Grips and supports

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When I was in college, the Bullet Brace from Edwards was a new and exciting innovation to help bass trombonists deal with the arms race of ever increasing trombone sizes. Since then, the market has exploded with semipermanent solutions like the Bullet Brace, to minimalist straps and grips that fit over any horn, to very large (but very effective) devices like the ErgoBone.

I have never worried about these too much – I don’t play much bass trombone, and it didn’t take me too long to discover that I didn’t prefer the heavy bells that were in style at the time. I currently play a lightweight bell on my large bore, and that’s the heaviest instrument I own. So, I don’t have much need for extra help holding my instrument.

In hindsight, I’ve probably been a bit too stoic about the whole thing. Once I played a summer repertory theater company in a small theater, and it was determined that my sound was just too loud for the small auditorium we played in. So, I was asked to use a cup mute for the majority of the summer. The weight of the cup mute combined with the cramped conditions of the pit led to some wrist pain that took months to heal. I think with one of these devices, I might have avoided that issue. Still, it’s been almost 15 years since that experience, and I still never bothered much with any of these support mechanisms, even as many of my colleagues acquired one solution or another.

This past semester, one of my students brought me a gift: a “Get-A-Grip” from Sheridan Brass. I like many of its features. It’s minimal; it requires no modification of my horn and has no elements that have to be installed on the horn and left there even when not using the grip. It’s covered in leather, so it is no more distracting than the leather slide grips I already use — I would even say it matches attractively. And, it actually works — the weight of the horn DOES transfer from the small muscles of my fingers to the large muscles of my arm. There are competitors who also have these features, but they’re all must-haves for me, and I’m pleased with the quality of the device Mr. Sheridan has created.

I do have one negative observation about this product. The horn is intended to rest on the grip right around the joint between the slide and bell sections. For my instrument (a Bach 42) and my hand (fairly small), the grip would need to sit right ON the screw in order for my hand to be in its normal position on the horn. The Get-A-Grip isn’t designed to do that, so I’m having to deal with hand position that’s makes reaching the valve lever just a little awkward. This minor flaw is not a problem on my Edwards, where it fits perfectly, so clearly it’s worth making sure the grip you choose fits you and your instrument before purchasing.

Even though I still have no need for the device in normal playing scenarios, I have to say I’ve taken to using it every day. At night, when my son is sleeping, I like to play a little bit in my practice mute. Maybe I’ve just gone soft using my lightweight bell, but that thing is heavy, and my arm can’t take it for too long. Using the Get-A-Grip alleviates that discomfort and makes this work with the mute far more achievable.