About the different valve designs of the trombone

Do you want to improve your sound or gaming experience? You may have already noticed that there are different valves on trombones. There is the classic rotor valve, the Thayer valve and the Hagmann valve. Below I would like to explain the differences to you:

Traditional rotary valve:

  • This valve is the most common. Maybe that’s what you imagine when you hear the term “trombone valve”. Basically it is a simple cylindrical valve body with a rotor inside. This rotates so that the air flow is diverted by 90°. Consequently, the length of the pipe changes and thus the pitch. The sound of the resulting valve tones is often described as compact and direct.

Rotary valve of a Conn 88h

Thayer valve:

  • The Thayer valve is a modern variant of the valve. Orla Ed Thayer invented it in 1976. The conical version we know today was patented in 1985. It has a more open design with a conical rotor that allows air to flow more efficiently. This results in a very open sound and almost resistance-free valve tones. Not everyone likes the ergonomics and appearance of the Thayer design. The lever travel tends to be a bit longer. But you have the slightest kink in the air column at only approx. 20°. This results in a sound rich in overtones.

Axial valve on a Bach 42AF

Hagmann valve:

  • Another very popular variant is the Hagmann valve. It was invented by René Hagmann in 1990. He wanted to optimize the classic rotary valve. Consequently, his valve is low-maintenance. It avoids the sharp 90° curve that this one has. The air column here only has a 45° bend. As a result, it allows for an open sound with little resistance.

Hagmann valve on a Bach 42A

These 3 valve types are the predominant designs. Bach’s “Infinity” axial valve, for example, is based on Thayer’s design. The Bach Miller valve or the Shires Tru-Bore are basically variations of the Hagmann design.
Each design has its advantages and disadvantages. Consequently, advocates and opponents in all areas of music. What suits you?


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