"Historic Trombone Reference Page"

"1639 by Georg Nicolaus Oller BBb Contra Bass Trombone"

Nicholas Eastop, bass trombonist of The Chamber Orchestra of Europe since 1982 and Curator of wind and brass at Sweden' with the Oller BBb Contra Bass Trombone. This instrument, built in Stockholm 1639 by Georg Nicolaus Oller, is on permanent display in Musikmuseet, Stockholm.

Nick Eastop holds the Oller Contra Bass Trombone

Here is Nicholas Eastop, holding one of the most unusual historic instrument in The World: the Oller BBb Contra Bass Trombone. This instrument, built in Stockholm 1639 by Georg Nicolaus Oller, is on permanent display in Musikmuseet, Stockholm. For your reference: Nicholas Eastop Stands 5'10.5", or 1.78m tall.

The instrument was being photographed for series of postcards, to be published, and He was asked to hold it for a while (note the cotton gloves used to protect the instrument from hand sweat) when the photographer rearranged the studio lighting.

Present at the shoot, was Prof. Gunno Klingförs of the Stockholm University. He is researching the background of the instrument, and asked if it would be possible to play it. This is always a sensitive issue, should historic instruments be played upon, or are the risks of damage or wear too great?  See Column to the Left for the mp3.

Happily, in this instance permission was granted and some of the results can be heard: (Click Here) Link to an "mp3" file of the loud and low BBb.

How did it blow? Surprisingly easily. It was very uneven, certain notes (double pedal Bb for example) were easy to centre and a fine and clear tone could be produced, whereas others were almost impossible to find. This instability is probably due to leaks, in accordance with the methods of the day, very few of the instrument's joints are soldered and over the years some have become a little loose fitting. It was interesting to note that my Bach 1.5G mouthpiece fitted it perfectly! (though it sounded better with the original which was considerably larger). Please bear in mind that my playing technique is very much that of a modern bass trombonist, I played this note just about as loud as I could (much in the mentality of Porsche drivers on the autobahn, I wanted to see what it could do!), a style of playing that was almost certainly not used in the time of the instruments creation. As far as I am aware at the moment, the instrument was primarily used in a large church to reinforce the bass notes of an organ, mostly in choral works. Some more subtle playing will follow soon...

Prof. Klingförs informed me that Buxtehude wrote a piece using this instrument, and we hope to record it using the original soon!

If you would like a set of postcards, which will include pictures of 12 more special instruments from the museum's collection, you can order them Nicholas Eastop, or directly from the "Museum" (See Contact Information Below Photo).

The Oller Contra Bass Trombone, and Nick Eastop 
Eastop, Nicholas; Bass trombone of The Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Member of the trombone quartet, Equale - Sweden -  , Nicholas Eastop Email Links Here  Mail to > Nicholas Eastop   Mail to > Nicholas Eastop.
Nicholas has worked on the special project as assistant curator of wind and brass at Sweden's music history museum, Musikmuseet.
 "Museum Shop" (Click Here For Email).


Thein Contrabass Trombone

Thein contrabass trombone in F/Bb/Eb with long F slide
Thein contrabass trombone in F/Bb/Eb with long F slide
Thein contrabass trombone with standard slide
Thein contrabass trombone in F/Bb/Eb with standard slide


Thein contrabass trombone in EEb/BBb built for Dick Tyack
Thein contrabass trombone
in Eb/BBb with double slide
built for Dick Tyack

Boosey Contrabass Trombone

Boosey contrabass trombone in CC (1880)

Boosey contrabass trombone in CC (1880); known to players as "King Kong"
Boosey contrabass trombone in CC played by Godfrey Kneller
Boosey contrabass trombone in CC played by Godfrey Kneller


Variations on the Trombone  

Trombones of today

First of all, one needs to recognize the many varieties of the modern trombone.

Only 21 inches in length, the Soprano Trombone--or slide trumpet--is not used regularly for orchestral or band music.  Though having the appearance of a trombone, this instrument is usually played by a trumpet player as the mouthpiece and playing range is the same as a trumpet, pitched in Bb, an octave above the tenor trombone.

