This article is a trombone instrument guide where I will write about as many aspects of this instrument and if you are interested in buying one, you will have a better understanding on what to look for when purchasing one. At the end of this article I will give you some great buys that you can look at and some opinions about each model.
Shopping for a TROMBONE or any instrument is not an easy task, especially if your new at this. There are hundreds of trombones on the market to choose from. You will have to choose which trombone is best suited for you so you don’t end up wasting your money where you would have to upgrade your instrument in a couple of months as you progress on the instrument. You would also not choose a $5,000 trombone if you are just starting out, even though it looks very attractive. Also you will not want to pick a trombone that is too heavy if you are buying for a child or has limited arm strength.
If you are just starting out, you may want to choose a trombone that comes with a starter kit which includes items such as a cleaning cloth, tuners, and instructional books or DVD.
I will teach you terms like closed wrap, F-attachment, bore, etc. so you understand what you are looking at when shopping for one. This instrument is related to the brass family and is used widely in Jazz, Classical, Pop, and even in marching bands.
– Material – Trombones today can be made with various materials. The most recent material they can make a trombone out of is plastic. With the help of 3-D printing they are more advanced in molding so they can craft detailed shapes of musical instruments. Plastic trombones are very strong and helps in preventing the instrument from being scratched or dented.
The original material of a trombone is various grades of brass. Some can be plated with nickel, while others can have a lacquer finish on it. You will never get the same sound with an instrument made out of plastic that you would get out of a quality brass trombone, but plastic trombones are a lot cheaper and the sound is surprisingly good.
– Bell – This part is what emits the sound. A smaller bell will give a more focused sound. A larger bell will give the sound a louder sounding note or dynamic sound.
-Bore – This part is the internal diameter of the tubing. This part ranges from 0.480″ for a smaller bore trombone to 0.562″ for bass trombones.
Trombones that have a narrow bore are better for beginners because the increased air resistance makes it easier to get a consistent sound. The narrow bore also gives the trombone a brighter tone which is popular for Jazz music. The larger bore gives you a larger warmer sound.
– Closed Wrap vs Open Wrap – With a closed wrap the extra tubing is traditionally wrapped within the body of the instrument and this type usually has an F attachment. The F attachment is engaged by using a trigger which operates a valve. ( This is different from the three valved valve trombone, which I will explain what a three valve trombone is later in the article).
Some trombones today with the F attachment are made wrapped outside the body of the trombone, called an open wrap. This gives it less slide resistance and a more free- blowing feel because they have fewer bends in the F section.
– taper – The way a bell flares on a TROMBONE makes a difference in the sound. Bells with a slow taper makes a brighter sound which is great for Jazz and Pop music. Bells with a fast taper gives the trombone a richer, warmer sound, which is more suitable for orchestras or symphonic music.
-Brace/Strut – This part runs horizontally between different sections of tubing that holds the instrument together. The trombone is made out of a tubing that doubles back on itself, so the struts help keep the whole trombone rigid to improve its sound. The braces on a slide trombone are on the slide portion of the tubing and are called slide braces.
– Bumper – This part is at the end of the trombone which is to protect the end of the instrument from hitting other things while playing. This is a very long instrument so you can easily hit other things while playing or carrying the instrument.
– Counterweight – This part keeps the trombone more easily balanced when playing. It looks like a small disc or hockey puck which is fastened onto the brace located furthest from the player. The reason it is placed there is because the trombones front end can get pretty heavy while holding it up to play because of the sizable length of the instrument.
Players have different opinions attaching this part to the instrument, some say it isn’t necessary while others say it makes the trombone easier to handle. It does tend to focus and darken the sound slightly as the instrument reacts to the additional mass the counterweight provides.
– Mouthpiece – This part on the trombone is removable and is large and deep, which a lot of players say the trombone is one of the easiest brass instruments to produce a tone even as a beginner. This part sends air and lip vibrations into the body of the trombone from the player.
– Mouthpiece Receiver – This part connects the mouthpiece to the trombone. It is a small metal cylinder fused to the end of the lead pipe that connects the mouthpiece to the instrument. The mouthpiece is gently pressed into this part and slightly twisted when placed into the receiver, but not too much.
– Tubing – This part is usually made out of brass and its length is usually 2 meters if laid out end to end. This is where the sound will come by starting at the mouthpiece, which is placed into the mouthpiece receiver. The vibration and air produced by the players lips goes through the receiver inside the tubing, to produce varying tones by depressing valve pistons with the fingers at the same time. The tubing ends with a flared bell.
