[JPL] Valve trombones and slide trumpets

Doug Crane dcrane at comcast.net
Tue Dec 20 04:36:32 EST 2011

The trombone (and its precursor, the sackbut) were the first wind/brass instruments to be able to play chromatically (all of the individually occuring notes between a C and the C an octave above for instance) by virtue of their slides.  We're talking Renaissance and Baroque eras.  The sackbuts were voiced as alto, tenor and bass horns, just as today's trombones are as well as double bass.  The only modern equivalent I can think of to the latter is Phil Teele's contra-bass trombone work on a couple of the old Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin big band sides for RCA from the 1970's.  

Even though trumpet-like horns go back to around 1500 BC, t he valve itself is a pretty recent development  from the early 1800's.  Up until the utilization of valves, trumpets were largely left to playing only notes appearing in the natural harmonic series which would be something like this:  If your fundamental or root note is a C, the next occuring note is the C an octave above, the G a fifth above that is next, the C a fourth above then follows, then the E a third above the C, next is a G, etc.  This harmonic series occurs on any brass instrument, whether there's a slide, valve or neither a slide or valve.  If you were to use the 2nd valve on the trumpet or 2nd position on the trombone, the harmonic series intervals would be identical.  All of the notes you'd hear would be a half step lower. 

So much for the valve/slide thing. 

Other than that, there's the length of the tubing of the trumpet or trombone and most significantly, the bore size.  Trumpets have a bore size of around .450 to .472 and typically around .459 or so.  Bass trumpets have a bore size of around .486 which is invading on the bore size of a trombone. 

Tenor t rombones have a bore size of around .484 (a very small tenor like my Conn 4H circa 1955) all the way up to around .562 (a typical true bass trombone).  Most of the typical small tenors today have a bore size of around .500 to .525. 

Both trumpets and trombones are cylindrical designs.  The cornet, which was favored by Nat Adderley for example, has a conical design. 

Hopefully you find the info above at least slightly helpful/useful.  It's not meant to be definitive either.  Just quick. 

Doug Crane 

KUVO Denver 89.3FM 

dcrane at comcast.net 

----- Original Message -----

From: "Nou Dadoun" <nou.dadoun at gmail.com> 
To: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com, "Miles Davis listserv - new" <mileslist at googlegroups.com> 
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 1:07:52 AM 
Subject: [JPL] Valve trombones and slide trumpets 

Last week on the show I had occasion to play a valve trombonist (Bob 
Brookmeyer) and a slide trumpeter (Steven Bernstein with Sex Mob and the 
MTO), no surprises there but it made me wonder since it so conveniently 
reversed what I've always considered to be the defining attributes of the 
two instruments. 

I know the difference between the clarinet family and the saxophone family 
(cylindrical vs conical bores) but what are the true distinguishing 
characteristics of the trumpet and trombone, anybody know? 


Nou Dadoun 
The A-Trane on the air since 1986 | CFRO 102.7 FM, Vancouver BC 
Fri 2:30-5:30 pm PST | http://coopradio.org/content/trane 


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