Importance of understanding the instrument
To better understand your trombone, you need to understand the unique characteristics of the types of trombones. Knowing the differences between them will help you determine which one is best for you.
Each trombone also has a special, specific characteristic of sound.
However, one thing that brings it all together is that the modern system that is in place today has seven chromatic slide positions on a tenor trombone in B♭. Even though this was first introduced by Andre Braun around 1795, it still is in play today.
The Different Kinds of Trombones
There are five different types of trombones. Knowing which one is not only best for you to play but also which suits your orchestra or brass band can help you decide which one is best for you.
Here is a bit of information on each type of trombone:
This type of trombone, also known as the straight tenor trombone is the most basic design. It lacks tubing in the main section, which sets it apart from the others..
However, you can find a F-rotor trombone within a tenor trombone. What makes it a little different is the fact that the trombone is actually straight. It will also remain straight until it’s engaged by a trigger to turn it, making it longer and actually changing the tune from a Bb all the way to an F.
The bass trombone is about the same length as a tenor trombone, which was the previous type. The main difference here is that it has a bigger bell than the tenor.
When compared to the F-rotor trombone, it has a bigger bore, as well. It also has an additional second rotor which can reach out lower than before.
The valve trombone is a type of trombone that can vary in size. However, the valve tenor trombone size is the one most preferred on the market among other players. Normally, more players will prefer valve trombones over slide. The valves that this type of trombone is constructed with, allows the player to be able to speed through quick tempos and not have to worry about the difficulty of use and hitting all the notes, where they might have more of a problem with the slide.
The alto trombone is normally one of the most common trombones found in the orchestra. If you have an alto trombone in your hand, that might actually mean that you’ll be put up for a solo! It can reach a much higher pitch when compared to the tenor trombone, you can cover the majority of the range with the tenor trombone.
With the nickname of the slide trumpet, it actually looks like one. However, humbling from Germany, the soprano trumpet normally will be played when it comes to jazz, to bring out the smooth rhythm and music. Even though fewer and fewer people prefer the soprano trombone, it is still widely used. The soprano normally performs side-by-side and sounds good when paired with a woodwind instrument or with a trumpet.
Which trombone suits your level?
Whether you are just signing up your kid for music class or if you’re looking for a new trombone for an upgrade, there are certain trombones that will match certain levels of skill when it comes to music.
If you’re just starting out on the trombone, especially if you’re now investing in a trombone for your child, you should try and choose one with a smaller bore horn, like the Selmer TB711. These can be measured out at 0.500″ to 0.525”. That range number means that you need much less air put in a tone—which is perfect for a child or someone younger who doesn’t have a lot of lung capacity.
Another factor that will help you with your decision will be the bore size—since it has a huge impact on your sound. If you plan to lean towards being a Symphonic trombonist, you’ll be using bigger bore trombones, which normally measure out to be .547″. If you’re going to be sticking with bass trombones, you’ll have a bore up that’ll measure out be 0.562″.
If you’re past the beginner’s stage and are looking to upgrade, you’ll want to look into a medium or larger bore instrument. This will allow you to be able to play and reach a more forceful sound. Your music will also sound much fuller if going for the medium bore instrument. Try the Bach TB711F or the Yamaha YSL-448G.
How to choose the perfect trombone
First and foremost, you need to take a look at your budget and set numbers before you even head out to settle on the perfect trombone.
One of the biggest factors that will affect your choice of trombone will be the amount that you will or can spend.
After you first establish a price, then you can get into the needs and different levels that will sway your decision. You should try and gauge out how interested you are in music and if you are planning on getting better, quickly, you might need to get a different trombone!
First and foremost, you should start small—start with a small bore horn as a beginning student. If you grab one that is specifically designed for a student, like some of them above, you’ll be better off in the long run.
If you’re an intermediate student, try going for a medium bore horn. These trombones feature multiple “better” factors, like an F-rotor, dual bore, rose brass, sterling bells, and plated finishes. If you’re looking to get better, you can benefit from these.
Take good care of a trombone
When you have a trombone, you need to maintain it and keep it working well. To do this, you should:
- Prepare the slide, first by cleaning dirt and then apply a bit of slide cream like the Slide-O-Mix Trombone Lubrication System on the thicker end sections of the slides.
- Once done, go in with a water spray bottle and moisten the slide. For the best results, use mineral water.
- After, insert the inner slide and then slide the two sections back and forth so the cream can reach all edges.
- You should also oil the rotary valve if you’re playing with tenor bass trombones or bass trombones. This is done through the slide receiver.
- You can maintain the exterior through using the same lacquer as the other parts. Do so by wiping gently with a polishing cloth. If your instrument is nickel-plated, you’ll want to use a metal polish.
Main features of a trombone
To best sort out which trombone is best for you and your musical venture, you need to compare the various features associated with each trombone. A few features that are extremely important are the bell sizes and construction, the types of bores, the F-attachment, the shank, the mouthpiece, the slides, the case, the warranty, and the material.
