The Bone Yard
What Pro-Quality Trombone should I buy?
†††† In reading my colleague Jim Donaldsonís answers to this question regarding trumpets, there are a lot more options available to someone looking for a new Pro Quality Trombone.† First you need to consider the bore size you want, whether you want an F attachment and all the options that can come with that, then the make of the instrument.
†††††††††† Trombones come in two or sometimes three bore sizes.† Unlike the trumpet, in which the comparison of a small and large bore instrument can be almost imperceptible (.453" to .462"), the difference in the trombone world is relatively enormous (.500" to .547").† The two even require different mouthpieces, as the receiver of a large bore instrument is incompatible with a mouthpiece made for a small or medium bore horn.†
The advantage of the large bore is that itís capable of greater volume.† This is not to say that itís less work to play loudly on a large bore horn, because itís actually more work to play either loud or soft, but you can put more air through it and get more volume before you reach the point of splats, fraks and a generally edgy tone that doesnít blend with the group. (Basically, all the symptoms of someone over blowing the instrument.)† When playing with a classical brass ensemble, symphony orchestra or large concert band, most players choose a large bore trombone.†
††††††††††† Medium or small bore Ďbones are the usual preference for jazz playing or marching band (if youíre at that stage of life).† Generally, situations that require light, delicate playing and/or a bright, edgy tone with a quick response.† Your first student Ďbone was almost certainly small bore, (and if you still have it, THATíS what you want to use for marching band) and a medium bore is just a little more open.† Go for the lightweight slide option if it's available.† Many players have two horns of different sizes to go with their different playing situations.† There are always exceptions; those who prefer a large bore for jazz playing and those (like me) who use a medium bore for everything.
†††† You will seldom see a large bore trombone without an F attachment.† I was surprised to see Bach advertise that it makes them.† When and how to use your F attachment is discussed elsewhere, so Iíll just say that when it comes to most classical playing situations youíre going to want one and probably havenít debated the issue.
†††† Part of what gives trombone its characteristic sound is the length of straight tubing with only two rather wide bends in the path of the air column.† When open, the traditional rotary valve sends the air over the equivalent of a small ďspeed bumpĒ as it goes through.† When closed, it sends the air through a sharp 90 degree turn, a set of loops and twists, and another sharp 90 on its way out the valve.† To me, this takes some of the beauty out of the tone and I find that, especially when playing loud, I miss or crack just a few more notes than I do on a straight horn.†
†††† In the last 15 years there have been some technological innovations, not the least of which is the Thayer axial-flow valve.† Itís a cone shaped valve which, instead of doing the 90 degree turn against the direction of air flow, gives the air only a slight change in trajectory as itís diverted into the F attachment tubing.† I havenít played one, but Iíll bet that itís a much smoother playing alternative.† Thereís one other new valve type called the Rene Hagman valve, but Iíll have to research it before I mention it here.† They other big improvement is the ďopen wrapĒ concept, which replaces the loops and twists of the traditional F attachment with more straight tubing and fewer bends.† Combining this with the Thayer valve is probably the most state of the art a trombone gets.†
†††† Many fine manufacturers are making Pro Quality trombones.† Yamaha has a solid reputation and I would bet that they make good trombones of all sizes.† When I was in High School I was given a large bore Holton to play for several years and at the time I felt it was quite good.† Martin is a smaller company but loved by many, especially as their smaller jazz horn.† By far, most players Iíve known over the years play either a Conn or a Bach, and many Conn owners (particularly of the large bore 88H model) prefer the horns made in the 1950ís or 60ís.† Whatever your preference, I recommend you play the instrument before you buy.† Take along your mouthpiece and one of your toughest pieces of music and really try it out.†††
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