyway there's definitely no palmar flexion, which just about everybody says we should do, but don't do it themselves.
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robcat2075
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by robcat2075 »

It is interesting that there is so much doubt and difference about moving the slide with our arm and hand when moving things with our arm and hand is what our arm and hand are built for and what we have been doing with them our entire lives.
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by timothy42b »

robcat2075 wrote: Mon Dec 12, 2022 10:30 am It is interesting that there is so much doubt and difference about moving the slide with our arm and hand when moving things with our arm and hand is what our arm and hand are built for and what we have been doing with them our entire lives.
Yup. And that's why I can throw a baseball 20 mph and a MLB pitcher can throw 100 mph. (and blow out his ulnar collateral ligament, like very few trombone players have) <humor>

Last night in rehearsal I had to play on a sticky slide and tried using Doug's forearm swivel, which seemed to help.

I went frame by frame at 8:43 of the Markey video. The dark sweater with no pattern makes it hard to see. The watch makes it clear that he supinates (forearm swivel) on the way out. It looks like he also has internal rotation at the shoulder, as well as some adduction, but that's hard to tell for sure. I think Doug is suggesting that if we don't move too far we can do it all with forearm supination and pronation, and that seems to be pretty relaxed. I think that is equivalent to how a pianist trills, which is plenty fast though shorter.

There have always been teachers who recommend palmar flexion but I don't see anyone doing it in video. Well, maybe one, but even he has minimized it in later years.
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by TexHipp »

robcat2075 wrote: Mon Dec 12, 2022 10:30 am It is interesting that there is so much doubt and difference about moving the slide with our arm and hand when moving things with our arm and hand is what our arm and hand are built for and what we have been doing with them our entire lives.
Maybe because we're asking our slide arms to do something outside of its specification. Perhaps there is not a clearly optimal way because our arm joints move generally in arcs, and trombone sliding requires a linear motion? We have to combine a series of arcs to approximate that linear motion. If we're doing a task that requires mainly rational motion, would there be more of a consensus? Do we all twist a screwdriver in the same manner?

Maybe the only consensus we can ever hope to have is to agree that due to the variance among people's anatomy, there are multiple ways to do a task, with perhaps some subset "wrong" in the sense that it feels unnatural, is inefficient or is injury-prone. In that case, the best teachers would be aware of the multiple "correct" ways of doing a task, figuring out which way is best for that particular student, and having an efficient way to guide the student to that way.

At that point, all the debates/discussions/arguments here on TC reduce to "Here's what works for me, with my particular brain and anatomy. If it's working for you, keep on. If you've got an issue, try it my way to see if it fixes your issue". (This was my internal monologue when I originally waded into this thread. And I wish I had made my wording less authoritative and more conciliatory.) Maybe the only certainly wrong idea is that there is one-and-only-one correct way to do a task.

PS: Do the trumpet forums debate the way to depress valves?
Last edited by TexHipp on Tue Dec 13, 2022 11:43 am, edited 2 times in total.
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robcat2075
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by robcat2075 »

I would say that moving a trombone slide is more similar to pushing a salt shaker to someone across the table (something we manage to do without uncontrolled arcs) than throwing a 100mph fastball.
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by Doug Elliott »

Handling a slide involves both pushing and pulling, with some sort of grip so you don't drop it, which is different than pushing something that is already supported on the table.

I use a very loose grip, pretty much throwing the brace between my fingers.

Watch what I do starting about :55 in this video. A lot of it involves opening and closing my hand, which significantly reduces the amount of arm motion. It's really ALL about reducing arm motion.
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robcat2075
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by robcat2075 »

I'd think also be able to retrieve the salt shaker from across the table without a wild arc.

It's possible I'm uniquely talented at that. :idk:

I'll also note that the trombone handslide is supported... by the inner slide.

Little-to-none of my slide arm effort is devoted to supporting the slide. I believe that is as it should be. What little downward tilt force is created while the slide is extended is instinctively countered at the left hand's hold of the trombone.
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by Doug Elliott »

I have mentioned before that I actually do support the side in 7th position, so that I could actually go off the end and still be holding the outer slide at the same angle. I do that by pushing my thumb down on the lower side tube end.
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by TexHipp »

Doug, would you use that same throwing-the-brace-between-my-fingers motion for non-jazz playing?
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by Doug Elliott »

Just by the fact that a large bore slide is heavier, I suppose the technique or grip might be slightly different, but I still use the "wave" action of a twisting forearm to minimize arm motion.
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by Silverbee »

When playing, you don't have to keep your wrist still. My palm turns down toward the floor more as the position becomes closer.
TexHipp
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Re: Hand angle at slide

Post by TexHipp »

Cross-reference to a similar discussion.
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