Buying A Trombone - another view
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30 March 2007
After reading the "Buying A Trombone" guide by oh_gabe, I thought I might add a few useful pointers of my own. If you are reading this guide you probably are buying a trombone for the first time. You might not know what features of a trombone are important to a new trombonist. First of all, anyone thinking about playing trumpet, trombone, or tuba should look up their local Brass Band. Municipal Brass Bands own a stock of instruments that they will loan you for free or for a pittance, most will give free tuition, and most are always looking for new players to join them. If you try the trombone but you think a cornet or tuba would be more fun, you can switch, no instrument to sell or return to the rental agency. Brass bands are social, and fun. Back to trombones - I would recommend a "medium bore" Bb tenor trombone by an established manufacturer. "Medium bore" means an instrument whose tubing is approximately 0.500 inches, or 12.7mm, in diameter. Medium bore trombones have been the standard trombones for beginning to intermediate players for at least 30 years in Australia. Bb means that the notes produced in the first position (slide fully closed) is a harmonic series of Bb. Tenor means that the normal range of notes produced (after a few lessons and a bit of practice) match the male tenor voice. By established manufacturer, I refer to Yamaha, Bach, Blessing, Boosey and Hawkes, Conn, Getzen, Holton, King, Jupiter. These are manufacturers that have been making trombones for a very long time, some more than 100 years, and they make good student and "professional" quality instruments. As I am focussing on the beginner to intermediate player, I have excluded manufacturers such as Edwards, Courtois, Glassl, Rath, Shires; these are very fine manufacturers as well, but their focus is on "professional" models only. A new trombone player shouldn't be concerning himself or herself too much with discussions about Conn 88H against Bach 42B against Edwards T350 etc. These are all very fine instruments, and there are any number of famous professional players that will put their name to any well known brand. Short answer is -- anyone that has played the trombone for a couple of years and wishes to continue, will have decided what kind of trombone sound they want, and will do some research and go into music stores and play the instruments there to find one that suits their style and budget. Small bore instruments play higher with ease, but the sound breaks up in fortissimo and the low notes don't sound nice. Large bore trombones play nice big broad tones and the sound holds together in a symphony fortissimo, but they are energy expending and don't work well in amplified situations. Bass trombone should be tackled after learning the fundamentals of tenor trombone. An intermediate player will take the advice of his/her music teacher or bandmaster and internet resources like the Online Trombone Journal. So what does a [b]beginning[/b] player look for? A medium bore student model trombone. No F-valve, just a straight Bb tenor trombone. Get a good secondhand one, so that if you decide later to switch to a smaller or larger bore, you will get your money back when you put the old one on eBay. That is if you don't decide to keep it. You never need sell it, they are versatile and a change of mouthpiece and technique can have you fitting in just about any musical setting you and your trombone might find yourself in. I would say the best buy for a new trombone player is something like a Yamaha YSL-154 (or its predecessors 351, 352 and 354)or Jupiter student model, followed by student models by King, Bach, Conn, or Holton (all American) or Blessing and recent Boosey and Hawkes from the UK. Why? Student models are designed to be easy for a beginner to play, and make good general purpose instruments for advanced players. They are often more robust than "professional" instruments and most instrument repairers are familiar with them. Replacement parts are readily available. The Yamaha has a generally "fatter" sound than the King/Bach/Conn/Holton student models. It is a sound that other musicians in your band generally prefer. It is actually a loose copy of the Conn 6H or 100H professional trombone and feels very similar when played side by side. Jupiter student trombones are very similar to the Yamahas. Secondhand trombones by the established manufacturers are easy to look after. They retain their value well, again the Yamahas in particular are good. Both Yamaha and Jupiter have very consistent quality of output -- one from 1985 plays very much like one built in 2006. The latest Yamahas come with an excellent protective carry case that all other instrument manufacturers should take note of. If I could get one I would buy one for myself! Any instrument you buy should be straight, free of dents, and the slide should move freely. When properly lubricated, a good slide will fall by gravity when the trombone is inclined to just below level -- about 10cm from horizontal. So who am I to be saying all of this? Any opinion should be evaluated in the light of who it is that is offering it! I am an amateur player that is principal trombonist of the Darwin Symphony Orchestra. I studied trombone at the Elder Conservatorium of Music and have played trombone professionally in rock, jazz, shows and in large ensembles. I also play in brass ensembles, brass bands and quintets. I have taught trombone up to and including bachelor of music undergraduates. I have owned and played at various times Conn 8H, 88H, 6H, 48H and 100H models; Bach 16M, 36B, 42BO and 50B; King 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B and 7B, Yamaha 851, 442, 685, 351, 352, 354, 154; Edwards T350, and alto trombones by Yamaha, Bach and Glassl.
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