Trombone: the best trombone rods and pistons on the market
The trombone has gained great importance since the 19th century thanks to its ability to adapt to any musical style. But also because it's powerful, and evokes deep feelings in musicians and listeners alike. For many it's considered the best instrument in the world because its sound is almost heavenly. However, for others, such as Wagner, it's better not to focus on it too much because it might overshadow all the other instruments.
The truth is that almost all music in Europe and the West is permeated by the sound of the trombone. From jazz, blues, R&B, soul, salsa, flamenco, new age music and even symphonic rock are some of the genres that have included this instrument as a fundamental part of their sound.
In this article, we would like to talk about all the relevant aspects of the trombone: its elements, positions, types, prices, etc. We have also selected the best trombones on the market in a comparative in which we will discuss their characteristics and sound. Shall we begin?
What is a trombone?
It's a brass wind musical instrument. Inexpensive versions are constructed of plastic and brass, while for mid-range levels, silver-plated brass is often used. Professional trombones are generally made of silver, bronze and the best brass alloys.
On the other hand, more affordable pieces are produced with industrial machinery, while the more expensive ones are usually handcrafted.
History of the trombone
There is a consensus that the direct ancestor of the trombone is the trumpet. The oldest mention of this instrument dates back to a 4th century Latin text. It's said that the Roman tuba's body was lengthened, and both the caliber and the bell were reduced. This modification became more significant in the 9th century, and by the 13th century, one of these variations arrived in Spain.
In the 14th century, the name “trombone” emerged and remained so until the 18th century, when it was officially named trombone. This is the name it retains today.
Contrary to what one might think, this is a rather complex instrument in its construction. The parts of the trombone are very difficult to manufacture and, above all, to calibrate. The main components are:
- Tuning extension arm: used for opening and closing. This is how the musical notes of a given scale are produced.
- Mouthpiece: it's the same as the trumpet mouthpiece. The first column of air passing through the instrument enters through there.
- Bell: also known as pavilion and is where the air comes out, transformed into musical sound. Depending on its size, caliber and material, the sound will acquire various nuances.
- Drain cock: due to their nature, wind instruments receive part of our saliva when they are blown. That is why the trombone and other instruments of this type have a drain cock to release all that fluid.
- Main rod: this is the first extension of the instrument and is where the sound makes its first journey.
- Rod fitting thread: helps in adjusting the rod to the trombone to keep it connected.
They can be classified according to mechanics or key system. But also by their tuning.
By the mechanical system or design
- Stick trombone: it has a curved stick that fits into the rest of the body. It has seven different positions to produce the different notes of the natural scale. To achieve the sharp notes or flats, it's necessary to develop an excellent technique.
- Piston trombone: it's the most similar to the trumpet, because it has three valves that allow to achieve the musical notes. The main difference with respect to the trumpet is in the length of the instrument. While the trombone can have up to three meters of tubing, the trumpet is between 1.3 and 1.5 meters long. In addition, the caliber of the tubing in the trombone is larger.
- Alto trombone: it's generally tuned in B flat and produces the highest pitched sound.
- Tenor trombone: it's tuned in C and is the most used by big bands. There is also a tenor in F, which is not widely used by marching bands, but is more in demand among symphonic orchestras.
- Bass trombone in F: as its name suggests, it's tuned in F and is in good demand in salsa and Latin music orchestras.
- Bass trombone in E: also in good demand in salsa orchestras. It's tuned in E, or in other words, in F flat.
This instrument has seven fundamental positions to be practiced. But in each of these positions, nine or even ten different notes can be achieved. In other words, playing the trombone requires both mastery of the seven positions and nine different intensities of breathing in each position.
Tips for playing the trombone
There is no magic formula for learning to play any instrument fast. However, we can offer you these tips:
- Self-awareness: it's important that you always keep in mind to critically judge the way you use the rod while practicing, your body posture and how the sound you produce is heard.
