General information and resources for students and adult learners.

How the trombone works

The trombone is made of cylindrical brass tubing connected to a mouthpiece at one end and expanding into a bell at the other end.
Apart from the mouthpiece, there are two sections that can be fitted together so that one slides in and out of the other. Bass trombonists, however often use an attachment for the deeper notes. The slide replaces the valves on other brass instruments and like them alters the space in which the air vibrates. Thus changing the pitch.
There are seven natural positions on a trombone from which two octaves of harmonics can be produced. So when a player establishes a natural tone, he can produce harmonic notes by keeping the slide in the same place, while changing the pressure of the air through the mouthpiece.
Three main or common sizes for the trombone:

  • The alto trombone The small alto instrument is less common and players tend to keep it for long high notes that need to be played softly.
  • The tenor trombone In brass bands and orchestras, the trombone section is mainly made up of tenor trombones. In most marching bands you will see the trombones marching at the front, this is so that long slides don't hit anyone in front of them as they march along.
  • The bass trombone The bass trombone is the biggest of the family. It has a much larger flared bell than the tenor. This how you can spot the bass trombonists in the brass section of the orchestra. Most bass trombones play an instrument with extra tubing placed in the bell section of the instrument, over the player's shoulder. By operating a valve that opens or shuts this extra tube. The player can make the instrument work like a tenor trombone with the tube shut or a bass with the tube open.


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