Chances are that if you’ve opened this article, you (or your child) are someone who is interested in learning to play trombone. If so, congratulations! You have chosen an amazing instrument, capable of playing everything from jazz to ska. You have also probably entered into the unknown territory of purchasing an instrument. Fear not, I will do everything I can to steer you in the right direction!
First of all, you’ve probably seen brands such as Tristar and Cecilio on eBay. These prices have insanely low prices. My advice is stay away! You may get a decent horn from these guys, but you also may get a horn that is unplayable. The truth is that there is no concept of quality control with these brands and the instrument wont last. You’re better off with going for brands which I’ll go more in-depth into later in the article.
You have probably been exposed to many different terms which you are unfamiliar with in your search for a beginner trombone. I’ll try to explain what each one is and what it does.
Bore Size – The bore size of a trombone is the diameter of the tubing of the instrument, measured in the handslide. Basically larger bores will produce a darker, warmer tone. However, they also require much more air to play. In general, your first trombone should be a small bore (.500″ or.509″). If you are an adult beginner, you may want to look into a medium bore (.525″) however, I would still recommend a small bore instrument for your first trombone.
Bell Size – Bell size is usually directly related to bore size. It is is exactly what the name implies, how wide the bell’s diameter is. A beginner horn should have a bell size of 8″ unless you are using a medium bore where it may have a size of 8.5″
Shank – Shank refers to the size of the opening of the leadpipe. This determines whether the instrument will take large shank or small shank mouthpieces. Your first trombone should have a small shank as all small and medium bore horns have a small shank receiver.
Material – Trombones generally are made of two materials: Yellow brass and Red brass. Yellow brass is the material used in many trombones, including almost all student trombones. Yellow brass produces a strong fundamental sound which keeps its tone well at all dynamic levels. Red brass produces a warmer sound and is more flexible in the colors of every dynamic. Generally, yellow brass is what you’d want for your first trombone.
Key – Tenor trombones should be in the key of Bb. This means that the fundamental note, in first position is a Bb. If you get a trombone with a rotary valve, it should be in the key of Bb/F. Trombone is a non-transposing instrument even though its fundamental pitch is a Bb. This means that when a trombonist plays a written C, a C is sounded.
F – Attachment – This is the part of a trombone which is most easily identified as “the extra tubing around the tuning slide.” With this option, you have a trigger which essentially turns first position into sixth and second into seventh. I would recommend not getting an F – Attachment on your first trombone. A straight trombone is much more free blowing, plus you truly learn the last two positions with a straight trombone.
Which Trombone is Right for Me?
Assuming you are a beginner I would recommend a straight, small shank, yellow brass,.500″ bore, 8″ bell trombone. This trombone will be the most durable and will be the easiest to produce a good sound on. Here are some models I would suggest.
These are new trombones, price is something to be noted. Generally with instruments you get what you pay for.
YSL-354 – This is the Yamaha student model. This was my first trombone. It is very durable, has good build quality, good tone, and great reliability. In my opinion Yamaha makes the best student model on the market, however it is more expensive than other models.
YSL-350C – This is an interesting Yamaha model. This is nicknamed “The Short Bone” in the trombone community. It has a trigger which puts the instrument into C eliminating the need for sixth and seventh positions. This is ideal for a young musician who can’t reach or someone who needs a smaller instrument to travel with.
Getzen 351 – This is a great option for a student model instrument. Very nice student horn, and cheaper than the Yamaha.
Blessing BTB-1280 – This is another great model. Not quite as good as the previous options but still a very viable option and cheaper than the other three.
Giardinelli GTB 512 – I have not heard much about this horn. However, everything I’ve heard is that it’s a great horn for the price. The cheapest option of all my recommendations.
Used horns are a great option for beginners. They are much cheaper than new horns and often play just as well. Also, they will hold their value well unless you do major damage to them.
Any of the above are good used. Also, you can probably find pretty good deals on older instruments such as: Conns, Olds (any straight horn), and Kings.
If you’d like to talk to me about your trombone purchase, please feel free to contact me through the website below. I’ll be glad to help you with anything trombone related!
Good luck in your first trombone purchase and in your pursuit of playing this great instrument!