There are trombones pitched even higher than the soprano--the sopranino, and the highest, the piccolo--but these are rarely seen and are only used in large trombone choirs.  To see a collection with the widest range of trombones, plus get info on trombone ensembles, check out Tom Izzo's page.

Below are descriptions of modern trombones.  There will be slight variations among different manufacturers and some will not offer as many bore (tubing diameter) size options, but most will follow these basic designs:

Bach 39 alto trombone Alto Trombone
Pitched a perfect fourth higher, in Eb, and smaller than the tenor trombone, it has a small bore and is used often in church brass music and in brass ensembles to provide the top voice.
Bach 36 Tenor Trombone (small bore)
This is the most common type of trombone used today.  It is, as the remaining trombones are, pitched in Bb.  The bore size is anywhere from  .468" - .490".  Small bore horns have the brightest sound and are often preferred in jazz groups to cut through when soloing.
Bach 16 Medium bore Tenor Trombone
The bore size is typically .500" - .509".   As bore size increases, the timbre of the horn becomes "rounder or darker", less brilliant.  This is a sound sought after in orchestral work.
Bach 36B Medium-large bore Tenor Trombone (with "traditional wrap" F attachment)
Bore size typically .525"
The F attachment adds a wrap of tubing activated by a trigger and rotor valve which lowers the fundamental pitch from Bb to F.  This allows the player to reach lower notes than would otherwise be possible.  Horns of this size and larger are available in "traditional" or "open" wraps or without the F attachment.
Bach 42BO Large Bore Tenor (with "open wrap" F attachment)
Bore size typically .547"
The "open wrap" eliminates the tight turns of the traditional wrap, improving airflow through the F tubing, and is preferred by many professionals.
Bach 50B30 Bass Trombone
The largest bore measuring at typically .562" and also the largest bell (10-10.5")
Although there are single-rotor bass trombones, many now include a second valve which can work independently of the first--or may be "dependent" and used in combination with the first.  The extra valve allows more pitch changing and flexibility to the professional player.
Valve Trombone
This model is typical of most valve trombones you will find today.  They usually have a small to medium bore.  The valve fingering is the same as a trumpet.  Many are sold with a conventional slide section as well for the player who wants both options.  Not used in orchestras or most bands, this style is popular in some jazz ensembles and for trumpet and euphonium players who want to "double" on trombone.

That certainly would be enough to keep most people confused.  The different bore sizes are the most common innovation of trombone development in the twentieth century with the tendency toward larger bore horns being more popular in the second half of the century.  Many brass makers take specifications from players and turn out custom horns.  It is from these innovations during the 1900's that we can now not only specify bore size and finish, but also specify different valves for the F attachment, interchangeable bells and leadpipes, and slides.  Today, we have many choices in selecting a trombone.

Now, for the more unusual versions of the trombone you might see today.

above: Jim Self's custom 'Minick Super Bass Trombone'


What do you get when you cross a valve trombone with a slide trombone?

The answer is Holton's "Superbone".

Both the slide and the valves can be used simultaneously using the left hand to operate the valves.

The horn was made somewhat famous by trumpeter Maynard Ferguson (shown at left).

Conn also made a similar type trombone.

As radical as this may seem, this is not a modern idea.  Combining the valve and slide trombone was considered many years earlier.

The last photo is of a turn-of-the-century combination valve/slide trombone made by Lehland.

How about creating a valved trumpet with a trombone-like slide?

For the story behind the "Zephyros", click on the picture to the left.

While not found in all orchestras, if you attend a Verdi opera you might see the Cimbasso ("chim-BOSS-o") in the low brass section.

Pictured on the left, looking like a big bass trombone that got bent somehow, this is actually an instrument for the tuba player to use.  It is a valved instrument, usually found with rotor valves.  It has the range of a tuba with the sonic properties of a trombone--brassy rather than full and mellow.  Note the rubber-tipped rod at the bottom to support the instrument.

On the right, an older tuba-style cimbasso.

