Which trombone is best?
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.
Our favorite is a beginner-level trombone by Jean Baptiste, but some trombone players have different requirements. This guide will tell you what makes a trombone worth the money and which trombones are the best.
What to know before you buy a trombone
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.
What to look for in a quality trombone
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.
How much you can expect to spend on a trombone
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.
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.
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.
What’s the best trombone to buy?
Jean Baptiste ST390 Tenor Trombone
What you need to know: This is a beginner-level trombone with a nickel silver slide and bracings, nice tone and beautiful gold brass exterior.
What you’ll love: A light case and mouthpiece are included with purchase. The body feels solid and sturdy.
What you should consider: While it’s not really expensive for the quality, it’s still a big investment if you’re not sure how committed you are to your new hobby.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top trombone for the money
Mendini by Cecilio’s Bb Tenor Slide Trombone
What you need to know: This is an affordable workhorse for a student who is testing the trombone waters.
What you’ll love: It has a nice gold-lacquer finish. A one-year warranty and tuner are included with purchase. It offers smooth slide action and the price can’t be beat.
What you should consider: The sound quality and integrity of construction are not top-notch, but this is an experimental instrument for beginners.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
pInstruments’ pBone Plastic Trombone
What you need to know: This fun, modern beginner trombone weighs less than 2 pounds and comes in several exciting colors.
What you’ll love: The horn is inexpensive and easy to maneuver. Many say it sounds better than expected. It comes at a bargain price.
What you should consider: 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.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Melissa Nott writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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