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Welcome! Here at Monederosmart we firmly believe in the power of music to create amazing things and change the world. We review a wide variety of musical instruments, and this time we’re going to talk about the trombone: an instrument that requires mental dexterity, physical strength and a lot of dedication to master.
The brass family is large and diverse. This group of instruments is essential for different genres such as jazz and classical music. Many people are not familiar with the trombone, but that does not make it any less important. In fact, quite the opposite: the trombone is responsible for the warm, medium-bass sound we love so much.
In this article you will learn everything you need to know about this great instrument. You will learn about the types of trombones and their variations according to the sound they make. We will also show you the best trombones on the market for all levels of experience and teach you how to choose one.
- The trombone is an instrument of the brass family. It is made of brass. It is genealogically placed between the trumpet and the tuba. It is usually played by extending and contracting one of its parts, called the shank. It is essential in genres such as jazz and classical music. It is quite versatile and generally simple to learn.
- Although the most common type of trombone is the stick trombone, there are also trombones that are played with pistons/valves. All trombones are organised by size, and it is the size that determines the tessitura/voice of the instrument. The most common are the tenor, the tenor in B flat/fa and the bass trombone. Other types also exist, but they are rare.
- Factors such as the type of brass and the diameter of the bell and bore impact the type of sound. The tessitura and other factors such as the playing mechanism (rod or pistons) can vary the level of difficulty of playing. For this reason, there is an ideal trombone for all levels of experience.
The Best Trombone: Our Picks
Buying guide: What you need to know about trombones
Choosing the right trombone can be a little tricky without some information and guidance. Don’t worry: here’s everything you need to know about this great instrument so you can make the right purchase and soon be playing like the greats.
What is a trombone and what are its advantages?
The distance the air travels through the air chamber depends on how long the rod is. There are seven divisions (defined, but not marked) along the length of the rod that cause the pitch changes. The trombonist can alter the pitch and play more notes within each division by varying the blowing pressure.
It is an incredibly versatile instrument musically, and essential in many different genres. The sound of jazz, orchestras and even war bands relies heavily on the trombone, particularly in the mid-bass sections.
Stick, valve and superbone trombone – what should you look out for?
Rod trombone. The most common. This type of trombone is played by lengthening and contracting the rod, which has 7 pitch divisions. Pitch changes can be tricky because they involve a rapid movement of the stick. However, this is useful for playing glissandos (the transitional sound from one note to another).
Valve trombone. The shape of this trombone is very similar to the stick trombone, but it has a valve/piston system with which the instrument is played, very similar to that of a trumpet. It is useful for those unfamiliar with the stick positions, as it can be played with simple piston fingerings.
Superbone. Although much less common, there are several models of this variation on the market. The etymology of its name comes from the words “super” and “trombone”. The superbone has a hybrid rod and valve system. This means that it can be played with either, and it is easy to switch quickly from one to the other.
How are trombones classified according to their size?
Tenor trombone. The tenor trombone, the most common and simplest, is tuned in B flat. It is not transposing. The vast majority of tenor trombones are played with the stick, but there are also those with piston and valve systems. It produces medium-bass sounds.
Tenor trombone in B flat/fa. This is like a standard B flat tenor trombone, but is a transposing trombone. It has an additional tubular section and a rotor which when activated gives the user the option to change the key to F. It can reach lower notes than a B flat trombone. It can reach lower notes than a standard tenor trombone.
Bass trombone. Like the tenor, this trombone is also in the key of B flat, but is a double transposing trombone. Its keys are B flat, F, G and D flat. Of all the trombones, this is the one with the largest additional tubular section, as this allows the lowest notes characteristic of its sound to be reached.
|Tenor||Tenor in B flat/fa||Bass|
|Key||B flat||B flat/fa||B flat/fa/sol/re flat|
|Range||E 2 – F 5||C 2 – F 5||B flat 1/Si flat 4|
Trombones have different variations that affect playability, sound and playability.
Although most trombonists play the tenor trombone, certainly the bass and even the tenor in B flat/fa are also common. This depends largely on the genre of music and the type of sounds desired. Two of the genres that make most use of trombones and their appropriate trombone tessituras are as follows:
Jazz. Trombone players in jazz are usually divided between principals and accompanists. Principals often play trombone solos, which tend to occupy higher pitches, so a tenor trombone is a good choice. Accompanists require slightly lower tones, so they commonly use B flat/fa trombones.
Classical music. The standard orchestra configuration often includes a tenor trombone ensemble within the brass section. Essential to this ensemble is the presence of at least one bass trombone, which gives body and strength to the collective sound.
Bore and bell diameter
Bore and bell diameter are important measurements worth considering, as they cause slight but considerable variations in the timbre and power of the trombone’s sound. This can be particularly significant for more experienced trombonists.
Bore diameter is the term for the size of the tube through which the air passes. The smaller the diameter, the easier it is to play, as less force is required when blowing. A small bore is ideal for more delicate notes, while a larger bore will have a louder and more robust sound.
Bell. Similarly, a larger bell diameter produces a deeper sound and vice versa. Another factor to consider is whether the bell is one-piece or two-piece. One-piece bells are made from a single sheet of brass, and usually produce a more pleasing echo/reverberation effect, as well as a firmer vibration.
Some trombones are more difficult to play than others. To play the wand trombone, you must study and know all seven positions, as well as vary the blowing force to modify the pitch within each position. If you are not yet familiar with the positions, or find them difficult, a good alternative is a valve trombone.
The stick can be difficult to control at first because the positions are not marked. Most instruments have the notes marked out, like the keys on a piano and the frets on a guitar. However, the stick moves according to the feeling of the trombonist. A slight deviation can throw the sound out of tune.
As already mentioned, a trombone with a smaller bore diameter is easier to play, as it does not require as much force when blowing. If you want to learn to play, we recommend that you consider a tenor trombone with a bore diameter of approximately .5 inches and 8 bells. This configuration will be very useful for learning.
Most trombones are made of brass. Brass is a malleable alloy made by fusing zinc and copper. Although the zinc content is usually less than 50%, the proportion can vary considerably depending on the intended use of the brass (many industrial and household products are made of brass).
In the case of brass for metal instruments, the proportion of zinc is lower, and the variation in zinc content impacts on the colour of the final brass. The colour of yellow brass is obtained with approximately 3 parts copper to 1 part zinc, while gold brass is obtained with approximately 6 parts copper to 1 part zinc.
The colour has an effect on the sound of the trombone. Gold brass produces a robust and warmer sound, and yellow brass produces a crisper and louder sound. If you are a lead trombonist or like to play lead solos, we recommend choosing a more yellow trombone. If you are an accompanist, a gold one is the perfect choice for you.
(Featured image photo: bpcraddock / Pixabay.com )