The trombone is part of the brass family and like all brass instruments sound is produced when the player’s vibrating lips (embouchure) causes the air column inside the trombone to vibrate. Traditionally trombones have a telescoping slide mechanism that varies the length of the trombone's tubing (air column) in order to change the pitch. More recently we have seen the introduction of the valve
trombone which has three valves like the the trumpet. The most frequently encountered trombones are the tenor trombone and the bass trombone. The tenor is pitched in B♭, an octave below the B♭ trumpet and an octave above the B♭ tuba.
The word trombone derives from Italian "tromba" (trumpet) and "one" (large), so the name means "large trumpet". The trombone has a predominantly cylindrical bore like its valved counterpart the baritone and in contrast to its conical valved counterparts like the euphonium. Trombone music, along with music for euphonium and tuba, is typically written in concert pitch, with notable exceptions where brass-band music is usually presented as a B♭ transposing instrument, written in treble clef.
The slide trombone comprises;
- detachable cup-shaped mouthpiece
- the leadpipe to hold the mouthpiece
- the neckpipe
- the slide section with inner and outer slide tubes
- bell or back bow (U-bend) section which also incorporates a tuning slide
- a ferrule to connect the slide section and the bell section
- bracing or stays
To prevent friction slowing the action of the slide, "stockings" are incorporated into the manufacturing process of the inner slide tubes to help prevent friction and therefore the slide must be lubricated frequently.
The Valve Trombone
The tenor valve trombone has three piston valves set up in much the same way as the trumpet. The valve trombone is gaining in popularity here although they have always remained popular in Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, South America and India, where they far outweigh slide trombone use.
Some passages, particularly fast musical figures, are easier to execute on a valve trombone than on a slide trombone however many players consider the tone of a valve trombone to be stuffier and less open, and therefore it is not common in orchestral settings. The B♭ tenor valve trombone uses the same fingering as the B♭ trumpet, so it will often be adopted as a second instrument by jazz trumpeters.