The best trombone
A trombone is a significant investment whether you're buying for a beginner or an experienced musician. You want a quality instrument that sounds great and works well, but you certainly don't want to pay more than it's worth. We're here to help. Our favorite is an intermediate-level trombone by Vincent Bach with an F attachment, but we know that some trombone players have different requirements. Read on to discover what makes a trombone worth the money and which trombones we're recommending.
Considerations when choosing trombones
Are you shopping for a soprano, alto, tenor, or bass trombone? For most people, the answer is "tenor"; these are by far the most common trombones. Just like the human voice, however, there are variations in the instrument that you should be aware of as you shop. The soprano trombone is the highest-pitched trombone, the alto trombone is a bit higher than the tenor, and the bass trombone is the lowest in pitch.
If you're buying for a beginning band student, odds are the director will want the child to play tenor trombone. It's a good idea to read all product specs carefully before purchasing so you don't end up with the wrong instrument.
Brass vs. plastic
Nowadays, you'll find both brass and plastic trombones on the market. If you go the "old-fashioned" brass route, you'll need to choose between yellow brass, which has a copper/zinc ratio of 70:30, and gold brass, which has a copper/zinc ratio of 85:15. Yellow brass trombones tend to have a brighter tone, whereas gold brass trombones tend to have a warmer sound.
Plastic is a newer trombone option. These instruments are lightweight, durable, and typically more affordable than their brass counterparts. What's more, you can find plastic trombones in an array of fun colors, from cherry red to sky blue. If you're considering a plastic trombone, bear in mind that the sound won't be quite as authentic as that of a traditional trombone -- but it'll come close.
The exterior of a brass trombone may be finished with lacquer, silver, or satin. It also may be "raw," meaning there is no finish at all. Lacquer is perhaps the most common finish; a clear or colored epoxy is sprayed on the instrument after it is manufactured, cleaned, and buffed. Lacquer provides a thin layer of protection against scratches and wear.
Some players believe that lacquer dampens the resonance of the trombone too much. These folks may prefer a silver plate finish, which is thinner than lacquer but may tarnish over time. Of course, an instrument covered with silver also costs more than an instrument covered with lacquer.
A trombone with a "satin" finish has been purposefully buffed and lightly scratched to create a matte finish. A "raw" trombone has no finish at all and is particularly prone to tarnishing. Satin and raw finishes are less common, but there is still a market for them because some players feel they create a better sound.
Budget trombones under $200 are easy to find. If you're buying for a child who may or may not continue playing into adolescence, you might want to go this route. If money isn't an issue but quality is, look to spend more than $200. A top price of $1,500 wouldn't be unheard of. In fact, professional trombonists often pay thousands of dollars for their instruments.
Q. My child is just starting trombone in school. Beyond the horn, what else do I need to buy?
A. Your child's band teacher will probably give you a short list of supplies to purchase, including a music stand, book, and cleaning items. Some beginner trombones come with a starter kit that includes a cleaning cloth, tuner, and case. A bundle like this may save you a bit of money and hassle.
Q. I'm not sure that I'll stick with this new hobby. What's the resale value of a trombone?
A. It depends on the condition of the instrument. If you clean your instrument after each use and shield it from dings and scratches, you may be able to get almost as much money back as you put into it.
Trombones we recommend
Best of the best: Vincent Bach's Bach Prelude TB711F Trombone with F Attachment
Our take: An intermediate-level trombone with F attachment, nice tone, and gorgeous gold brass exterior.
What we like: Case and mouthpiece are included with purchase. A moderately priced upgrade for an advancing beginner.
What we dislike: It's pricey compared to some entry-level trombones.
Best bang for your buck: Mendini by Cecilio's Bb Tenor Slide Trombone
Our take: An affordable workhorse for a student who is testing the trombone waters.
What we like: Nice gold lacquer finish. One-year warranty and tuner are included with purchase. Smooth slide action. Price can't be beat.
What we dislike: Sound quality and integrity of construction are not top-notch, but this is an experimental instrument for beginners.
Choice 3: pInstruments' pBone Plastic Trombone
Our take: A fun, modern beginner trombone that weighs less than 2 pounds and comes in several exciting colors.
What we like: The horn is inexpensive and easy to maneuver. Many say it sounds better than expected. Bargain price.
What we dislike: It doesn't have the traditional look or feel of a brass trombone, and a child's eventual transition to brass may involve a learning curve.
Melissa Nott is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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