– Tuning Slide – This part is for micro-tuning adjustments. It is located at the heel of the trombone and moves in and out with just a small amount of pressure, which allows the musician to be able to make micro-adjustments while playing instantly.
– Valve Casings – These parts are cylindrical metal tubes that encases the pistons when pressed up and down. As the musician presses a valve piston, it slides down in the casing to match up the holes in the casing that leads to different slides. The change to the total tubing length that the air and sound waves pass through from these holes creates the different notes of the chromatic scale.
– Valve Pistons – These move up and down in the valve casings, which changes the length of the tubing and the tone that is produced. This is what changes the air path inside the trombone to a different tone by pressing down on the pistons in various patterns. You can also press a valve piston halfway to create even different sound effects and notes.
These valve pistons perform the same task as other valve instruments as far as pitch change. The 1st valve lowers the tone one step, the 2nd valve lowers it one half step, and the 3rd valve lowers the pitch one and one half step.
– Valve Slide – This part changes the length of the tubing to produce different tones. You have three valve slides on the trombone, the 1st slide is closest to the player, each branches off of a valve casing, so when the musician presses down on a valve piston and opens an air channel to that slide, the trombone changes pitch. You can make micro-adjustments to the tuning of the trombone by moving the valve slide in and out.
– Water Key – This part allows the musician to remove moisture from the interior of the trombone. It is a small metal lever usually found on the trombones main slide that can be pressed to open a small hole in the slide and allow water to escape.
While playing the TROMBONE, a small amount of moisture builds up inside the instrument, by blowing sharply into the mouthpiece and depressing the water key will allow the water buildup to drain. This part has a small felt disc on the end to help seal the hole when the water key is closed.
Six Types of Trombones
– Straight Tenor Trombone – This type of trombone is what most people will begin with and a lot of professionals will keep playing throughout their career. It can be played in B-flat because it doesn’t have any tubing inside the main loop.
– Alto Trombone – This type is the only trombone that isn’t pitched to B-flat and is pitched to E-flat. You can play other music that other trombones can’t because of the higher pitch. This type is usually chosen when playing in orchestras.
– F-Rotor Trombone – This type of trombone is a variation of the straight tenor trombone. It can be played like a straight tenor trombone, but the difference is that it has a valve that involves the extra tubing inside the main loop, allowing the player to play in F. This will also open up the lower registers.
– Bass Trombone – This type trombone has a lower, deeper sound with its extra tubing, wide bore, and large bell. Although in the most part it is pitched to B-flat, this type trombone has one or two valves that lets you play in F and or G.
– Soprano Trombone – This type trombone is pitched an octave higher than the straight tenor trombone even though pitched to B-flat. This isn’t the most popular type but can be found being used mostly in Jazz and Orchestra music.
– Valve Trombone – This type trombone has keys similar to those on a trumpet rather than a slide. It has a less open sound than that of a standard slide trombone so is usually not found being used in an orchestra. It is usually good for playing fast passages, which is much harder to play with a slide.
You should always polish gently with a soft lint free cloth to remove any dirt, grime, or fingerprints because this can degrade the finish of the instrument if left there.
You should always remove the mouthpiece when not in use and it should be cleaned, inspected for chips or flaws so you don’t end up cutting your lip and stored safely. If the mouthpiece ever gets stuck in the mouthpiece receiver, do not try to force it because you might cause further damage, bring it to a repair shop.
Never set your TROMBONE on the floor or to leave it balanced on the edge of a table on its horn. This can change the shape of the metal and can affect the sound, store the trombone safely in its case when it is not in use.
You should lubricate the tuning slide occasionally with a small amount of slide grease so it is easy to operate.
The valve casings can be lightly lubricated with a very thin coat of valve oil, do not over oil this because you will have a real mess on your hands as it drains out of the end of the casing.
The valve pistons can be cleaned with a soft lint free cloth and lightly treated with valve oil to keep them in top form. Always inspect them regularly to avoid having grit from scratching the pistons. If for any reason a valve piston gets stuck, take it to a professional technician to fix it, forcing it can result in bending or scratching it. If for any reason you remove the pistons, make sure they are put back in their assigned casings or the horn will not play properly.
The valve slides should be removed and cleaned periodically and lubricated. The grease used for slides should never be used with the valve pistons. If the valve slide becomes stuck, take it to a professional technician for service.
The water key felt disc should be examined occasionally making sure it is clean and no wear and tear and has a good seal. Take it to be serviced if you see anything wrong with the disc because you don’t want any dirt or grit to collect anywhere on the trombone and you will need the felt disc replaced.
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