There are other variations made to play in different keys as well.

Mirafone contrabass trombone

The contrabass trombone is not a new instrument.  Like the cimbasso, it is pitched an octave lower than the tenor trombone.  Due to its low range, most modern versions have a doubled slide.  The instrument pictured is a Mirafone Contrabass Trombone.

King 1130 Flugabone

With the popularity of Drum and Bugle Corps organizations starting in the 1950's and 60's, many manufacturers came up with a line of instruments collectively called Marching Brass.

This is the King "Flugabone".  It is what you would have if you took a valve trombone and wrapped up the tubing like a flugelhorn, hence the name.  Pitched in Bb and using a trombone mouthpiece, it has an 8½" bell and .500" bore.

Kanstul Flugelbone

Similarly styled (and named), the "Flugelbone" made by Kanstul Music Northwest is designed for marching.  It has a 9½" bell and a .509" bore.

DEG JazzBone

Here is the "JazzBone" from DEG Music Products.  Produced around 1985, this instrument couples a traditional bell section with a tightly wrapped valve section.  DEG was established in 1964 by Donald E. Getzen, son of Getzen Company founder T.J. Getzen.

Amati AVT276

This is a a "jazz model" valve trombone by Amati.  It has a .488" bore and 7" bell.  It resembles a traditional valve trombone but the front end is considerably shorter due to its wrap design.

Bach B188 bass trumpet


Okay, it's not a trombone--but it's played by a trombone player.

This is a Bb bass trumpet.  Attend a performance of Wagner's The Ring and you might see one in the orchestra.  It has the same range as a trombone, pitched an octave below the standard Bb trumpet.

In the middle photo, a size comparison with a standard trumpet above; a Holton bass trumpet below.

The bottom photo is of a German-style bass trumpet with three rotary valves.

Besson BE707 Tenor Fanfare Trumpet

If you've ever seen the long, straight Herald Trumpet, you'll note the similarity in styling of this octave-lower Bb Tenor Fanfare Trumpet made by Besson.  It has a .487" bore and 5.75" bell.  There is also a slightly larger Bass Fanfare Trumpet in Bb with a .580" bore.  It can accommodate a flag or banner hanging from its bell!

Olds Marching TromboneConn Marching Trombone 90G

Cross a trombone with a euphonium and you get the Trombonium.

Made by King starting in the late 1930's (originally, the "Trumbonium"), this was an instrument originally designed for marching and mounted bands which could deliver a trombone sound without an ungainly slide.  Note the narrow bore.

In the 1950's, it was popularized in jazz circles by J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding (pictured at left).  King continued production of this horn into the 1970's.

Trombonium's eventual change to a "bell-up" design similar to the Conn model (below)

The two "bell-up" models shown are trombonium-style horns for marching made by (left) the F.E. Olds & Son Co. of Los Angeles and (right) C.G. Conn, model 90G.
Musical Note:
"Trombonium" is also the title of an early 1900's ragtime march by Lathrop Withrow featuring lots of trombone glissandos and similar in style to the popular "Lassus Trombone" by Fillmore.  Recommended playing for any fun-loving trombone player.


The Quadro® Slide.  It's a full length slide folded over so each slide position is half the distance of a regular slide.

Stated benefits include: easier to play more complicated passages; small players and beginners can reach seventh position; ideal for marching band maneuvers; available in .508", .547" and .562" bore; slide available separately to use with an existing bell.

Made by DEG Music Products.

If the Quadro is still too big, try a "ShortBone".  It has a shorter bell section married to the Quadro slide OR a short valve section!  The valve model is 29 inches long and the Quadro slide model is only 27 inches long!

Also available is a short Eb slide trombone, a C valve trombone, and a ShortBone Bb Soprano Trombone/Slide Trumpet at 18½ inches long!

Brand new and made by DEG as well!

