The trombone is a brass instrument that was devised in the 15th century some time probably by the Italians. The first reliable depiction of the trombone is in a painting that is dated at 1490. Trombone is a derevitive of the Italian word tromba (trumpet) meaning big trumpet.

Throughout time there have been a number of types of trombones. Nowdays, however, we only have four main types: The alto, tenor, bass, soprano and valve. I have seen a valve, but I don't really know how it works

They are rather similar, but instead of a slide you have buttons that you press that make the pipe longer. My music teacher had another type of trombone that he called a 'bass trombone', but after researching it, 'bass trombone' is not the proper name for it. But I can't find the real name for it either =( It's essentially a normal trombone that has a lever. When you pull this lever the air is passed through more pipe thus making the notes lower.

So how does a trombone work? Well, a trombone, unlike any other instruments, has a slide that can move about to make the trombone longer or shorter. By doing this you are making the pipe that the air has to go through longer. A longer pipe means a lower note.

The trombone has seven positions each a semi-tone apart. For example, my tenor trombone can play an 'F' in the first position and if I move it out to the second it'll play an 'E' and if I move it out again it'll play an 'E flat'. Of course the trombone isn't only limited to seven notes in the chromatic scale, it can get different harmonics (See harmonic series too). For example, in my first position I can get a 'B flat', another 'B flat','F','B flat','D','F','A','B flat','C' and then it starts getting really hard. To understand how I can get so many notes in just one position, lets look at how you play the trombone.

If you put your lips together and 'buzz' them into a trombone you will get a sound. This sound travels through the mouthpiece, down the slide, up the 'U bend' and then out of the bell. As that buzzing sound goes through the instrument it sets up a standing wave system that makes a note. You can't get notes who's wavelength can't fit into the tube hence the intervals between each of the notes in first position. You see, if I try to play, say, a 'G' in first position I would only hit an 'F'. It's not possible to play a 'G' in first, you'd have to go out to forth. To get a higher harmonic I just tighten my lips and make a higher pitched buzzing sound.

The trombone is mainly used as a bass instrument. It reads most of it's music in bass cleff. I have been told that the trombone really brings out the life of a piece in our band. I tend to agree. The trombone has a very strong sound if played correctly. However, to master a trombone you really have to practise!

The valve trombone is a tenor trombone with valves instead of a moving slide. The bass trombone is just a big tenor, usually used in orchestras and jazz bands for tuba-range notes. There is also somthing called a “super-bone” most likely a tenor with valves AND a slide. I haven’t seen it, or even pictures, but I’ve heard that Maynard Ferguson uses one.

To shed more light on esapersona and counterfit's writeups on the trombone:

1)There also exists a tiny piccolo trombone- although it's not commonly used.

2)The valve trombone works the in same way as do the trumpet, euphonium, and other valve instruments. The magical 'Superbone' does in fact exist- it's a trombone that has both functional valves as well as a fully-extendable slide, enabling the player to have the best of both worlds.

3)The trombone that esapersona refers to is the standard professional-model trombone: a tenor trombone with an F-attachment or F-connection. It is not a true bass trombone, but the extra pipes serve two purposes. First, they allow alternate positions (kinky). For example, on a regular trombone sans F-attachment/trigger, I would have to thrust my arm to 6th position (a good 2 feet out and bordering on discomfort) to play a 'C,' but with my trombone, I can play a 'C' in first position (the slide's home base, all the way in). Five other alternate positions exist, played with the trigger depressed. (There are only six positions that are in tune with the trigger depressed- there's no 'trigger seventh' because the slide would be on the floor at that point.) They are notated with the Roman numeral 'V'; for example, 'trigger 1st' would be notated as 'V1.' This is not just for laziness's sake; it becomes quite important in fast passages. The other thing that the F-attachment allows is an extended lower range.

4)Many orchestral music for trombone is written in tenor clef (middle 'C' is on the 4th line up, whereas in bass clef it's one ledger line above the staff).

5)The bass trombone is not really just 'a big tenor-' the difference lies in the bore, which makes it harder to fill up the bell.

An addition of my own, here's a short list of works that feature the trombone at some point (be prepared to play the excerpts at an audition):

Hungarian March and Symphonie Fantastique (Berlioz)

Ride of the Valkyries (Wagner)

Symphony No. 3 (Mahler)

Overture to 'William Tell' (Rossini)

Trom"bone (?), n. [It., aug. of tromba a trumpet: cf. F. trombone. See Trump a trumpet.]

1. Mus.

A powerful brass instrument of the trumpet kind, thought by some to be the ancient sackbut, consisting of a tube in three parts, bent twice upon itself and ending in a bell. The middle part, bent double, slips into the outer parts, as in a telescope, so that by change of the vibrating length any tone within the compass of the instrument (which may be bass or tenor or alto or even, in rare instances, soprano) is commanded. It is the only member of the family of wind instruments whose scale, both diatonic and chromatic, is complete without the aid of keys or pistons, and which can slide from note to note as smoothly as the human voice or a violin. Softly blown, it has a rich and mellow sound, which becomes harsh and blatant when the tones are forced; used with discretion, its effect is often solemn and majestic.

2. Zool.

The common European bittern.

 

© Webster 1913.

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