Trombone Overview and History

The sackbut

The trombone derived from the medieval instrument called the “sackbut”. It was developed in the 1400’s and looked like the trombone, but it was a bit smaller. It was instantly loved by composers and musicians. It was not changed or modified until the 1600’s. In Italian the word “trombone” means “big trumpet”. The makers then made the bore (inner tube) of the trombone wider along with the bell. This allowed the sound to become much more rich and loud.

Where to Purchase

Local dealers are: The Music Academy of ChelmsfordUniversity Music, and Music and Arts.

Trombone Brands and Models for Beginners

Yamaha YSL354 Student Trombone
Prelude by Conn-Selmer TB711 Series Student Trombone
Jupiter JTB700 Deluxe Standard Trombone

Trombone Brands and Models for Intermediate Players

Yamaha YSL-448G Intermediate Trombone
Prelude by Conn-Selmer TB-711F Series F-Attachment Trombone
Yamaha YSL-446G Intermediate Trombone


Some instruments are written in concert pitch. This means that when that specific instrument plays a “C”, a “C” comes out. To transpose means that the player is playing an instrument that sounds a different pitch (higher or lower) than the pitch they are presently reading on the staff. Trombonists are lucky- you are in concert pitch! You do not have to transpose.

Instrument Assembly

 Step 1: Remove the slide from the case, lay it on a flat, sturdy surface.
Step 2: Remove the bell/body part of the horn from the case; insert the slide into the bell. The slide should be positioned to the right of the bell, and should form the shape of the letter “L”.
Step 3: Hand tighten the lock to secure the two sections together.
Step 4: Carefully insert the mouthpiece into the lead pipe with a gentle twist until it is firm, but not forced tight.

Taking the instrument apart:
Step 1: Remove moisture/condensation from inside the slide by
blowing through the instrument while opening the water key at the end of the slide.
Step 2: Remove the mouthpiece.
Step 3: Loosen the slide lock and separate the slide/bell sections.
Step 4: Clean both sections with a soft cloth then place them back into the case.

Hand Position and Posture

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Embouchure and Sound Production

Embouchure close up: corners firm, lips form an “M” shape.

The “embouchure” (pronounced ahm-boo-sure) is the way a musician applies their mouth to the mouthpiece of their instrument. All wind musicians must work very hard to build muscle memory in the jaw and mouth so that your sound is consistently of good quality.

  • The corners of the mouth are firm (not tight). The corners do not move.
  • The mouthpiece should be centered on the lip and placed approximately one half on the lower and one half on the upper lip.
  • Mouthpiece pressure on the lip should not be too tight; your lips need to vibrate to create a sound!
  • Much of brass playing is compared to singing; your body must be relaxed and natural. When you sing, an impulse goes from the inner ear to the brain and then to the vocal chords in your voice box. With a brass instrument, it goes to your mouthpiece instead of your vocal chords.
  • Playing a brass instrument is a matter of buzzing on the mouthpiece.
  • While keeping your corners firm, move your air and keep the inside of your mouth shaped as though you’re singing a long note on the letter “O”.
  • The best thing you can do is to repeat these good habits daily. LISTEN to your favorite players so that you know what you want to sound like.


The articulation that we will use on the trombone is the syllable “Doo”. This is how your tongue will begin each note on the trombone. There are different types of articulations that we will go through in band rehearsals. While at home, always practice beginning each note with the tongue on the roof of your mouth right where the teeth meet the gum.

Out of Tune Notes

Trombone Flat
These notes are typically flat on the trombone. Use a tuner as a reference and adjust your slide position (slightly away from your mouthpiece) to adjust.
Trombone Sharp
These notes are typically sharp on the trombone. Use a tuner as a reference and adjust your slide position (slightly closer to your mouthpiece) to adjust.

Trombone Fingering Chart

Click here to download your own fingering chart!

BandWorld Brass Instrument fingering Chart

Care and Maintenance

  1. Rinse out your mouth and brush your teeth before you play.
  2. Make sure to empty ALL the water from your instrument before putting it back into the case.
  3. Wipe dirt, fingerprints, or oil smudges off your instrument with a polishing cloth when you are done playing.
  4. Be sure that your tuning slide is greased so that it may move freely. Super slick slide grease works well!
  5. Clean the mouthpiece with a mouthpiece brush weekly. The dishwasher also works!

Giving Your Instrument a “BATH”
Once every few months, it’s good for trumpet, trombone, and baritone players to give their instruments a bath. YEARLY: We recommend taking your instrument to a technician once per year and getting it chemically flushed and cleaned out. Ultrasonic cleaning is also an option. But, a few times a year, it’s good to give your instrument a bath. Here are the instructions:

Use a container large enough to let your instrument soak. A bathtub will work well, but put a towel down on the floor of the tub to prevent scratching.

Step 1: Carefully remove your slide and tuning slide.
Step 2: Place all parts in warm water and let them soak for 30-60 minutes. Do NOT use hot water. You may use Dawn dish detergent.
Step 3: Use a snake brush to clean out all of the slides and tube of the instrument.
Step 4: Rinse the entire instrument, let dry.
Step 5: Use a good amount slide grease. Wipe away any extra grease or oil.

Notable Trombone Players

Joe Alessi

Arthur Pryor

Tommy Dorsey

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ABC Block SOLIDSwhite

A project by Allison Lacasse: 3rd year Practical Application project for completion of a Masters Degree in Music Education at the American Band College of Central Washington University (2018).