As with other brass instruments, the trombone player produces sound by buzzing his lips into a mouthpiece, with looser lips produce slower vibrations and, therefore, lower notes, while tighter lips produce quicker vibrations, and higher notes. But unlike other brass instruments that produce changes in pitch using valves, the trombone uses a slide, one tube fitted tightly other another, to adjust the length of the vibrating column of air. The trombone player pushes and pulls the slide in and out to one of seven different positions to create different pitches.
To know exactly how far to push or pull the slide, a trombone player needs a good sense of pitch, along with a long enough right arm to control the slide. Trombone players often start around 4th grade in band programs.
Trombones are played as solo instruments, in orchestras, bands, jazz groups and brass ensembles. The trombone plays in the mid-range between the higher trumpet and lower tuba. Because it uses a slide, it can make a unique “glissando” (or continuous slide up or down between two notes) sound.
Trombone players read music on the bass clef.
The most commonly played trombone is the Tenor Trombone (B-flat). Advanced players may also play the Bass Trombone or the Alto Trombone (E-flat).
Since trombone is not as popular a choice as some other instruments for beginners, there are usually good playing opportunities for trombonists.
Where To Buy A Trombone
Trombones are available at large stores that sell musical instruments, as well as smaller specialty stores.
See “Where To Buy Musical Instruments” for general buying advice on:
- Buying in a Specialty Store vs. “Big Box” Stores
- Buying Online vs. In-Person
- Renting vs. Buying
- Buying Used Instruments
How To Buy A Trombone
Some types of trombones have an optional “F” attachment that allows a player to use alternate slide positions when needed in difficult passages, but this is not usually needed for the first couple years of study.
Another option on trombones is the size of the “bore” – the inner diameter of the inner slide. For a beginner, a trombone with a smaller bore is best, because it takes less air to produce an acceptable tone. More advanced players will play instruments with larger bores. The size of the bore affects the type of tone, with smaller bores producing a brighter tone and larger ones producing a broader tone.
Most trombones have a lacquer finish, while some more expensive ones have plated finishes.
Used trombones may be a good option. Check to be sure the slide moves freely and there are no large dents.
Type Beginner Intermediate Professional Sample Prices $400-500 $600-900 $1,000-2,000
Sample Trombone Prices
$400 – 500
$600 – 900
$1,000 – 2,000
If you are buying your instrument from a specialty music store, inquire about a trade-in policy. When your student is ready for a larger or higher quality instrument, they will often give you a good portion of the original instrument price back when you trade it in.
Trombone Accessories: What Else You’ll Need
A good case, music stand and metronome are recommended for all instrumentalists. Trombone players will also need slide cream for the hand slide, slide grease for the tuning slide, a mouthpiece brush, a cleaning snake and rod.
Trombone Care and Maintenance
Handle your trombone gently, taking particular care not to bump or dent the slide. Lock your slide when you are not playing.
Tune the trombone by adjusting the tuning slide. Pull it out to lower the pitch or push it in to raise the pitch.
As needed during your playing session and after playing, remove condensation moisture inside the trombone by opening the water key and blowing through the instrument. After playing, wipe the inner slide and clean the insides of the outer slide with a cleaning rod wrapped in cheesecloth. Wipe off the outside with a clean soft cotton cloth to remove fingerprints and oils.
Lubricate the hand slide on a regular basis, usually about once a week, with a small amount of slide cream. Clean the mouthpiece with warm water and a mouthpiece brush about once a week. Lubricate the tuning slide with slide grease about once a month, or as needed to keep it moving freely. Every couple of months, clean the inside of the trombone using lukewarm water, a little dish soap and a snake brush or cleaning rod.
Take the trombone to a professional if the mouthpiece or slides become stuck. Don’t try to force anything together or apart.
Protect your trombone by keeping it in its case. To avoid damage to the slide and valves, don’t keep books or anything but small accessories in the case with it.