Bell sizes and construction
The bell of the trombone is extremely important—it is where the sound waves are designed to emerge out of. The size of the trombone bell is just as notable when comparing with the bore size. Since these various details can make a difference when it comes to sound, they can tell a lot about an instrument.
Generally speaking, the bell size can range from 7” all the way to 10.5”. Normally, the bass trombone will have a much larger-size bell than the tenor trombone. Size will also differ when it comes to a one-piece or a two-piece hand hammered bell. One-piece is generally preferred to since it helps perform a higher-quality sound.
Types of bores
This feature, called the bore is the measurement that counts the inner diameter of the inner slide. Normally, these measurements are written out to three decimal places since there is a such a minimal difference from one measurement to another. Generally, you’ll find the range being from .500″ to .547” like Flanger F-860 and Bach TB711F and can reach all the way up to .562”.
The smaller a bore is, the brighter it is, with a more concentrated tone. The larger a bore gets, the sound will be darker and bigger.
A horn’s resistance will also be affected by the size of the bore. When the bore is smaller, there is much more resistance. A beginner trombone player will benefit from a smaller bore size since it’s much less difficult to produce quality sound.
The F-attachment is a feature of the trombone that makes playing much more complex and is often suggested for more advanced players. With an F-attachment, a player can reach a much lower range of the horn.
The F-attachment generally comes organized into two basic types. You can either go for the standard or for the traditional wrap.
Normally, most brass instruments—including that of a trombone, will have a mouthpiece that is designed to produce a “one-sound” tube. Especially when we’re talking about the “shank”, you have to make sure you look at it as a whole—instruments and mouthpieces cannot be thought as a separate component.
To get the best shank and mouthpiece, try it out in particular with your trombone. If the taper of a receiver and the shank is different, it’ll be hard to then perform optimally. You’ll want your shank to stick to the standard taper of 0.05, even though some mouthpieces will have different size.
Either way, you’ll want your shank to fit firmly in the receiver.
The mouthpiece is obviously very important in a trombone. It is what transfers the sound from the direct air to the lip vibrations to the trombone. The trombone mouthpiece should be inserted around 25mm.
Normally, trombone mouthpieces are large and deep. This makes it extremely easy for beginners to play music since they don’t have to blow so hard. Normally, on a trombone, the mouthpiece will not go into the receiver deeply enough and move in the receiver—and you don’t want that happening either! That will make the pitch lower and produce a fuzzed sound.
What is a trombone made of?
Normally, the trombone is a part of the brass instrument family. However, there are instances where the trombone will be designed with other variations—like nickel or a combination of brass and nickel. In general, a trombone will use “yellow brass”, which is 7 parts copper and 3 parts zinc.
However, if you’re looking for a cheaper option, you can actually invest in a trombone made with plastic, it’s called a Tromba plastic trombone, like the pBone Jiggs trombone. Plastic is deemed a much cheaper yet moderately robust alternative to brass. However, if you are thinking of investing in a plastic instrument, note that the sound will be differently produced. Although it’s not necessarily taken seriously, plastic trombones are great practice tools, convenient for travel and for beginning players.
On an average trombone, you’ll want your slide to be designed using a configuration that is dual-bore. This means that the second leg’s bore is bigger than the first (if only just). This will make it seem actually quite conical. The trombone sizes will differ between tremor trombones and bass trombones—bass generally have larger slides.
Since the trombone is such a big instrument, you’ll want to take the necessary steps in order to protect it from harm—especially when you’re transporting it from home to your lessons. You’ll need the case to be a perfect fit for the size of your trombone, since it needs to stay still in its proper position. You should also check the casing for appropriate padding should so that it stops the trombone from moving around.
You can generally choose between soft and hard trombone cases. Soft cases are a better and cheaper alternative if you’re only going to be traveling for short distances. A hard case is a necessary investment if you’re traveling long distances,
If you have the extra money to invest, you can also get a case that has wheels. However, if your case doesn’t have wheels, you’ll at least want it to be padded and have thick straps.
It’s not all about the looks
Just like with anything else, the outer look of something doesn’t normally constitute as the quality for the inside.
With trombones, it’s no different. Even though a better-looking horn will not necessarily emit sound better than another, the way a trombone looks can actually help a student maintain care and take pride in it.
The outside of the trombone is called the finish. Here are some popular types:
- Lacquer finishes: generally used among most of the trombones on the market.
- Plated finishes: normally considered much better quality because they don’t affect the vibration as much negatively.
- Silver-plated horns are for the show and are another finish for a trombone but have a lot of upkeep because they are more likely to tarnish quickly.
- Plastic trombones are a much cheaper version that is popular among learners. They are also easy to maintain, much lighter, and actually don’t go down in sound-quality.
Of course, with every investment, you’ll want to make sure that your trombone has a warranty well worth your while! Before you purchase your trombone, make sure it has an adequate warranty, like the Mendini MTB-40 which comes with a 1-year warranty, which can last you through your lessons or playing time.