- Method of practice: if you do not have a methodology that gives direction to what you do, you will not be able to get the most out of practice. To do so, be aware of scales, breathing, flourishes and techniques, songs, etc. This can take sessions of up to four hours. But it's best to start with one hour, then two and so on until you reach four hours.
- Listen to the greats: “A sparrow only learns to sing when it hears other sparrows”. These are the words of Alfredo Kraus himself.
- Metronome and tuner: always have a tuner handy to check the pitch of your notes. A metronome is also very useful for practicing tempos.
Trombone fun facts
- The trombone only achieved a permanent place in symphony orchestras from the 18th century onwards, and was consolidated in the 19th century.
- Its oldest ancestor is the Hebrew shofar, which was originally used for war purposes. That is, to announce a battle or an imminent invasion.
- This instrument can measure up to five meters in length. But this size is not appreciated because of its curved shape.
- It's considered one of the most important instruments in Cuban salsa. So much so, that any other instrument can be missing, except for the piano, timpani and trombone.
The best trombone brands
- Thomann: this German company aims to dominate the European market and has excellent trombones in its catalog.
- Startone: is a Thomann subsidiary that offers low-cost products for beginner or amateur musicians. These are the best value for money you can find in the low end.
- pBone: these instruments are aimed at beginners with a limited budget. Trombones made of fiberglass and ABS plastic have been invented for this purpose. If you're looking for something unusual but with tremendous durability and solid sound, then go for a pBone.
- Yamaha: no one can doubt the quality of Yamaha musical instruments. This company is a world leader in everything it manufactures and trombones are an excellent example of this.
- Jupiter: this is an entry-level brand with a good selection in trombones for beginners and amateurs. Many of them are even close to the intermediate level and with quite affordable prices.
- King: is an American company with more than a hundred years of experience offering trombones of enormous quality and steep prices. That is why they are almost exclusively for professionals.
- Carol Brass: their products are mostly mid-range and have a very good price/performance ratio.
- Michael Rath: is a British company that specializes in exclusive trombones. Their pieces can be marked up to ten thousand euros.
- Kühnl & Hoyer Bart van Lier: speaking of expensive and exclusive trombones, this brand is a total blast. It's one of the most beloved throughout Europe.
- Sierman: is a Chinese brand that offers low and medium range trombones. These have a traditional construction and are very adequate.
- C.G.Conn: this company's trombones are perhaps the best mid-range trombones available. Their instruments have designs and sonorous clarity that are fascinating.
- Bach: Bach's tradition is strong because its products are expensive, but worth it. Their proposals are the best in the mid-range because they have high-end features.
- B&S: this brand's instruments are a clear competitor in the mid-range and stand out for their warm, almost melancholic sound.
The best trombone players
- Christian Lindberg: he is considered the best trombonist in the world and this is due to his impressive skill with the instrument. If you listen to his compositions you will notice that he can perform notes that seem impossible, as he has an incredible breathing technique.
- Ben van Dijk: member of the International Trombone Association and of The Hague Symphony Orchestra. His specialty is the bass trombone, which has taken him to almost all the most important stages in the world.
- Joseph Alessi: this performer's credentials are impressive because he is a soloist with the New York Philharmonic and also teaches trombone theory, composition and technique at the Julliard School.
- Michel Becquet: is a French multi-instrumentalist musician who is recognized as one of the greatest musicians of the present century. His greatest contribution is in the academic field, training new generations at the Lyon Conservatory.
- Jörgen van Rijen: this Dutchman has projected trombone music to the world from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and as a professor at the Amsterdam Conservatory. His mastery as a soloist is considered of the highest musical level.
- Branimir Slokar: he discovered his vocation for the trombone at the age of 17, and only two years later, he was crowned with the first prize of the 7th edition of the Yugoslavian competition. Since then, he has not been apart from the instrument.
- Jacques Mauger: he is academically trained and only plays chamber music. But from there he has specialized in the most complex repertoires and has taken them to the most important orchestras in the world.
- Charles Vernon: is an American who has performed with the greatest symphony orchestras in the United States. His great capacity for chamber music has made him integral for the Selmer trombone company.
