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  • Writer's pictureRod Herbert BigSoundMusic


Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Rotator Cuff Left Shoulder Surgery Trombone Recovery

Here is MY RECIPE to come back to playing bass trombone

tuba tenor trombone sousaphone (last)

I am writing this in October 2023

I got a left shoulder rotator cuff injury exactly one year ago in October 2022.

Falling down stairs in the rain Broken left shoulder and torn tendons October 2022. Then Shoulder cuff tear SURGERY in February 2023.

Many months of restricted lifting on my left arm and shoulder.

I started back focusing on lots of euphonium, getting my fingers working. Playing in my Bondi Brass Band I switched from the Bass Trombone chair to playing 2nd Baritone chair. Thank you to my friends who accommodated my recovery by shuffling chairs and making me welcome.

I got back into my small tenor trombone, playing lead in a challenging original repertoire Jazz Big Band, The Horns Plus Big Band!

Jumping into the world of lead jazz trombone and small mouthpiece and small horn fire.

The tiny opposite end of the big bass trombone!

My jazz axe is a 1956 Besson Academy 403 Small Tenor Trombone that belonged to Ronald Ryan, the last convict to hang in Australia

I had two decades of focusing on playing EVERYTHING on my King 7B bass trombone. Myself being mostly a one-horn and one-mouthpiece guy. Not much tuba for a few months!

I also got an Ergobone stick put onto my smaller 3/4 tuba so I could do roving, walk-around jazz gigs.

This connected my tuba to a carbon fibre stick connected to my belt buckle holding the weight off my shoulders. This worked great, allowing me to play a walking, roving tuba New Year's Eve gig after my October injury.

I needed to prepare by practicing tuba roving walking in gradually increasing 20 30 40 50 minute “Sets”, gradually building my stamina.


Playing the Sousaphone again in October 2023.

Back in the saddle again.

This week one year later I will start playing my heavy 1947 Boosey and Hawkes sousaphone in October 2023.

It took about six months to play bass trombone but I would teach in the studio and swap horns gradually playing for 10 min 15 min 20 minutes with every student Gradually building up my shoulder strength.


Start swimming as much as possible

Start with a small simple routine.

Breath stroke for 4 laps, then building up lap amounts over weeks and months.

Then alternating breath stroke, half dog paddle and small freestyle not lifting shoulders above the water.

I then invented a “ Backward Prayer Stroke Swimming Style “!

This worked the inside muscles of my arms and shoulders and felt a little like backstroke.

Breath stroke worked the outside of the arm and shoulder muscles

Alternate all four strokes swimming in the pool and gradually increasing adding freestyle.

We won’t do butterfly stroke for a very long time.

Please be good and do ALL the PT Psyio exercises ALWAYS.

It had been a long frustrating and expensive ( loss of gigs ) journey of recovery.


- Playing a small tenor trombone with high lead parts again after being terrified of the high stuff.

- Getting “ fast fingers “ working on euphonium in brass bands and jazz groups.

- Lots of singing and increasing my pop style high range and jazz vocal skills.

- Writing lots of music for Concert Band, Brass Band and Jazz Ensembles.

- Making myself practice all the horns, building my chops, face and SHOULDER endurance.

- Lots of Caruso on each horn going high or low register.

- Switching off the crazy AUTOPILOT that we take for granted as players.

- Rebuilding and thinking strategically.

- A heightened sensitivity to how your body feels and its limits gradually increasing

Don’t get angry Be patient and be cool


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