General information and resources for students and adult learners.

The Trombone

The first trombone date from the late 15th century, they were called sackbuts meaning " "pull-tube" and they were played in bands at royal festivals and weddings. In a painting from the 1490s on a church wall in Italy, one of a group of flying angels is shown playing the sackbut.
The oldest trombone in the world was made in Nuremburg in 1551. Like all trombones it was designed to be taken to pieces when it was not being used. The sliding section and the bell are made to lock in tone another for playing but they come apart and pack alongside one another. This means that the long, thin instrument can be carried about easily. The modern trombone has changed little since then, except that the tube and bell are bigger.
Although it was common throughout Europe by the 16th century, it was most exclusively used in church music, particularly for dabbling up choir voices with its soft mellow tone.

The trombone is a member of the brass family and was the first of today's orchestral instrument to appear in its present form. The trombone has always been one of the most versatile among brass instruments. Indeed it is a mark of its wide tonal range that it became as popular in military and dance bands as it had done earlier in the church.
The first classical composer to score for the trombone regularly was Beethoven, who used it for the first time in his Fifth Symphony in 1808, since then the trombone has played a central role in the orchestra, which usually includes two tenors and one bass trombone. Its bright rich sound is effective for adding volume and depth as well as for cutting through all the other instruments when required.
Twentieth-century avant-garde composer Arnold Schoenberg was the first to make use of the trombone's unique glissando effect (sliding the pitch of a note up or down) and ever since it has enjoyed a special place in everything from jazz and pop to classical music, from military and dance bands to musicals and of course comic effects.



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