Monday, 25 March 2013

Taming the Two-slide Trombone

A delegation from the One Handed Musical Instrument Trust recently visited the Horniman Museum to examine a very unusual trombone. The Trust ( promotes the development of orchestral instruments that can be played with just one hand, and this trombone has been adapted for just that purpose.

The instrument was invented by Eric McGavin, pictured above. McGavin was employed by Boosey & Hawkes from 1950 to 1970. He held a wide brief, overseeing the musical instrument museum at the company’s Edgware factory, playing an active part in instrument design, and leading a range of education programmes. This double-slide trombone benefited from all these fields of expertise. Another instrument in the Horniman collection, a double-slide contrabass trombone was part of the B&H collection that McGavin curated, and this may have provided an inspiration for his design. 
                                                                     McGavin’s trombone today.

The team assembled to examine the instrument included players, engineers and curators, and the morning was spent assessing McGavin’s solutions to the problems posed. The stand in the image above, which is probably a converted bassoon stand, does not survive, but from the photograph it is difficult to imagine how such an arrangement could be practical, given the forward and backward forces it would have to withstand. Frank Myers, who is the Director of MERU (, specialises in the design of equipment for use by disabled children. As soon as he saw the instrument he was coming up with his own ideas about how it could be harnessed and supported. So look out for his alternative design in the near future.

The trumpeter Alison Balsom was also present. She is an OHMI patron and has been advising on some of the brass instrument designs under consideration. 

Alison Balsom, Frank Myers, Stephen Hetherington (founder of OHMI) and Mimi Waitzman (Deputy Keeper of Musical Instruments at the Horniman). 
                                                          Perfecting the one-handed trombone posture.

After our visitors had left, I couldn’t resist the chance to put the trombone through its paces. The 50-year-old slide was a bit creaky, and the double-slide arrangement only adds to the problem by increasing the resistance. Then there is the issue of the shortened slide positions. Anyway, excuses, excuses...I managed to get a tune out of it, just.

All images and sound recording copyright Horniman Museum. The OHMI report on the Horniman visit can be found at:

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