Quick guide to popular Trombones

The Trombone

The Trombone is also known as “Sackbut” or “ French Trombone”.  The word “Trombone” comes from the Italian that means large trumpet. It is brass/wind musical instrument that uses the vibrations from the players lips and mouth and is capable of a wide range of notes.

It usually has a slide that the player either pushes or pulls to change the length of the tube. The slide performs like a valve. Some trombones are valved like a trumpet. It is very much like a trumpet and can play a wide range of notes but, although high parts are written in tenor clef, it has a deeper sound compared to the trumpet’s and music written for it are usually in the bass clef which classifies it as a bass clef instrument.

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How to Use a Trombone

Trombones are made out of brass but some are made of plastic – the plastic ones are called “Pbone”. The trombone player is called a trombonist. Most trombones had  valves back in the 19th century but recently, with the slide built for it, the trombone is now able to reach a wider range of notes. The trombonist manipulates with his right hand the two outer tubes which are telescope, in and out. The bell joint passes over the left shoulder to counterbalance the slide. A skilled trombonist knows how to explore the versatility of the trombone and use this knowledge to play in different styles. These styles include slow music as well as fast, funky, jazzy and technical pieces.


History of the Trombone

The Trombone appeared in the 15th Century as the sackbut. It became a leading musical instrument during the Renaissance. It evolved with upgrades and improvements into the current day Trombone. It has a cylindrical bore that flares to a bell with a mouthpiece that is larger than a trumpet’s. It has a wider range because of the two non-moving inner tubes which are thickened at the low end, and two moving outer tubes that determine length. The biggest difference between the sackbut and the modern trombone is mostly bell size. The other details, like valves and craftsmanship, aren’t much. However trombones are much more used now for most concert voices: alto, tenor and bass.

Beethoven was the first to add trombones to his orchestra. He probably did so because he liked the color and depth that the trombone gave to his music. Trombones nowadays are used for concert bands, marching bands, brass bands, big bands, swing bands, and jazz ensembles.

The tenor trombone plays in Bflat is one octave lower than the Bflat of the trumpet. In concerts, trombones are notated in C – the same C of a piano.  

The sound varies depending on bore. Old bores, similar to trumpets, were replaced by larger bores and wider bells of up to 24 cm in diameter. The wider bores create a deeper sound.


Buying a Trombone

When buying a trombone, or any other important piece of musical instrument, seek the advise of an expert, a teacher or a professional.  But also do some of your own research on trombones like, what types of trombones are for sale, how much, make, and more.  You must find one that suits your budget. Trombones can be bought at an average of $300 or as much as $500. Used trombones from online music stores can be bought for $50 for plastic trombones or around $100 for most used brass trombones. Most trombones are easy to transport and are light.


Here are some of the most common types of trombones:

1. The Tenor Trombone is the simplest as it does not have a tubing in its main section.

2. Trigger-type tenor Trombone has extra tubing in the main loop which is triggered to make the horn longer such as changing from Bflat to F.

3. Bass Trombone has a larger bell, of same length as the tenor trombone, but has a larger bore that adds a second rotor to lower it even further.

4. The Valve Trombone is actually more popular than the slide trombone in some parts of Europe, South America and India.

5.  The Alto Trombone is used mostly as an orchestra soloist. The alto is actually pitched higher than a tenor but a tenor can reach much of its range.

6. Soprano Trombone which are small trombones similar in looks as the slide trumpet. Used mostly for Jazz, it is not that common and rarely used in the woodwind section of an Orchestra.

7. The Marching Trombone or the flugelbone that looks like a large cornet but produces “trombonic” sounds.


The Trombone Finishes

Lacquer is the most common finish for trombones. They are high quality finishes and do not affect vibrations and sound negatively. But silver plating is to some, more fancy and preferred; however, silver easily tarnishes and require more maintenance. Plastics are more affordable, and simple to care for. They are lightweight and sound almost like traditional brass trombones.

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