Bass Trombone

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The bass trombone is a brass instrument of the trombone family of instruments that is amongst the largest and lowest in register (exceeded only by the contrabass trombone). The bass trombone is usually tuned to Bb like most trombones, however it requires two valves as well as the typical slide mechanism in order to reach its lowest range.
History of the Bass Trombone
The bass trombone, like all other trombones, has been thought to have been developed from ancestral brass instruments like the slide trumpet that shared the trombone's unique sliding mechanism to change the instrument’s pitch. These trumpets were frequently used in the 13th to 15th century to mark celebratory occasions amongst the nobility of German-speaking territories. During the renaissance era, an instrument called a sackbut lengthened the tubing of the slide trumpet and folded it in a recognisable fashion to today’s bass trombone. During the renaissance era, before the 18th century, tenor trombones occupied some of the bass trombone range with the addition of a fourth or fifth crook. This technique allowed for the tubing of the tenor trombone to be extended, however, the slide mechanism created limitations for the player as greater agility was required to reach these bass notes. The invention of valve brass instruments inspired great changes for trombones and German instrument maker C.F. Sattler was among the first to develop a tenor-bass trombone with the use of a valve. By the middle of the 19th century, bass trombones had been integrated into orchestra and the recognisable three-part trombone section of alto, tenor and bass began to appear. Compositions by composers such as Stravinsky recognised the tenor-bass trombone, though it was soon replaced by the F and Bb bass trombone in the early 20th century.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

$1,500 - $5,000

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How to Play

A larger version of the tenor trombone, with a lower range and a larger bore. Played using a combination of slide position and breath control.

In Popular Music

The low brass sound of Howard Shore’s Lord Of The Rings score features some bass trombone, in the Two Towers (2002) in particular. Bass trombone is one of the rarest trombones in classical music orchestras and has therefore not been featured often in popular music recording. Composer Shostakovich’s 5th symphony features a low trombone ensemble that does include a part for bass trombone.

Famous Players

George Roberts, Douglas Yeo, Denson Paul Pollard

Close Relations

Contrabass Trombone
Video Credit: Philharmonia Orchestra
Understanding the Bass Trombone




18th century






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