Some real bizarre variations and non-horns

This is a Tromboon.  An invention of P.D.Q. Bach (read "Peter Schickele") and required instrument in the playing of P.D.Q. Bach's Serenude for devious instruments (S. 36-24-36)

A definite "one-off" insturment is this SaxOBone which was custom made using a trombone slide, a trumpet bell, and a baritone sax mouthpiece.  It was seen on eBay and the new "lucky" owner, with much practice, can probably create sounds such as the following sample from its creator.  (267K .wav file)

The Golden Trombone is a toy which was made in the 1950's.  It is technically not a horn, but rather a harmonica-type toy.  As you blow air in and pull the slide, the notes descend through a major scale.  It comes with a music lyre and a songbook so you can play familiar tunes.  The Emenee Company made an entire line of musical toys so you and your friends could form your own band!

The Trombone Kazoo is simply a kazoo with a bell and slide (which does work, although not affecting the sound).  You play it like any kazoo--by humming the tune into the mouthpiece.


This is a remarkable instrument, perhaps one of the few existing specimens of a BB flat contrabass trombone made by the Salvation Army over 100 years ago. Records for the Salvation Army instrument factory in England do not go back far enough to date this instrument (serial number 11732) but it appears in a catalog dated 1905. In his booklet, 'The Slide Trombone," (new edition, 1929), Lt. Colonel F. Gl Hawkes wrote: "Only a strong, healthy person will be able to manage this instrument, as it requires a large quantity of wind to fill it." The instrument has a very small bore, much smaller than my Conn BB flat contrabass trombone (see below). Gordon Taylor, archivist of the International Heritage Centre of the Salvation Army in London has told me he was unaware any of these instruments had survived to the present day.

A close up view (left) of the ingenius








"Brief History Of The Trombone, By Nicholas Eastop"

1. Ancient History
The trombone is a member of the trumpet family of instruments, one of the common factors of this group is a predominantly cylindrical bore.
These instruments have been around in one form or another for a very, very long time, the first trumpet-like instruments may have been shells, animal horns or hollowed out bones.

2. Documented History
According to an ancient cuneform text from Mesapotamia (3000-4000 BC), the hero Gilgamesh made a trumpet from the hollow branch of a tree. (The Trumpet And Trombone. Philip Bate)
Two trumpets were found in the tomb of Tut-ank-amen.
The Greeks had trumpets that were known as salpynx.
Romans had trumpets; Lituus, Cornu, Buccina, Tuba (what the last two actually were is still unclear).
As early as 1497 the trombone is mentioned in the archives from Ferrara (a town in northern Italy) refering to a trombonist called Piero who, interestingly, was the highest paid musician in the Duke's court.
From the same period (late 15th century) comes this painting, the earliest known image of a trombone. This is a detail from "The Assumption of the Virgin" by Filippino Lippi in the church of S. Maria sopra Minerva, Rome.

3. The Name.
Take the Italian word for trumpet -tromba- remove the a and add the suffix for big -one- and you get trombone, which means of course, big-trumpet.
Sackbut. Sackbutt, sacbut, shagbolt, shagbutt, shagbosh, are all variant spellings of the English name for early trombone. The origin of this is probably "saquebute" (French) or "sacabuche (Spanish) both made up of "sac" (to pull) and "bu" (to push, German origin?).
Posaune, the German name for the trombone came from bucine (or buisine or buccina) the Italian name for a sort of trumpet.
Basun, the Swedish use this (same etymology as posaune) and their version of trombone: trombon.
Other names that probably refer to the trombone are; draucht trumpet, tromba spezzata, tuba ductilis.

4. The First Instruments.
The oldest existing trombone known at this date was made in Nuremberg, 1551 by Erasmus Schnitzer (Germanisches Nationalmuseum MI140), but it appears that not much of the instrument is original. There is also a fine trombone from 1557 by Jorg Neuschel (also made in Nuremberg) on display at the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Early trombones were made in various sizes;
Tenor or gemeine (common) posaune (A or Bb),
Bass or quart posaune (from D to G),
Double (contra) bass or oktav posaune (BBb),
The alto is less common (Eb or F)
Even rarer still, the soprano in Bb


The bell of the silver trumpet found in the tomb of Tut-ank-amen