- Douglas Yeo: this trombonist has spent his career in the academic circle. His achievements range from the highest recognition by the international trombone association to being the soloist of the most important orchestras in the United States.
- Stefan Schulz: Schulz's main characteristic is his versatility, as his repertoire ranges from baroque compositions to the entire jazz spectrum. He is currently the principal bass trombone of the Augsburger Philharmoniker.
- Jay Friedman: currently the principal trombone of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 1964, he became the youngest person to be part of the main line at any orchestra.
- Scott Hartman: is the principal professor of trombone at the Yale School of Music and has played in each of the fifty states of the United States. He is also part of the most important jazz bands in this country.
- Andrea Conti: he is considered the best trombonist in Italy and before the age of 25 he won the first places in all the most important orchestras and competitions in Italy. His greatest contribution is in the technique and teaching of the instrument to the new generations.
The best trombones on the market
Startone SSL-45 Bb-Tenor Trombone
This is a tenor trombone that has a Bb tuning. Its body is made of brass and the outer pipe is chrome plated in alpacca. Its caliber is 12.2 mm and the canopy is 20.5 cm. It has a clear lacquer finish partly silver and mostly gold. However, it does have some drawbacks. Some users have reported that the mouthpiece is uncomfortable. In addition, the tuning pump tends to give problems fitting into the tubing. Find the best prices at Thomann.
pBone pBone Black
We like this one because it's ideal for children to learn. It's made of ABS plastic and the rod is made of fiberglass. Its bore is small, with 12.7 mm, so it produces a loud and powerful sound. In addition, it only weighs 800 grams and comes with a mouthpiece and trombone case for carrying. It's true that it's not an instrument for professionals or even for transition. But due to its light weight, together with its construction and affordable price, we can say that it's one of the best options for children from the age of seven. To find the best prices at Thomann follow this link.
Thomann Classic TB525 L Trombone
The makers of Thomann have created a tenor trombone in Bb and which has a medium-large bore size of 13.34 mm in diameter. That is why it offers a powerful sound, while the yellow brass bell is 20.3 cm in diameter. We also really like that the exterior of the pipes is made of nickel silver and chrome. This makes it smoother to slide and provides excellent ergonomics. Finally, it includes a good mouthpiece, Reka Super Slide lubricant and a lightweight case with backpack straps. Find the best prices at Thomann.
Another option is the Thomann Classic TB525 S Trombone, which has the same features but offers a more jazzy sound.
Yamaha YSL-891 Z Trombone
Yamaha has created a Jazz series trombone that has a reverse stick tuning. The pipe gauge is 12.90 mm and the diameter of the one-piece bell is 20.4 cm. Its entire body is made of brass and has an excellent silver and gold finish.
We like its sound because it has good projection and the reverb is excellent. All in all, this is one of the best trombones we have seen on the market. Interested? Find the best price at Thomann.
Bach 42BOF Bb/F-Tenor Trombone
This Bach trombone is a fast response Bb/F tenor. It belongs to the Centennial series and features a quarter valve as well as a Meinlschmidt Open-Flow valve and Open-Wrap construction. The bore of the pipe is medium, at 13.90 mm, while the bell was hand-forged and has a diameter of 8.5 inches. It's made of nickel silver and brass and includes a Bach 6-1/2A mouthpiece with a Deluxe wooden case. If the price is not a problem for you, this is one of the best options on the market. To see the best price at Thomann follow this link.
B&S MS27K-L Bb/F/Ges/D-Basstromb
This is a bass trombone that offers tuning response for four notes: B flat, F, G and D. It's finished in gold-plated brass and has a bore of 15.5-16.5 mm, while the bell is 25 cm in diameter. It also features some interesting keys, such as the main tuner with “acoustic wing”, a nickel-silver rod with gold-plated brass loop (14.3 mm) and three interchangeable embouchure tubes made of alpacca, brass and gold-plated brass. This is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best bass trombone on the market. Find the best Thomann price on this link.