Upgrading Your Beginner Trombone
After a few years of playing the trombone, your student instrument might start to restrict the range of dynamics, tone colour, and pitches you are now capable of achieving. Upgrading your instrument will allow you to find something that really suits your individual playing style and the type of music you like to play. Here are a few things to consider when upgrading from a student trombone.
Medium or large bore trombones lend themselves well to classical playing, as they allow you to project across a concert hall with a warm, dark sound. Jazz and contemporary players tend to favour small-bore trombones for lead playing. Small-bore trombones have a brighter, more focused sound, that works well in smaller groups and venues.
The F/Bb trigger expands the low range and provides alternatives for awkward slide positions. Most medium/large bore trombones have an F trigger, as orchestral and classical repertoire often requires you to play in the lower register. F/Bb triggers are generally not required for lead jazz players. Trombones that do not have the F/Bb trigger are often referred to as ‘straight’ trombones.
Closed vs open wrap
A closed wrap is more compact than the open wrap arrangement, which causes increased resistance. Some players prefer the feeling of having more resistance, whilst others prefer a free blow. If you are unfamiliar with the term "free blowing", this means that it feels easy to blow air through the instrument as there is low resistance.
Yamaha, Conn, Eastman, and Shires are quality, trusted brands with great options for intermediate and professional players. You can be confident that quality materials are used in the production of these instruments.
The Yamaha YSL456A is built in Japan exclusively for the Australian market. It has a medium-large bore and closed wrap. The Yamaha YSL640 also has a medium-large bore and open wrap, with a larger bell than the 456A. Both of these instruments have Bb/F triggers. The Yamaha YSL630 is has a medium-large bore and two-piece bell. Unlike the YSL456A and YSL640, doesn't have a Bb/F trigger. Although it can still be used in a variety of settings, it may be better suited to someone who mostly plays in smaller ensembles. All three of these instruments take small shank mouthpieces, which are also used with beginner trombones.
The Conn 52H has a rose brass bell, meaning that the brass contains more copper than a yellow brass finish. This generally results in a warmer tone colour. The 52H also has a dual bore, which means that the inner slides are two different sizes. The dual bore provides a more open sound and feeling compared to single bore instruments. Although the Conn 52H has a trigger, it still takes a small shank mouthpiece and is versatile for both jazz and classical playing. This instrument has a closed wrap.
US-based brand Eastman has become increasingly popular over the past decade and is now the brand of choice for several professional low brass players in Australia. The ETB428MG is an intermediate level instrument with a medium-large bore and open wrap. It’s gold brass bell provides a warm sound, suitable for those starting to explore orchestral and classical playing.
The ETB828/ETB828G and ETB829/ETB829G models comprise Eastman’s professional trombone range. These open wrap trombones both feature .547” large bores and 8.5” two piece bells. Both instruments also include 3 interchangeable leadpipes of varying sizes. This can make the transition from a single trombone to a trigger trombone easier, as well as being able to change the feel of the instrument to suit different styles of music.
The key difference between the 828 and 829 is their style of F/Bb trigger. The 828 has a rotary valve, whereas the 829 has an Axial valve. The Axial valve is considered to be more free blowing than the traditional rotary valves used on most trigger trombone. However, choosing between these trigger styles comes down to personal preference.
The Shires TBQALESSI Artist Series Trombone has been developed in collaboration with Joseph Alessi, Principal Trombone with the New York Philharmonic. This model features an unsoldered, two-piece, light-weight yellow-brass bell and a gold brass slide. This gives the instrument a warm, broad sound that is at home in orchestral and solo performance settings. Like the Eastman 828 and 829, it comes with 3 interchangeable lead pipes.
When starting your journey to upgrade your student trombone, consider what kind of settings you'll be using it in, and which features will be important for that. Some things simply come down to personal preference, so it's highly recommended that you book a Play-Test Appointment and feel the difference for yourself!