When musicians wanted a lower brass instrument with depth and strength, Europeans tweaked the design of the popular trumpet and invented the trombone. After its initial introduction in the 1400's, the trombone was mainly used in church services and royal ceremonies. When Beethoven started using it in his symphonies in 1808, the trombone really took off.
Today, the trombone plays an important role in modern orchestras, concert bands, brass bands and jazz ensembles. The most recognizable part of the trombone is the slide, which is used to change the pitch of the instrument. The player rests the instrument on his left shoulder and moves the slide with his right hand.
The slide is the major thing that sets the trombone apart from all other wind instruments. Unlike the flute or the oboes, which have keys, or the French horn or trumpet, which have valves, trombones are a chromatic instrument. Similar to the violin or the cello sliding their finger down the fingerboard, the trombone can use the slide to do a full chromatic scale with no buttons to push. It may sound easy, but the trombone requires a lot of accuracy and control.
How does the trombone contribute to a band or orchestra?
Since the trombone was based on trumpet design, it seems only natural that the two of them work together as a team. The trombone plays the important role of balancing the high sounds of the trumpet with the rest of the musicians in modern orchestras, concert band, and brass ensembles. Their mellow tenor voice also helps add a lower intonation without the boom of the tubas.
The parts of a trombone:
- The player uses the mouthpiece to create the sound.
- The slide is moved to make the tubing longer or shorter, changing the pitch of the instrument.
- The tuning slide can be pulled out or pushed in so that the trombone is in tune with the rest of the group.
- The water key (also called the spit valve) is used to let excess moisture out of your instrument.
- After traveling through the instrument, the sound comes out of the bell.
How to pick a good trombone:
Getting your first trombone is a big deal; here are some things to consider: New or used? Your local music retailer will be able to advise you on pre-loved instruments that they have in stock. This can be a worthy alternative. Unless you know specifically what you want, beware of the internet! You will not get the support, advice and service you will get from your local retailer. If you are going to buy a used trombone be sure to check the instrument for leaks. Also, check the body of the trombone for dents and a worn finish. If you decide to get a used instrument, make sure a professional looks at it to make sure it's a good trombone. You will have it for a while.
- If you're sitting when you play, try to sit up straight. If you slouch, you won't have the breath support you need.
- Be sure to keep your slide well oiled. Ask your teacher to show you how to oil your trombone properly.
- Move your tuning slide everyday, even if it's just a half-inch. One of the most common repairs for instruments like trombone is that the pieces get "stuck" in place.
Did you know?
When the trombone was first invented it was called lots of different things. It was called trompette-saicqueboute which means "push-pull trumpet," and the English called it sackbut.